In the latest of his Weekly Columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at Craig Westcarr and considers Walsall manager Dean Smith's striking options following the top-scorers suspension.

In the latest of his Weekly Columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at Craig Westcarr and considers Walsall manager Dean Smith's striking options following the top-scorers suspension;

Saturday’s game against Shrewsbury showed how wasteful the Saddlers can be. For the match to finish 1-0 is unbelievable when you consider just how bad the visitors were. They were completely toothless in attack and are rightfully bottom of the League One table.

The early goal scored by Craig Westcarr wasn’t even a clear-cut chance. It was a shot which surprised the whole ground, including the Town keeper, who couldn’t scramble across to keep it out.

But Westcarr’s foolish headbutt on Sam Foley late in the game will leave Dean Smith scratching his head over who should replace him for the duration of his three-game ban.

Westcarr is Walsall’s top scorer this season by some distance. He has 13 league goals which doesn’t look too impressive until you realise that the Saddlers have only netted 45 times in total.

He seems to have rediscovered goalscoring form recently with a brace at Bradford too so it makes it an even bigger blow that the team will have to do without him.

Deano has an array of options to replace Westcarr. One assumes that Sawyers will remain a permanent fixture in the starting eleven, although I have been disappointed with his performances of late, so it is a question of who will come in to lead the line.

A particular fans’ favourite is for Milan Lalkovic to take up the role. This would also allow James Baxendale to keep his place, one I feel he deserves after a good display against Shrewsbury.

Lalkovic certainly has pace to burn unlike Westcarr but the hold-up play will be missed. I am unsure whether the Chelsea loanee is a clinical finisher either. Yes, he can score wonder goals but is he a natural finisher from inside the box? Personally I think it would be a waste not to have him charging down the flanks and terrorising full-backs.

Troy Hewitt is probably considered the backup striker at the moment and hasn’t managed to hold on to a place in the first team. I am a fan of Hewitt’s for his effort and persistence on and off the ball. He might benefit from three uninterrupted games to try and get into some sort of rhythm, which could improve his form. I would see him as the manager’s best option as things stand.

Michael Ngoo and young Amadou Bakayoko are both too big a risk for two different reasons.

Bakayoko is still very inexperienced and, at only 18 years old, it would be too much to expect him to get vital goals in these end-of-season crunch matches. He needs time to grow with the rest of the squad before being thrust into the team.

As for Ngoo, I simply do not feel he is up to the job. Since joining on-loan from Liverpool he hasn’t made any sort of impact and now only makes last minute cameos from the subs bench. It is true he could also thrive if given a run in the side; however I feel the signs are much better for Hewitt at present.

If Dean Smith doesn’t have faith in any of the above then he could road-test a new formula. This Saturday’s visit to Port Vale might be an ideal opportunity to try something like the 4-3-3 formation which worked so well away from home earlier in the season. Walsall were totally out muscled by the Valiants when they beat us 2-0 at the Banks’s in November, so blocking out the midfield might yield better results.

One thing is for sure: whether you love him or hate him, Westcarr will be a huge miss and Dean Smith now needs to somehow keep the goals rolling in against Vale, Bristol City and Colchester. If the Saddlers can’t deliver a decent points haul from those three games then they can kiss their play-off dreams goodbye for another year.

By: Scott Brotherton.

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