SALFORD CITY 1, WALSALL 0
Salford City seized on Walsall’s Emirates FA Cup hangover to post a victory which consolidated their place in the League Two play-off spots.
Veteran striker Matt Smith scored a trademark header to see off the Saddlers as they remain six points adrift of the top three automatic promotion places.
The 6ft 6in Smith’s fifth minute effort, which ended a run of six games without a goal, kept Salford within six points of the top three and the automatic promotion spots.
Smith, who has played for Leeds, Fulham, QPR and Millwall, rose to head home an Ibou Touray cross for his seventh goal of the season as the Saddlers, beaten 1-0 at home three days earlier by Premier League Leicester City, were caught out early in the game.
Salford head coach Neil Wood described the points as more significant than the performance.
He said: “It is an important three points which keeps us in a handy position.
“It is always good psychologically to have the points on the board rather than games in hand. It was important to win at home, though it was not a classic game as it was difficult conditions.
Wood added it was pleasing to win after a battling display.
“We have dominated games and had 70 per cent possession and lost and it has been classed a bad performance,” he added.
“It shows we can also compete against strong, physical sides and it is important we can play both ways.”
Salford could have added to their tally in the opening period as Ethan Galbraith, Ryan Leak and Callum Morton all had decent chances.
But in the dying minutes of the half, Walsall would have drawn level but for brilliant saves by Salford goalkeeper Alex Cairns to deny Jamille Matt and Manny Monthe in quick succession.
Cairns, who is on loan from Fleetwood Town, also saved well to deny Jacob Maddox in the second period as Salford held on for victory.
This was only a second defeat in 11 league games for Walsall as it was a night to forget for head coach Michael Doyle who was celebrating his 300th match as a manager as his side remained in 14th place.
“It is frustrating after pushing Leicester all the way on Saturday. I probably knew we would start the way we did,” he said.
“We were dreadful in the first half hour, and it looked as though the players were still on the bus. The wind also caught us out, even though we warmed up in it.
“After the game I was harsh on them because we cannot start the way we did because this is a tough place to come.”
Doyle was unhappy with the fifth minute goal his side conceded.
“We know how good (Matt) Smith is in the box and we should not have allowed him the header. We also did not stop the cross,” he added.