Walsall boss Dean Keates hoping his side can prove to be Sunderlands bogey side on Saturday – Chronicle Live

Walsall boss Dean Keates hoping his side can prove to be Sunderland\s \bogey\ side on Saturday - Chronicle Live

Scout report: Return of boyhood Newcastle United fan could spell trouble for Sunderland against Walsall

The two sides have already met three times this season and the Black Cats have failed to win any of the fixtures, recording two draws and a loss.

These games came within three weeks of each other, with Walsall knocking Sunderland out of the FA Cup in the second round.

JACK ROSS wants his Sunderland players to be recognised for their achievements this season. The manager has spoken recently about his frustration that high expectations surrounding the club often means their efforts are viewed as underwhelming.

Managers view: We need to be winning games – Ross

MORE: How Sunderland and their promotion rivals could see their hopes change this weekendThree months since that last meeting between the two, how have the Saddlers fared?

Ross feels his Sunderland efforts arent rewarded

There has been a lot of tactical changes over the last few weeks in Walsalls squad but they seem to have finally settled on a 4-3-3.

The Black Cats drew 0-0 at Barnsley on Tuesday, a positive result in the promotion race with ten games remaining.

The system sees wingers Josh Gordon and Zeli Ismail on either side of Morgan Ferrier who leads the line. Ferrier may drop out on Saturday, though, with top scorer Andy Cook set to return from suspension.

READ: Jack Ross on bringing out Will Griggs best and whether Luke ONien could be the solutionThe boyhood Newcastle United fan has proven a big miss for the Saddlers in recent weeks having netted 16 times this season and his return may spell trouble for the Black Cats backline.

Since switching to the formation at the start of march they have had mixed results, winning once and drawing once before losing 3-2 to Portsmouth on Tuesday evening.

The club have also favoured a 4-4-2 with deeper midfielders in 2019 in a setup which resembles a 4-2-2-2.

Ismail has been a revelation this year at Bankss Stadium. The winger has played 31 times this season including 25 in the league.

30 points are all thats left to play for as the race for promotion cranks up a notch, with the visit of Walsall this Saturday to the Stadium of Light. 

Kicking off at 3pm, the Black Cats face a Saddlers side who theyve failed to beat in three attempts so far this season but knowing they cant afford to lose any ground on the top two sides – Luton Town and Barnsley – if they are to secure an immediate return to the Championship. 

Back-to-back draws – against Wycombe Wanderers and the Tykes – have stretched the lads unbeaten run to 18 games in all competitions, but its meant no ground has been made up on the automatic places. 

Speaking at Thursdays pre-match press conference, Ross was honest in his answer when questioned about this weekends meeting with Walsall and Sunderlands run-in.

They will try to combat what we do well and then it is just about finding ways of doing what we do well to the best of our abilities or find different ways to win games. 

“This season has 12 or 13 teams that still have a realistic chance of being relegated which means there are an awful lot of teams with stuff to play for. 

“When you look at the number of teams in this league it is unusual to be in mid-March and have only a couple of exceptions who know they have very little to play for. 

“As time goes on that number will decrease but it means the competitive nature of the games will remain high between now and May.

“When you manage this club there is an expectation that you win every week. There is a belief that you win every week. There is a hope that you win every week. 

“The consequences, perhaps, become more acute but we know at this stage of the season to achieve what we want, we need to be winning games.

“That starts on Saturday, particularly now we are going into a period where we dont play a league game for a number of weeks after that.

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