Express & Star

Walsall v West Ham U21 - Match preview

It may not be top of their list of priorities, but Walsall will be keen to avoid an upset against West Ham United Under-21s tonight.

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The Saddlers get this season’s Papa John’s Trophy campaign under way and the competition, as we all know by now, is not everyone’s cup of tea. Since the inclusion of Premier League youth teams, attendances have been low across the board and by no means is Trophy success make or break for Michael Flynn’s side.

The final is still played at Wembley, though, and with some decent prize money to be gained along the way, progression from the group stages would not do any harm.

Midfielder Jack Earing is keen to make up for Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Grimsby Town as he said: “It’s going to be a tough game. They’re going to come here to prove a point.

“We’ll get our heads down and make sure we’re ready for it.

“Whoever’s selected to play will be fired up to win it and get through in the competition, because we want to progress in all competitions. We want to get over (Saturday’s) defeat and react positively.”

Earing, whether he plays or not, wants Walsall to avoid falling into the same trap they did against the Mariners. The Saddlers sat off and invited pressure after taking an early lead, and he knows that cannot be repeated against the young Hammers.

“After the first 15 or 20 minutes, and I don’t know why, we just sat in,” said Earing.

“We were on the front foot and as a group, we sat off. We need to push up and play in the attacking third. We’ll get better at that.

“The best thing for us is to have another game straight away, just to get the weekend out of the way. All the lads will be wanting to play again and getting the three points.”

West Ham have made a poor start in Premier League 2 having lost all four of their matches so far and will be keen to perform better at Bescot.

Predicted Walsall XI (4-3-3): Przybek; Bennett, White, Monthe, Allen; Hutchinson, F Clarke, Maher; James-Taylor, Williams, Abraham. Subs: Evans (gk), P Clarke, Comley, Kinsella, Earing, Knowles, Johnson.