Nine-man Saddlers' youth team slip to first home defeat...THE SADDLERS' youth team recorded back-to-back defeats for the first time this season as we were defeated 2-0 by Tranmere Rovers in our Football League Youth Alliance North-West League clash at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday morning. Alex Dicken reports...
Second-half goals from Lewis Moynes and Ben Jago condemned nine-man Walsall to our first home League defeat of the season.
Defensive pair, Lewis Probert and substitute Raekwan Smith, both saw red during the second half.
The first chance of the game fell to our visitors; Tolani Omotola broke down the left before squaring for the impressive Moynes, who fired just wide of the far post.
Neil Woods’ injury list lengthened when full-back Jamie Smith had to be replaced in the 32nd minute after a full-blooded challenge with Rovers’ Jack Fleming, who was also unable to continue. Ashley Maddocks came on for The Saddlers.
One minute later, Woods was forced into a second change; Will Shorrock replaced Tevin Shakespeare who was suffering with a sickness bug.
With the scoreline locked at 0-0 going into the start of the second half, The Saddlers’ injury problems worsened when substitute Ashley Maddocks had to be withdrawn at the break. His replacement was the aforementioned Raekwan Smith, meaning Woods had been forced to use all of his permitted substitutions by the beginning of the second-half.
Saddlers’ goalkeeper, Dan Jezeph, was forced into a smart save just after the restart. He did brilliantly to tip Omotola’s deflected effort onto the woodwork before Saddlers’ skipper Kyle Rowley cleared the danger.
The Saddlers’ best chance of the game came in the 57th minute when Luke Delaney’s corner was met by Rowley, unfortunately his looping header was cleared off the line.
Less than a minute after Rowley had almost opened the scoring, his central defensive partner Lewis Probert was dismissed in an off-the-ball incident, leaving The Saddlers’ youngsters a man light for the final third of the match.
Our visitors, sensing that the opportunity was there to snatch all three points, began to pile forward.
They duly took the lead in the 73rd minute, a long period of possession ended with Kevin Cringle teeing up Moynes who lashed the ball home from just inside the area.
Rovers doubled their advantage when Omotola found himself through on goal. The striker was tripped by Raekwan Smith inside the penalty box, leaving the referee with no choice but to give The Saddlers defender his marching orders.
Jago duly dispatched the resulting spot-kick, sending Jezeph the wrong way to seal the win.
Tranmere were able to see out the rest of the match relatively comfortably, using their extra men to manoeuvre the ball around the field and tire The Saddlers.
The defeat is our second inside a week after we succumbed to a powerful Oldham side last Saturday, having previously been unbeaten in the league.
Neil Woods’ injury-hit squad will look to bounce back next Saturday as we travel the short journey up the M6 to take on Port Vale.
Despite the setback, The Saddlers are still sitting pretty at the top of the league table, but this defeat has given some of our rivals the chance to close the gap.