Cheltenham v Walsall: Saddlers looking to respond to an unwanted wake-up call

Walsall defender Dan Scarr believes last week’s loss to Southend United was a ‘wake-up call’ as they now prepare to face high-flying Cheltenham Town.

Dejection at the final whistle. Dan Scarr.
Dejection at the final whistle. Dan Scarr.

The Saddlers have been guilty of drawing too many games this season, taking a point from seven of their 12 League Two matches.

Saturday’s clash with struggling Southend was an opportunity to add a fourth win to their record, but a poor performance resulted in a 1-0 loss.

Now, they travel to face two sides in the space of four days that both currently sit in the top three, starting with Cheltenham tomorrow and then Newport County on Tuesday and Scarr has called on everyone to be better.

“I think it’s a wake-up call – there are two hard games with Cheltenham and Newport and they’re going to be at it a lot more than Southend were,” he said.

“I think all of us have got a wake-up call to be better.

“We can’t just keep saying ‘it’ll come’, we need to take responsibility.

“We need the players, myself included, to step up and make it happen.

“It’s not just waiting for it, we need to do it ourselves.”

Although Saturday’s loss was only their second in the league this season, it was the third defeat in a row when counting the two cup games before it.

Last season Walsall suffered six consecutive League Two losses throughout October, but Scarr insists the squad are not thinking about that spell as they bid to end this current run.

“I don’t think anyone is thinking about that October, that was last season,” he added. “I think the form that we’ve been in hasn’t quite been the heights that we need it to be, but the overall play and everything like that has been a lot better.

“The positivity has been there so we’re not thinking about last year’s October, we’re a better team than that.”

For the first time in six weeks, Walsall have not had a midweek game this week and have benefitted from a free schedule in preparation for tomorrow’s clash.

Although manager Darrell Clarke is pleased to have that break, he says the damage done to the training ground by wet weather has halted his plans.

“It is nice to get a full week into them, but it’s hard to get on our training pitch at the minute with the weather we’ve had,” Clarke said.

“We have to do that and work on the 4G here.

“It’s frustrating that the pitches are the way they are, but I’m sure everyone is in the same boat.

“We can have a good look (at Cheltenham) and hopefully one or two injuries start coming back to the fold so I can put a little bit more pressure on the players as well.

“I still genuinely believe if this side starts reaching the levels they’re capable of, we’re in for a good season.

“We have to get that going sooner rather than later so we’re not playing as much catch-up as we had to do last season.

“The penny needs to start dropping a bit quicker.”

In terms of injuries, Josh Gordon is expected to have his brace removed after tomorrow’s game following his medial knee injury. The forward is expected to return to the field any time from early to mid-December, if his rehab is successful.

James Clarke and George Nurse have both been carrying knocks recently, but manager Clarke has hinted for some weeks now that they may return soon.

If Nurse is fit, he could come straight into the side if the Saddlers choose to match Cheltenham’s 3-5-2 formation.

That system was what Clarke began using when he first took the Walsall job before quickly changing to four at the back due to a lack of goals.

He has returned to the formation sporadically during his time in charge, most recently against Barrow last month, and against in-form Cheltenham he may do again.

Although the system has been criticised by Walsall supporters, it does allow Rory Holden to play behind the strikers in his favoured position.

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