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League One

Smith accepts changes backfired

1 September 2013

Walsall manager Dean Smith admitted his team selection could have played a part in the first home defeat of the season by slick Preston at the Banks's Stadium.

The hosts had been in a tough League Cup match at Stoke City on Wednesday, losing 3-1, and Smith left out experienced defender Andy Taylor for young Malvind Benning, who had a poor game, and had Romaine Sawyers sitting on the subs bench.

"Looking back, I could say I probably picked the wrong team, but it was a bad day at the office all round," said Smith.

Taylor had been out with an injury and Smith didn't think he was ready for two games in four days, adding: "I made the decisions for the right reasons."

Preston took the lead in the 30th minute when Joel Byrom curled in a perfect free-kick from outside the box and all Walsall had to offer in the first half was a shot off target by Craig Westcarr as they slipped to a third successive defeat in league and cup fixtures.

Lively winger Chris Humphrey added a second for the visitors after cutting inside on 58 minutes and three minutes later the visitors made sure of the points when Lee Holmes cashed in on a howler by Benning to put the result beyond doubt.

Preston-born Wade Barrett, a top American wrestler, met the North End players in the dressing room before the game and must have inspired them to their first league win of the season - they had drawn the previous four.

Manager Simon Grayson was delighted with his men and said: "We can be very pleased with the way we played. The tempo was very good from the start and the game could easily have been over by half-time. We had numerous chances."

Asked if he had been concerned that his team hadn't won a league game before this one, he replied: "It was not concerning me because we had been playing well.

"Today we passed the ball well and defended well, and to win away from home, score three goals and conceded none has to be a half-decent performance.

"Apart from the three goals, we had half-a-dozen other opportunities to score and were a constant threat every time we moved forward."

Grayson also praised the performance of experienced striker Kevin Davies, who gave the Walsall skipper Andy Butler a very difficult afternoon.

"Kevin has played at the highest level and he's done that to many defenders over his career," said the Preston boss. "That's why we pushed to get him to this football club."

Walsall chief Smith now has to pick up his men for Tuesday's Johnstones Paint Trophy clash with Wolves at Molineux and added: "We looked leg weary. We never got started and lacked a bit in terms of our touch and gave poor goals away.

"Wednesday's game (at Stoke) was tough and we put a lot into it, but I felt the players would recover. I didn't see this performance coming. We lacked energy and enthusiasm."

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