That team is Walsall, an English League One side that draws praise from its opponents for its fancy football but derision from its supporters for its anaemic attack.
Bookmakers have yet to clock on to the mess in which Walsall finds itself, otherwise they would be offering much shorter odds about the Saddlers being relegated to England’s fourth tier than they are. Walsall has lost each of its last three English League One matches, its top scorer is injured, its most talented player is an enigma and its divisional form over the last 12 months is that of a relegation certainty.
Only goal difference is keeping Walsall off the foot of the English League One ladder this term. Walsall has won fewer English League One games than any of its 23 rivals – two wins, six draws and six losses is the full record of the Saddlers – and Dean Smith’s side has scored the fewest number of goals also. Walsall’s top scorer, Tom Bradshaw, has a hamstring tear at the moment and the team’s other goal threat, Romaine Sawyers, is one of those infuriating players who produces a blinder once in every 10 matches. Sawyers is capable of playing at a much higher level – perhaps as high as the English Premier League – but he is very inconsistent.
Walsall fans have got a sense of humour – one message board regular posted DLDLLLDDDWWLLDDLLDWDLDLLDWLDWDWLLL and said that it was not an obscure town in Wales but the results of the Saddlers in their 32 English League One matches since late January. Walsall failed to build on its 5-1 English League One victory at Notts County, winning just another two games before the end of last season and carrying over its dismal form into the current term. Walsall’s last 32 English League games have resulted in four wins, 14 draws and 16 losses. If one goes back 46 English League One matches – the equivalent of a full season – Walsall’s record is 10 wins, 18 draws and 18 losses. By anyone’s standards that is relegation form.
Expectations among Walsall supporters are not sky high – the Saddlers fanbase recognise that their side’s average crowd in the low 4,000s means that it is among English League One’s minnows – but they are running out of patience with Smith, the team’s former central defender who has, in their opinion, wasted the money that he has been allowed to spend.
Walsall is playing some English League One sides off the park – for example, the Saddlers had 25 shots compared to Crawley’s five in Tuesday’s game in West Sussex that the away team lost 0-1 – but the results are not coming because, quite simply, Smith’s side does not have a cutting edge.
Having lost to Oldham, Crewe and Crawley in its last three English League One matches, Walsall’s upcoming assignments are against some of the division’s top teams. Next up for Walsall are English League One games versus Chesterfield, Notts County, Sheffield United and Peterborough. And Walsall will have to do without the services of former captain Andy Butler, whose loan spell from Sheffield United has come to an end. Walsall asked Sheffield United to extend Butler’s stay at the Banks’s Stadium but the Blades said no.
Low on goals, low on confidence and low on money to bring in new players, Walsall should be trading at much shorter odds than +225 to be relegated from English League One at the end of its eight consecutive term in England’s third tier.
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