Saddlers in relegation battle

TONIGHT'S Layer Road visitors Walsall are fighting a battle to avoid relegation, and for the moment they are persevering without a full-time manager.Paul Merson was sacked as Saddlers boss at the beginning of last week, following a 5-0 defeat at Brentford.

By Carl Marston

TONIGHT'S Layer Road visitors Walsall are fighting a battle to avoid relegation, and for the moment they are persevering without a full-time manager.

Paul Merson was sacked as Saddlers boss at the beginning of last week, following a 5-0 defeat at Brentford. The former England and Arsenal striker, who joined Walsall as a player in 2003 and was appointed manager towards the end of the 2003-04 campaign, is now mulling over a number of offers to resume his playing career at various League clubs.

The Saddlers were relegated in 2004, and finished a disappointing 14th in League One last season. Mick Halsall has taken over as a caretaker boss.


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The west Midlanders earned a valuable point against fellow strugglers Scunthorpe on Saturday, despite twice falling behind and also having winger Paul Devlin sent off for violent conduct.

Dean Keates and Andrew Barrowman were on target to secure a 2-2 draw at the Bescot Stadium. However, Walsall are only one point and one place above the relegation zone, and they are without a win in six matches.

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In fact, they are yet to win a league match in 2006. Their last League One success was a 2-0 win over Blackpool on December 31.

Devlin and Luton Town loanee midfielder Michael Leary are both suspended tonight, while centre-half Chris Westwood is sidelined with a hamstring strain and striker Mads Timm, on loan from Manchester United, is a doubt with a back problem.

However, centre-half Anthony Gerrard, a former Everton trainee, is back after suspension.

Colchester chalked up a 2-0 win at the Bescot Stadium a month ago, thanks to goals from regular marksmen Neil Danns and Chris Iwelumo. They are therefore gunning for a third league double of the season, after taking six points off both Port Vale and Blackpool.

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