Can Sky Blues cap­i­talise on Sad­dlers’ slump?

Coventry Telegraph - - SPORT - Wal­sall man­ager Dean Keates

COVEN­TRY City take on their off-colour League One ri­vals Wal­sall in the first round of the FA Cup this week­end.

De­spite start­ing the sea­son as one of the divi­sion’s sur­prise pack­ages up among the early pace set­ters, the Sad­dlers have slumped in re­cent weeks and slipped to mid-ta­ble.

They have lost four of their last five games and are look­ing for a pick-me-up against the Sky Blues who, in con­trast, are brim­ming with con­fi­dence from a six-game un­beaten run So what’s gone wrong and what can Coven­try City fans ex­pect from the Sad­dlers when they travel in force to the Banks’s Sta­dium.

Here Wal­sall re­porter Joe Masi of the Ex­press and Star gives the low­down on Satur­day’s op­po­si­tion:

What were the ex­pec­ta­tions at the start of the sea­son af­ter last year’s rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle?

“They weren’t high ini­tially be­cause I think it was the day be­fore the sea­son started against Ply­mouth at home Wal­sall had hardly any play­ers.

“They signed three on the Fri­day – Mor­gan Fer­rier, Jack Fitzwa­ter and Kane Wil­son – and be­fore they signed Fitzwa­ter they had just one cen­tre-back, so they were 24 hours away from start­ing the sea­son with one cen­tral de­fender. So there was no real ex­pec­ta­tion other than to stay up re­ally. But they started the sea­son re­ally well.”

How is man­ager Dean Keates do­ing?

“He came in last year and put them in a 4-4-2 for­ma­tion and they have just been so well or­gan­ised. Ev­ery­one knows and sticks to their jobs per­fectly and they have be­come a proper, well or­gan­ised team.

“And that’s why I think they started so well when they were un­beaten in their first ten games in all com­pe­ti­tions, seven in the league, so they were fly­ing at one stage.”

What do you put the re­cent slump down to, hav­ing lost four out of their last five games?

“I think it’s a com­bi­na­tion of things re­ally. Ini­tially it seemed that a lot of de­ci­sions and things ap­peared to be go­ing against them and they weren’t re­ally get­ting the rub of the green. “The Shrews­bury game at home, for ex­am­ple, they ab­so­lutely bat­tered them but just couldn’t score. They just couldn’t see off their op­po­nents and since then con­fi­dence has dipped. “They have had a cou­ple of re­ally bad per­for­mances like Lu­ton away, which was dread­ful, and then Bur­ton last Satur­day and Charl­ton on Tues­day were equally as bad.”

Who are the star men?

“Ge­orge Dob­son is prob­a­bly their best player. He’s 20 years old and the cap­tain.

“He’s a proper box-to-box mid­fieler who scored the goal to keep them up against Northamp­ton last sea­son, and since then he’s just gone from strength to strength.

“He can tackle, cov­ers ev­ery blade of grass, can pass and gives ev­ery­thing ev­ery week. “He just needs to add goals. “He was at Arse­nal and West Ham. He came to Wal­sall on loan from West Ham and then they got him on a per­ma­nent deal. When he’s on his game Mor­gan Fer­rier is such a live wire up front.

“He is very er­ratic but a right hand­ful. When he gets the ball to feet he runs at de­fences but his fin­ish­ing has let him down in the last cou­ple of weeks.

“There’s also Andy Cook up front who has got seven goals in 21 games this sea­son, which isn’t bad. He has two in his last three and is a proper tar­get man and a real hand­ful but he re­lies on ser­vice. He came from Tran­mere in the sum­mer. He’d been at Bar­row and scored 20 goals a sea­son be­fore go­ing to Tran­mere and scor­ing 28 last sea­son, scor­ing the goal at Wem­b­ley that took them up. He and Fer­rier were the pick of the non-league strik­ers and Wal­sall got them both and they started the sea­son re­ally well.”

Coven­try fans could out­num­ber the home sup­port on Satur­day. What do you put that down to?

“Wal­sall’s av­er­age at­ten­dance is about 4,000. Peo­ple of­ten say you have to be a lit­tle bit men­tal to be a Wal­sall fan given that five miles down the road is The Hawthorns, 11 miles away Villa Park, ten miles away Wolves, not to men­tion Blues, so they are slap, bang in the mid­dle of an area with mas­sive clubs.

“So they have got their hard­core of fans but it’s rare for them to be out­num­bered, if that is the case at the week­end.”

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