Talisman Andy back to save Saddlers
ANDY Butler’s inspirational return coincided with the Saddlers’ first league win of the season – but the figures suggest it was no coincidence.
Butler left Walsall after almost four years in the summer to join Sheffield United but is back on loan after being frozen out at Bramall Lane.
Since he first joined them in 2010,Walsall have not won a league game without the centre-back in the team and they started this season winless in six.
But they put that run to bed in their former skipper’s first game back and Saddlers boss Dean Smith said:“I think Andy’s presence has lifted everybody.
“When a player who has done so much at this club before becomes available and we get him in, it’s going to lift everyone.
“You could tell that on Friday just in training. Andy does what we know he does and I thought he played really well.
“It is a really good result because Preston are a really strong team in this league. It’s nice to get that first win as we felt we’d put in performances that had deserved maximum points but not got them.
“It’s a big week for us with the possibility of nine points on offer – you get anything near that and all of a sudden it propels you into the upper reaches of the league.”
Romaine Sawyers gave Walsall a seventh-minute lead, tucking home through a crowd of bodies from 15 yards after Adam Chambers’ pull-back.
But Preston were level ten minutes before the break as Jordan Hugill fed Joe Garner to drill into the bottom corner.
Garner almost produced a wonder-goal soon after as he spotted Saddlers keeper Richard O’Donnell off his line but his 45-yarder drifted wide.
Walsall were back in front four minutes into the second half, Tom Bradshaw flashing a bullet header past Jamie Jones from Anthony Forde’s near-post cross.
Preston’s hopes of rescuing a point virtually disappeared with 20 minutes to go as Hugill was sent off for thrusting his head in Butler’s face.
And Paul Downing’s towering header from a Forde corner sealed the points for Walsall although Preston’s Garner and substitute Alan Browne wasted chances late on.
Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson said:“We were the masters of our downfall at times.
“Anything that could go wrong went wrong in terms of injuries, the sending-off, missed chances.
“There hasn’t been too many occasions since I’ve been the manager where we haven’t deserved to get anything but this was probably the most significant one.
“Jordan was foolish to react like he has. He should not have put himself in that position and from then on it was a real uphill battle for us.”
STAR MAN ANDY BUTLER Walsal