Owls: Sheffield Wednesday out to put heat on old boy Dean

Crunch clash: Alex Nicholls is relishing the visit of Wednesday.
Crunch clash: Alex Nicholls is relishing the visit of Wednesday.
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WEDNESDAY are out to deepen the relegation worries of former captain Dean Smith.

But his Saddlers outfit will look for inspiration from the visit of the Owls.

“It’s one we’re looking forward and we’ll be aiming to express ourselves,” says forward Alex Nicholls.

Walsall are just the latest in a series of ‘lesser’ clubs who see the home game against Wednesday as a huge occasion: a challenge of facing one of the division’s top teams in front of a bumper crowd swelled by a large away following.

The Saddlers also need the points: a 1-1 draw at Chesterfield in the last game left them without a win in five league and cup games.

Their hopes were dashed by an equaliser in the last minute of normal time, as Wednesday suffered stoppage-time anti-climax in their 4-4 draw with Huddersfield.

Smith’s men have now drawn their last three league games - including a home 1-1 stalemate with leaders Charlton, a result that seems to mark them out as no pushovers at home.

They also drew 1-1 at Dagenham in the FA Cup during this run, and lost the replay on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Boss Smith, though frustrated by the loss of two points in the Chesterfield game, looks on the bright side and felt that his players were affected by a midweek cup replay:

“The lads worked extremely hard in the first half [against Chesterfield] and played some good football. We never upped the tempo in the second half and we gave them more possession. But we showed grit and determination. Tired legs were certainly a factor and unfortunately we couldn’t see it out.

“We are now three games unbeaten in the league.”

But Walsall are fighting against relegation for the second successive season.

They finished only three places above the drop zone in May and are fourth from bottom, level on points with third-from-bottom Rochdale.

Wednesday took a point at the Bescot Stadium in the fourth-from-last match of last season, after falling behind to an early goal from Jon Macken. Neil Mellor equalised before half-time.

Saddlers forward Nicholls, who scored at Chesterfield, says: “It was another match unbeaten and we’ll go into Christmas positive. It’s a case of dusting ourselves down and being ready to go again. We’ll be going for a win.”