They say confidence is the key in football and you only need to see our emphatic 3-1 victory at Deepdale yesterday to understand morale is high at The Banks’s Stadium. So much so our owner watched his first game in over 2 years.
The 3-1 victory saw us register our 5th win in 6 games and in doing so catipulted us upto 12th in the league, just 5 points from the play-offs and the gap to top spot equal to that of the relegation places.
We made two enforced changes from the side that had beaten Portsmouth a week earlier. In came Ian Mcloughlin for the recalled Karl Darlow and James Baxendale replaced the recalled Craig Westcarr.
Our first half display was a dominant one and dare I say we are slowly getting back to the style of football we were used to watching over the months of August and September.
Jamie Paterson made Preston keeper Thorsten Stuckman work for his money after just 4 minutes with a shot that the keeper struggled to keep out and pushed out for a corner.
Moments later Andy Butler’s header was pushed onto the bar by Stuckman from the resulting corner.
The early pressure was an alarm call for Preston who then had a few chances of their own from former Saddler Lee Holmes and leading goalscorer Nicky Wroe.
On 18 minutes the deadlock was broken. Great work from Will Grigg saw the Northern Ireland international break into the box and delicately pulled a pass back to Febian Brandy, who calmly slotted it away for his 5th goal of the season.
We could have easily been 2 or 3 up before the half hour mark as Baxendale’s intelligent lob found the side netting with Stuckman stranded.
We did go 2-0 up after 38 minutes however with a fabulous cross from Adam Chmabers that alluded everyone found Paul Downing’s head and he despatched it with ease.
Walsall could have easily been 4-0 up at half time, it was that convincing.
We stretched our lead on 56 minutes and put the game to bed with great work from Grigg once more who found James Baxendale, his thunderbolt from 18 yards found the corner of the net.
Walsall were more than comfortable and will probably feel agrieved to have let Bailey Wright grab a consolation header right at the death.
This was a perfect away performance by the boys and I think its unfair to say Preston were woeful, we played with confidence and quality and whoever faced us yesterday would have been taught the same lesson.
The quality of Mantom and Chambers in the middle is something we should all be shouting about because you will go along way to find two better central midfielders at the moment, they compliment each other perfectly. Throw into that the form of Brandy/Grigg and the lack of goals conceeded by Butler/Downing and you have the perfect spine for the team.
Dean Smith is slowly winning around the Saddlers faithful (including myself) who doubted whether the club were moving forward.
Its easy to get carried away as we now sit top of the League 1 form table, but performance wise we are currently the best team in this league and if we can keep up these performances then play-offs might be more than a dream…but for now we will target those 4 extra wins that will see us secure our League 1 survival for another year.