Keates confident Walsall can avoid drop despite Pompey loss

Walsall have been backed to avoid the drop. Picture: Joe Pepler
Walsall have been backed to avoid the drop. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Dean Keates is confident Walsall can avoid relegation if they maintain the same level of performances they did in defeat to Pompey.

The new manager was in the dugout for the first time since taking over from Jon Whitney at the Bescot Stadium earlier this month.

Although the hosts didn’t create much going forward, they frustrated the Blues for long periods before Gareth Evans netted a 79th-minute winner. Despite the loss leaving the Saddlers just two points above the drop zone, Keates is confident his troops can maintain their League One status this season.

‘It was disappointing we fell to a defeat but the lads put in a performance full of desire and commitment,’ he told the Express & Star.

‘If we perform like that and show those levels of desire and a commitment towards getting out of the situation we are in, then we will be okay come the end of the season.

‘We showed a lot more structure defensively. We defended better and needed a bit of luck with the opportunities they created.

‘But there was only one shot on target in the whole game and that shot has ended up in the back of our net.

‘On the attacking side, we didn’t create too much.

‘We had a couple of half-chances but we didn’t test their goalkeeper.’

Evans’ late strike came from the second phase of play after Walsall failed to clear their lines properly.

Keates reckons his side could have earned a precious point if they didn’t make that error.

He added: ‘Portsmouth started really strongly and they have got some good players which is why they are smack bang around the play-off positions.

‘But we grew into the game and the lads did well. We are disappointed with the goal. If Dev’s (Nicky Devlin) showed a little bit more composure with his clearance and we clears our lines properly, the goal wouldn’t have happened.

‘With a bit of luck we could have held out for a clean sheet.’