Hiwula header sees off Shrimpers...Head coach Jon Whitney hailed his team’s belief and character after Jordy Hiwula’s late header earned Walsall a dramatic 1-0 win over Southend.
The Saddlers dominated throughout, with Anthony Forde hitting a post, Romaine Sawyers having an effort cleared off the line and Shrimpers keeper Dan Bentley making a string of stunning saves.
Walsall finally got their reward with two minutes remaining, when Hiwula’s 88th-minute header from Kieron Morris’ corner was adjudged to have crossed the line.
We are now just three points off the automatic promotion places, with a game in hand.
"I thought all the players were outstanding, very similar to Tuesday against Gillingham,” said Whitney, who has now won five of his seven matches since taking charge.
“It was a complete team performance and when you think back, that’s what promotion races are about - the nerves and the anxiety.
“I found it strange and ironic that after all the great football we played and the saves their keeper has made, we scored from a corner.
“I didn’t even know who’d scored at the time – but, to be honest, I didn’t really care!
“It was really pleasing how we played. Fair play to Southend, they gave it a real go and made it awkward with some old-school tactics from (Blues manager) Phil Brown and (assistant) Brian Horton.
"But credit to our players, we said to them 'if you keep believing, it might just take one chance, don't get frustrated'.
“When the keeper is pulling off save after save, you start to think that’s it’s not going to happen.
“But the boys kept going and it’s a credit to them for sticking to the game plan. They kept believing in the system and philosophy and they got their rewards for it.
“It was a great, great performance.”
Walsall have now back-to-back home matches for the first time since last December.
“In the past there has been an anxiety but I think that win against Colchester here last time took that monkey off our back about not winning at home this year,” Whitney added.
"In the circumstances, it was the best home performance of the season.
"The players seem to just be revelling in the atmosphere at the moment which is a great credit to them.
"And the fans today were exceptional - they stayed with us until the end.
“There are going to be ups and downs but it's great to have those ups and downs as some teams have just got downs at the moment.”