Manager Steven Pressley says Fleetwood Town must learn the lessons from their previous clash with Walsall as they head to the Banks’ Stadium today seeking the point which will ensure League One football next season.
Town’s goal difference is 15 better than Blackpool’s, meaning a point in today’s 12.15pm kick-off or at home to relegated Crewe in Sunday’s final game will hammer the final nail into the coffins of Pool and Doncaster.
Pressley says Town must think only of themselves and bear in mind Walsall’s 1-0 win at Highbury in March, when Fleetwood squandered chances and were punished by the clinical Tom Bradshaw – one of the Saddlers’ only efforts of the game.
Pressley recalled: “That fixture pretty much epitomised our season. We played reasonably well on the night. We lost a goal to one of their very few chances and did not capitalise on our chances.
“We had a really strong first 45 minutes, but all our games against Walsall have been closely contested (they also knocked Town out of the FA Cup in the first round) and I’ve no doubt this will be the same.”
Walsall are guaranteed a play-off spot but could pip Burton to the second automatic promotion place if they beat Town and Port Vale. They would also need the Brewers, who have a goal difference advantage of five, to lose at Doncaster on Sunday.
It means Pressley is expecting a tough encounter. He said: “I’ve watched Walsall’s last three games. They started very well against Shrewsbury. They are a passing team, who really try to play in the right manner.
“They have good energy and obviously have a few special players in their ranks, so they are not at that end of the table for no reason.
“They have kept the nucleus of their team together for nearly three years, so they have a good understanding of all aspects of their team.
“It will be another tough fixture but another great challenge for ourselves.
“The results could not have gone any better for us on Saturday. But we don’t want to go into the final game needing that point. We want to finish it today.
“We want to enjoy our final week of the season knowing we will be playing League One football next year.
“I think Walsall will still feel like they have a chance to get automatic promotion, but we will go into it focused and with the right mentality.
“We have worked really hard in training this week and we will be setting up to go there and win the game.”
The Saddlers have maintained their promotion push despite having three managers this season.
After four years in charge, Dean Smith left for Championship club Brentford in November and replacement Sean O’Driscoll, the former Liverpool assistant manager, lasted only a few months before caretaker Jon Whitney took over.
And Pressley says the continuity on the playing side has been key to Walsall continuing to “punch above their weight”.
He said: “I think the continuity of the group has been really important for them.
“Dean Smith shaped them and developed them as young players, and he kept the nucleus of older players who bought into the club’s philosophy and year on year improved their statistics.
“They have had some really inconsistent periods but have managed to show continuity with the playing staff, and eventually you have seen the benefits of that.
“No doubt they are punching above their weight in terms of the club’s resources but I think that goes back to three or four years of work.”