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Keates: we were back to our old selves

3 December 2018

Manager Dean Keates felt that he side got back to their old selves in the second half of the FA Cup game against Sunderland.

A goal from Newcastle United fan Andy Cook earned the Saddlers a replay and Keates was delighted with the way his players responded to the half-time message he conveyed to them.

Despite feeling like his side were a little bit tentative in the first half, Keates has urged them not to play with any fear in future and he wants them to continue to express themselves.

“In the second half I thought our performance was much better and I think we could have just shaded a victory,” said Keates.

“We spoke to the players at half-time and we told them to have a little bit more belief in themselves.

“We were a little bit tentative in the first half, we looked like we were scared to make a mistake, but sometimes in football you have got to play without fear.

“You have to play knowing that you might make a mistake and you have got to play without being scared.

“In the second half we told the lads to go and play like they had been at the beginning of the season and I thought we looked more like ourselves.

“Cooky is a Newcastle fan, he’s a Geordie lad and he will take great pleasure in his goal.

“I left him out on Tuesday night and he was disappointed but he understood the reasons for what we tried to do down at Portsmouth.

“I thought for periods of the game against them it worked what we tried to do but he came back in and he was outstanding.

“He has really enjoyed that.”

Another player who Keates was delighted with was Wolves loanee Connor Johnson who was thrown into the straight line-up at the last minute with Russell Martin and Jack Fitzwater both unavailable.

“I thought Connor Johnson was absolutely outstanding,” he continued. “He didn’t know until 1pm that he was going to be in the team.

“We lost Russ Martin on Friday night with a sickness bug.

“I spoke to him on the morning of the game and he was still suffering with the bug so Connor got dropped in at the deep end but I thought he was outstanding today.

“Sometimes it is a good thing to come in at the last second and I thought he really embraced the game and he was outstanding.”

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