Youth Team concede late on in top of the table clash...THE SADDLERS' youth team slipped to an agonising 3-2 defeat in their top-of-the-table clash with Bury on Saturday to surrender top-spot in the Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division.
Late drama seized the day at Ray Hall Lane with four goals in the last 20 minutes, and three of those coming in the final five minutes of a tense affair between two impressive outfits
After trailing 1-0 at the break, Rory Oliver’s persistence allowed him to level the match after 70 minutes before a goal-laden last five minutes which saw Neil Woods’ side experience the full circle of footballing emotions.
George Miller restored Bury’s advantage with five minutes remaining before substitute Kyle King grabbed an 89th minute equaliser to spark joyous celebrations amongst the Saddlers’ youngsters.
But straight from the restart Miller bustled his way through a couple of challenges before rounding Dan Jezeph to complete his hat-trick and break Walsall hearts.
And Academy Manager, Woods, was left to rue his team’s first-half showing, he said: “We lost the game because we only performed for 45 minutes. Credit to Bury, that’s the reason they are where they are in the league. They were too competitive for us in the first-half and we’ve conceded a poor goal from a set-piece.
“This was a top-of-the-table clash between two good teams and for the first 45 minutes one team were up for it and looked like they wanted to win whereas the other team just looked like they were playing football.”
Despite his disappointment, Woods was pleased that his words at half-time had the desired effect with his team going on to produce a terrific second-half display and were unlucky not to win the game, let alone draw it.
“We got a reaction and we controlled the game in the second-half. We managed to come back from a goal down twice and people will say the last goal was concentration, but the bottom line is it was poor defending.
“The second-half performance is what I know they can do but I don’t want to have to go and speak to them at half-time to motivate 16-18 year-old boys to compete better. We know they can play but people don’t let you just play, you have to earn the right to play.”
Even after Miller put the Shakers ahead for a third time, the Saddlers refused to lie down and King was inches away from connecting with Oliver’s delivery with almost the last kick of the game.
And Woods will take positives from his side’s application during the second period, he added: “They’re footballers but there are lots of elements that footballers need to have. We kept going, which is a massive plus.”
The youngsters face another tough test against a promotion rival next weekend as they travel to Lancashire to take on Wigan Athletic. Their next game at Ray Hall Lane will be the following weekend against Carlisle United (12pm kick-off), which will be the last game before the festive break.