Walsall v Pompey: What you need to know about the opposition

Erhun Oztumer, right, in action against Peterborough earlier this season
Erhun Oztumer, right, in action against Peterborough earlier this season
The late Ray Wilkins. Picture: Lauren Hurley/PA Images

Former Pompey midfielder pays heartfelt tribute to Wilkins

0
Have your say

Pompey's opponents tomorrow, Walsall, have a very different ambition between now and the end of the season to Kenny Jackett's men.

The Saddlers are only four points ahead of the final relegation position currently held by Oldham Athletic, who have a game in hand.

The Blues will therefore encounter a team scrapping for every point as they try to get into the play-off spots.

The Manager

Walsall are in a somewhat unique position in the Football League in that they have a supporter in charge of the team.

Dean Keates stood on the terraces of Fellows Park and then the Banks's Stadium as a fan, before playing for the club in two spells, making more than 200 appearances.

Keates recently arrived from Wrexham, who he had taken to the upper echelons of the National League.

He left on a fine note, defeating rivals Chester 2-0 earlier this month.

The Saddlers were very keen on Keates, parting with a compensation package to land him - the first time the club have done so under Jeff Bonser's ownership.

Keates has only been in charge of one game, a 3-0 loss to Wigan Athletic, having replaced sacked Jon Whitney at the helm on March 16.

One to watch

It can only be the man dubbed the 'Turkish Messi'.

Standing at only 5ft 3in, Erhun Oztumer packs a mean punch.

From an attacking midfield role, he has netted 14 goals and provided five assists.

The 26-year-old struggled to find a club as a youngster due to his height, leading him to take injections as a teenager to stimulate growth.

But due to his bones already being shut, he did not grow after the age of 16.

Lionel Messi and Arsenal's Santi Cazorla are his inspiration, as he uses his frame to his advantage.

Quick, fragile and skillful, he is Walsall's best hope of avoiding relegation and a player Pompey will have to watch vigilantly.

Formation

Keates kept with the 4-4-1-1 system which can morph easily into a 4-2-3-1 for his one fixture in charge.

However, his preference was 4-4-2 at Wrexham.

Walsall are keen to engage with their forward players quickly, firing in the second most long passes in the division and getting the ball into the final third the second most regularly.

But they lose the ball often, owing to having one of the worst defensive records in the league.

Injury table

Vice-captain Joe Edwards has been ruled out for the rest of the season, while Arsenal loanee Krystian Bielik has returned to the Emirates with a hamstring injury and without kicking a ball for the club.

Previous meeting

The teams met on the third match day of the season when Pompey had to wait until the 74th minute for Brett Pitman to cancel out Luke Leahy's opener.

Form

Unsurprisingly, having just replaced their manager, Walsall have not been in a great run of form.

They have won only one of their past seven matches, with their last home win coming in February against Doncaster.

Stats

Only Scunthorpe United have lost the ball more than Walsall, who have lost possession 2,310 times - nearly 200 more times than Pompey.

What Keates is saying

'From what I have seen, I’m confident we will stay up.' he told the Express & Star.

'They (the players) are honest. They work hard. Sometimes you go into a football club and wonder whether they are fit – but they are very fit.

'I think maybe they are a little bit young. I think they have struggled on the leadership side.

''But all being well, I can give them a little bit of structure and confidence.'

Odds

Walsall 9/5, draw 11/5, Pompey 11/8