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James O'Connor: Walsall's power is growing

Sport | Published:

Defender James O'Connor believes Walsall will continue to get stronger as the season progresses.

After an inconsistent start, the Saddlers have seen their form improve significantly since the turn of the year with Jon Whitney's side having lost just once in their last seven games.

O'Connor is one of the few players remaining at the Banks's Stadium from the team that narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship last season.

And he feels the new side is now beginning to realise it's potential after initially taking its time to click.

"I think the overall last summer has been talked about a lot," he said. "Obviously we're trying to gel together and that comes with playing games, that's a given really.

"If you hit the ground running and everyone clicks from day one then brilliant but it doesn't always happen, and it didn't happen here really.

"But we work hard, we work hard every day. Everyone's honest, everyone's trying to improve and do the right things.

"I think we're learning about each other as well and I think our performances are picking up.

"This side wants to do well and I think everyone can see signs we have built throughout the year.

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"We had a good result at Scunthorpe and now we need to take that into Saturday and into the rest of the games to ensure we finish the season on a high."

Key to Walsall's upturn in form has been the switch to a 3-5-2 formation.

O'Connor was part of the back three that secured a clean sheet in Tuesday's goalless draw against Scunthorpe.

But he also was part of the defence that let in four in defeat to Bolton last weekend.

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Overall though, the centre-back believes the system suits his side.

"I thought we were excellent defensively at Scunthorpe and offered an attacking threat as well," he continued.

"I thought we limited them to one or two chances at most. I thought our shape was good, I thought our distances were good and the desire to keep the ball away from our goal was excellent.

"I think at times we do the back three a bit unorthodox but I think you've got to do that. You've got to manage the game and there's times when certain players have to step in. That comes with playing together.

"The first half at Bolton we allowed them to dictate how we had to defend, and the damage was done by half-time.

"But we learned a lot, even in the second half there, and took it into Scunthorpe and did well."

Walsall were beaten 4-1 at home by the Iron back in September. And O'Connor feels the goalless draw at Glanford shows how far Walsall have progressed.

"Scunthorpe are a good side, they know what they're doing, they're well drilled," he added. "They have got a way of playing and they cause problems.

"I think we were completely overwhelmed by it at home. We couldn't deal with it.

"It was a really disappointing performance and it was one of them games that really sticks in your throat, it was a really bad night.

"But you can use those results and performances to motivate you to be better.

"You can learn from and build yourself which is what we've done."

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