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SMITH: "WE'LL HAVE TO BE AT OUR BEST"

1 September 2015

Johnstone's Paint Trophy starts tonight...

SADDLERS boss, Dean Smith, insists "we'll have to be at our best” to defeat League Two Morecambe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round this evening.

Walsall reached the final last season - where we played at Wembley Stadium for the first time in our history (losing 2-0 to Bristol City) – and the hope is to go one better this time around.

The League One leaders - currently the highest ranked club in the competition – have won six successive matches in league and cup – the most recent of which against Blackpool (4-0) on Saturday.

And ahead of our first-ever visit to the Globe Arena, Smith is hopeful of another cup adventure - although he is wary of the threat that Jim Bentley’s Shrimps will pose.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Smith, whose side have won two League Cup ties already this term.

“Morecambe are a hard-working team. We had them watched at Portsmouth last week – they got a 3-3 draw.

"They’ll want to progress as well, and they might see us a bit of a scalp with the run we’re on.

"We know the rewards at the end of it (the JPT), with our first trip to Wembley last season.

"Unfortunately it didn’t earn us a bye in the first round (this year), and we know we’ll have to be at our best to get through.

"Every game you go into is important, and we want to win each game.

"There’s a hunger and a desire to be successful.”

Walsall will also be looking to maintain our 100% away record, having already defeated Nottingham Forest (League Cup), Southend, Rochdale and Blackpool on our travels this season.

“We’ve picked and chosen different systems away from home against different teams, and it seems to be working so far, so we’ll continue to use the variation,” said Smith.

“The players, to be fair to them, have been spot on tactically.

"We’ve picked a team, told them how we’re going to play, worked a little bit in training, but things happen during a game that you might not have worked on.

"Tactically, on the pitch, we’ve been very astute, which is pleasing.”

Smith is without goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge, and wing-back, Jason Demetriou, for the Morecambe trip – both of whom are away on international duty, with the Philippines and Cyprus respectively.

And the gaffer has challenged those who come into the side to take their chance with both hands.

“We lose a couple of players now – Neil and Jason – they’re going on their international break, and go and play a couple of games out there,” said Smith.

“It gives an opportunity to others, and there’s no guarantee for them (Neil and Jason) that their shirts will be available when they come back.

“We’re on a hell of a run at the moment, we’ve got momentum, and there are opportunities for players to come in and take those positions.”

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