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Walsall craving match action again after extended break

After the best part of a month out of action, Walsall are just excited to be playing a game of football again.

Walsall manager Matt Taylor
Walsall manager Matt Taylor

The Saddlers, barring a last-gasp postponement, are set to welcome Newport County to the Banks’s Stadium tomorrow.

As long as it goes ahead, it will be their first match since December 11 – when they beat Colchester 3-0 – after seeing three in a row called off due to Covid.

Newport have had issues in their squad but are determined to play. And it is safe to say, so are Walsall.

Matt Taylor has taken the positives from having an extended period on the training pitch with his squad, but the players are desperate to return to the cut and thrust of League Two.

“It’ll be good for the players,” said Taylor.

“The effort they’ve put in during recent weeks, an odd time with lots of football matches being called off up and down the country, they’re desperate to get back on the pitch.

“Of course, what is of paramount importance is that it’s safe for them to do so – and safe for supporters to come and watch.

“It’ll be good for them to get back on the pitch. I know they’re all desperate to do that.”

After such a long break, Taylor says he has been careful not to overload his players with too much information on Newport as he wants them to ‘feel free’ going into the clash.

They will have done their homework on the division’s top scorer Dominic Telford, though.

One of the benefits of the time off is that it allowed skipper Joss Labadie and Conor Wilkinson to make progress with their injuries – groin and hamstring respectively.

It is unclear whether they will quite be fit enough for tomorrow but Walsall, so far, have managed to avoid a Covid outbreak thanks to diligent work from players and staff.

Taylor said on the state of his squad: “We’re better. We’re hoping to continue getting players back onto the grass and in the group.

“We’re in good shape at the moment. It creates huge competition.

“This period has allowed us slightly longer in terms of rehabilitation, getting players back into the squad and into the training schedule.”

And on avoiding Covid, he said: “That’s because the players have behaved exemplary – both in and out of the building.

“I can only commend them for that, for their professionalism.

“We’ve been very fortunate in that the protocols in place at the club are exceptional. We’ll continue to adhere to those rules, of course, because we want to make sure we have as many of our players fit and Covid-free as possible.

“It’s first and foremost for our families, and then to continue being fit, ready and available for games.”

Walsall, who are targeting back-to-back wins for the first time this season, will be without Manny Monthe. He starts his seven-match suspension, with Ash Taylor set to play at centre-half.

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