SMITH SITS TOP OF THE LOT
Brewers left flat as hosts Walsall climb to summit
IF WALSALL boss Dean Smith was having any misgivings over being denied the chance to talk to Rotherham this week, his Saddlers stars have probably blown them all away.
The Millers, struggling in the Championship, have appointed Neil Redfearn to the hotseat but approached both Walsall and Burton about their managers prior to that.
And if those advances rocked any boat, it was Burton’s as they turned in a muted display to surrender top spot to Walsall by virtue of this impressive win.
Smith is nearing five years in charge of the Saddlers and the impression is that he wants to finish the job he’s started and take Walsall up.
He said:“If you’ve been at a club for as long as I have, you have an affiliation with it.
“There’s ups and downs as there always will be at any football club. But I think there’s been a steady rise all the way through it.
“I’m proud that we’re top but we want to be there in May. That’s when the trophies are given out.
“It’s only 12 games in but we’ve only lost one game so we deserve a lot of credit for how we’re playing and the results and performances we’ve had.
“To only concede six goals in 12 league games is a credit to the whole team and how organised we are.”
There were heroes all over the park for the Saddlers as their players sent out a message to Smith just how much he is valued at the Banks’s Stadium.
The two main stars are at opposite ends of their careers. Youngster Liam Kinsella – son of Mark – whose first-half strike set Walsall on their way to victory, and inspirational veteran skipper Adam Chambers.
Kinsella, 19, drilled home a finish worthy more of a striker than an understudy right-back, to fire the Saddlers ahead on 36 minutes after latching on to a superb pass from the also-excellent Romaine Sawyers.
Chambers bossed the midfield all game, although below-par Burton still had chances to pinch a point, with Sam Mantom clearing an Anthony O’Connor effort off the line early in the second half. And with four minutes to go, Brewers sub
Timmy Thiele saw a goalbound shot blocked by the leg of that man Kinsella.
Anything other than victory would have been harsh on Walsall and they sealed victory in stoppage time.
Brewers defender Phil Edwards was adjudged to have handled in the box and Tom Bradshaw tucked home his ninth goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Smith added: “I thought Adam deservedly got the sponsors’ man of the match. He sat in front of our three centre-halves and mopped everything up. He won headers, won tackles and distributed the ball very well.
“But Liam was excellent too and he got a great block in towards the end as well.
“Defensively he was very good but going forward he was always an out ball for us.”
Disappointed Brewers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, meanwhile, said: “Walsall were the better team in the first half and they deserved to be 1-0 up. We didn’t play as well as we can.
“We didn’t play on the front foot, we were losing the second balls and we were going out of our shape to chase the ball, which is what Walsall like as they will pick you off.
“But in the second half I thought we were the better team and it looked like there was only one team who would score.
“We had a really good chance to make it 1-1 but it was not to be for us unfortunately.
“The second goal killed it and for me, and looking from where I was standing, I thought it was a dubious penalty.
“To give handball when a player scoops the ball up two metres away from a player, I find it a little bit hard to take.”
WRAPPED UP: Walsall’s Tom Bradshaw celebrates his late penalty that sealed the game
SPOT ON: Tom Bradshaw scores Walsall’s second from the spot