Saddlers return to haunt old boss Dean
SEAN O’DRISCOLL praised his side’s spirit after Walsall knocked Brentford – and former Saddlers boss Dean Smith – out of the FA Cup.
The League One promotion chasers booked their spot in the fourth round thanks to Sam Mantom’s first-half strike, and after the game the Walsall boss revealed his delight with the afternoon’s work.
“I thought we were together as a team and we understood what we needed to do,” O’Driscoll said.“I thought we showed a lot of character today in certain circumstances.
“Everybody is pleased with the way we’ve approached the game and I keep saying to the players that if you look at the game for what it is, then we can be consistent in our approach.”
Mantom scored the game’s only goal when, on 34 minutes, he picked up Paul Downing’s pass midway into the Brentford half.The midfielder turned towards goal and curled home a delightful left-foot effort past the outstretched David Button.
The Bees improved in the second period, and after facing just one shot on target in the first half, visiting goalkeeper Neil Etheridge pulled off a string of fine saves to deny Smith’s side.
Despite being under heavy pressure for much of the second period, O’Driscoll’s team remained resolute and were able to keep their Championship hosts at bay.
“There are a lot of intangibles at Walsall where you’re trying to work out what they are,” he continued.
“I think we showed some of them here, and you can’t quite put your finger on it, but when you get a goal up we’re a difficult team to beat.”
Brentford boss Smith – who left the Saddlers to join Brentford just 40 days before the tie – cut a frustrated figure and lamented his team’s firsthalf display, but said they must move on quickly and turn their focus back to the league.
“I’m disappointed with how we played in the first half. The players were told that at half-time,” Smith said.
“Second half, I’ll have that all day long. I thought our intensity was better, our tempo was better and given another day we’d have scored the goals that would have won us the tie – let alone taken it to a replay.
“But we didn’t take our chances in the second half and we can’t play how we did in the first.
“I said to the players that any game you go into you can’t start like that. I know the players at Walsall and I know they’re a good team.
“I can’t change the result. I can’t change anything that’s already gone. All I can do now is prepare for Middlesbrough on Tuesday.”
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STAR MAN SAM MANTOM