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

Walsall manager Dean Keates.
Walsall manager Dean Keates.
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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.

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.

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.”