LEE CLARK is ready to bite the hand that feeds when Town head down the M6 to Walsall tonight (7.45).
The Galpharm boss goes head-to-head with former Town player Chris Hutchings – and both managers are desperate for a three-point haul.
Victory for Town in the first of three straight away games (it’s Colchester United on Saturday and Chesterfield in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in a week) would certainly consolidate sixth place in League I, and depending on other results, could hoist them to fourth.
Walsall are eager to bounce back from Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Hartlepool – a point not lost on Clark, who warned: “We’ll have to be ready for a backlash.”
Hutchings, who still lives in the Holme Valley, has been Walsall’s manager since January and recently signed a new rolling contract.
His side were unbeaten in five before Hartlepool, and Clark, whose team aim for a first victory in four, explained: “Chris is doing a good job, but that doesn’t surprise me, because he’s a good coach.
“He’s someone I’ve got to know quite well on the circuit, and when I was at Newcastle and Norwich, he was generous with his time and advice.
“We still talk, although being in the same division, we obviously don’t give too much away about our own teams!
“I’m sure we’ll have a drink and a chat afterwards, but for 90 minutes, we’ll both be totally focused on winning a football match, and there’s no reason why we can’t succeed.
“Our trip to MK Dons (where Town won 3-2) showed we have what it takes to win tough matches, and we’ll prepare properly and go there positively.”
Other than long-term absentee Tom Clarke, Town have no injury worries for the 220-mile round trip.
Walsall, who have three former Town men in their ranks in defender Jamie Vincent, midfielder Dwayne Mattis and striker Steve Jones, will give a fitness test to centre-back Manny Smith, who has missed two matches with a knee problem.