The Sky Bet League Two returns when Walsall host Newport County in our featured game of the weekend.
But who will ring in the New Year with three points in this top-half clash?
📅 Match details
Kick-off at the Banks’s Stadium on New Year’s Day is 15:00, when the Saddlers and the Exiles get 2022 underway in the West Midlands.
Referee Rebecca Welch takes charge of the League Two fixture, alongside Simon Shaw and Abbas Khan, along with fourth official Robert Lewis.
👔 At the helm
Saddlers boss Matthew Taylor arrived at the Banks’s Stadium in the summer from Tottenham Hotspur.
With over 300 appearances under his belt as a player for the likes of Luton Town, Portsmouth, Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United, Burnley, Northampton Town and Swindon Town, the Walsall head coach embarked on his latest challenge in May when he took the reins of the League Two side.
Earlier in October, James Rowberry stepped into the breach at Newport, replacing former boss Michael Flynn at the helm, achieving his dream of managing his hometown team and the Club where he first cut his coaching teeth in the process.
The 36-year-old represented the Exiles at academy level and eventually took up a coaching role at the Club, before moving on to Cardiff City, working alongside first-team managers Russell Slade and Neil Warnock. But all roads led back to Rodney Parade, and Rowberry was named the new Exiles manager two months into the 2021/22 season.
🔑 Key man
Midfielder Jack Earing has made the step up from the non-League pyramid since making the switch from FC Halifax Town to Walsall in June.
The attacker came through the ranks at Bolton Wanderers before pursuing loan spells at Curzon Ashton and later, Spennymoor Town and Farsley Celtic, before making his EFL return with the Saddlers in the summer.
Newport ace Dom Telford’s eight-game consecutive scoring run, in which time the Exiles forward bagged 12 goals, recently came to an end, but could he reignite his impressive form this weekend?
The 25-year-old, who finished the year as the League Two leading marksman with 14 goals to his name, has already topped his overall League tally and could be on course for the golden boot this year.
📈 Form guide
Coming into the contest on the back of a 3-0 win over Colchester United, 12th-placed Walsall have seen just one defeat in five, with Matthew Taylor’s side sitting just inside the top-half of the League standings.
Conversely, promotion-pushing Newport suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Rochdale last time out. The Exiles occupy sixth place, level on points with seventh-placed Swindon Town, but Rowberry’s men will be looking to make progress and kick on in the New Year.
And the Exiles will be eyeing a double over the Midlands team, having beaten Walsall 2-1 at Rodney Parade earlier in the 2021/22 season, courtesy of former Saddlers defender James Clarke’s late winner.
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