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17 November 2015

Late penalty earns John Ward's side all three points

SADDLERS Development Squad, Managed by John Ward and Richard O'Kelly, recorded back to back wins in the Final Third Development League with a 2-1 win over Burton Albion on Tuesday. 

Goals from Amadou Bakayoko and Liam Kinsella gave the Saddlers a second victory in the space of seven days in what was testing conditions at the Scholar’s Ground. 

Marcus Dinanga’s second half strike briefly had the Brewers back on level terms but a late penalty, earned and dispatched by Liam Kinsella, was enough to seal the win. 

John Ward named a strong starting line up for the arrival of Burton Albion. Reece Flanagan, James Baxendale and Matt Preston all handed starts as the Saddlers looked to continue our good form after a 3-0 away win at Bradford City a week ago. 

It took five minutes for either side to register the first effort on goal. Levi Rowley teeing up Reece Flanagan whose lofted effort form the edge of the box floated wide of the upright.

 It was John Ward’s men who were trying to play the neater football on what was a testing pitch at the Scholar’s Ground. Amadou Bakayoko found himself through on goal on the ten-minute mark after a classy first touch but couldn’t take the ball with him. 

A defensive lapse allowed Burton’s Mirsa Sejdic to unleash a curling effort towards the top corner. Liam Roberts, whilst at full stretch, was relieved to see it whizz past the upright. 

Kory Roberts was looking commanding at right back and was alert to make a vital interception on the half way line following a bright Burton counter-attack. 

The opening goal came on the 19 minute mark courtesy of a intricate through ball from Reece Flanagan. The cultured midfield-man lifted the ball between defenders and into the path of Amadou Bakayoko who fired straight at Hornby but followed up to convert into the empty net. 

The Saddlers were starting to take control of proceedings. The vocal James Baxendale producing some fancy footwork down the left to skip past his maker and deliver an inch perfect cross to Levi Rowley. After setting himself on the penalty spot, the Saddlers striker could only direct his header straight at the keeper.

It was Baxendale who was again involved as the Saddlers looked to double the lead – and very nearly did! Another perfectly weighted pass from Flanagan found Bakayoko who after holding the ball up offloaded the ball to Baxendale. His curling effort across goal looked destined for the top corner but a flying save from Hornby turned it around the post. 

The Saddlers back four had very little to do with Liam Roberts a spectator for much of the first period. 

Burton came closest when a deflected free kick nestled on top of the goal but the biggest test was dealing with the wet and windy conditions, which worsened as the half progressed. 

HALF TIME: Walsall 1-0 Burton Albion 

The Saddlers began the second half by setting a high tempo to the game. The midfield trio of Baxendale, Kouhyar and Kinsella all producing full-bloodied challenges in an attempt to get the ball back.

Ward’s side were nearly rewarded for their efforts moments later when Levi Rowley had the ball in the back of the net. The lively winger bundled home from two yards out, only to see the referee’s whistle in his mouth for an earlier foul by Bakayoko. 

Burton looked to catch the Saddlers on the counter attack with Marcus Dinanga providing an outlet with some strong hold up play. Midway through the second half the Brewers enjoyed their best spell of the game without testing Roberts in goal. 

Down the other end, Flanagan was still looking dangerous and after combining neatly with Amadou Bakayoko, the frontman was brought down on the edge of the box. Flanagan cannoned the set-piece into the wall but moments later he was creating another chance. 

Lovely build up play involving four Saddlers midfielders ended with James Baxendale whipping a left footed effort past the post. 

But just as the Saddlers looked to be in control, they were stung with an equaliser. 

The ball broke to Burton in midfield and the lively Marcus Dinanga raced beyond the back four to coolly slot past Liam Roberts. 

The young Saddlers side looked for an instant response. The pacey Kyle King was introduced for Levi Rowley in a bid to regain the lead. 

And with just five minutes left, first team professional, Liam Kinsella was brought down in the box. The diminutive midfielder dusted himself down to dispatch from the spot and earn the Saddlers all three points.

FULL TIME: Walsall 2-1 Burton Albion 

STARTING XI: L.Roberts, K.Roberts, R.Smith, M.Preston, K.Rowley, L.Rowley, M.Kouhyar, L.Kinsella, J.Baxendale, R.Flanagan, A.Bakayoko

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