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Walsall boss Dean Smith: Mal Benning will learn

Sport | Published:

Dean Smith today backed youngster Mal Benning to come back stronger after his Preston nightmare.

The 19-year-old left-back endured the toughest day of his professional career so far as the Lilywhites thumped the sorry Saddlers 3-0 at the Banks's on Saturday.

Benning was far from the only home player to struggle but was badly at fault for Preston's second and third goals – the latter directly a result of his error when he sliced an attempted clearance straight into the path of scorer Lee Holmes.

His substitution with 25 minutes remaining was then greeted by sarcastic cheers from some home fans.

Smith said: "It was a tough day for him, there is no denying that.

"I've spoken to him and he is disappointed but he will learn from it.

"What you can't do, is change anything. But what you can do is learn from it and get better from it."

"I'm sure Mal will do that. It was just one of those games for him."

Benning has started every League One game so far after injury forced Andy Taylor to miss the start of the season and the teenager had produced solid performances until Saturday.

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"He has performed really well up until today. It's a disappointment for him," added Smith.

"Anybody can make a mistake for the goal and unfortunately he made a mistake for the third."

Smith also admitted to his own mistakes in team selection, after the Saddlers collapsed to a first home league defeat since last November.

But he said his decision to drop Nicky Featherstone and Romaine Sawyers – who both impressed at Stoke in the Capital One Cup – as well as bringing back Benning in place of the fit-again Taylor were made for the right reasons.

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He said: "I didn't think Andy Taylor could do two games in such a short space of time having been out for so long.

"And the same with Romaine (Sawyers) as well - what we've got to remember is that it's his first season playing league football.

"The reasons I didn't play Nicky (Featherstone), Romaine and Andy is that they haven't played a lot of football over the last month and I just felt the games were coming too soon for them."

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