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Darrell Clarke: "They Deserve a Massive Pat on the Back"

Saddlers boss Darrell Clarke was keen to focus upon the positives following Saturday's Carabao Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
Walsall manager Darrell Clarke has spoken to the media following Saturday afternoon's televised Carabao Cup - Round One defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, and praised his team for their determined display.

Clarke, who is entering his second season at the helm, watched as his side thwarted the Owls attack whilst being unable to grab a goal of their own, ultimately taking the game to a penalty shoot-out, which they lost by four-goals-to-two.

The manager named a starting eleven made entirely of players who were part of last season's mid-table finishing squad, and saw his side create a few chances without truly testing 'keeper Cameron Dawson.

The Championship Owls. who are desperately short of firepower going into the 2020/21 campaign, also struggled to get beyond a well-drilled Saddlers defence with second-half substitute Matt Penney creating their biggest opportunities to take the lead.

Speaking to the assembled media including Sky Sports, BBC Radio WM and the Express & Star, Darrell said; "The fitness levels of the lads, work rate and the way we defended, I thought was outstanding.

"Against a very decent team in Sheffield Wednesday who are a lot higher up the pyramid than us, testament to the players.

"It’s our first competitive game in one-hundred and eighty-two days and they deserve a massive pat on the back.

"So does my strength and conditioning coach Mark Bradley, because he has put a lot of work and graft into making sure the fitness levels of the lads are good."

The Saddlers ultimately exited the competition at the first-round stage as Josh Gordon and Alfie Bates missed two penalties during the shoot-out, as Wednesday netted all four of their spot-kicks to take their place in Sunday afternoon's draw.

Clarke was keen to focus upon the positives and called upon his players to to hold their heads high as focus now shifts to Tuesday's EFL Trophy clash with Bristol Rovers.

Darrell continued; "The lads are disappointed missing the penalties, Josh and Alfie, but they shouldn’t be disappointed in their work rate and performance.

"In the course of the game we had a couple opportunities, with the transition of the ball, if we looked after it better we could have hurt them.

"We defended superbly and made it very difficult for Sheffield Wednesday to break us down."

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