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DOWNING CONFIDENT AHEAD OF SKY BLUES' VISIT

21 August 2015

Saddlers defender looking forward to Coventry challenge...

Walsall vice-captain, Paul Downing, admits the squad are in confident mood ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s West Midlands derby with League One leaders Coventry at the Banks’s Stadium.

A 2-1 victory at Rochdale on Tuesday evening lifted the Saddlers up to third and extended our winning streak to three matches in all competitions.

Visitors Coventry are also in fine fettle after a 3-2 midweek win against Crewe maintained their perfect start to the league campaign.

Although the Sky Blues are likely to pose a stern test, Downing says the whole squad are looking forward to the challenge.

“I was joking with my friend, who is coming to the game, that it’s a top-of-the-table clash,” said Downing.“It’s a local derby this weekend, Coventry are a big club but we’re all looking forward to it.

“It’s going to be a good game and they’ve got some good players but confidence is flowing at the moment and we’ve got goals from all over. It should be an entertaining game.

“We’ll look to take the game to them and won’t be fearful of what they’ve got. They’ll have to be at their best to get anything from us.”

This weekend’s Coventry clash will see Walsall return to the Banks’s Stadium for the first time since an opening day draw against Oldham.

“We’ve done really well away from home but on Saturday we’ll be looking to get that first win at home,” said Downing. “We’ve got a lot of threats going forward, and we’re solid at the back, so it probably does suit us playing away from home.

“The games come so thick and fast, but we’ve really enjoyed some of the games and some of the football we’ve played. It’s nice to start the season with so many wins. It settles everyone down and we can really look forward to the upcoming games.

“We’ve got a good squad here and we won’t get carried away. The manager and staff will make sure we stay focused.”

Manager Dean Smith hasn’t been afraid to shuffle his pack so far this season, adopting different formations and changing personnel. With greater depth to the Walsall squad, Downing admits that each player is fighting for their first-team place.

“There’s real competition for placesin the whole squad,” said Downing.“People are coming in and taking their chance and giving the manager a selection headache. That’s got to carry on.

“He’s looking for some new additions so you’ve got to stay on your toes and perform week in week out to get in the team.

“It’s a credit to the football club that we’ve got academy graduates playing and a young side. It shows that you can play if you’re good enough. The young lads have done really well so far and will continue to improve.”

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