By Tony Leighton
Shrewsbury Town captain Matt Richards will be out to put one over his previous club Walsall and end an unwanted, 19-year-old record when the two midland teams meet in Sunday's televised npower League 1 game at the Greenhous Meadow.
The Shrews have not beaten the Saddlers since November 1993 and, after an indifferent start to the season results-wise following their promotion from League 2, Richards is desperate for more than one reason to get what would be a first win in five outings since an impressive 4-1 victory over Coventry City last month.
The midfielder told football-league.co.uk: "We need a win to start pushing up the table so, although I had two very enjoyable years at Walsall, there couldn't be a better time to get back to winning ways than in a local derby in front of the TV cameras.
"We thought that the win against Coventry would kick-start a good run, but unfortunately that's not happened and so it's been a frustrating start to the season for us. We've played really well at times, but more often than not in our good passages of play we've not been able to get the goals to kill teams off.
"That will be the aim on Sunday, although we know it will be tough against Walsall. They've started the season well with some young, exciting players in a team that's changed a lot since I was there. I still know some of the lads though, so it will be nice to meet up with them again - and even nicer if we can beat them."
Sunday's meeting will be the second time that Richards has faced his old team, the first having been a return to the Banks's Stadium shortly after he had switched to the Greenhous Meadow at the start of last season.
A 2-1 Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat was not what the 27-year-old former Ipswich Town player wanted, but it came at a memorable time for him as the game took place just 24 hours after his partner Roxanne had given birth to daughter Eva.
"That was a really hectic time for me," recalled Richards. "Roxanne had the baby down south so I had to dash back up for the game and sadly I couldn't celebrate with a win, but I had a pretty decent reception from the Walsall fans so it wasn't all bad."
Shrewsbury's fans have likewise taken to Richards, who was voted the club's Player of the Year in their promotion season and was then appointed captain as the Shrews stepped into the current campaign with the aim of League 1 consolidation.
"It was a great privilege to be given the captain's armband," said Richards, "and I'm enjoying the responsibility. At my age and with my experience I should be able to influence games and help the players around me and that's what I'm trying to do.
"I had a great first season with the club and I'm delighted that I took the decision to come here. It's a good club with a solid fan base and, very importantly for a player who likes to get the ball down and play, we play our football the right way.
"I think that despite some of our results so far we're suited to League 1, and I'm confident that we will soon go on a run that brings us lots of points - and starting that sort of run on Sunday would be great, even if it is against my old club."
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