Walsall Player-Coach Mat Sadler was in good spirits despite seeing his young Saddlers team fall to a 3-1 defeat against Leamington on Tuesday.
The youthful side took the lead through Joe Willis in the first half but an own goal and further goals from Danny Waldron and Dan Meredith secured the victory for the National League North side.
Sadler took charge of his first match since taking on his new role in the summer.
He admitted that his team faded in the second half but he was impressed with Walsall’s first half performance and was happy to see a lot of young players get some all-important game time.
“We were pleased to get some minutes into the lads,” said Sadler.
“I think some of them, or all of them this is the most that they’ve played in some length of time. The youth team lads who started the game have only been in training for a few days and haven’t had any ball work really and were thrown into a game and did really well, especially in the first 45 minutes.
“Physically I thought at the end of the first half it looked like it had taken a lot out of us and I think that showed in the second half with just a little bit of things they weren’t doing in the first half, they’d started doing in the second half so that was where you’ve got to give these lads a little bit of understanding of where they’re at in terms of their development and their fitness.
“There was a lot of pleasing things from the game, pleasing to get some minutes into the first-year pros and the lads who are up with us every day.
“That’s the most they’ve played in six months but on the other side, we look at it and say what can we do better? When we’re under the cosh, how can we get a foothold and get our attacking players on the ball so plenty of positives and a few things that we’ll be looking at to improve going forward but it was about getting game time into lads who haven’t played football for a long time so we’ve got to be pleased on that front.”
Sadler was keen to see the youngsters try to stake a claim for a place in the first team during Tuesday’s match.
He has been particularly impressed with goalscorer Joe Willis since the start of pre-season as well as during last night’s match.
“Willis is someone I’ve been really impressed with,” Sadler commented.
“He has come back fit, he has come back strong and he has come back as a player who wants to stake a claim for the first team and that’s what we’ve challenged the young players to do, put themselves in the window of the manager and be knocking on that door saying you want some minutes and some game time.
“It was also good to see Sam Perry stamping his authority on the game in that first 45 minutes. Jayden Campbell as well, I haven’t seen much of him but he’s impressed with his outings in the first team friendly and played 80 minutes against Leamington so it was a good experience.
“I look at the work Miguel is doing with his young lads and we’re going in the right direction as a football club.”
Saddlers team v Leamington: Trialist, J. Foulkes, J. Perry (Coogan), Leak, Lynch (Mukadam), Trialist, S. Perry, Trialist, Campbell (Stephens), Willis (Francis), Trialist.