SMITH SITS TOP OF THE LOT

Brew­ers left flat as hosts Wal­sall climb to sum­mit

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

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

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

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