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DOWNING: CONTINUITY KEY TO CONSISTENCY

5 February 2016

We have used only 20 players in League One this season...

Walsall centre-back Paul Downing believes keeping a settled side has been key to maintaining a consistent level of performance.

The Saddlers have used only 20 players in League One this season – the fewest in the division.

And with Walsall flying high in the automatic promotion places, Downing believes such stability has served us well.

“The relationships are strong and we know each other’s games,” said Downing.

“That’s probably the reason why we’ve been able to be consistent with our performances. There’s continuity and a great team spirit.

“We’re working hard on the training pitch and everyone is improving and we enjoy playing together.”

Despite manager Dean Smith’s departure in November, the Saddlers have continued to make forward strides under his replacement, head coach Sean O’Driscoll.

The 58-year-old has won six of his ten competitive matches since taking charge – and Downing says he has given the team “a new dimension”.

“Everyone has adapted and we’ve enjoyed a new way of working,” the defender commented.

“He hasn’t changed too much - it’s still a settled squad.

“But he’s made one or two tweaks that have improved us and given us a new dimension.

“We’ve had to change things because teams aren’t going to just roll over – we have to find a way of beating them, which is something he’s introduced.”

O’Driscoll’s Saddlers will be hoping to record a first home win of 2016 when Neil Harris’ play-off chasing Millwall visit the Banks’s tomorrow afternoon.

Walsall beat the Lions 1-0 on Boxing Day, thanks to Milan Lalkovic’s composed first-half finish.

But with the London club in fine form of late, having won three of their last four league matches, Downing is anticipating a tricky encounter.

“We respect every opponent in this league,” he said.

“It’s always going to be a difficult match whoever you’re playing, regardless of where they are in the table, at this stage of the season.

“We had a good test against Millwall on Boxing Day and got a good win.

“It’s going to be another tough game but we’re looking forward to trying to get three points at home.”

And Downing believes the home faithful can make a difference tomorrow – and for the rest of the season.

“The fans can push us over the line,” he added.

“They’re a massive part of the football club and we’re hoping we can have a successful season because the fans deserve it.”

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