FA Youth Cup exit for youngsters...
THE SADDLERS' youth team crashed out of the FA Youth Cup at the first hurdle as they were beaten 2-1 by a well-drilled Burton Albion side at Banks’s Stadium on Tuesday evening.
A first-half brace from Mark Shelton cancelled out Levi Rowley’s header to give The Brewers the victory and a place in the second round.
Burton Albion took the lead with the first attack of the match, the pacey Marcus Dinanga broke down the left before squaring for Shelton to slot home from six yards.
The early goal seemed to shock The Saddlers and it took them a while to regroup and get into their stride.
A tactical change saw Walsall’s Rico Henry move inside and it was him who created The Saddlers’ first real chance. He made a powerful burst through the centre before pulling the ball back for the unmarked Tevin Shakespeare, unfortunately his goal-bound effort was blocked by Albion’s Charlie Gatter.
Shortly afterwards, Luke Delaney’s delightful free-kick sailed inches over the bar. The Brewers were living dangerously.
The Saddlers duly equalised just after the half-hour; a purposeful run down the right from Shakespeare ended with a fine cross to Levi Rowley who looped a header over visiting ‘keeper Charlie Hornby for his 10th goal of the season.
Moments later, Levi Rowley forced his way into the box and seemed to be hauled down by Albion skipper Matt Murfin, but the referee waved away Walsall’s appeals.
The Brewers then landed the ultimate sucker-punch. The impressive Shelton received the ball 25 yards from goal before turning and unleashing a beautifully curled effort into the top right-hand corner to ensure that Albion led at the break.
Youth team boss Neil Woods brought Romario Reid on to replace Rory Oliver at the half-time interval which saw The Saddlers play with three strikers in a bid to win the tie.
It didn’t take long for The Saddlers to signal their intent for the second half; Tevin Shakespeare broke down the left before hammering the ball across goal, but The Brewers survived.
Rico Henry looked like the most likely avenue to success for the home side, his mazy run culminated in him dragging the ball narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
Moments later, Henry was causing havoc once again, his lung-busting run and cutback was met by Luke Delaney but his fierce drive was magnificently blocked, Gatter coming to Albion’s rescue, once again.
Skipper Kyle Rowely’s long ball forward was collected brilliantly by Reid, but his shot lacked the necessary power to beat the onrushing Hornby.
The Saddlers began to throw caution to the wind late in the game. Nathan Owen and Brendan Pooni were summoned from the bench to replace Jordan Sangha and Raekwan Smith respectively.
However, The Saddlers couldn’t make their pressure pay and slipped to a rare home defeat.
The youth team return to league action on Saturday as we entertain Preston North End, the game will take place at Ray Hall Lane, Great Barr (kick-off 11.00am).
By ALEX DICKEN