Evans and Lalkovic seal victory at Barnsley...Dean Smith hailed his side’s ‘outstanding’ second-half performance after goals from George Evans and Milan Lalkovic secured a 2-0 win at Barnsley.
After a goalless first-half, Manchester City loanee Evans scored on his Saddlers debut to put the visitors ahead just past the hour mark.
Ex-Barnsley winger Lalkovic sealed an impressive victory - our first at Oakwell in over 44 years – with a composed finish eight minutes later.
Victory kept the Saddlers in second place in League One, two points behind leaders Gillingham, and maintained our unbeaten away league record.
“We were alright in the first half but we were outstanding in the second half and played some really good football,” said Smith.
"We earned that right through the hard work we put in during the first half. We kept the ball for long spells without really opening them up, and we had to defend a lot of set pieces.
"But in the second half we moved the ball really well and our attacking players looked menacing every time they got on the ball.
“We’ve got an excellent record on the road and the players deserve it because our attacking play has been outstanding.”
Smith was delighted for debutant Evans, who capped an impressive display with a well-taken goal.
“I had no qualms with putting George straight in there as he is a really good footballer,” he added.
“He only got in the building earlier in the day and he met the lads for the first time when he got on the coach.
“George is someone we had been looking at for a while, and with Sam Mantom getting injured, we needed someone in there with the quality he possesses.
“It was nice for him to score and it should give him a big boost.”
Along with Evans, Slovakian attacker Lalkovic also came into the side.
"Milan was always pencilled in for this game,” said Smith.
“Players coming back to their old clubs always seem to do well. He got his goal which he has been searching for in the league for a while.
"I was really pleased for him as he had been due a goal for a few weeks.”
With injuries to goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and full-back Andy Taylor, Smith was forced into a defensive reshuffle, with Craig MacGillivray coming in and Rico Henry being deployed at left-back.
“We were without some players but we looked solid defensively again,” said the Walsall boss.
"I was pleased for Craig MacGillivray because he has now kept two clean sheets on the spin.
"He'll take a lot of confidence that that and he made a good save before our first goal.
“We had to defend long throws, free-kicks and corners because they’re a big strong team and they put a lot of bodies forward - but we defended well.
“Adam Chambers has given us that steel in front of the back four and he’s made that role his own. Rather than ‘the Makelele role’, they’ll be calling it ‘the Adam Chambers role’ soon!”
In-form youngster Henry rolled his ankle in the Barnsley win but Smith is hopeful that he – along with Taylor and James O’Connor – will be fit for Saturday’s trip to Colchester.