Patience is all too rare in football these days. But it was certainly present at Crewe on Saturday, where Walsall snapped a five-game winless run in fine fashion.
There was patience from supporters, who sat through an opening hour of almost no goalmouth action. And there was patience too in a recalled forward who answered his critics with a brace to set up the victory.
The complaint continually and often unfairly levelled against Craig Westcarr is he does not score enough goals. But that ignores the importance of his overall game.
Simply put, Walsall look a more cohesive unit with him in the side.
And on Saturday there was no questioning his killer instinct. His quickfire double, the second from a penalty he won, set the Saddlers on their way and he almost made it a hat-trick with a volley which flew inches wide of the post.
In the end it was left to James Baxendale, dropped to the bench in a re-jigged line-up, to land the finishing blow with the third six minutes from time.
This was an important victory for a multitude of reasons, not least because of the upcoming fixtures.
Dean Smith’ side face three of the current top four in the next fortnight but will do so with renewed confidence.
After the encouraging second-half display against Wolves in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and Saturday’s win, the home defeat to Preston now seems a distant memory.
Whether the manager will stick with the new 4-1-4-1 formation used to such great effect on Saturday remains to be seen, but there was no doubt the new shape gave them a renewed solidity.
Having spent the early part of the campaign playing two out of Sam Mantom, Nicky Featherstone and Adam Chambers in central midfield, Smith fielded all three, with the latter pair taking it in turns to sit in front of the back four.
It provided an extra blanket for a backline which Crewe breached only once, when Ajay Leitch-Smith broke into the box shortly after Westcarr’s opener but fired wide.
Mantom, meanwhile, thrived in his more attacking position. By the end of the game he was the dominant player on the pitch and was unfortunate not to score.
Westcarr, back in the starting line-up, found himself on the opposite flank to Ashley Hemmings while Smith handed Troy Hewitt his first start.
Hewitt is undoubtedly the most natural striker of Smith’s new recruits and, while he was off target with his only real chance, his work-rate, movement and awareness were enough to suggest he could be some player when fully up to speed.
You would have got long odds on a 3-0 scoreline after an opening hour so bereft of excitement that only Roy Hodgson would have found it entertaining.
A Mantom drive from distance early in the second period, which home keeper Steve Phillips pushed round the post, was the first time the deadlock was seriously threatened.
But once the Saddlers finally got their noses in front with 25 minutes to go, they never looked back.
Captain Andy Butler had already forced Phillips into a fine point-blank save after the hosts failed to clear a Hemmings corner and, when the ball finally fell to Westcarr, he showed a cool head to fire into the corner from eight yards out.
Suddenly the game was alive and Hewitt missed the chance to double the advantage when he shot over, while AJ Leitch-Smith squandered a similarly gilt-edged chance at the other end before Westcarr struck again.
This time the forward was hauled down by Gregor Robertson and he stepped up to send Phillips the wrong way from the spot.
Crewe pushed for a way back without ever threatening Richard O’Donnell’s goal, barring a long-range Anthony Grant shot which the home keeper pushed away, before Baxendale put the game beyond any remaining doubt when he beat Mark Ellis to an errant pass and skipped away to slot past Phillips.
Featherstone was only denied a rare goal when his 25-yard effort was pushed onto the bar by Phillips. But perhaps best to save that one for Molineux tomorrow?
By Matt Maher