John Ward heaped praise on his players included Kacy Milan Butterfield after Walsall’s 4-1 victory at Halesowen Town in the Birmingham Senior Challenge Cup.
An own goal put Walsall in front, and a Josh Ginnelly strike made it 2-0 before the break.
Halesowen pulled one back in the second half but goals from Tobias Hayles-Docherty and Cameron Peters made sure of Walsall’s place in the third round.
“I thought it was one of the best performances we’ve had in a sense, going away from home against a very senior team who know about the game,” Ward commented.
“There were one or two ex-pros in their team and they’ve had a half decent season so far as well. It was a really strong, physical game for us, not unpleasant or nasty or anything like that. But we had to stand our ground against a side who had a bit of pace up front and strength at the back.
“It was very tight at the start and the first goal was an own goal. You’d think it was a bit of luck, but it was actually a really strong attacking move from us as we put the defender under pressure and he miscued it into his net.
“That gave us a good start, but there was probably a 10-15 minute spell after that when we had to be well-organised to stay in front. That was good for the boys that we could defend as a unit and defend as a team.
“To score just before half-time was a great time to get the second goal, Josh Ginnelly stepping inside with a good bit of pace and hitting a right-foot shot into the far corner.
“In the second half, it was physically strong and we had to stand our ground. We conceded a goal from a free-kick and then there was another test for us at 2-1, with them fancying their chances of getting back in it.
“But within four or five minutes we scored a third one, Tobias going through one-on-one with the keeper at an angle and he finished it very cleanly. He’s scored seven in seven now, and it was another good one for him, as well as a good time for us to get to 3-1.
“At the death, we scored in the last minute from a breakaway. Cameron Peters had to run from the halfway line and one-on-one he put it in the corner. There was some really good composure from our boys, and some strength at the back to deal with a good side.
“It was a good team performance from us. We had the bulk of the young players and our team stood up to the challenge. I compare it to a year ago when we took a similar team to Stratford and we lost 2-0 and got bullied a little bit. That didn’t happen last night and it’s good that these young footballers are learning their trade very quickly.”