Walsall's Jon Guthrie learning from international partner
Jon Guthrie expects his burgeoning partnership with Russell Martin to blossom with the more games they play together.
The duo have become the Saddlers’ regular centre-half pairing in recent weeks, playing seven of the last nine matches together – although an illness picked up by Martin prevented them featuring together for an eighth time in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland in the FA Cup.
And Guthrie is thrilled to have a 29-capped Scottish international and former Premier League player alongside him to learn from.
“He has played at the top level, is really experienced and a really good talker,” said Guthrie of the 32-year-old. “It takes a couple of games to get used to each other – I was playing with Jack (Fitzwater) before that and it does take a couple of games to gel.
“But I am really enjoying playing alongside him, he is a big help back there.
“He helps the defence, but he is here to help the whole team.
“He he has played right at the top so he knows what he’s on about.
“When he talks everyone listens.”
In the seven matches they have played together, Walsall have won two, drawn two and lost three, keeping just one clean sheet in the process.
But Guthrie knows it will take time to form a formidable alliance at the heart of Walsall’s backline.
“The more you play together the more you get to know each other,” he said. “I played with Jack for the best part of the year so we know each other inside out.
“Now I am playing with Russ but with any new partner it takes time to learn their strengths and weaknesses.
“But the more you play together the quicker you get used to each other. Hopefully we’ll show that in our performances.”
Conceding goals is not a problem unique to Guthrie and Martin though – the Saddlers have conceded two or more goals in nine of their last 11 matches.
They have also only recorded four clean sheets in 27 matches this campaign, and only one of those ended in victory – at Bristol Rovers on October 6.
“We know it’s not good enough,” said Guthrie. “It’s a been a strange time, in a lot of the games we have been comfortable but silly mistakes have let us down.
“We know as a team we have to improve but particularly the back four.
“If you concede two goals every week you are not really giving yourselves a chance to win the game. You won’t score three every week.
“But when you look back over the games, Robbo isn’t being tested too much, he isn’t having to make too many saves.
“We have made mistakes that have given teams opportunities to score.”
Despite the goals conceded, Guthrie insists there is still a positive mood among players.
“We started the season really well,” he said. “We have come off it at times. But we are still in a positive position and we know what we want we can achieve.
“We are still in a position to do that so we just have to stay positive and confident moving forward.”