Defeat for youth team...THE SADDLERS' youth team ended 2014 with a 2-0 defeat to Blackpool in The Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday morning.
Walsall went into the match on the back of a fine run. Back-to-back victories over Wrexham and Fleetwood Town respectively had seen us move to within touching distance of League leaders, Wigan Athletic.
But goals either side of half-time from Henry Cameron and Joe Moulden gave The Seasiders a well-earned victory on their travels.
Neil Woods’ side raced out of the blocks and almost took an early lead, a quick interchange of passes created an opening for Levi Rowley, who brought the best out of Tangerine’s shot-stopper Daniel Milton.
Sensing that we were beginning to gain a foothold in the match, Blackpool retreated and packed out the midfield.
With five minutes until the break, Cameron was fouled on the edge of the area, the winger then curled a free-kick onto the top of the crossbar, with Saddlers’ ‘keeper, Dan Jezeph, rooted to the spot.
But The Seasiders did take the lead two minutes later; the impressive Cameron rounded Jezeph who was adjudged to have impeded The Tangerine’s man on the edge of the box.
Set-piece specialist Cameron curled a delightful effort into the bottom corner to give the visitors a lead that they never looked like surrendering.
The Saddlers made a change at the interval; Brendan Pooni was withdrawn for Rory Oliver as we looked to regain control of the midfield.
We looked to hit back immediately, Nathan Owen closed down Blackpool’s defence before winning the ball on the edge of their box. He teed up Luke Delaney who stung Milton’s palms with a fizzing effort from distance.
Blackpool doubled their advantage on the hour mark. Cameron’s free-kick from the right-hand side wasn’t cleared, leaving Moulden to stab home from close range.
Woods immediately summoned Romario Martin from the bench in place of Delaney as The Saddlers looked to hit back.
The under-16 prospect was in the thick of the action instantly. His run down the right was halted when he was hauled down by the Blackpool full-back. He delivered the free-kick, unfortunately it was straight into the grateful hands of Milton.
With little over 10 minutes to go, Rowley thought he had reduced the arrears. He met Jamie Smith’s cross and found the bottom corner, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Rowley then raced down the right-hand side before pulling the ball back for Owen on the edge of the area. But his shot lacked conviction and Milton saved comfortably.
With five minutes remaining; Milton’s clearance under pressure was poor, with the ball falling to Owen 40 yards from goal. The midfielder controlled the ball before firing towards goal, but Milton managed to save the goal-bound effort.
Throughout the match we struggled to break down our Lancashire-based rivals as they ran out worthy victors.
Neil Woods and his side will look to bounce back in the New Year as we play host to Oldham Athletic on Saturday 3rd January at Ray Hall Lane (Kick-off 12pm).
By ALEX DICKEN