Neil Woods reflects on a disappointing afternoon for the Saddlers youth team...Academy boss, Neil Woods, admits his team were ‘out-competed’ in their 1-0 defeat to Port Vale in ice-cold temperatures at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday.
A Taylor Attrell goal seven minutes before half-time was enough to secure a surprise away victory for the side languishing in the lower reaches of the Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division standings.
The defeat was the Saddlers’ first in five league matches and Woods was left scratching his head after watching his team struggle to live up to their top-of-the-table billing.
“This is the worst type of defeat to suffer. I think we were out-competed in a lot of areas for large chunks of the game. I’ve got to give Port Vale credit because not only did they out-compete us, they also outplayed us at times.”
Woods felt the Valiants coped with the bitterly cold conditions much better than his team and has called for his side to adapt to the climate if they want to sustain their title challenge over the winter months.
“We spoke about the conditions before the game. It was a strong wind, the pitch was heavy and it was never going to be the purest football game and on this display there were quite a lot that didn’t fancy it today,” he added. “We’ll learn a lot in the next two or three weeks because conditions are only going to get worse. We will find out now with the three or four games leading up to Christmas if we can regain that competitive edge.
“If football is played on a beautiful surface in lovely conditions I would fancy us against most teams in our league but we had to show another side today and we didn’t have it.”
Woods and his team will have chance to reassess over the next two weeks with a break in the fixture list before two huge matches against two of their biggest rivals for top spot.
“We’ve got Wigan and Bury in the next two games we play who I think are probably the best two teams in the league. I’d like to think we’re among them but we’ll find out.
“The players will be disappointed now that there isn’t a game next Saturday, but I think it comes at a good time for one or two.
“Some of the lads that are playing in the reserves regularly would have been taken out if we were playing next Saturday because they looked a little bit tired, so that is something that we have got to balance.”
Walsall will look to bounce back when they take on Bury at Ray Hall Lane in a fortnight’s time in a clash between the top two sides in the division (kick-off 11am).