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It was almost inevitable, wasn’t it?

Brentford never draw a glamour tie in the third round of the FA Cup – even when we start in the third round.

So when we came out of the velvet bag at home with Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all still potential opponents – it was no surprise that we missed all of them.

Once that fact was established it was kind of fated that we would draw Walsall, with memories of Dean Smith’s move from the Banks’s Stadium to TW8 still very fresh in the memory.

That fact and their form this season are bound to make for an intriguing tie.

Smith spent nearly five years in charge of the Saddlers, after a similar period playing for the club, and when he joined us, he ended his position as the fourth longest-serving manager in the Premier and Football Leagues.

Taking over midway through the 2010/11 season, Smith steered Walsall away from relegation and presided over a steady improvement in league positions.

Last season he took them to their first-ever Wembley appearance – in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, where they lost 2-0 to Bristol City.

When he left, Walsall were fourth in League One, in their ninth consecutive season in the division, and in a strong position to end a 12-year absence from the second tier.

Last Saturday’s surprise 3-0 home defeat to Rochdale left them third in the table – two points behind second-placed Gillingham and three adrift of leaders Burton, but 11 clear of seventh-placed Southend.

Walsall’s FA Cup campaign this season kicked off with a comfortable 2-0 win over League One rivals Fleetwood and they faced more opposition from their division with a trip to Chesterfield in round two.

They were held to a 1-1 draw and drew 0-0 after extra-time in the replay, before holding their nerve to win a penalty shoot-out 5-3.

Incidentally our other third round opponents since the turn of the century have been Brighton (2015), Southend (2013), Doncaster (2010), Stockport (2005), Luton (2004) and Derby (2003).

WALSALL IN THE FA CUP

This is Walsall’s first appearance in the third round for eight years since they lost 2-1 to Millwall in a replay in the 2007/08 season.

Since then, they have failed to get beyond the first round on four occasions and have gone out in the second round three times.

However they had some good times in the competition earlier in the decade with two appearances in the fifth round and one in the fourth.

Their places in the last 16 came in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 seasons as a Division One (now Championship) club.

The first campaign saw them beat league counterparts Bradford 2-0 and then earn a shock 2-1 win at Premier League Charlton before going out 2-1 at home to top flight Fulham.

Twelve months later they overcame Reading (4-1 on penalties in a replay) and Wimbledon (1-0) before losing 2-1 at Sheffield United.

The Saddlers’ longest recent run came in the 2005/06 season when they reached the fourth round after starting in round one.

Walsall, then as now in League One, won 2-1 at non-League Merthyr in round one before beating League counterparts Yeovil 2-0 at home in round two. They overcame another League One team in Barnsley 2-0 in a third round replay after a 1-1 draw at Oakwell before going out 2-1 at Championship side Stoke.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

We last played Walsall almost exactly two years ago today as we earned a 1-1 League One draw at the Banks’s Stadium in mid-January 2014 with Clayton Donaldson’s opener being cancelled out by Craig Westcarr on the stroke of half-time.

Donaldson had been on target for the Saddlers’ early-season visit to Griffin Park and his 42nd minute strike was enough to give us all three points.

We have also met three times before in the FA Cup, with Brentford winning 1-0 each time on each occasion.

The first meeting came in the second round in the 1970/71 season as the Bees went on to reach the fifth round where we lost at Hull.

It was the third round in 1988/89 and we won a Griffin Park replay, after a 1-1 draw at Fellows Park, as the Bees went on to reach the quarter-finals.

The most recent cup clash came in round two in 2009/10 – with Leon Legge’s thumping header setting up a third round meeting with Doncaster, which we lost.

IN CHARGE

Sean O’Driscoll took charge of the Saddlers last month following Dean Smith’s move to Griffin Park.

It is his sixth managerial job after previous spells at the helm of Bournemouth, Doncaster, Crawley, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City.

His last post was assistant manager to Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool but he moved on after Rodgers was sacked.

As a player, he was with Fulham and then Bournemouth, where he made a then club record 423 appearances in an 11-year spell.

He won promotion with the Cherries both as player and manager – to what is now the Championship in 1987 and to the third tier via the play-offs in 2003.

OPPOSITION VIEW

Walsall captain Adam Chambers told Walsall PlayerHD that the players were relishing the chance to take on Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly on Saturday.

He said: “With everything attached to the game the lads are looking forward to it and to pitting our wits against the old management team.

“It will be a bit strange seeing them in the opposition dug-out but once the game starts we will be focused on the game.

“We go into the game to win it, it’s a cup game and we want to get through to the next round and I’m presuming they will be the same.

“If we approach the game in the right way and produce a level that we know we are capable of then we know we are in with a very good shout of getting a result.”

Defender Paul Downing is bidding for his side’s third giant-killing of the season at Griffin Park on Saturday.

Under Dean Smith, the Saddlers beat Nottingham Forest and Brighton in the Capital One Cup.

Downing told the Walsall Advertiser: “We are looking forward to seeing Dean and Richard O’Kelly again but more importantly we want to keep going in the cup.

“It’s a good occasion for us to showcase our ability. We have beaten two Championship teams already this season so let’s go and make it a third.

“There are a lot of fans coming down to watch and it’s an opportunity for us to prove why we have been successful this season.

“It’s a good test, a Championship side in the cup and it’s a big game for the club and the fans with seeing the old manager.”

SQUAD NEWS

Walsall’s top scorer Tom Bradshaw and defender Rico Henry have both returned to fitness in time to feature in Saturday’s game.

The pair made their comebacks from ankle injuries as substitutes during last Saturday’s defeat to Rochdale.

Bradshaw missed almost the whole of December and has 12 goals in all competitions while Henry has been out for a similar amount of time.

Captain and midfielder Adam Chambers is Walsall’s only ever-present in all competitions this season, having played in all 24 league and seven cup matches.

Defender Paul Downing has started every match except the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash against Morecambe.

Midfielder Romaine Sawyers has been involved in all 31 matches, but has started four of them on the bench, while other regulars include defenders James O’Connor and Jason Demetriou, who have missed only a handful of games between them, and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge with 20 league and six cup starts to his name.

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook


Drinking in Brentford

For Saddlers fans coming down, you are probably aware there are plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming. Colours are fine and there is no ‘bouncer culture’ on the doors of our boozers – not yet anyway. All fans are welcome and most fans usually cite Brentford as their favourite away-day which we’re quite proud of.

As is etched in common folklore , there were four pubs around the ground until a few weeks ago – unfortunately one closed down to leave only three now. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very very busy. The New Inn is on the other side is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option (The Royal Oak was the one that closed down).

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) the  … The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted fanzine main pub – a very friendly pub indeed. The other boozer is The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd)  – both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and 30 seconds walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’. Boro fans and Bees fans had one hell of a party before and after the match in both these boozers (despite us losing)- and The Plough (Northfields Ave – 1 minute walk from the tube) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route on the Northfields pub crawl).

Easily the best way to Brentford is to get the Victoria Line from Euston to Green Park and then change on to the Piccadilly Line to either Northfields or South Ealing (35 mins).

Northfields is preferred by fans in the know as it has a decent pub crawl run on the way to the ground (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe). South Ealing has one posh pub en route that doesn’t really like football fans so we won’t even give it a mention here. It’s 20 mins walk from either South Ealing OR Northfields to the ground or you can get the E2 bus from Northfields or 65 bus from South Ealing for the five-minute journey.

Some fans prefer to take the tube to Vauxhall, then get the overground to Brentford mainline station. Depending on your connection time, this could be a slightly longer route as you could be waiting for up to 15 minutes for a train and the train takes 26 mins to Brentford. Including your connection from King’s Cross this journey could take you the best part of an hour as opposed to under 40 minutes (plus the journey to the ground).

If you do take this route, there is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … er …  the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. Great views over The Thames. It’s around 15 minutes walk to the ground from here.

There are loads more too. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.