Saturday is fast approaching and Exeter City are preparing for a tough encounter with Walsall.
Ahead of the game Sam Moakes has picked out three Saddler's City will have to keep their eye on, if the Grecians are to maintain and extend their seven game unbeaten run.
Where else to look for a member of the opposition to watch than the captain? Joss Labadie was appointed captain after arriving on a free transfer this summer, and he brings a wealth of experience to Walsall.
Having begun his career in the West Brom ranks, Labadie was shipped out on a number of loan spells before arriving at Tranmere following a successful temporary period. Oddly enough, his first career goal came against Exeter City in the 2009/10 League One season.
Labadie has also featured for Notts County, Torquay United and Dagenham & Redbridge on a permanent basis, but most of his league appearances have come for Newport with well over 100. He wore the armband for the Exiles last season, catching the eye of Walsall to bring him in this campaign. After a red card in his side’s game against Bradford City, Labadie will be itching to make the right impression on his new team.
With dynamic midfielder Rory Holden side-lined with a recurring knee injury since April, Walsall have needed another exciting youngster to provide a spark.
It might be early days, but it looks like Keiran Phillips could be a talented prospect at just 21-years-old. The youngster is currently on-loan from Huddersfield Town, having made 10 appearances last year in the Championship – mostly from the bench. Prior to that, he was part of Everton’s academy and showed great strength by overcoming a double knee fracture which kept him out of football for over two years.
A natural centre-forward, Phillips has been applying his trade as a winger so far for Walsall. On the change, the Huddersfield loanee suggested he was beginning to embrace his new position: “I’ve got the attributes to play there, but it’s not my natural position. So, it’s about doing the work on the training pitch to understand it more and make it more natural.”
From youngster to experienced veteran, Stephen Ward’s leadership is undoubtedly commanding in the Walsall back line.
He should be a recognisable name, even for those that just follow the Premier League, as Ward has made over 400 appearances in his long career, having started out at Bohemians. The defender really made his name at Wolves, however, playing two seasons in the Premier League and notching over 200 appearances.
Ward then had stints at Burnley – where he missed just one league match during the 2016/17 Premier League campaign – and Stoke. Finding his way to Walsall this year, Ward is the second oldest member of the squad, but has made the left-back spot his own. He’s played every minute of the Saddlers’ season so far, and even contributed an assist against Forest Green.
Ward wore the armband in the absence of Labadie in the last three games, providing both solid leadership and ability.