Skipper Andy Butler says Walsall have renewed confidence ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Preston after their stirring showing at Stoke.
After the bright lights of the Britannia, the Saddlers return to the Banks’s looking to get their League One campaign back on track against a Preston side who have drawn all four league games so far.
While the statistics may show the hosts will be looking to halt a two-game losing streak, Butler believes the experience of Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup loss to Stoke has done them more good than harm.
The Saddlers gave their Premier League hosts something of a scare and Butler believes the challenge is now to replicate the display in the bread and butter of the league.
“It’s given us a bit of confidence, no doubt about it,” he said.
“We played well. There is no point getting down about losing. We played well against a Premier League team and it was a full-strength squad they played.
“That shows a bit of respect to us. I thought we used the ball really well. The tempo was great, it was brilliant.”
He added: “We have not really played particularly well, passing-wise in the games since Tranmere on the opening day.
“Since then we have ground out some results.
“But now there is a bit more confidence and if we can play football against these teams then against League One teams, in theory, it should be a little bit easier. Every single player can take confidence from the game and bring it on to Saturday.”
Boss Dean Smith undoubtedly has some big decisions to make in terms of team selection.
Striker Milan Lalkovic will be fit after sitting out Wednesday’s game with a recurring tight hamstring, though whether he comes back in immediately remains to be seen in the light of Romaine Sawyers’ excellent showing.
Nicky Featherstone was another who impressed in the centre of midfield and the big question may now be who plays alongside him. Adam Chambers missed Wednesday’s game with a shin injury but could be back, while Sam Mantom has been struggling for consistent form.
Andy Taylor is likely to keep his place at left-back after returning from injury at Stoke.
Butler, meanwhile, is relishing the prospect of battling veteran centre-forward Kevin Davies, who has started every game for Preston so far.
“I’m assuming it will be a similar side to the one they had last year and they have brought Kevin Davies in, so it might hint at how they are going to play,” he said.
“But we will treat them with respect as we do every single team.”
Preston boss Simon Grayson, in his first full season at Deepdale, switched from 4-4-2 to 4-3-1-2 for Tuesday’s cup defeat at Burnley and may stick with it given the improvement in performance. His main selection issue is whether to stick with fit-again Scott Laird at left-wingback, despite David Buchanan impressing in his absence.
Walsall are unbeaten in their last six meetings with the Lilywhites and won both of last season’s matches 3-1.