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SMITH PAYS TRIBUTE TO DEFENCE

2 October 2015

The Saddlers have the best defensive record in League One...

Walsall manager Dean Smith has praised his side's defensive record.

The Saddlers have conceded fewer goals than any other team in League One – just six in ten games.

Smith's men have also kept four clean sheets – a joint league high – including one at Scunthorpe on Tuesday evening.

A gritty 1-0 win at Glanford Park left Walsall just one point behind leaders Burton.

And Smith believes the team's disciplined defensive displays have been key to our success this season.

“Defensively we’re doing really well,” said Smith, who was speaking ahead of tomorrow's match at Wigan.

“We’ve conceded the fewest goals in the division and we’re scoring goals at the other end of the pitch, too.

“We’re keeping it tight defensively and when you do that it gives you an opportunity to go and win games.

“We’ve always taken pride in our organisation.

"Our defensive record last season – until the final game – was very good as well.

“It’s easier to stop the opposition scoring than to score goals yourself - that’s why you pay so much for goalscorers.

“But we’ve always been organised.”

Experienced captain Adam Chambers has been deployed in a deep-lying midfield role – and Smith has been impressed with the protection he has given the back four.

“He’s got a more restricted role now but he’s thriving in it,” said Smith.

“He’s what I would call a proper defender. He’s wholehearted and gets his body between the ball and his goal. His pass completion is probably among the best at the club. He keeps it simple, breaks things up and starts attacks.”

Centre-back James O’Connor has also excelled at the heart of a well-drilled defence.

“Jim’s done really well and has been at the centre of all of our good performances so far,” said Smith.

“He’s experienced and understands the game.

"People question him because of his height and ask whether that means he can be a centre-half. But Jim and James Chambers before him prove that you can be a central defender whatever your height.”

Walsall remain unbeaten away from home this season but face a tricky trip to Gary Caldwell’s Wigan tomorrow afternoon.

The 2013 FA Cup winners were relegated from the Championship last season but invested heavily in their squad over the summer.

The Latics, who are in ninth position, are one of League One’s promotion favourites – and Smith is anticipating a tough test.

“We’re full of confidence and unbeaten away from home, but they’re still unbeaten at home as well,” he said.

“One record may go unless there is a draw.

“They’ve got a really good squad, and a big squad as well.

“They’ve got more money than most clubs in this league and they want to win promotion at the first time of asking.

“We know how tough it’s going to be.”

Isaiah Osbourne is out of tomorrow's match with a knee injury. Smith has no other injury concerns.

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