Dean Keates keeps level head despite late Walsall heroics
Walsall boss Dean Keates kept a level head despite late heroics from Luke Leahy earning his side a 2-1 win over Coventry.
Walsall trailed 1-0 heading into stoppage time but boyhood Sky Blues fan Leahy pulled them level when he headed in a long Liam Roberts ball.
That was just the start of the drama though with Nicky Devlin then fouled in the box by Abu Agogo in the 94th minute.
Despite a host of forward’s being on the field, left-back Leahy was adamant he was taking the spot-kick.
And the 25-year-old produced nerves of steel to then find the bottom corner and sink the team who released him as a teenager.
On Leahy’s performance, Keates said: “For the first goal he has been brave.
He’s got in there, challenging with the keeper, just beat the keeper to it and it’s gone into an empty net.
“He was captain today and he showed a great captain’s mentality when he took the ball and stepped up and drove his team home for the three points.
“It showed some nerve but he’s got a great left foot. He wore the armband on Wednesday night and he’s wore it again today in the absence of Dobbo – and it was a captain’s performance from him in the last 15 minutes.”
Walsall gradually improved over the course of the 90 minutes but, overall, Keates wasn’t pleased with his team’s display.
“We were a little bit scrappy, we lacked a bit of quality with our passing and we weren’t very fluent,” he said.
“But give the lads credit – they kept going, they kept going and they ground something out.
“I’m not sure about the penalty, I’ve not seen it back, but I thought we did enough in the second half to warrant a draw.
“The lads are bouncing, they are high but we will go through a proper debrief on Monday morning, look at the in-possession bits first and foremost and where we need to do better and make our lives a lot easier.
“We’ve played better and lost games. We’ve better played and drew, up at Scunthorpe for instance and in other games. So we'll take it, we needed a win, it didn’t matter how it came, we will take a scruffy win.”
Walsall began the game in a 4-3-3 formation with Russell Martin deployed in midfield. But they improved significantly after switching to a diamond just before half-time.
“I just think it gave us a little bit more up top if I’m honest,” the boss continued.
“We tried 4-3-3 and it wasn’t really working. Shape-wise it seemed okay but we didn’t really make the extra man in the middle of the park on a defensive side work – we needed to be a bit braver, step in and break lines.
“The first change was to go two up top and one just behind and it worked.”
Coventry were also hugely fortunate not to see Jordan Willis sent off just before half-time with the defender pushing Andy Cook over when he was through on goal.
At the time it looked a blatant spot-kick, but Keates - having seen it again - said it should have been a foul and a straight red.
“It’s definitely not a penalty, it’s a yard outside the box,” he added.
“But it’s a foul and a red card. Consistency-wise, maybe I don’t know, maybe that decision in the first half, maybe that affected what happened in the last couple of minutes.”