Youth team have to settle for a share of the spoils...THE SADDLERS’ youth team were denied victory at the death in a pulsating 1-1 draw with Preston North End in The Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday.
Brendan Pooni gave The Saddlers the lead at the beginning of the second-half before Sam Livesey equalised for our visitors in the last minute of normal time.
The Saddlers were looking to bounce back after back-to-back defeats and return to the top of the table.
It was Walsall who had the first foray forward, skipper Kyle Rowley freed Tevin Shakespeare who ran down the left before pulling back for Pooni, unfortunately his shot was never really troubling Lilywhites’ goalkeeper, Ross Dalton.
North End almost took the lead when Josh Sampson met Jonathan Lunney’s corner, his towering header was blocked on the line before he failed to convert the rebound.
Walsall almost hit Preston on the counter-attack when Rico Henry played Pooni through on goal, but his first touch got away from him and Dalton thwarted the attack.
The Saddlers could have gone in front after 36 minutes; Levi Rowley played Shakespeare through, his attempted chip sailed over the crossbar.
Moments later Preston were awarded penalty, Livesey’s cross was adjudged to have hit the hand of Saddlers’ defender Raekwan Smith to give the striker the chance to open the scoring.
However, Livesey couldn’t oblige, almost firing the ball out of the ground from 12 yards to ensure that the first-half ended goalless.
Neil Woods’ men began the second-half purposefully and deservedly took the lead within two minutes of the restart. After a melee in the box following a Walsall corner, Pooni slammed home from inside the six yard box to put The Saddlers in front.
Walsall were beginning to seize the initiative and almost doubled their lead shortly after. A well-worked corner was rolled into the path of Levi Rowley who brushed the side-netting with a side-footed effort.
Approaching the hour mark, Kyle Rowley met another Luke Delaney corner, luckily for Preston Sean Whelan was well-positioned on the line to clear the danger.
Levi Rowley was next to sting the palms of Dalton with a fierce drive from distance, the ‘keeper also denied Pooni on the follow-up.
Walsall shot-stopper Dan Jezeph was then called into action. The goalkeeper did brilliantly to deny Livesey after he was bearing down on goal.
With 20 minutes to go, Preston rallied. A free-kick on the edge of Walsall’s box was deflected onto the crossbar before North End substitute Eddie Dsane blazed his shot over after the ball fell loose.
The tireless Shakespeare continued to hassle the Lilywhites' defence and was almost rewarded with 10 minutes left on the clock. After dispossessing Preston captain Bradley Rosco he shot straight at the onrushing Dalton.
Walsall hearts were broken in the last minute of normal time. Livesey was left unmarked inside the area to nod home Lunney’s corner.
The Saddlers will be looking to make a return to winning ways when they travel to Wrexham on Saturday.
WALSALL: Jezeph, Owen, Lewis, Sangha, K. Rowley, R. Smith, Delaney, Pooni (Reid), Shakespeare, L. Rowley, Henry. Subs not used: Sharrock, J. Smith, Oliver, Roberts.
By ALEX DICKEN