PNE opponents have fallen out of the Saddle

Adam Chambers and Kevin Davies compete in the first leg at Deepdale
Adam Chambers and Kevin Davies compete in the first leg at Deepdale
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Walsall have seen their home form go to pot as they prepare to defend a two-goal lead against Preston in the second leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area final.

It has been a home and away soap opera for the Saddlers of late – they have lost their last three matches on home turf but won three on the bounce away.

On Boxing Day, they were beaten 4-1 at home by Swindon, bouncing back 48 hours later with a superb 3-0 victory at MK Dons.

They lost their Midlands derby with Coventry 2-0 at the Bescot but then came to Deepdale and gained their first-leg advantage.

Scunthorpe beat them 4-1 four days after the win over North End but the Saddlers won 2-0 at Colchester a week last Saturday.

At the weekend they were without a game – ironically PNE were their scheduled opponents in the league but the game was postponed due to Preston’s FA Cup clash with Sheffield United.

Walsall start the second leg as clear favourites but their home form must be a worry.

Saddlers defender Ben Purkiss said: “We cannot be complacent.

“We head into the game after 10 days off. We have to go and take the game to them.

“That is part and parcel of the game at home, playing with a tempo and getting forward when we can, being positive and proactive.

“We have to get our wide players on the ball and go for the throat. We have got to get back to doing that at home.”

Purkiss, an unused sub in the first leg, describes as ‘bizarre’ their recent poor results at home.

He said: “A few weeks ago you would probably have said we were brilliant at home.

“Right up to the Swindon game you would have said we had a really good home record.

“In contrast, we didn’t win away for ages. I don’t think there is a magic formula.

“It has been bizarre. I wouldn’t say I thought we had cracked it but on the run-up to Christmas I felt we were starting to build a consistency.

“From consistent performances you get results.”

Walsall skipper Adam Chambers says the home side have to allow a sold-out crowd to spur them on.

The West Midlands club have never been to Wembley before, so the excitement has built up to high levels in that neck of the woods.

Said Chambers: “The chance to play at Wembley does not come along that often and I will be saying that to the lads.

“It is something we have to embrace and enjoy.

“The fact we will be playing in front of a sell-out crowd in an emotional atmosphere is something we have to use to spur us on.

“The prize of playing at Wembley is something you don’t get the chance to play for every day and you never know if you will get the chance again. We have got to take it.”

Since the first leg, Walsall have extended the loan of midfielder Michael Cain from Leicester City until the end of the season.

Cain, 20, initially joined for a month in October before the loan was extended until earlier this month. Now they have got him until May.

Saddlers boss Dean Smith said: “Michael has developed extremely well during his time with us and fitted into how we do things here.”