Tal­is­man Andy back to save Sad­dlers

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Michael Beard­more

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

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