Why Walsall’s tiny magician can shake up League One promotion race

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A whole host of clubs have entered the fray in League One’s promotion battle, only to slip down the table.

Walsall are the latest to make a push for the play-offs, but unlike many of their competitors, they have an ace up their sleeve in shape of midfielder Erhun Oztumer.

The hugely skilful 25-year-old joined from League One rivals Peterborough United this summer, following six goals and as many assists for an underwhelming Posh side last season – but he’s already surpassed that total at the Banks’s Stadium.

His magnificent seven (and counting) for this campaign was reached in a virtuoso display against Swindon Town at the weekend, which summed up all of the former Sivasspor man’s attributes.

He netted both goals in a 2-0 victory, with an audacious lob and a classy volley, and yet again passed a well-organised opposition midfield off the park.

And there’s no question he’s a big game player who can make the difference if Walsall find themselves battling at the sharp end of the table come Spring. That was proven by Oztumer’s late winner against bitter rivals Shrewsbury Town earlier this month.

However, his impact on the Saddlers’ form is about far more than goals.

Having chipped in with two assists in his last three games – including a perfectly-weighted through-ball for Amadou Bakayoko’s opener against the Shrews – there’s nobody offering more from midfield in League One right now.

His effect on the side appears to have really galvanised a Saddlers side who underwent a fairly large exodus after last season’s play-off exit at the hands of Barnsley.

Those high-profile departures, like Romaine Sawyers and Tom Bradshaw, mean many have already written off the Saddlers’ promotion hopes, a fact reflected in the current odds of 16/1 for them to go up, and 6/1 for play-off qualification.

However, the form of the new arrivals has made up for those losses, with Simeon Jackson banging in the goals, while the likes of Franck Moussa and Oztumer offering plenty of creativity from midfield.

With young talents like Liam Kinsella and Maziar Kouhyar also breaking into the team and offering pace and technical ability, the future is very bright for Oztumer and co.

Walsall are next in action against strugglers Coventry, with the hosts priced at 13/8 for victory. Meanwhile, it’s 17/2 for the Black Country outfit to win 2-1 as they did in this fixture last season.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.