Walsall comment: Whatever happens on deadline, consistency is key for play-offs

At just over the half-way point of the season Walsall stand at a crossroads in their search for promotion.

Walsall's Elijah Adebayo.
Walsall's Elijah Adebayo.

Chairman Leigh Pomlett, manager Darrell Clarke, the players – no one has made a secret of the ambition this season – promotion back to League One.

We are regularly reminded that the Saddlers are not the 'big hitters' in League Two in a financial sense – and Covid-19 has undoubtedly hindered the budget available in both transfer windows.

However, Walsall's squad on paper is capable of achieving promotion.

Firstly, credit must be given to the improvement in certain individual players. Rory Holden, before his injury, has come on leaps and bounds. Elijah Adebayo is a different beast to the youngster we saw last season. Cameron Norman is a reliable and ruthless right-back.

The list goes on and the players, as well as the coaching staff, deserve credit for such improvements.

As a result the squad is capable, on their day, of getting out of this league. Injuries to key players have not helped, forcing Clarke to abandon the preferred 4-2-3-1 formation for a period of time.

But those excuses can only take you so far. There have been several games this season where the Saddlers have squandered a lead or given the opposition the first goal, only to come to life when they have a deficit to turn around.

Certain players have dragged others over the line in tight victories, whereas other performances have been superb. The away win at Tranmere, in particular, was perhaps the best performance of Clarke's tenure in charge.

The away draw at Newport, where Walsall should have won, saw them drop two points due to a Liam Roberts mistake. The fine margins of individual errors have cost the team dearly.

The reality is, for all the drama in their 25 games so far, that the side have 21 games in which promotion is still a possibility.

Walsall sit mid-table with only a handful of points separating them from the play-offs. The positive being that they are still within touching distance.

The negative is that so many teams are there with them. The league is exceptionally tight and any club can go on a run and propel into the promotion picture.

Walsall are certainly capable of that. They tend to go on long winning or losing runs and if they can get into the habit of the former, and keep some much-needed consistency, then they have every chance.

Holden is hoping to return from his knee injury sometime later this month, after first fearing he would be out for the season.

This could be a turning point for the club. The attacking midfielder has creative qualities that no other player in the squad possesses and he is often the link between midfield and attack.

Some of the players the club has brought in on free loans could also add some quality. Tyreik Wright has a wonderful delivery with his left-foot, while Frank Vincent looked handy in midfield in his short cameo.

However, what may define their season, is the outcome of today's transfer deadline day. With Adebayo and Zak Jules heavily linked to moves higher up the pyramid, Walsall are determined to keep them.

That stance can only stand for so long, however, as certain monetary offers will eventually be too good to turn down. Particularly with players out of contract in the summer.

If Adebayo leaves, for example, the squad has enough to cope. But the promotion push will take a huge knock.

The club has big decisions to make between cashing in, in a time of financial uncertainty, and continuing to push for the play-offs.

Whatever happens and whatever shape the squad is in, consistency is what will take the side to League One. That is the biggest improvement needed in the second half of the season.

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