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AFC Wimbledon vs Walsall: Relaxed atmosphere gives Saddlers freedom

Isaiah Osbourne believes Walsall’s players are thriving thanks to the freedom given to them by boss Dean Keates.

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The Saddlers travel to take on AFC Wimbledon today looking to continue what has been a hugely impressive start to the season.

Unbeaten in their four matches so far, Keates’ men have put in a series of eye-catching displays.

The latest of those arrived on Saturday with Osbourne on target in a 2-1 victory over Gillingham.

And the midfielder – who has rejoined the Saddlers following a spell at Forest Green Rovers – admits he is enjoying being part of Walsall’s new-look side.

“I am enjoying it a lot to be honest,” Osbourne said.

“He (Keates) is relaxed, he tells us what we need to do on the pitch.

“That’s all you can ask for in a manager. I’ve come across managers where if you make a mistake, they are on your case.

“He is not like that. He gives you the freedom and the licence to go out there and play.

“He gives you a chance to express yourself. He is calm and relaxed and when you come across a manager like that it is better for the players.

“You will get the best from the players being like that.”

Despite another impressive performance against the Gills, Walsall were hugely disappointed to concede in stoppage-time.

It meant the Saddlers are still to keep a clean sheet this season.

And Osbourne says that is something they would love to put right tonight.

“You can see when the referee blew the whistle on Saturday, a lot of players had their heads down,” the 30-year-old continued.

“We were obviously happy to win the game. But we were disappointed to concede late on, we were very disappointed with that. We’ll get on the training ground and we’ll work to rectify that. We will learn.

“Hopefully we can get that clean sheet at Wimbledon and continue the momentum by getting another three points.”

After opting to leave Forest Green in the summer, Osbourne spent the close season working to his own fitness programme.

But while he has impressed so far, he feels the best is still to come.

“My fitness is getting there,” he added. “The Scunthorpe game was my first in three-and-a-half months. A couple more games and I will be back at it.

“In pre-season I was pretty much doing my own training. I did a lot of work with my brother and with friends in the park.

“But games are the big thing.

“I’m naturally fit but some players take three, four, five games.

“I give myself one more game and I’ll be back. My best is definitely still to come.”