Academy Manager gives his verdict...ACADEMY Manager, Neil Woods, has spoken of his disappointment after our youth team slipped to their second defeat in seven days, at the hands of Tranmere Rovers. The youngsters were defeated 2-0 at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday morning.
Second-half goals from Rovers’ duo Lewis Moynes and Ben Jago saw The Saddlers suffer back-to-back losses following the previous Saturday’s 3-1 reverse at Oldham Athletic.
Saddlers’ youth team boss Woods believes that the heavy workload that his players have been put through this season has begun to take its toll on the youngsters.
“They’re playing a heck of a lot of games," he admitted. "They’re playing the reserve games, they’re playing the under-21 games, so they’re very tired."
An already thin squad has been left depleted by injuries in recent weeks meaning that Woods had to call up three under-16 players for the game against Rovers. Three further injuries in the first-half at the weekend forced Woods to use all three substitutions by the start of the second-half.
Woods has been left frustrated by the growing injury list.
“We’re down to 12 fit lads," added Woods. "We’ve been down to that for about a fortnight. We had three under-16s on the bench, two of them ended up coming on.”
The game on Saturday was finely poised until the dismissal of Lewis Probert after 57 minutes. The defender saw red for his involvement in an off-the-ball incident.
Woods hasn’t seen the incident first-hand but doesn’t believe Probert is the type of player to have committed the offence he has been accused of.
“I can’t really comment on the red card without having to see it again," he went on. "Knowing the character of the lad that has got the red card for allegedly punching someone, I don’t see that in him.
“When you go down to ten men, it’s difficult to take the game to the opposition. We had to move players out of position, you have to do a job for the game. The understanding of the positions they went into and their organisation really disappointed me. We didn’t make it hard enough for Tranmere when we went into that situation.
Woods felt that Rovers had a clear game plan to stop The Saddlers playing the free-flowing attacking football that has taken them to the top of The Football League Youth Alliance North-West League, but conceded that his team were not good enough on the day.
“First-half we had a lot of possession; they very much came to stay behind the ball and make it hard, and it is difficult. But we didn’t show the quality in the last third that I would’ve liked and in the end, the result was fair enough.”
“We’re a very young side and the key to it is that we will learn from what has happened on this occasion.”