Walsall grind out 1-0 win at Fleetwood...Interim head coach Jon Whitney hailed his side’s ability to adapt to different formations after Walsall’s hard-fought 1-0 win at Fleetwood.
The Saddlers struggled to find their rhythm in a flat first-half, prompting Whitney to switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-1-4-1 system.
And the visitors improved after the break, with top scorer Tom Bradshaw rifling home the winning goal on 49 minutes after latching onto Sam Mantom’s cute back-heel.
Walsall were indebted to goalkeeper Neil Etheridge for a string of impressive saves late on, but Whitney’s men held on to move level on points with the automatic promotion places.
And speaking afterwards, the 45-year-old was full of praise for his team’s battling qualities.
“I said to the lads that whenever I’ve been involved in promotion as a player and as staff, there are games you remember,” said Whitney.
“We knew this was going to be a tough, tough game. I thought Fleetwood were unlucky at Burton.
“They didn’t really create any clear chances in the first half but I just thought our shape really didn’t help us.
“But credit to our lads, we dug in, we made the change when it was needed and I think after the change they struggled to live with us a little bit.
“Again our lads have come out on top with a fantastic 1-0 away win.”
On the Saddlers’ ability to play different formations, Whitney added: “That’s our secret. We change things in training all the time.
“We challenge them, we out-number them and we want them to adapt. If things aren’t quite going to plan, change it – flip it yourself because you can do it with the same personnel.
“We’ve got the personnel to adapt who can put their foot on it and start to just get ourselves back in the game, which we did and I thought we deserved the win after the first 30 minutes.”
Whitney also praised Saddlers striker Bradshaw for his superbly-taken strike – his 17th goal of the season – and Etheridge for a fantastic match-winning save in added time.
“It was a great finish from Tom,” added Whitney.
“We’ve worked at trying to be unpredictable in the final third and doing something a bit different.
“And then, Etheridge has made a fantastic save at the end.
“They always score late on but it is credit to the lads that we’ve held on and it’s fantastic for us that we have an opportunity to make it nine out of nine points going into the Easter break.”