League 2 previews: Walsall

Jun 15, 2021 | News

One of the shorter journeys Rovers will undertake next season is to the Banks’s Stadium, home of Walsall who finished a disappointing season in 19th place with 53 points.

Their home record saw them win seven games, lose ten and draw six. There were also two games against Rovers last season; The Saddlers won an EFL Trophy tie on penalties at the Mem in September, while Rovers won a first round FA Cup tie 2-1 at the Banks’s in November.

The sides are no strangers to one another, having met no fewer than 94 times in the league, dating back to 1927/28 when Rovers were 5-2 winners at Eastville in the first ever league meeting between the sides. Rovers have won 38 of those games, Walsall 34 and there have been 22 draws.

Rovers have three FA Cup wins to Walsall’s one, while the Saddlers have won both League Cup encounters.

The Saddlers moved to the Banks’s Stadium in 1990, after playing at Fellows Park for 94 years. The all seater stadium has a capacity of 11,300 and is situated just off of junction 9 of the M6.

Ray Graydon and Darrell Clarke have both had spells as manager of both clubs and one of Clarke’s coaches at Rovers, Brian Dutton, was caretaker manager of Walsall last season after Clarke left for Port Vale.

Dutton’s services were dispensed with during the summer, so there will be a new man in charge when we next travel to the Banks’s.

Kevan Broadhurst, who was assistant to Ian Atkins at Rovers, also had a short spell in the managerial chair at Walsall in 2006, while Kenny Hibbitt, who played for Rovers, joined Walsall as their manager after the Leyland DAF Final in 1990.

There have been a number of players who have turned out for both clubs, including Alfie Biggs, Aaron Lescott, James Clarke, Stuart Sinclair, Matt Gill, Josh Ginnelly, Rory Gaffney, Neil Etheridge, Luke Leahy, Craig Stanley, Andy Rammell, Kenny Stephens and Andy Tillson.

One particular game against Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium does stay in the memory. It was a 5-0 win in which Aaron Lescott, who had never before scored for Rovers, scored twice. One to forget, though, was the 6-1 mauling we received at the same venue in January 2011 during Dave Penney’s short time in charge of the Gas.

Here are just some of the players who have made their debuts against Walsall since the war; Leslie Edwards (1950/51), David Bumpstead (1961/62), Joe Gadston & Peter Higgins (1968/69), Sandy Allan (1969/79), John Rudge (1971/72), David Smith (1981/82), Ian Alexander, Kenny Hibbitt, Tarki Micallef, Mark Smalley (all 1986/87), Rune Johansen (2000/01), Luke Daniels, Cian Bolger & Scott Davies (2010/11) and Byron Moore (2016/17).

A single journey from the Memorial Stadium to the Banks’s Stadium involves a road trip of 89 miles.

Keith Brookman