Walsall preview

The Exiles begin their FA Cup exploits this season with a home tie against Walsall. It is the first time County have been drawn at home in the first round since 2011, while Walsall have more experience of being away at this stage of the competition, only having to go back two years for the last time that occurred.

Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this Emirates FA Cup tie.


Last six league games

The Saddlers have picked up six points from the last eighteen available after a win, three draws and two defeats from their last six league outings.

A 2-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic started that run, before having three consecutive 1-1 draws.

Two of those stalemates came at home, Daniel Agyei scoring against league-leaders Shrewsbury Town before Erhun Oztumer produced a scintillating 25-yard free-kick against Blackpool. 

Striker Tyler Roberts, who was called up the Wales U21s squad on Wednesday, scored a penalty to salvage a draw at MK Dons, before the Saddlers secured their first victory since 23rd September at Doncaster.

Oztumer scored twice alongside Keiron Morris in the 3-0 victory at the Keepmoat Stadium.

But Walsall lost their unbeaten home start to the season in all competitions in their most recent match, as Southend United triumphed 1-0 at Banks’s Stadium.



The Saddlers only have one injury doubt ahead of this game.

Flo Cuvelier picked up a slight niggle at the Keepmoat Stadium against Doncaster and missed the most recent game. He could, however, make a return having made significant progress in training this week.

The defender was the only change in their line-up for the Southend defeat last weekend, so a similar team could be named again, especially with the announcement that their next League 1 fixture against Blackburn Rovers has been postponed.


Walsall FC (3-4-1-2): Gillespie, Wilson (Ismail 79’), Donnellan, Guthrie, Kinsella, Chambers, Edwards, Leahy (Morris 67’), Oztumer, Bakayoko (Agyei 67’), T Roberts.


One to watch – Erhun Oztumer

Oztumer has made a fast start to the new season with seven goals already this campaign.

His goals have also come quite spaced out, with two in August, two in September and three during October.

The 26-year old has been directly responsible for winning his side six points, netting the winner against both Plymouth Argyle and Oldham, with equalisers in draws with Blackpool and Peterborough United.

He has also scored in the EFL Cup against Sheffield United, in addition to netting two in the win at Doncaster last month.  

That follows on from the 15 goals he scored during the last campaign, his first with the Saddlers, having joined upon t

he expiry of his contract at Peterborough United.

The winger spent two years with Posh, although didn’t have such a fruitful spell with the Cambridgeshire outfit, only scoring seven goals from 57 appearances.

That was his first spell at professional English football, having played previously for Dulwich Hamlet. The 26-year old was a lot more prolific playing in the Isthmian Premier Division, with a staggering 60 goals from just 96 appearances.

Prior to his spells in England, Oztumer spent some time in Turkey.

At 16 he joined Manisaspor, although never made a first team appearance after featuring heavily for the youth team at the club.

That saw the winger move to Sivasspor in 2009, but again failed to make his way into the first-team fold and was forced to settle for the reserves.

He then dropped down the divisions to join fourth division side Anadolu Uskudar, where he finally made the first-team. However, he only scored five goals from 35 games for the club over a 15-month contract before returning to England.

Manager – Jon Whitney

Whitney has been in charge since 7th March 2016 following the dismissal of Sean O’Driscoll.

He missed out on promotion by a single point in the first two months at the helm, eventually losing to Barnsley in the play-off final after finishing 3rd behind Wigan Athletic and Burton Albion.

In the 2016/17 season, Walsall finished 14th, a place above where they are currently this campaign.

It is his first managerial job to date, with his record standing at a 35.3% win rate from his 85 previous matches. That sees Whitney winning 30 of those 85 games, with 25 draws and a further 30 defeats.

Prior to turning to management, Whitney had a successful playing career in the 1990s.

He played for sides including Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Hull City, although found his best form at Lincoln City.

Whitney made over 100 appearances for the Imps and was a defender throughout his career.

Since his retirement, Whitney has worked in various roles at Walsall before being appointed manager.

He has a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy from the University of Salford so joined the club in 2003 as a physiotherapist. He has also been first-team advisor under Dean Smith’s caretaker management and assistant manager to Smith when he was promoted to the job permanently.


Emirates FA Cup record

The Saddlers recent record in the FA Cup sees them falling at the first hurdle in three of the last five seasons.

That includes last season, when they suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to National League outfit Macclesfield Town thanks to John McCombe’s goal.

They made it as far as the fourth round in 2015/16 before suffering a 4-0 defeat at Reading, with another first-round exit the season before, this time to Shrewsbury Town in a replay.

The prior two campaigns see them suffering defeats in the second and first rounds to Leyton Orient and Lincoln City respectively.

Like County, Walsall’s best FA Cup runs have gone as far as the 5th round.

The Exiles made it there during the 1948-49 season before losing to Portsmouth while Walsall have made it that far on six previous occasions, with the seasons as follows:

1938-39, 1974-55, 1977-78, 1986-87, 2001-02, 2002-03

On their two most recent matches in the fifth round, the Saddlers lost to Fulham and Sheffield United respectively.


Previous meetings

The two sides have met on 61 previous occasions, including seven previous FA Cup meetings.

Overall, it is the Exiles who narrowly edge the head-to-head record, with 24 previous victories, while Walsall have 23 successes and a further 14 draws.

But in the FA Cup specifically, it is a role reversal. Walsall have won four of the cup encounters, including the last time the two sides met in the competition back on 14th December 1974.

County won the first meeting between the sides on 8th October 1927, while Walsall secured their first victory over the Exiles just over a year later on 29th December 1928.

Some other notable streaks include the 19-game unbeaten run County put together against Walsall between the years of 1950 and 1957.

However, Walsall have won each of the last five meetings between the sides, the last of which came on 20th April 1987.

That means this is the first meeting between the two sides since County’s reformation in 1989.



Referee: Gavin Ward

Assistant Referee 1: Kevin Morris

Assistant Referee 2: Steven Plane

Fourth Official: Samuel Allison

Ward is currently in his eleventh season as a Football League referee.

He has taken charge of 16 previous games this season, the last of which came on Tuesday in Luton’s 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon in the CheckaTrade Trophy.

That sees Ward having given out 48 yellow cards and one red card thus far this season.

That follows on from last season where Ward’s record stood at 150 yellow cards and six red cards from 41 matches.


County Connection

Ward has officiated County on five previous occasions. Those games have all been league matches, with County securing two victories, a draw and two defeats from the games.

He has already overseen a County game this season. That came in the 1-0 victory over Cheltenham Town when Padraig Amond scored the winning goal in tough conditions at Rodney Parade. Three yellow cards were given out on the night, Matty Dolan the offender for the Exiles.

Only one County game was refereed by Ward last season, which came in the 4-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient. Joss Labadie and Mark O’Brien were booked for the Exiles.

Ward officiated County twice in the 2015/16 season. The Exiles were unbeaten in those two games, the first a 1-0 success over Mansfield Town. Six yellow cards were given out in all during that game, Scott Boden, Yan Klukowski and Mark Byrne booked for County.

The second game came in the 1-1 draw with Oxford United. Danny Holmes and Tommy O’Sullivan were both cautioned in the only two bookings of the game.

His first County match came on 6th April 2015 when County lost 2-0 away at Exeter City. Ismail Yakubu was sent off in that game, with Mark Byrne also booked for County.


Can’t make the match?

You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive on Twitter, or via using the club’s official Facebook and Instagram pages.

As the game is a cup match, no live showing of this fixture will occur on iFollow Exiles. However, commentary by Charlie Brown and Richard Shepherd can be found at the match centre on the club website.