Saddlers end pre-season tour with defeat at Plainmoor...
THE SADDLERS went down to a 2-1 defeat at Torquay United in a game which saw Jordan Cook stretchered off with an ankle injury.
The first chance of the game fell to the home side as Richard O’Donnell, who was named captain for the day, tipped over a Luke Young free-kick.
Our first opportunity saw Adam Chambers set up Paul Downing who fired wide before O’Donnell was called into action again at the other end as he pushed away a Ryan Bowman strike.
As the home side won the ball in midfield, Ashley Yeoman broke forward only for James O’Connor to deflect his effort over. The resulting corner saw the ball find its way to Yeoman who made no mistake from close range to open the scoring.
There was another threat from the goalscorer soon afterwards when he latched onto a short back-pass only for O’Donnell to narrow the angle as he fired over.
After Toby Ajala had headed a Young corner wide, there was a worrying moment when Cook fell to the ground in a lot of pain following a challenge. He was stretchered off having injured his ankle with Tom Bradshaw taking his place.
There was more woe just before the break when Bowman poked the ball home to make it 2-0 to the home side at half-time.
The second half began better for The Saddlers as Bradshaw burst forward to win a free-kick which Mal Benning curled over.
Then a strike from distance by Romaine Sawyers was spilled by the ‘keeper and as Bradshaw looked to profit, he gave away a free-kick.
With the hour-mark approaching, The Saddlers made a number of changes as Dean Holden, Andy Taylor, Kieron Morris and Reece Flanagan replaced James O’Connor, Jake Heath, Javier Inglesias abd James Baxendale respectively.
A well-worked move on the left saw Taylor straight into the action as his inviting cross was cleared for a corner. The third successive flag kick was headed wide by Bradshaw.
Some good feet from Flanagan saw him make room for a strike but his low effort took a deflection which took it wide of the target.
Some neat football then saw Flanagan get in a strike that was well saved before Holden headed the corner over.
First-year professionals, Liam Kinsella and Amadou Bakayoko, entered the fray in place of Adam Chambers and Mal Benning.
In a rare attack for the home side, Holden had to clear in front of goal after Downing tried to find his ‘keeper only for the ball to get held up on the turf.
A free-kick out wide from Flanagan wasn’t properly cleared and ended with Taylor blasting just wide from distance before the goal that we had threatened came late on as the lively Flanagan fed Bakayoko who used his strength to fire home to make it 2-1.
“We were poor in the first half,” said manager, Dean Smith at the end. “We never got to grips with the ball and didn’t move it quickly enough.
“I felt that we reacted well to it after the break and I was very pleased with our fitness levels. It was good to get a full 90 minutes into a few of the lads and we were the better side throughout the second half.
“The goals that we conceded came as a result of poor defending and we know that we have to be better with the execution of things.
“There were positives to take out of the game; the players have to make sure that they do their part of the bargain and learn from the areas in which we didn’t do so well.
“In terms of the fitness work and getting the group together, it has been a really beneficial week away.
“It’s all about building up to August 9th and, to be honest, I can’t wait for the season to get underway.
“We’ll have a couple of trialists in next week to look at and hopefully there will be some movement in terms of players coming in over the next week.”
When asked about Jordan Cook’s first half injury, Smith added: “He’s rolled his ankle. These things happen at this time of year when we look to protect out pitched by keeping the grass a bit longer than normal.
“It’s a case of waiting to find out the extent of the injury in the days ahead.”
WALSALL: O'Donnell, O'Connor (Holden), Downing, Chambers A (Kinsella), Sawyers, Baxendale (Flanagan), Iglesias (Morris), Benning (Bakayoko), Chambers J, Heath (Taylor), Cook (Bradshaw). Sub not used: MacGillivray.