Walsall boss Darrell Clarke admitted he took more pleasure from his side’s late defending than the goals they scored following their narrow 3-2 Sky Bet League Two victory at Crawley.
The Saddlers bagged their third-successive win with first-half goals from James Clarke, Elijah Adebayo and Wes McDonald sinking Crawley in head coach Gabriele Cioffi’s 50th league game in charge.
A penalty by Ashley Nathaniel-George briefly pulled the score back to 2-1, and a late stoppage-time strike by Josh Payne could not deny Walsall.
Manager Clarke confessed he was not entirely happy at the interval despite the scoreline, and said: “I had a go at half-time as we were a bit sloppy to start with.
“But it was a pleasing win for us and in the second half we saw the game off very professionally.
“What pleased me more than the goals was the way we defended.”
Walsall went into the game as the lowest scorers in the league with only five goals, and Clarke added:” I want to loose the tag that we’ve not scored enough goals.
“We have got to score a lot more goals in our campaign and for us, game management is key.”
Crawley head coach Cioffi did not feel the effort shown in beating Stoke in the Carabao Cup in midweek played a part in his side’s first defeat in seven league games.
The Italian said: “The performance was decent. We were a bit unlucky, but the luck has been with us earlier in the season.
“We are giving consistent performances on the way to getting the 50 points we are seeking.
“The squad is resilient, the staff are resilient and when you lose you have the chance to improve.”
Cioffi was forced into changes with striker Ollie Palmer dropping out with a stress fracture while top-scorer Bez Lubala started on the bench due to sickness.
Cioffi added: “The positive thing is that we are being consistent in our performances.
“If we play our game for 90 minutes we can be a tough team for anyone.
“We may have lost our unbeaten run, but when there is an end, there is a new beginning.”