Darrell Clarke hails 'outstanding' Walsall effort despite Carabao Cup exit
Walsall manager Darrell Clarke has praised his side’s defensive rigidity after losing on penalties to Sheffield Wednesday in the first round of the Carabao Cup.
The Championship side struggled to break down the solid Saddlers defence throughout the game, and only had flashes of goal in the second half through substitute Matt Penney.
And after six months without a competitive fixture, Clarke was pleased with the showing.
“The fitness levels of the lads, work rate and the way we defended, I thought was outstanding,” he said.
“Against a very decent team in Sheffield Wednesday who are a lot higher up the pyramid than us, testament to the players.
“It’s our first competitive game in 182 days and they deserve a massive pat on the back. So does my strength and conditioning coach Mark Bradley, because he has put a lot of work and graft into making sure the fitness levels of the lads are good.”
Josh Gordon and Alfie Bates missed two penalties in the shoot-out, as Wednesday progressed in the competition.
Despite that, Clarke is taking the positives.
“The lads are disappointed missing the penalties, Josh and Alfie, but they shouldn’t be disappointed in their work rate and performance,” he added.
“In the course of the game we had a couple opportunities, with the transition of the ball, if we looked after it better we could have hurt them.
“We defended superbly and made it very difficult for Sheffield Wednesday to break us down.”
Experienced midfielders Stuart Sinclair and Danny Guthrie were not included in the squad, and Clarke revealed after the game that they should be available next week.
“We’re hoping they will be back for next week, (it’s) nothing serious,” he said.
“We’ll be hoping to see them very soon.”