Dean Keates hailed Joe Edwards after the midfielder completed 90 minutes for the first time since February in the draw with Luton.
The 28-year-old made his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the Saddlers’ Checkatrade Trophy tie with Shrewsbury earlier this month.
He made another substitute appearance against Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day before being handed his first start in ten months for the Hatters clash.
Having only made 20 and 31-minute cameos previously, Keates admitted he didn’t expect Edwards to play the full game.
“Full credit to Joe, you wouldn’t have thought that was his first game back in how long,” said the boss.
“Joe got through 90 minutes, which, if I’m honest, I didn’t expect. That’s credit to Joe for the way he has conditioned himself.
“He’ll have been in a few dark places over the last year. But credit to him for his performance – he gives us something different going forward.”
Edwards helped the Saddlers establish a two-goal lead against Town, only for the visitors to score twice in the final 18 minutes to salvage a point.
Although disappointed not to win, Keates was pleased with his side’s response to the Boxing Day defeat to Bristol Rovers.
“The lads gave absolutely everything,” he added.
“The Boxing Day game wasn’t good enough, I asked for a reaction and they gave that.
“The last few weeks have been a bit of a yo-yo – up and down, up and down – but it was a lot more up.
“We fully deserved to be 2-0 up and there were points when we were comfortable, against the most in-form team in the division.
“Decision making in football is massive and there were points where we should have made the right decisions to kill the time.
“We were happy with how our performance went but we’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”
The Saddlers start 2019 with a New Year’s Day trip to Charlton tomorrow – and Keates has called for another positive performance.
“We need to build on Luton.
“Charlton will be another difficult game against a team slap-bang in the middle of the play-offs, and we need to give a good account of ourselves.
“We’ll use the reaction from the weekend as a positive and we need to build on it at Charlton.”