Walsall boss Darrell Clarke has praised his players for ‘giving him everything’ and feels he can take some confidence from his side’s display against Bristol Rovers.
The Saddlers slipped to a 2-1 defeat as they bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday against the Sky Bet League One side but almost forced extra time having had a handful of very good chances.
Clarke admitted that the visitors were on top during the first 30 minutes but he praised his side for their work rate and felt his side deserved to force extra time given the territory and chances they created in the second half.
“I’m going to take confidence from the performance,” said Clarke.
“We’ve run a mid-table League One team and probably had more territory, advantage, possession and shots on target.
“I take the positives from that with a lot of key players missing.
“Eli has come off his sick bed, he’s only been able to do a light session as he’s been ill Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
“The lads are giving me everything and I’m just frustrated we didn’t perform as well as we could in the first 30 minutes than what we did in the rest of the game.
“They started bright and we probably paid them too much respect.
“We then had a lot more of the ball and if anything, we probably deserved extra-time.
“But it wasn’t to be. Credit to my lads, we have a lot of injuries and illness in the camp and if you were at the game, I don’t think you’d know there was a division between us.”
Clarke has challenged his players to improve their quality in the final third as they prepare to face Oxford United in the Papa John’s Trophy tomorrow evening.
He is keen to focus on the positives and feels there are plenty to take from this season’s matches.
"I think we can gain massive confidence from a lot of the performances this season, I really do,” Clarke commented.
"There's not a lot in League One and League Two. The top seven of League One are a little bit ahead but the rest of that is pretty even.
"We'll keep focused, working hard, and the boys are certainly putting plenty of effort in.
"If we can raise the quality and finishing at the top end, we'll win a lot more games.”
Walsall will be hoping to reach the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy when they take on Oxford tomorrow night where a victory will guarantee passage to the next round.
You can watch the game live by purchasing an iFollow pass for £10 here.