Walsall reaping the benefits of hard work
Defender Jason McCarthy believes hard work is paying off for Walsall following their impressive victory over Bolton.
Having seen Joe Edwards sent off after just 16 minutes against Phil Parkinson's side, the Saddlers defied the odds to get their noses in front and then battle their way to a 1-0 victory.
That result ended a six-game winless run in League One and also ensured Jon Whitney's side registered their second clean sheet of the campaign.
And McCarthy believes that shut-out is just what the team needed, following a big effort in training to tighten up at the back.
"That clean sheet was massive for us," the Southampton loanee said. "We know, with the quality we have, we should be a really solid defensive unit.
"We have done a lot of work to improve the defence – especially during the international break.
"Against Bolton there were moments that stuck out where I could see all that hard work coming to fruition – I could see what we had done in training taking shape on the pitch.
"The hard work paid off and now we just need to keep going because we were excellent against Bolton.
"We played with 10 men but there were long spells I forgot we were a man down.
"We still expressed ourselves and at times we played them off the park. That should give us real confidence because we have shown we can match anyone in this league."
McCarthy is one of 12 new faces at the club following a big summer of transition at the Banks's Stadium.
Neil Etheridge, James O'Connor, Adam Chambers and Kieron Morris are the only first-team regulars who remain from the side that narrowly missed out on a place in Championship last season.
And with so many new arrivals, McCarthy feels Walsall were always going to need time to gel.
"It has been a big transition for the club and I have been part of that," the defender continued. "There are only a handful of players still here who were part of what happened last season.
"Everyone has come in so it is going to take time.
"I can understand it has been a frustrating period for the fans.
"But it's been frustrating the players and the coaching staff even more.
"But we will get our rewards. If we keep working hard results will come and we will climb the table because it's still very early in the season."
You could make a case for any one of Walsall's players being crowned man of the match on Saturday, following their excellent team display.
In the end it was Etheridge who took the award – with McCarthy admitting he is a big fan of the Saddlers goalkeeper.
"Neil has been excellent for us," he added.
"You get periods in games when the momentum swings towards the opposition. It's very difficult for any team to control a game for 90 minutes.
"But when that happens, Neil comes and helps us out. He has pulled off some great saves in the past weeks.
"Credit to him because he is performing at such a high level at the moment. He is a great keeper and one of the best goalies I have played with."