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Jon Whitney says Amadou Bakayoko is staking a claim for regular Walsall start

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Boss Jon Whitney admits Amadou Bakayoko is playing his way into Walsall's first XI following his impressive start to the season.

The striker was handed his full Saddlers debut on Tuesday and marked the occassion with a hat-trick as the Saddlers ran out 5-2 winners against Grimsby in the Checkatrade trophy.

Bakayoko burst onto the scene in pre-season and netted five goals in four friendly appearances. He has since impressed in five substitute appearances in League One.

And now Whitney insists the 20-year-old is ready to compete with the likes of Simeon Jackson and Andreas Makris for a regular starting spot.

"I'm absolutely delighted with Ama and the work ethic he has shown," Whitney said.

"Grimsby was his big chance. I wanted to start him and I wanted to play him on his own to see how he would do by himself.

"But he couldn't have done any more than scoring a hat-trick. He was excellent.

"I'm really pleased for him, he has carried on the form he showed in pre-season where he came into the team and did really well.

"I've got a selection headache but I have a little bit of time to think about it with there being no game this weekend so that's nice."

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Another player who impressed against Grimsby was Liam Kinsella who has often been asked to fill in at full-back for the Saddlers over the past 18 months.

But the 20-year-old got to play in his preferred central midfield role against the Mariners and grabbed an assist for one of Bakayoko's goals.

"Liam brings great energy to the team," Whitney added. "He can be that catalyst for us.

"He leaves everything out on the pitch and he's got a really bright future."

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