Walsall manager Darrell Clarke preparing for back-to-back 'big challenges'

Darrell Clarke is prepared for the 'big challenge' awaiting Walsall as they face two high-flying teams within four days.

Darrell Clarke
Darrell Clarke

Following the poor 1-0 loss to struggling Southend United last week, the Saddlers now travel to face Cheltenham Town tomorrow and Newport County on Tuesday – who sit third and first in League Two respectively.

Although Clarke still believes there is not much to separate clubs in the fourth tier, he insists the ruthless streak in both boxes is a major factor that Walsall must improve on.

"It certainly is (a big challenge)," Clarke said.

"I said it to my players this week, I get sick of people telling me we're a good team.

"We're only a good team if we start being ruthless in both boxes.

"Cheltenham and Newport have had that this season so far. The league is very equal, as it was last year, it's not all doom and gloom.

"We were nine points off the play-offs with a game in hand last season when it was curtailed, so there has been improvement, but we want more as the demands are high.

"Cheltenham and Newport have had more consistency so far but there's not a lot in it. I'm sure they'll be respecting us like we'll be respecting them."

After some strong performances against better sides this year, the loss to Southend came from a disappointing performance.

When asked if the club were looking to put that game to bed this week, Clarke added: "It's taken a while, to be honest.

"All of us are very disappointed in the result and performance. There were very quiet changing rooms after.

"In the process of managing you have to be very careful and not knock the boys' confidence, but there also has to be a realisation that we have to be a lot better than that and a lot more intense with our play.

"It was a bad game for us and you understand the reaction after a defeat like that against a team that has been struggling. The players have to take their medicine and we have to analyse it and go again.

"It's been nice to see a bit of needle in the training on Monday and Tuesday, that's good. There's a good intensity about the group to want to put that right.

"The proof will be in the pudding at Cheltenham.

"They're a great set of lads, I can't speak highly enough of them and the way they work.

"We want them to be better but I also put a team out on Saturday with an average age of 23, they have to learn.

"Southend had an average age of 26, we had an average age of 23. I believe some of them have played enough games now and they should be doing a lot better.

"They have to learn from it and learn quickly."

Striker Elijah Adebayo missed a penalty when the game was locked at 0-0, before Southend scored a late winner, but Clarke insists the team has moved on from that moment.

"Eli is a great lad and I think he's had a solid start to the season," Clarke said.

"He's apologising to me, apologising to the players, he doesn't need to apologise.

"He stepped up, struck it well, it hit the crossbar and he moves on from that.

"We have to make sure players don't lose that confidence.

"It's a balancing act between knowing we need to do better but not letting individuals or the group lose confidence.

"It depends if your glass is half full or half empty, that's only two defeats in 17 league games.

"We know some of those draws should be turned into wins but we're going to remain positive in everything we do."

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