Dean Keates reveals his half-time message to Walsall players and hails Andy Cook's 'outstanding' performance against Sunderland

Dean Keates revealed he told his Walsall players to play without fear at half-time, a message that helped inspire a second half comeback against Sunderland.

Sunday, 2nd December 2018, 7:59 am
Updated Sunday, 2nd December 2018, 8:05 am
Walsall manager Dean Keates.

The Black Cats dominated the first half of the second round FA Cup clash at the Banks's Stadium, Aiden McGeady firing Sunderland in front from six-yards in the build-up to half-time.

But Walsall looked a different side in the second half and deservedly earned a replay at the Stadium of Light a week on Tuesday when Newcastle United fan Andy Cook smartly turned in Nicky Devlin’s cross.

Sunderland then had keeper Jon McLaughlin to thank for keeping them in the hat, with a smart block against Morgan Ferrier, Cook also headed off the crossbar later on.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Keates said: "I think on the second half performance we did well and maybe could have just shaded it and come away with a victory.

“We spoke to them at half-time and just told them to play with a little bit more belief in themselves.

“We were very tentative in the first half, looking almost, not scared to make a mistake, but sometimes you’ve got to play without fear in football and you have to play knowing that you might make a mistake and play without being scared.

“Second half, we said to them go and play like we did at the beginning of the season and we looked a lot more like ourselves.

“He (Cook) is a Newcastle fan, he’s a Geordie lad and he will take great pleasure in that.

“He was outstanding. I also thought Connor Johnson was absolutely outstanding, he didn’t know until 1pm that he was in the team.

“We lost Russ Martin through the night to a sickness bug, I spoke to Russ at 10.30am and he was still throwing up, so Connor got dropped in at the deep end and I thought he was absolutely outstanding.”