Walsall manager believes ‘tiring’ PNE side was secret to first leg success

PNE v Walsall
PNE v Walsall
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Walsall boss Dean Smith believes PNE’s tiring legs were the reason his side triumphed 2-0 in the JPT Northern Area final first leg.

The Saddlers are one step closer to their first ever Wembley final thanks to two late goals at Deepdale.

Anthony Forde’s 84th minute set-piece and top scorer Tom Bradshaw’s 88th minute strike ensured the Saddlers have a two goal advantage ahead of the second leg at the Bescot Stadium.

Smith believes his side exploited PNE’s fatigue as Thorsten Stuckmann’s poor kick forced Neil Kilkenny to give away the free-kick that allowed his men to open the scoring.

He said: “We know later on in games we create opportunities and teams get tired.

“We are a fit team and I thought we looked the fitter of the two teams tonight.

“PNE certainly tired quicker than we did.

“So it is always important that you stay in games.”

Smith made just one change to the side that lost 2-0 to Coventry on Saturday as Jordan Cook started in place of James Baxendale.

But in comparison PNE boss Simon Grayson made seven changes to the side that dumped Championship outfit Norwich out of the FA Cup.

And David Buchanan - who was man-of-the-match against the Canaries - was left out of the squad completely.

But Smith is reluctant to believe the job is done.

He said: “It has given us a fighting chance. But it isn’t job done at all.

“We are halfway there and it will be a tough game at ours.”

And the Walsall boss is adamant goalscorer Bradshaw will still be with the Saddlers for the all-important second leg.

The striker - who bagged his 15th goal of the season - has been linked with a move away from the Bescot stadium as fellow League One club Sheffield United and several Championship clubs eye the 22-year-old.

Smith rubbished the rumours and revealed he is certain Bradshaw will still be at the club to lead the line against PNE when they battle it out for a place at Wembley in a few weeks time.

He said: “We are not in the market to sell our best players. Tom will stay at the club.”

The Saddlers boss revealed Bradshaw thought he should have had a penalty when the score was still 0-0.

Bradshaw jostled in the box with PNE captain Tom Clarke in the second half but referee Simon Hooper waved away the claim.

Smith said: “We possibly could have had a penalty - Tom certainly thinks we should have had one.”