Dean Smith: Fitness the key factor in Walsall's solid start

Dean Smith claims superior fitness means Walsall will compete until the final whistle of every game this season.

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Walsall manager Dean Smith with first team coach Richard O'Kelly

The Saddlers have lost their last two fixtures but have finished the stronger team in both.

Against Brentford last Saturday they put in a much improved second-half performance, while on Wednesday they gave Premier League Stoke a scare for large parts of the second period, after Ashley Hemmings’ goal had brought them back into a game they eventually lost 3-1.

And while Smith is keen for his side to work on being more positive from the start, he has been encouraged by the way they have been able to stay in games and remain a threat for 90 minutes.

“It’s credit to how fit the players are,” he said. “We seem to outlast the opposition and look really fit. I’d like to think we scared Stoke at times in the second half. I certainly saw some of their players huffing and puffing towards the end.

“We made a good game of football of it and came close. We can talk about certain things we can do in the first half but as the game goes on it gets stretched, you start playing into holes, between lines and that’s what is happening.”