Saddlers boss encouraged by strong start...
WALSALL manager, Dean Smith, has highlighted increased squad depth as a key factor behind his team’s strong start to the 2015/16 campaign.
Since an opening day draw at home to Oldham, the Saddlers have won three successive away matches in all competitions – the most recent of which against Rochdale yesterday evening.
The 2-1 victory at Spotland moved Walsall up to third ahead of Saturday’s visit of League One pace-setters Coventry – and Smith is encouraged by the quality of players at his disposal.
“Looking at Southend and Rochdale away early in the season, we knew it was going to be tough but fortunately I’ve got a really good squad at the moment and we’ve managed to get two wins,” said Smith.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming left, right and centre, but I’ve got the luxury of putting out a strong team and knowing that on the bench I’ve got people who can come on and do a good job.
"No disrespect to anybody but last season it wasn’t quite at the level we have now.
“Everyone wants to play but they understand that it’s a long season and they have to be ready when the opportunities come. As a team, we want to be successful and the way we’re going to be successful is by being a team.
“We’ve changed the system a few times over the last few games and it’s working for us.”
Smith reverted to a four-man defence for the Rochdale trip in an attempt to combat Dale’s energetic, high tempo game.
“I wanted to play a four (in defence) here with the way they play,” he said. “I knew it would be hard and playing a three against them, I thought they would cause us trouble.
“It meant Rico (Henry) missing out and having a rest. That will have given him the world of good; you’ve got to remember he’s only 18. Romaine (Sawyers) has been away playing in the summer so I’ve got to look after him as well.
“Rochdale are a good team, very energetic and they’ve made us earn the win.”
On the scoresheet at Spotlandwere Andy Taylor and Sam Mantom – both of whom received praise from the boss.
“It was a really good finish from Taylor and a good move as well,” Smith added. “He played a couple of one-twos, and it was a good cross from Milan and a good finish.
“We tried to hit him from a corner just before and I said ‘why are we trying to hit Andy Taylor on a corner, he doesn’t score?' But it was a great finish and I’m really pleased for him.
“And then Sam Mantom, his goal took a deflection. When I saw Tom Bradshaw wheeling away at one stage, I thought it might have deflected off him. But it was Sam’s goal – that’s two in two for him now - and I’m really pleased for him.”
The Saddlers entertain Coventry at the Banks's Stadium on Saturday (3.00pm kickoff).