By Owd Jim
|Home||17,233 1979-1980||3,627 1974-1974||10,167|
|Away||13,505 1962-1963||3,362 1982-1982||5,778|
The first ever meeting was in the FA Cup Round 5 in 1938/39. A crowd of 33,543 turned up at Leeds Road to see Town win 3-0 thanks to goals from Price(2) and McCall. Town went on the beat Blackburn Rovers after a replay only to lose 1-2 to Pompey in the Semi Final at Highbury. The next cup meeting came in 1975/76 in Round 1. This time 5,506 went to Fellows Park and saw Town win yet again, but this time only 1-0 with Rod Belfitt notching the vital goal.
League meetings have been few and far between, despite the fact that the Saddlers are 20 years older than Town. The first meetings came in the old Division 2 during Townâ€™s long stay in that Division. In 1960/61 Walsall was promoted and met Town for two seasons before dropping back to Division 3. The first game was at Leeds Road on 23rd September 1961. Town won handily 4-2 with Stokes earning a hat-trick and Sharples putting the ball into his own net; the crowd was 15,100. The return match on 10th February 1962 ended up 2-2 with McHale and Balderstone doing the honours for Town; this time 10,864 watched the game. The following season Town scored the biggest win either way with a 4-0 thumping of the Saddlers at Leeds Road. Watched by 12,310 Massie(2), Oâ€™Grady and White scored for the home side. This followed a week after a 1-1 draw away which drew the best ever away gate of 13,505; Stokes scored for Town.
The next set of games came in the Division 3 part of The Great Slide. Town did not fare well, in 1973/74 the games went 2-2 and 0-2 and the following year 3-2 and 0-2.
The Division 4 championship season of 1979/80 saw the next meetings as Walsall had been relegated the previous season. Both matches ended up 1-1 and Walsall went up with Town. For the three season stay in Division 3 the results were mixed; 1-2-0 5-4 at home and 0-2-1 3-5 away. Town went up at the end of 1983/84 and we did not meet again until 1989/90. That season, in Division 3 saw Town win the only double either side has won so far. The games ended 1-0 and 3-2.
In 1999/2000, a decade later we met again in Division 1 (Now Championship) and the Saddlers came off best. They drew 1-1 at the Mac and won 2-0 on their own park.
We next met in the 21st century in 2004/05 when Town won handily at the Galpharm and then succeeded in throwing away a 3-1 lead at the Bescot to end up on the losing end of a 3-4 score. Town won the home fixture the following season 3-1 thanks to Boothyâ€™s 100th goal for Town and a brace from Abbott. That win took them to the top. The return game was a must win for both sides and Town, after a miserable home loss a few days before played some good stuff and three strikers found the net, Graham, Abbott (only on the field for 10 minutes!) and Booth in a 3-1 win giving them the second double and relegating Walsall.
In 2007/08 the away game ended 0-4. The whole Town team was utter rubbish and Ritchie sounded defeated in the post game interview. As a gutless effort it was possibly even worse than the 0-3 loss at Northampton a few games earlier. The return fixture came in the penultimate match under Gerry Murphyâ€™s guidance after the sacking of Ritchie. It was a nothing game for either side and Schofield and Booth scored in a 2-0 win.
The home game in 2008/09 ended up 2-1 for Town after a Roberts penalty and last gasp winner by Collins, who else? A good first half was followed by a poor second half in which Walsall dominated until Collins popped up for the winner. Near the season end in a pride only game the Saddlers were on top and took a 2-0 lead only for Booth to hit two goals in two minutes just before half time resulted in Town being fired up and loan man Kelly scored the winner just after the hour mark to end up 3-2. This was Townâ€™s third win away and produced the third â€˜doubleâ€™.
In 2009/10 Town went to The Bescot and again put in a poor show. After taking the lead through Robinson early in the second half, Butler gave away yet another penalty and then Mattis, a former player scored the winner for the home side to make it 2-1, their first of the season. The return fixture came late on when the Saddlers were playing for pride and Town for a play-off place. The Terriers led from a 20th Minute penalty (Robinson) following a red card for a Walsall defender. In injury time Rhodes added a second. Then in the space of 25 minutes in the second half Town fell apart and trailed 2-3. Cue a thrilling finish when Kay equalised in injury time to be followed by Novak, a 76th minute sub for Rhodes, scoring the winner 3 minutes into injury time!
In 2010/11 Walsall came to Town at the end of October in 23rd place. They were awful and despite Town being down to ten men after 24 minutes when Lee was sent off Pilkington, as usual, scored what proved to be the only goal on 35 minutes. The away game came on 15th January and the Terriers got off to their usual slow start giving up a goal on 14 minutes. Kilbane and McCombe then put Town in control by the 25th minute. A daft goal conceded just after half time caused some concern but Captain Clarke and sub Rhodes saw Town safely to a 4-2 win and another â€œdoubleâ€.
In 2011/12 Walsall came to the Galpharm sitting 20th to Townâ€™s 2nd for a home banker game. As usual with Town things did not go according to plan and while having most of the play actually scrambled a 1-1 draw with Novak scoring and ending rather luckily still level after the Saddlers missed a late chance. The only positive was that Town equaled Forestâ€™s record of 42 regular league games without defeat.
The Saddlers are still not totally safe from relegation so they will be anxious to get a win on Saturday. Townâ€™s performances have been poor for quite a while now as Grayson juggles his players to try to find a winning formation (so far without much luck). Town is only playing for 4th or 5th place and with the record of home play-off games reading a lousy 7 0-5-2 8-11 (although AFCB were beaten on PKs, AET) there is really no advantage in playing the home leg second so that it matters very little whether Town finish 4th or 5th. So Grayson can experiment again and letâ€™s hope he can find the magic formula. I reckon the Saddlers game will end up 1-2 as there has not been a drawn match away since 1981/82 and Town really has nothing to play for.