Late comeback leaves Smith’s men in mood to take advantage

New arrival: Veteran midfielder George Boateng
New arrival: Veteran midfielder George Boateng

WALSALL manager Dean Smith, who could be poised to unveil new signings George Boateng and Frank Nouble against Sheffield United tonight, believes his team possess the spirit required to heap more misery on the South Yorkshire club.

United head to the Banks’s Stadium in the midst of a selection crisis after seeing defenders Harry Maguire, Matthew Lowton and Lecsinel Jean-Francois all sidelined following incidents during Saturday’s game against Oldham Athletic.

While Danny Wilson’s men were spiralling towards a shock 3-2 defeat, Walsall were celebrating a last-gasp draw at Leyton Orient courtesy of Olly Lancashire’s 94th minute goal.

Smith said: “Credit to my lads, they kept on going and got their reward in the end. They showed exactly the right attitude and we’ll need that again.”

Smith was last night applying the finishing touches to the deals which will see Nottingham Forest midfielder Boateng and Nouble, the West Ham striker, join Walsall on a temporary basis.

Boateng, aged 36, has made only seven appearances for Forest since arriving from Skoda Xanthi in the summer.

Nouble, previously of Chelsea, scored five goals in 13 games for Gillingham earlier this term.

United’s preparations for this evening’s game have been disrupted by an injuries and suspensions.

However, Richard O’Kelly’s appointment as Hereford manager means Walsall have also been grappling with off-the-pitch matters.

The former Doncaster Rovers number two had been assisting Smith with first team affairs at the Banks’s Stadium since leaving South Yorkshire last year.

“It was an opportunity that Richard could not turn down,” Smith said. “It’s no coincidence that his time here has coincided with us having a good run of results.”

Neil Woods, Walsall’s head of youth, will shadow Smith on the bench against United.

The 45-year-old had previously been in charge of Grimsby Town.

United travel south today second in the League One table.

Walsall, by contrast, are 21st despite Lancashire’s heroics in the capital.

Smith’s side were beaten 3-2 at Bramall Lane in September but Frank Barlow, who deputised for Wilson at yesterday’s pre-match media conference, acknowledged: “This is going to be a tough game for a whole host of reasons.

“To be fair to Walsall, they gave us a right scare at our place. They like to pass the ball but the pitch down there isn’t the greatest and I think the fans who travel will be shocked.

“Coupled with that they are fighting for their lives at the other end of the table so we have to make sure we are ready and in the right frame of mind to meet that challenge.”