Four wins on the trot with nine goals scored giving us 12 points followed by three very different draws with the seven goals getting us just three points. Is it my imagionation or are we making hard work of it at the moment although with scores of 4-4, 2-2, and lastly 1-1 things do seem to be settling down a bit - and all Parky has to do is figure out a way to break this sequence.
Meanwhile, the pressure is building, at least in my household while Norwich - the winners of 11 of their last 14 games - have picked up 35 points in that run and their only loss being away to Leeds while Pardews' Saints have won 9 in their last 14 ( 29 points) but have now lost twice ( Leeds and Colchester) in their last 3 games. The Addicks, meanwhile have become the Divisions draws specialists with 7 draws in their last 14, only that one defeat at Carlisle, but then again only 6 wins giving 25 points. And if you need further proof that its not the Christmas pud giving you that sinking feeling, 4th placed Colchester have also won 9 in their last 14, two defeats (away to Millwall and Brentford) and 3 draws equals 30 points.
So while the publicity boys try to sell more season tickets on the back of our goalscoring feats ( only Norwich have scored more than we have), the Pools people are just as keen on our inability to get the three points and have noticed that only Millwall have drawn more games than we have.
So what of Walsall? Manager since January this year is one of the old boys in League One, 52 year old Chris Hutchings. You remember him, he was Paul Jewells' able assistant at Premiership sides Bradford, Wigan and Derby and each time Jewell left leaving Hutchings to be promoted to manager. Well, Chris has at last headed out on his own with Walsall and steered them to midtable safety last season with 61 points. And this year Walsall are once again a typical midtable side sitting in 10th spot - 7 points from both Play-offs and relegation they have won 8, drawn 7 and lost 7.
Its a game between two teams that haven't win in three games although the Saddlers have had two defeats in there against Pardew and Millwall whilst showing true fighting spirit with a 2-2 draw last time out at home to Orient after being 2 goals down at half-time.
Month on month they've done pretty well the last three months but December has not been good for them, only a single win, 3-1 away to Yeovil on the December 1st means its over 4 weeks now without a win. But their home record is not bad with only two defeats - 2-1 to Leeds back in August and then to Pardew at the beginning of December 3-1.
Top scorer on 9 goals is Ulster international winger number 7 Steve Jones which is not a bad return from only 12 games although he seems out of favour at the moment not having played since the beginning of December. So the main strike force on Saturday will be number 10 Troy Deeley and the much travelled Jamacian number 27 Darren Byfield (now on his 13th club ) on 8 and 7 goals respectively.
Whats Their Secret?
Giving the opposition a goal start and then winning is Walsall's party trick. They've done it three times this season. But their form against the good teams is dire. Ten games against the top half and only a single win, a 2-1 win over Huddersfield back in September with an 87 minute Raynes goal after going behind. Their other party tricks apart from Huddersfield have been at Wycombe where they went 2-0 down and won 3-2 and they also beat Tranmere after going a goal down. And its a shame that their obvious fighting spirit doesn't pull in the crowds. Perhaps its the 10 short miles to Birmingham but after Hartlepool Walsall have the lowest average gate in League One with just 4300 per game.
Or maybe its the lack of shooting boots that keeps the fans away because while the Big Four (Leeds, Norwich, Saints and the Addicks) all have over 150 shots on target, poor old Walsall languish at the bottom of this table with only 83 shots between the posts.
What Are They Saying?
Miguel Llera, after the Brentford game had this to say about his holiday plans, "You are only sad when you don't play. I didn't come to England for a holiday, I came here to play. I must wait for my opportunities and I have to work hard to stay in this team."
Give Us Some Christmas Cheer Nels
OK, as Leeds power away into the distance and are now 8 points clear its worth remembering that while Pardew and Norwich both suffered defeats at Elland Rd there's only two other teams that remain unbeaten there apart from the Addicks, namely local rivals Huddersfield and Leeds' bogey team Carlisle.
And, if you're having increasing nightmares regarding the Play-offs in May, its worth pointing out that in games against the top half of the table one team stands out above all the rest. The Addicks. Twelve games played with 6 wins, 5 draws and only that single annoying defeat at Weston Homes Colchester, give us the more points than anybody else against our peers.
After a surprise point at Brentford where we've only won 3 games in 15 before the weekend we should be looking forward to visiting Walsall where of all the other League One teams we have our best away record picking up over 1.5 points per game. Its one of only three places down here where we've won more than we've lost ( the others are Gillingham and Southend) and the record currently stands at 4 wins, 2 draws and only 3 defeats over the 9 League games.
The last time Walsall beat us in the League was 37 years ago in October 1973 in an embarassing 4-0 defeat but of the 5 games played since then at the Banks Stadium ( and Fellows Park) we've won 3, drawn one and only lost a League Cup tie 2-0 in 1987 after winning the home leg 3-0.
And its only our second visit to the Bescot Banks Stadium, the first being a 4-2 win in March 2000 on our march to the Tier Two title.
Parkys been playing around a bit over the last couple of games with no wingers at home for Swindon and then 2 of them away at Brentford so predictions for the next game are a bit difficult.
As for defence, Rob Elliot will be in goal and Llera won't be on holiday or even sad. Right-back Richardson was said to be 50/50 for the Swindon game so after 10 games sidelined out of the last 12 can we expect our number 2 to make a comeback at Walsall? As for Kelly Youga, he's missed all 6 games played in December and on the 23rd Parky said he was about 10 days away from a game which just about rules him out until Hartlepool next weekend. And then there's Christian Dailly who has been ill and its anybody's guess whether he'll be fit this weekend.
And it seems only yesterday when the midfield was a Addicks headache but strangely its now the only area where we have plenty of choices. Sam and Bailey have only missed one game between them while Semedo will be somewhere which leaves 6 places open for the others. Two wingers, each on 4 goals, although Sam hasn't scored for 9, have kept the the youngster Luke Holden out of it and he's only played for half-an-hour at the St. Marys in the JPT. He's only on loan till the end of the year so what will Parky do with the 21 year old?
Then there's Thierry Racon. After starting in every League game up to MK Dons, he was subbed at half-time at Yeovil, being described at "out-of-sorts", and of the seven games since then has only started once against Southend and has been an unused sub on 5 occasions. Has Parky realised he's not made for a League One winter and there have been transfer rumours in the press.
And Matt Spring has come into midfield with Semedo in defence and has started the last two games, provided the accurate pass that Llera converted against Swindon and was many fans MOM.
And lastly we have the news that Deon is doubtful for Walsall having got a dead leg from somewhere. Dead leg, hernia and the hand of God? Leave it out Deon, you're playing and so too could be Chris Dickson after missing a couple but getting the penalty at Brentford.
Elliot; Omozusi, Semedo, Llera, Basey; Sam, Spring, Bailey, Wagstaff; Burton, Dickson.
We'll be fighting it out in the Play-off positions if we keep on dropping points the way we have been doing, so Parky, seeing the stats, will be emphasing the importance of three points this Saturday. January 12th is the rearranged date for the Walsall v Norwich game and if we don't get maximum points before then, with plenty of goals, it'll be down to 3rd place for the Addicks.
So we need goals this weekend but Walsall have only conceded two more goals that we have this season but at home have conceded 2 goals 4 times and let in 3 against Pardew 2 weeks ago. So its time for my favorite score again 2-0, to the Addicks.