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BLOG: BLESSING IN DISGUISE

In the latest of his regular columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at the Saddlers' recent FA Cup exit and considers whether the club's failure to advance in the competition, and subsequent period of inactivity, will be something of a blessing in disguise.
In the latest of his regular columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at the Saddlers' recent FA Cup exit and considers whether the club's failure to advance in the competition, and subsequent period of inactivity, will be something of a blessing in disguise.

Like a lot Saddlers fans I was watching the scores come in on Saturday lamenting our absence, and wondering what could have been.

It was disappointing to go out at the first hurdle, and yet another year where Walsall and the FA Cup just did not mix.

Mind you with our conquerors Shrewsbury drawing Preston, and them in turn getting Norwich City, it's a reminder that the third round draw doesn't always hand out those dream ties.

After the dust has settled, you realise having a Saturday off could be just the tonic we need to push on through the busy Christmas period.

It certainly meant we were recharged and managed to squeeze through (only just mind you) into the JPT final on Tuesday night. We miraculously won a penalty shootout as well so maybe the lads should have the weekend off more often!

In contrast to our rest weekend, our semi-final opponents Tranmere were in action in the FA Cup against fellow League Two strugglers Oxford United. Following a 2-2 draw they now have a replay, which adds another midweek game to their energy-sapping schedule.

In fact our fresher legs may have been key in pulling back the two-goal deficit to take it to penalties. That and a super save at 2-0 down by Richard O'Donnell, another match-defining moment from the ever-improving goalkeeper.

Both goals from Anthony Forde and Michael Cain came in the final half an hour, when perhaps Rovers were running out if steam after their exploits on Saturday.

The Saddlers' free weekend must have done the world of good for the Tom Bradshaw too. He could have been rushed back for a Saturday league game and not been 100% ready. The makes it ever more likely that he would have tweaked his pesky hamstring, whereas the extra three days meant he came through a whole 90 minutes against Tranmere unscathed.

At such a hectic time with fixtures coming thick and fast, these few days could prove to be precious. The side should be fit raring to go against Barnsley on Saturday. Only Sam Mantom and possibly Andy Taylor and Jordan Cook, depending how bad their knocks are, should be out of contention.

Upon seeing our reward for beating Shrewsbury would be Preston, I was quite happy to sacrifice the FA Cup for this year. We can focus everything on League One and the JPT now, and maybe even get to Wembley...

By: Scott Brotherton.
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