Preview: Walsall vs Exeter City

City finally returned to winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 win over struggling Scunthorpe, meaning the “Matt Taylor derby” goes ahead with City’s squad in buoyant mood. Offrande Zanzala capped a fine debut with a goal, thus ensuring he has won the fans over already ahead of his first away match. There was good and bad news affecting City’s Taylor over the past week – ahead of the Scunthorpe match Bristol City recalled Owura Edwards from his loan, only to send him to Colchester where he took just three minutes to do something he failed to do at City, and score. The good news is that Nigel Atangana saw his first action since mid-November when coming on as a sub for 30 minutes in the U23 defeat to West Ham on Tuesday night – it’s unlikely he’ll feature for the first team yet but with Sam Nombe also making good progress from his hamstring injury City’s squad will be close to full strength before long.

Walsall’s season is in danger of drifting aimlessly – in no real danger of going down but form and prospects also looking increasingly distant in terms of challenging at the top, although Walsall’s Taylor could take heart from the recent form of Mansfield, who have turned their season around on the back of stringing a few results together. The Saddlers have recorded one win since mid-November, that a 3-0 trouncing of Colchester, but Taylor’s side goes into the weekend’s match on the back of successive away defeats at Stevenage and Mansfield. The transfer window has so far seen one in (the permanent signing of loanee Rollin Menayesse) and two out, including the departure of Otis Khan to Leyton Orient. The other departure was tough tackling defender Ash Taylor to Kilmarnock. George Miller is likely to be the one to watch as he is the club’s top scorer with seven, although he hasn’t found the net since October. Conor Wilkinson was prolific at Leyton Orient but has just four goals this season.

Since Walsall’s return to the basement in 2019 City have failed to win any of the five fixtures between the sides, although Walsall too have only won once and that helped massively by a huge refereeing error at 1-1 when he overturned the linesman’s decision on what video suggested was a legitimate goal for Ryan Bowman. The reverse was an entertaining 2-2 draw – City twice led through Dieng and Nombe only to be pegged back by a brace from Miller, the first from the spot. Walsall enjoy the edge in league head to heads, 32-25, with 14 matches finishing level.

The match officials will be:-

Referee: Darren Handley
Assistant Referee: Oliver Bickle and Declan Ford
Fourth Official : Paul Graham

Darren Handley has taken charge of four Exeter City games, the last being Colchester in January 2020, see

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