Boss highlights player’s maturity after Capital One Cup progress...SADDLERS Boss, Dean Smith has heaped praise on his players after they booked a Capital One Cup third round tie with holders and Premier League Champions Chelsea.
Goals from Milan Lalkovic and Rico Henry helped Smith’s side come from behind against Brighton to record a fifth straight win in all competitions and set up a dream tie against Mourinho’s men.
Jake Forster-Caskey won and dispatched a first half-penalty to put the visitors in front on Tuesday night but the boss was pleased with his player's response to going behind for the first time this season.
“I put it down to the players having gone through trials and tribulations over the last few years and just learning from it,” explained Smith. “We have a lot of young players who have come through the system.
“They’re maturing all the time and they’ve shown that in their performances.
“Five wins on the spin is no mean feat for the players and to include two Championship sides in that run is pretty special.
"First half Brighton showed what a class team they were. They were very organised and made it really difficult for us.
“I thought they scored a dubious penalty but on the balance of play they probably deserved the lead.
“I got into the players a little bit at half-time and reminded them that it’s a cup tie and to go and win the game.
“We certainly done that second half and I got a much better performance from the players.”
With the score level at 1-1, Chris Hughton’s side had a chance to take the lead for a second time in the game after James O’Connor was adjudged to have fouled Seagulls striker, Chris O’Grady, inside the box.
The powerful front-man ballooned the resulting spot-kick over the bar and Smith was keen to praise his player’s response to the miss.
“It was very good,” he added. “We talk a lot about reactions to the players and readjusting to different things that happen during the game.
“We looked to kick on and get the second after their penalty and when you look at it we scored two really good goals.
“Milan has put in some good performances of late and has provided some assists for us but he deserved a goal of his own tonight.
“And then an unlikely source in Rico Henry pops up to score his first senior goal.
“We’ve had a habit of left-backs making it into the box of late and he’ll have a big smile on his face for a few days now.
“I thought all the substitutes made an impact as well. Matt Preston, Romaine Sawyers and Jordan Cook which was really pleasing and shows just what a squad game it is.
“The way we saw the game out in the last five minutes really impressed me.
“They threw a lot of players forward but out use of the ball was very good and it shows that our game management is getting better.”
The Saddlers return to League matters this weekend with a trip to Bloomfield Road to take on Neil McDonald’s Blackpool. (kick-off 3.00pm).