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Match Previews

2015/16 preview - introducing Walsall FC

16 June 2015

Meet Millwall's League One opponents


Bescot StadiumStadium:

The SaddlersNickname:

14th in League One Position:
Manager: There seems to be an element of karma about Walsall manager Dean Smith's playing and managerial career up to now.

Smith kicked off his career with Walsall during the 1989/90 season during which saw The Saddlers were relegated to the Fourth Division. But the footballing gods had plans for the enterprising striker and he would eventually return to the club as the Head of Youth in 2009, and in the latter half of the 2010/11, take over the managerial reigns to spearhead a fightback against almost certain relegation to League Two.

Relegation and salvation have been the bookends of Smith's Walsall career.

In between this cyclic journey, he had spells playing for Hereford City, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale.

Following his retirement as a player in 2005, Smith served as assistant manager at former club Leyton Orient, before his eventual return to the Bescot Stadium.

During the 2014/15 season, Smith took Walsall to their first ever Wembley appearance in the Football League Trophy, although a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bristol City would see the team return up the M1 without the silverware.

Key Player: Striker Tom Bradshaw signed for The Saddlers from Shrewsbury Town in June 2014 and immediately made his mark by scoring on his debut during a 1-1 draw away at Port Vale, setting the standard for a season in which he finished top of the scoring charts with 20 goals to his name.

Bradshaw's career began in the youth ranks at Aberystwyth Town in 2004. He signed a professional contract in 2008, but would only remain in Wales for another season before the move to Shrewsbury Town a year later.

Following Shrewsbury's relegation at the end of the 2013/14 season, he signed a two-year contract with Walsall and quickly found his goalscoring boots.

Although born in Shrewsbury, Bradshaw grew up in Wales, making him eligible for the Welsh national team and it wasn't long before his international opportunity came knocking. In September 2011 he appeared for Wales U19s, scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win against Liechtenstein.

He went on to make appearances for the U19s before advancing to Wales' U21 ranks, once again scoring on his debut, this time against Montenegro.

Bradshaw earned eight caps for the U21s and was on the standby list for the senior national team ahead of their Euro 2016 campaign, before a hamstring injury in 2014 forced him to withdraw.

Top scorer: Tom Bradshaw (20 goals)

Head-to-head: In their 74 previous encounters, The Lions have gained an impressive advantage over their rivals from the West Midlands, notching up 34 wins to The Saddlers 19, with 19 games ending all square.

Last time we met: The two teams last crossed swords back in the 2009/10 season when the League One clash on 6th March at the Bescot Stadium ended in a 2-2 draw.

The Lions, in a rich vein of form, were looking for a win to take them into the Play-Off positions. However, two early goals by Walsall from Richard Taundry and Alex Nicholls put a serious dent in their ambitions. Kenny Jackett's side gradually turned the tide in their favour and striker Steve Morison reduced the deficit to a single goal on the half-hour mark.

The home team were reduced to ten men when defender Marc Richards was sent off for a rash challenge on Chris Hackett, his second bookable offence, but the travelling supporters had to wait until injury-time to see Millwall level the scores. What a goal it was too, with Alan Dunne's pile-driver not only earning The Lions a valuable and much-deserved point, but also going on to win the Goal of the Season award.

Walsall: Gilmartin, Weston (Westlake, 46mins), Jones (Hughes, 76mins), Deeney, Nicholls (Byfield, 87mins), Taundry, O'Keefe, Vincent, Richards (s/o 64 mins), Gray, McDonald. Subs not used: Ince, Sansara, Bradley, Grigg.
Scorers: Nicholls (12mins), Taundry (26mins)

Millwall: Forde, Dunne, Craig, Abdou (Obika, 78mins), Robinson, Ward (Barron, 67mins), Schofield, Trotter, Harris (Batt, 59mins), Morison, Hackett. Subs not used: Sullivan, Smith, Frampton, Laird.
Scorer: Morison (29mins), Dunne (90+3mins)

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