Upbeat Forest Green boss Rob Edwards lauded his side as their 19 game unbeaten streak was brought to an end against a rejuvenated Walsall.
George Miller’s first-half strike handed new boss Michael Flynn a winning start as the Saddlers toppled the champions-elect.
Positive Edwards heaped praise on his below-par side after only their third defeat of the season – their first since their 2-0 October 9th loss at home to Swindon Town.
He said: “I told the boys I’m proud of them and it has been a fantastic run – we’ve only lost three games in 31 matches and have 66 points, so we’re doing all right. We gave it everything, but credit to Walsall they’re fighting for their lives and have a new manager and today wasn’t our day but we will attack next week and bounce back at Crawley Town.”
Flynn who joined Walsall on Tuesday following the sacking of Matt Taylor, said: “I now want to get into a position where we’re not worrying about the opposition, but looking out for ourselves.
“We’ve got off to a good start but that’s all it is. We’ve got fifteen games to go and we have to win as many as possible.
“It was a good win and I thought we thoroughly deserved it. The boys have taken on board everything I’ve said in a very short period of time.
“I thought they were excellent. I was proud of every single one of them. They’ve set standards now for discipline and work ethic so they can’t drop below them now.”
Flynn insists Rob Edwards’ side will be crowned champions sooner rather than later with the runaway leaders 10 points clear at the top and two games in hand over nearest rivals Tranmere Rovers.
He added: “Forest Green have it all though and I expect them to be Champions long before the season ends.”
There was a lot of doubt as to whether the game would actually go ahead, given the effects of Storm Eunice.
Standing water on the pitch resulted in a referee’s inspection at 1.30pm, and then another at 2pm.
Earlier, a high-octane opening saw Matty Stevens a whisker from giving Forest Green the lead on four minutes as he stretched to toe over a Nicky Cadden cross.
Walsall responded just two minutes later with Miller failing to get a decent purchase on Tyrese Shade’s cross to the far post.
The Saddlers nosed ahead on 12 minutes – Emmanuel Osadebe opened Rovers up for Miller to finish clinically beyond Luke McGee.
Miller skewed wide from the edge of the box as rejuvenated Walsall threatened. Rovers responded – a buccaneering run saw Baily Cargill’s strike deflect wide of Carl Rushworth’s post.
Rushworth kept Walsall’s lead intact after the break as he gloved a flying Jack Aitchison header over from a deep Kane Wilson cross and then did well to claw a Cadden cross wide.
Walsall threatened a second when Conor Wilkinson charged down a Cargill clearance for Osadebe to spank wide of the mark.
Forest Green (3-4-1-2): McGee; Godwin-Malife, Moore-Taylor (Sweeney, 75), Cargill; Wilson, Stevenson (Diallo, 66), Adams, Cadden; Aitchison (McAteer, 79); Matt (c), Stevens
Subs not used: Thomas (gk), Bernard, Hendry, March
Star Man: Nicky Cadden.
Walsall (3-5-2): Rushworth; Menayese, Daniels, Monthe; White (c), Kinsella, Earing, Osadebe, Shade; Wilkinson (Perry, 90), Miller (Rodney, 79)
Subs not used: Rose (gk), Sawyers, Leak, Ward, Kiernan
Goal: Miller (12)
Referee: Alan Young