Walsall v Mansfield: Darrell Clarke looking for win over home town club
Walsall boss Darrell Clarke is expecting a ‘stern’ test when his side welcome his home-town club, Mansfield, to the Banks’s Stadium.
And despite the prospect of seeing a few familiar faces, the boss is determined to come away with the win and overturn his side’s fortunes in recent weeks.
Their 2-0 loss away at Oldham on Tuesday night made it four defeats in a row for the Saddlers.
Their form sees them 19th in League Two with four wins from 15 games.
The Stags have also struggled this season, sitting two points above the Saddlers in 18th.
They’ve picked up a point in their last two games, after falling to a 2-1 defeat at home to Salford in midweek.
And Clarke wants his side to shift the momentum in their favour when the teams meet tomorrow.
“We keep talking about turning points, actions speak louder than words,” he said.
“We have to make sure that we’re right, focused.
“We have a lot of injury problems, the team that I put out on Saturday has got to make sure we put a good shift in for the shirt.
“Try to get the fans lifted, yet again it’s not up to the fans to lift us we have to lift them.
“No doubt it’ll be a young team on Saturday so I’m sure the fans will get behind the team.
“We need to try and put on a performance and stop the rot against a team that are expected to be in the top seven – probably double, treble our budget.
“They have a massive squad, a manager that’s come in, and I like John (Dempster).
“He’s going to need a bit of time to change things around there as well.
“The expectation levels are very high there for those reasons.
“We expect a stern test, they played very well against Salford in mid-week.
“Had most of the territory, most of the possession but got beaten and that can happen in this league.
“If you look at most games and most teams, even the games we’ve played, they could have quite easily gone in our favour.”
Born in Mansfield, Clarke played for the club for six years after coming through the youth set up.
It’s a club close to his heart, but the 41-year-old insists that he’s putting a Walsall side out with the intention of getting three points.
“My home-town team, I lived on a rough council estate in the town,” he said.
“I’ve got family there, I played for them, used to go to the games with my grandad.
“It’s a result that I’ve always looked for but I’ll be looking to beat them, that’s for sure.
“They’ll know that about me.
“We just want to change that momentum swing, which isn’t going to be easy.”
The visitors are expected to start with a player that Walsall fans will be familiar with.
Striker Andy Cook was Walsall’s top goalscorer when they were relegated from League One last season.
But after only spending a year at the club, he moved to Mansfield in the summer.
Despite coming up against former team-mates, Clarke says his players shouldn’t need any extra motivation heading into the fixture.
“He didn’t want to be at the club,” Clarke added.
“We know his strengths and his weaknesses.
“I’m sure he’ll be looking to get one over because by all accounts, the conversations I had with him, he got a bit of stick while he was here.
“That’s why he didn’t want to be here.
“We’ll have to deal with that and hopefully we can keep him quiet.
“They (the players) shouldn’t need the fire.
“There’s obviously a bit of history.
“A player that was top goalscorer in a relegated team, didn’t want to be here.
“There’ll probably be a bit of animosity with the fans towards him.
“I’m sure he won’t get too much of a welcome.
“He’ll handle that no doubt, he’s an experienced player.
“My job as manager, if he plays, is to try to keep him quiet and make sure he doesn’t make an impact.
“Which is tough, because on his day he’s a 20-goal goalscorer.”
And Cook himself is braced for a hostile reception on his return to the Black Country.
“Obviously my time at Walsall did not end the way I wanted it to end with relegation,” Cook said.
“Personally I scored 18 goals in all competitions, so I was quite happy with that.
“Some people see these games at old clubs differently, but I will just be treating it as another game.
“I want to go there and get the three points.
“Walsall had a big clear-out but I think there’s still a couple of players I know there.
“Nailed-on I will get some boos from the crowd.
"I got some abuse on Twitter when I left.
"Some of them liked me, but some of them didn’t.
“You get that everywhere – it’s part and parcel.”