Express & Star

'Strong team ethic' helped Walsall grind out Rochdale win

Walsall first team coach Mat Sadler highlighted the value of the Saddlers’ strong team ethic as they ground out a tough win against Rochdale to end a hugely positive week taking seven points from nine.


Hayden White’s first ever goal for Walsall, in his 96th appearance, proved the difference between the two sides in a hard-fought contest at the Poundland Bescot Stadium, on the back of a more free-flowing midweek performance which accounted for Harrogate.

It also came after last weekend’s point at Sutton United, coming back to draw with ten men, and Sadler, on post-match interview duties instead of boss Michael Flynn, said the dressing room was “bouncing and buzzing” after a good week’s work.

“We knew today was going to be very tough,” said Sadler.

“I think Rochdale’s position in the table is a false one for where they are now, especially now Jim (Bentley) has gone in.

“Jim is a very good and experienced manager who has got them organised and resilient with good players in good areas so I think they are a team that will climb the league.

‘That meant that for us today we had to be strong and stand up to the challenge and then getting the first goal was always going to be important.

“It rounds off a decent week with the results and showing we can get points in different ways.

“Sutton last weekend was a different challenge all over again, it wasn’t one for fast free-flowing football and the ball had a headache in that game!

“We didn’t buckle or bend and showed what a together group we are in getting a point and that stood us in good stead for the two home games which followed.

“The only disappointment for me was conceding that goal on Tuesday – that was avoidable and it agitated the group and frustrated the group.

“But for large parts of the last 180 minutes we have seen how hard-working and together we are, how we’ve become hard to beat and had different players popping up to notch goals as well.”

One of those was White, who finally broke his Walsall duck, much to the delight of Sadler and the backroom staff.

“It’s a real bonus to see Hayden scoring and we want to see our defenders getting in the goals,” he added.

“It was good that Manny (Monthe) won the header from the throw – he’s a big boy but that often means the opposition put their big defenders on him to nullify him, so we were pleased to see him win that one.

“And then it was all about Hayden and we have noticed in training how alert he is in the box and he showed that today, when other players were flat-footed.

“That was what led to the goal, it’s not a co-incidence that it just landed on him, and it’s that being alert which earned him the goal and earned us the win.”

The three points took Walsall into 12th place in the League Two table, four points off the play-offs, ahead of a fortnight’s break from league duties with the FA Cup trip to Wycombe next up.

“It’s all about clawing points back now because I think we have probably left a few out there in the first 16 games,” added Sadler.

“I think we are looking hard to beat and well balanced at the moment and getting into our rhythm and our stride so let’s keep going and try and claw a few more teams back that are above us.”