Chris Marsh: This run of games is crucial to Walsall's season
Get ready Walsall fans, because any questions you have got about your side are going to answered over the next few weeks.
The visit of Blackpool to the Banks’s Stadium this Saturday marks the start of what I’m calling phase three of the 2017/18 campaign, writes Chris Marsh.
Phase two was tricky. Jon Whitney’s side have been up against Shrewsbury, Wigan, Charlton, Oxford, Peterborough and Rotherham in their previous six League One outings.
Five of those sides are currently sat in the top six of the table. And while the Saddlers secured some decent draws, their only win came at Oxford.
After that run, we’re exactly where I expected us to be in the table – 16th and looking over our shoulders.
The next five or six games though are going to be crucial.
They will tell us if we have got what it takes to move up and into the top half of the table.
Or they will confirm some fans’ fears that we could be dragged into a relegation scrap.
After Blackpool, the Saddlers face MK Dons, Doncaster, Southend, Blackburn and Gillingham.
There is a real chance the Blackburn game will be called off due to international call-ups. And that means the Saddlers are facing a whole host of teams who are either below them or around them in the table in the coming weeks.
The big question hanging over this Walsall team is whether they are able to string a run of wins together.
They need to be able to put together a run of three or four victories if they are serious about competing for a place in the top six.
And now is the time to prove to us all they are capable of doing it.
One thing’s for sure, they won’t if they keep conceding goals.
Whitney’s men have now played 15 games this season without registering a single clean sheet. Even more incredibly, they have given away a staggering eight penalties – the last of which came against Shrewsbury last weekend.
But those statistics aside, I do think the team deserve some credit for how they preformed against Paul Hurst’s in-form side.
I do think, overall, Shrewsbury looked the stronger of the two teams.
But you would expect that because their players must be brimming with confidence following their unbeaten start.
Walsall, though, really dug in. They kept battling and got themselves a decent point.
Of course, they had a little bit of luck along the way.
There seems a bit of confusion as to whether Jon Guthrie should have been sent off following his handball, which led to Shrewsbury’s penalty.
But, for me, the penalty was punishment enough.
Guthrie staying on made it a game and that’s what we all want to see.
I’ve got no idea whether he should have gone or not. Some say the double jeopardy rule applied.
Others say he denied a goal not a goalscoring opportunity so he should have been dismissed.
You need an A-level in maths to make a refereeing decision these days, there are so many rules.
In my opinion, the game would benefit from being simplified.
But I can’t see that happening any time soon.
Finally this week, I just want to reiterate how impressed I’ve been with Walsall’s fans.
I think they have been brilliant, they are certainly more patient now than when I was playing.
At times, they would crucify me. The teams I played in, we got used to some real stick.
But I think they have been excellent so far.
Even when Coventry visited in the Checkatrade Trophy, I was impressed.
I thought the Sky Blues were excellent that night. They played with real intensity and tempo.
They really pressed Walsall, but the home crowd still got behind their team.
After that game I was surprised to hear Whitney say his team was tired. It’s a bit early in the season to be tired and that’s not the type of thing fans want to hear.
It led to Jon and the players getting a bit of stick.
But I think it’s important they know they do get excellent support.
It might not feel like it at times, but the supporters are doing everything they can to inspire them to success.