Youth team start year with a defeat...THE SADDLERS' youth team were left to rue missed chances after a late Lee Knight strike sealed a dramatic 2-1victory for Oldham Athletic in our Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division clash at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday afternoon.
We were hoping to bounce back after losing to Blackpool at the tail end of 2014 and were looking to pile further misery onto a Latics side which had lost their previous seven matches.
But goals from Jack Touhy and Knight cancelled out Levi Rowley’s effort to condemn The Saddlers to their second defeat in succession.
We began slowly and our visitors almost took the lead inside 15 minutes; the impressive Touhy found Rio Murray who forced Saddlers’ ‘keeper Dan Jezeph into a fine save.
As the half wore on, The Saddlers looked to impose themselves on the game. The returning Tevin Shakespeare latched onto Rowley’s flick-on, but his powerful drive was always rising over The Latics’ crossbar.
As we approached the 30 minutes; Touhy raced down the left-hand side before crossing to the far post, Murray headed the ball back across the stranded Jezeph, but Lewis Probert was expertly positioned to clear off the line.
But the visitors did take the lead five minutes before the interval. Devante Jacobs showed neat footwork out wide before floating a well-weighted ball in behind The Saddlers’ defence, leaving Touhy the simple task of slotting home from eight yards.
The Saddlers could have been two goals down on the stroke of half-time had it not been for the brilliant Jezeph. He tipped Murray’s shot over the bar when it looked destined for top corner.
The second half was a bit of a slow burner and it wasn’t until after the hour-mark that The Saddlers really began to lay siege on the Oldham goal. A lengthy passing move saw Maziar Kouhyar receive the ball in the right channel. He exchanged passes with Luke Delaney before threading the ball through to Jordon Sangha. Unfortunately the midfielder’s effort was tipped around the post by Latics’ shot-stopper Paul Tyson.
Substitute Brendan Pooni released Rowley down the right flank, but his cross evaded everyone at the far post.
Kouhyar’s influence was growing, after a mazy run through the centre he played Rowley through on goal and The Saddlers’ top scorer produced an unerring finish to level matters inside 75 minutes.
Neil Woods’ side were well and truly in the ascendency. Pooni raced down the right wing before squaring for Rowley, but his goal-bound effort was well-held by Tyson.
Kouhyar seemed to be pulled back inside the area with ten minutes remaining but the referee waved away The Saddlers’ appeals.
But The Saddlers were dealt the ultimate blow when Oldham substitutes Callum Scallion and Lee Knight combined to steal the three points with three minutes remaining. Scallion found space down the left before crossing for the unmarked Knight to head home.
It wasn’t the start to 2015 that Neil Woods and his players wanted but they now have the chance to bounce back when they travel to Burnley next Saturday (11am kick-off).
WALSALL: Jezeph, J. Smith (Roberts), Lewis, Sangha, K. Rowley, Probert, Owen, Delaney, Shakespeare (Pooni), L. Rowley, Kouhyar (R. Reid). Subs not used: Maddocks, Oliver.
By ALEX DICKEN