Summer signing Andy Cook scored a well-taken brace as the Saddlers secured an historic pre-season win over European giants Ajax.
The illustrious visitors, sporting their iconic red and white strip, quickly settled into their passing rhythm and rattled the crossbar on ten minutes through Siem de Jong’s curling 20-yard free-kick.
Despite seeing less of the ball, the Saddlers were more than holding their own against their Dutch counterparts and twice went close from Luke Leahy deliveries.
The first ball in, from a free-kick, was completely missed by Ajax keeper Kostas Lamprou but neither Trialist B nor Trialist C were able to capitalise.
Leahy then received possession after good work from Amadou Bakayoko and whipped in a menacing cross towards Zeli Ismail at the far post, but he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
The Saddlers’ bright start was rewarded with the opening goal on 27 minutes as Cook planted a firm header into the bottom corner from Trialist A’s pinpoint cross.
Ajax had their moments, notably when Kasper Dolberg showed neat footwork before playing in Zakaria Labyad, but Trialist C produced an excellent last-ditch block.
Labyad had another half-chance on the stroke of half-time, but his sliced back-post shot was never troubling Chris Dunn in the home goal.
Walsall made a raft of changes at half-time, with only Cook and Trialists A, B and D – a first-half substitute – staying on for the second half.
The influential Cook was causing Ajax all sorts of problems; one flick-on found strike-partner Dylan Parker, who flashed a shot wide on the turn.
Jordon Sangha threatened to double the Saddlers’ lead with a low 62nd-minute drive which Lamprou spilled, but the keeper recovered before Parker could get to the rebound.
The hosts added a second with 19 minutes remaining, Cook controlling Maz Kouhyar’s cross on his chest before steering a right-footed snap-shot in off the post.
Ajax upped the ante in the closing stages and almost pulled one back when Dennis Johnsen glided past Nicky Devlin but his right-footed curler was superbly kept out one-handed by Liam Roberts.
The woodwork came to Walsall’s rescue on 83 minutes as Jurgen Ekkelenkamp unleashed a thunderous strike that clattered against the underside of the bar.
Ryan Gavenberch was a whisker away from halving the deficit but his wickedly curling long-range drive flew narrowly over.
First Half Team (4-4-2): Dunn; Trialist A, Trialist C, Trialist B, Leahy; Ismail, Kinsella, Chambers, Morris; Cook, Bakayoko (Trialist D 28’).
Second Half Team (4-4-2): Roberts; Devlin, Trialist E, Trialist B (Leivesley 71’), Cockerill-Mollett; Trialist D, Dobson, Trialist A (Sangha 61’), Kouhyar; Parker, Cook (Candlin 77’).