Dean Keates left 'devastated' as Walsall suffer late heartbreak
Walsall boss Dean Keates admitted he was devastated for his players after a 95th-minute goal from Kazenga Lualua saw them held to a 2-2 draw by Luton.
The Hatters arrived at the Banks's Stadium as the most in-form team in League One with Nathan Jones' side having won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 games
But a Morgan Ferrier penalty and an Andy Cook goal - his tenth of the season - put the Saddlers into a commanding two-goal lead.
Luton though pulled a goal back through James Collins in the 72nd minute.
And then right at the death, Lualua fired in following a corner to break Walsall's hearts.
“I’m gutted for the lads if I’m honest," Keates said with the boss pleased with his player's reaction following the Boxing Day loss to Bristol Rovers.
"They gave absolutely everything I asked for in terms of a reaction from Boxing Day and they put in a great shift today for the football club.
“They know the Boxing Day game wasn’t good enough in terms of the standards and direction we are trying to take the football club in.
"It’s been a bit of a yo-yo if I’m honest the last few weeks, up and down, up and down.
“But a lot more up today. We fully deserved to be 2-0 up and at points, we were comfortable against probably, if you look at the form table, the best team in the division. We have more than matched them.
“We will look back and they will have to learn from it. I keep on going on about decision-making being massive in football and there’s points of the game where it should have been killed off.
“That’s being a bit more bright with the ball and making the right decision to kill the game in play."
Before the corner from which Lualua scored, Luton were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. And Keates was furious with the decision.
"We will shoulder it on our side but there’s a decision that’s gone against us that’s an embarrassment," the boss continued.
“The free-kick that’s been given against Jon Guthrie in the middle of the park, the kid’s dived on the floor. He’s booked Jon Guthrie."
Keates was bold with his team selection with the boss matching Luton's midfield diamond system man-for-man.
It saw George Dobson operate at the base, Joe Edwards and Liam Kinsella were central while Josh Gordon was at the tip.
And Keates thought it worked well.
“We made a few changes to combat how Luton are and I asked for a reaction from the last game and I thought every man gave that," the boss said.
"They represented the football club today, showed everything that we are about – the heart, the desire, the passion, it was all there and there were decent phases of play at points in the game.
“Luton are the form team, they are absolutely flying, they are in a good position, they are well drilled and they will be right in there at the end of the season.
“They are in a great place and have one of the biggest things in football behind them – momentum. So we will take the positives out of it."
Meanwhile, Keates confirmed Walsall have accepted a bid for winger Josh Ginnelly, which the Express & Star understands has been made by Preston.
"It’s been highlighted, he’s (Ginnelly) not been involved in the squad in the last few weeks," Keates added.
"We’ve had a concrete bid, it’s all been accepted, everything’s in place and he will join the club he is going to, as of the first of January."