Youth team lift the Midland Youth Cup...TEVIN Shakespeare bagged a brace as The Saddlers’ youth team recorded a hard-earned 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury Town to win the Midland Youth Cup in front of a joyous Banks’s Stadium crowd.
Saddlers’ hot-shot, Shakespeare, cancelled out Josh Ginnelly’s early opener to secure Walsall’s second win over The Shrews inside a week after last Tuesday’s 2-1 league success.
Shrewsbury started the brighter of the two sides and would have gone ahead inside the first minute had it not been for Kyle Rowley’s good positioning. The Saddlers’ skipper was on hand to clear Jack Alexander’s hooked effort off the line.
But The Shrews did take the lead inside three minutes; Kaiman Anderson won the ball in midfield before sliding Ginelly through on goal, and the striker coolly slotted the ball past the on-rushing Dan Jezeph.
The Saddlers hit back immediately through Shakespeare. A purposeful run and strike by Rico Henry was dealt with by Shrews ‘keeper Shaun Rowley, but Shakespeare was on hand to hammer home the rebound.
Our youngsters were beginning to impose themselves on the game and hit the front shortly afterwards. Lewis Probert’s punt up field was well controlled by Shakespeare who tricked his way past Callum Grogan on the edge of the area before rifling home his second of the game.
Only Shrews’ goalkeeper Rowley prevented The Saddlers from doubling their lead on the stroke of half time. He beat away Luke Delaney’s fizzing effort from distance to ensure that the match remained finely poised at the interval.
The Saddlers began the second period with real intent; Rowley had to be at his best to prevent Henry adding his name to the score sheet with a stunning volley from just outside the penalty area.
Callum Cockerill-Mollet’s terrific cross was met by the head of Maziar Kouhyar, but Rowley was on hand to tip the ball around the post.
Probert forced Rowley into his best save yet on the hour mark, he met Jamie Smith’s delivery but Shrewsbury’s goalkeeper continued to keep the rampant Saddlers at bay.
The Saddlers were almost made to pay for their slack finishing when Ethan Jones’ powerful strike from distance brought the best out of goalkeeper Jezeph.
Substitute Romario Reid linked up well with Shakespeare, before the latter screwed an effort wide as he went in search of his hat-trick.
As we entered stoppage time, Reid’s cutback fell to Nathan Owen, but with the goalkeeper nowhere to be seen, it was left to Grogan to divert the midfielder’s goal bound effort away from danger.
There was still time for one last Shrewsbury attack; Ginnelly’s deflected effort hit the woodwork before Alex Fletcher’s follow-up forced Jezeph into a sublime point-blank save.
But Neil Woods’ men held on to ensure that they ended the season on a high with a well-deserved piece of silverware.
By ALEX DICKEN