A week pivotal to Walsall’s chances of remaining in League One has to this point gone precisely as boss Dean Keates hoped.
Victory over Bury on Saturday, followed up by Wednesday’s battling 1-1 draw at Oldham, has edged the Saddlers six points clear of the bottom four with just five games left to play.
Another positive result at home to AFC Wimbledon tomorrow – in the their third straight match against a team below them in the table – would move Keates’ men to the brink of safety.
“We know if we keep taking points off the teams below us we will be OK,” said defender Jack Fitzwater.
“The boys have not really thought about relegation because we knew, as a team, we have quality when we need it.
“If we can grind out results it’s good. We have to head into Saturday now, treating it as a six-pointer.
“We know if we win that game it puts a bit more daylight between us and the teams below.”
Fitzwater, who joined on loan from Albion during the January transfer window, bagged his second goal for the Saddlers in the draw at Boundary Park.
That took his record in senior football to four goals in 32 senior appearances – none too shabby for a centre-back.
Yet the 20-year-old took even more encouragement from a resolute defensive performance which saw Walsall, who were pegged back on the stroke of half-time by Duckens Nazons, hold out during a second half when the conditions were against them.
Keates later hailed the showing as evidence of his team’s passion and commitment.
Fitzwater added: “The manager just wants us to work hard.
“He has told us to be compact, try and force everything out wide. We know we are going to have to defend crosses.
“We know we are going to have to defend long balls. But that’s what we get paid for.
“I think we showed that at Oldham. Head it when you have to head it, clear it when you have to clear it. He knows where we want to be.”
“It was the kind of night when everyone has to stand up.
“It was a massive result. We are away from home and knew it would be tough.
“A point is a point. We weren’t at our best but we dug deep and everyone to a man was brilliant. It was a point gained rather than a point lost.
“I might have over-celebrated the goal. But I don’t score too many!”
The Dons arrive at the Banks’s two places and two points behind the Saddlers, having also picked up four points from their first two games of the week.
That included a 1-0 win over Charlton on Tuesday night, which opened up their own gap over the bottom four to four points.