Dean Smith today hailed Walsall’s fighting spirit after their Capital One Cup exit at Stoke.
A Kenwyne Jones hat-trick condemned the Saddlers to a 3-1 defeat in the second round tie but Smith’s men emerged with credit after a battling display against a strong Potters side.
Trailing 2-0 at the break, Ashley Hemmings rounded off a superb move to reduce the deficit early in the second half and the visitors threatened to equalise before Jones’ third late on.
“I was really pleased with the manner in which we came back,” said Smith.
“It would have been easy for us to fold, 2-0 down against such quality opposition but we were positive and the main aggressors in the second half.”
He added: “There were a lot of positives. I thought our second half performance was outstanding. We played some good football.
“We told the players at half-time we wanted them to be a bit more positive and go and play in Stoke’s half, which I thought we did.
“The manner in which we went from our half to their half to score the goal was fantastic and we had a few other chances as well.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes is sure Jones’ heroics will catch the eye of potential suitors but suggested he’s happy to keep the £8m man.
“People will look at this performance and think they would like his services,” he said.
“But at the moment we are comfortable he is here.”
Smith did express some frustration at the manner in which the hosts went two goals ahead, with both strikes coming from defensive lapses.
But he felt his side were perhaps unlucky with the second, which came from a corner the Saddlers boss felt should have been awarded as a foul to his side.
“For the second goal, I didn’t think it was a corner,” said Smith.
“I thought it was a foul on James Chambers and having seen it again I still think it’s a foul on James Chambers at the far post.
“They were a bit fortunate, it just bounced up and dropped for Jones to put in.”
Smith confirmed Milan Lalkovic will be fit for Saturday’s visit of Preston North End after being rested due to a tight hamstring.
In a further boost, left-back Andy Taylor played the full 90 minutes in his first taste of first team action this season.