Posted by: Bescot Banter •


This coming Saturday Walsall Football Club travel the short distance to take on Port Vale in their opening game of the 2014/15 Sky Bet League One campaign.
This coming Saturday Walsall Football Club travel the short distance to take on Port Vale in their opening game of the 2014/15 Sky Bet League One season.

The Saddlers start the campaign on the back of a so-so pre-season, which saw the Reds defeated by Torquay United (2-1), Alfreton Town (2-0), Leicester City (2-3) and Aston Villa (0-1), along with non-scoring draws against both Wigan Athletic and Mansfield Town.

Walsall did however sample the taste of victory over the summer, with wins over Leamington (1-3) and Chasetown (0-1).

Manager Dean Smith has managed to keep the the core of the squad together over the summer, with just former club captain Andy Butler who headed to Sheffield United, opting to reject terms on a new deal.

Smith did do a fair bit of squad clearing however, with last season's top-scorer Craig Westcarr, former Queens Park Rangers striker Troy Hewitt, academy products Danny Griffiths, and Liam Roberts, midfielder Nicky Featherstone, up-and-coming right-back Ben George, former Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Ashley Hemmings, ex-Hereford United winger James McQuilkin and former West Bromwich Albion 'keeper Shane Lewis were all being released at the end of the campaign. Goalkeeper Liam Roberts was however re-signed last week following a management re-think.

Sought-after Harrogate Town goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray, Shrewsbury Town striker Tom Bradshaw, former Bournemouth, Doncaster Rovers and Derby County defender James O'Connor, ex-Charlton Athletic forward Jordan Cook and former Millwall and Rochdale striker Ashley Grimes and Chelsea Academy graduate Billy Clifford have all joined the squad over the off-season, giving the Saddlers a revitalised attacking line.

The Saddlers are expected to hand league debuts to Tom Bradshaw, James O'Connor, Ashley Grimes and Billy Clifford, but are likely be without midfield man Sam Mantom who continues to recover from a knee injury which has limited him to just one substitute appearance over the past month.

Summer recruit Jordan Cook will also miss out through a 'slightly' fractured ankle. He is expected to make a fairly swift recovery and could feature within the next month-or-so.

Right-back Ben Purkiss is also expected to sit out the game after rolling his ankle during the first week of pre-season.

Port Vale arrive at the start of the season on the back of a largely successful pre-season, which has seen the side lose just twice (Bolton Wanderers and Southport), draw once (Tiverton Town) and win seven times (Newcastle Town, Alsager Town, Norton United, Alfreton Town, Plymouth Parkway, Bodmin Town and West Bromwich Albion).

The Valliants have seen something of a clear-out following last season's 9th place finish. Manager Micky Adams has allowed Chris Shuker, Gary O'Neil, Joe Davis, Douglas Price, Wilson Carvalho, Louis Greenway-Tambini, Thomas Morris, Cheye Alexander, Ben Jefford, and Robert Taylor to depart.

Whilst Ryan McGivern, Michael Brown, Steven Jennings, Michael O'Connor, Mark Marshall, Byron Moore and Frederic Veseli have all arrived.

In-terms of head-to-head Walsall hold the lead with thirty-three wins to Vale's seventeen. There have also been twenty-two draws between the two sides.

Their first encounter took place on 22nd October 1938 in-front of 8,593 at the Old Recreation Ground, the Saddlers losing 5-1 in the Division Three (South) clash.

In more recent times, the Saddlers have won just one of the clubs last five league and cup encounters, and haven't defeated the Vale in the league since August 2004.

This weekends referee is scheduled to be Darren Bond who is based in Lancashire. David Benton and Peter Gooch are set to be running the lines, whilst Kevin Morris will be Fourth Official.
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