Walsall's start to the season has mirrored that of Charlton. An emphatic win against a side who will struggle this season (3-1 v Wimbledon); a draw (0-0 at Oldham); a 2-0 defeat (at Chesterfield) and an ignominious exit from the EFL Cup (0-2 at home to Yeovil). The game on Saturday should provide Charlton with their stiffest task so far and will be a test of whether the promising signs of Tuesday evening hold any real substance.
Last season, despite a 5-0 win at Port Vale on the final day of the season proper, The Saddlers missed out on automatic promotion by just one point. It was maybe the disappointment of this that led to their collapse in the play-off semi final and their elimination by sixth place Barnsley 6-1 on aggregate.
The Walsall side should offer much of interest to Charlton fans. Neil Etheridge is likely to feature in goal and it will be interesting to see whether he inspires any greater confidence than he did during his short career at The Valley. Frank Moussa, who failed to make any impact in SE7, should have an opportunity to show us what he can do at league One level. The diminutive Erhun Oztumer (once of Dulwich Hamlet) has joined from Peterborough this summer and scored a spectacular free kick against Wimbledon. Jordan Cook, however, turned down a new contract and has joined Nathan Jones at Luton after 66 Walsall appearances. Perhaps most fascinating will be the opportunity to see twenty year old Liam Kinsella who is beginning to establish himself in the Walsall side. Is he a chip off the old block ?
Charlton's performance against Shrewsbury showed encouraging signs of cohesion and incisiveness, and Ricky Holmes' two moments of inspiration will stay long in the memory. However, it is games like Walsall away which will test the mettle of the team as the long season progresses. Victory at the Bescot Stadium would set us up nicely for the clash with table topping Bolton on Saturday 27th.
Our West Midlands dining and drinking correspondent recommends staying in Birmingham for pre-match fodder. Walking north of the refurbished New Street Station you are spoilt for choice: The Shakespeare (Lower Temple St, B2 4JD), Post Office Vaults (84 New St, B2 4BA, bring your own food or order a takeaway), The Wellington (37 Bennett's Hill, B2 5SN, likewise bring your own food or order a takeaway), The Old Joint Stock (4 Temple Row West, B2 5NY) or Old Contemptibles (176 Edmund St, B3 2HB).