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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Big Match Preview

FA Cup
Stourbridge vs. Walsall
Saturday November 7, 13:00, War Memorial Ground

Southern Premier League side Stourbridge host neighbours Walsall in a Black Country derby as the FA Cup First Round kicks off this weekend.

The two West Midlands towns are separated by just 14 miles, but the Glassboys will be hoping to bridge a gap of four divisions between themselves and their League One visitors.

Walsall boss Chris Hutchings will be aware that Saturday's game represents a potential banana skin against local rivals desparate to get one over more illustrious opponents.

However, any upset will require Stourbridge, 14th in the Southern League, to improve upon a home record which has seen them record just one league win at their War Memorial Ground.

Indeed, their run to this stage of the Cup - the furthest they've ever been - has largely been built on away successes. After a 1-1 draw at Bromsgrove in the First Qualifying Round they beat their Worcestershire rivals 1-0 in the replay.

Evesham were then dispatched 1-0 away, before winning 6-1 in a replay at Hucknall in the Third Qualifying Round after they had drawn the initial game 0-0. They secured their tie against Walsall with a 4-0 victory at another UniBond League side in Buxton.

Strikers Sean Evans and Ryan Rowe, both with nine goals this season, have been the scoring force behind the Glassboys' Cup run. Long-serving manager Gary Hackett, in his seventh season with the club, will be looking to the pair to find the back of the net this weekend.

Stourbridge's War Memorial Ground is sold out for the Walsall tie

For Walsall,
currently in mid-table in League One, a cup run would provide a welcome boost for the fans as well as the club's accountants. It's been a steady season for the inconsistent Saddlers to date.

Three away wins in the league have been notched up, including last weekend's 3-2 comeback victory at Wycombe. However, they've also suffered four defeats on the road too, so which Walsall side turns up will be a determining factor.

Hutchings will be hoping Stourbridge's defence will find forwards of the like of five-goal man Steve Jones, and Darren Byfield and Troy Deeney, both with four, too hot to handle.

He'll also be hoping the experience of Trinidad & Tobago keeper Clayton Ince will help keep things tight at the back against hosts sure to put pressure on the away side's defence.

The FA Cup is a great leveller, and with a sell out crowd for a side who usually get around 300 fans to games, the Stourbridge players will certainly raise their game against their local rivals.

However, Walsall may just have a bit too much quality for their Southern League opponents, and should just about squeeze through this one.

Nobes' Prediction: Stourbridge 1 Walsall 2

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