Defeat for the Saddlers Reserves this afternoon...A JORDAN Cook brace couldn’t prevent a 4-3 defeat for Walsall Reserves against Port Vale Reserves in a thrilling opening game of the Final Third Development League season.
Cook’s early penalty put the Saddlers in front, but Vale replied through AJ Leitch-Smith and Ryan Lloyd to lead 2-1 at the break.
A quick-fire second-half double from Chris Birchall made it 4-1 to the visitors.
Substitute Jordan Sangha and Cook responded for Walsall late on, but they couldn’t quite complete a remarkable comeback.
New signing, Isaiah Osbourne, was included in the Saddlers' starting XI, as was triallist, Sem de Wit.
Walsall started the game brightly.
After seven minutes, Anthony Forde skipped into the area and tested Vale keeper, Ryan Boot, with a firm left-footed drive at his near post.
And moments later the hosts went ahead. Liam Kinsella darted into the box and was tripped by Ryan McGivern. A penalty was awarded, and Jordan Cook stepped up to coolly send Boot the wrong way with a low shot into the bottom corner.
Walsall’s joy was short-lived, though, as Vale equalised just seven minutes later. Birchall's deep cross found Leitch-Smith at the far post. He controlled instantly with his first touch, before bending a well-placed right-footed effort out of Liam Roberts’ reach with his second.
The Saddlers set about trying to restore their lead.
Kinsella found the arms of Boot with a stooping header from Lee Naylor’s near-post centre, James Baxendale sliced wide, and Jacob Murphy fired off target with a miss-hit half-volley.
On 31 minutes, Vale made it 2-1 when Ryan Lloyd fired an unstoppable first-time strike into the top corner from 25 yards.
Matt Preston's header was cleared off the line by Alex Morris as Walsall sought an immediate equaliser.
As the half drew to a close, Boot twice thwarted the Saddlers. First, he dived to his left to keep out Cook’s flicked attempt from Kyle Rowley’s free-kick. And then he was almost caught out by Forde’s swerving long-range strike.
HALF-TIME: Walsall 1-2 Port Vale
Walsall made a nightmare start to the second half - conceding after just 14 seconds.
The home defence was caught napping, affording Birchall the time and space to unleash a low right-footed drive into the far bottom corner.
Ryan Lloyd’s thunderbolt was tipped over by Roberts as Vale poured forward.
And on 52 minutes they extended their lead, Birchall squeezing a shot under Roberts from an acute angle for his second goal of the afternoon.
It could have been worse for Walsall shortly after, when Colin Daniel crashed a fierce drive against the bar from close range.
Sangha side-footed wide and Cook hooked a fine attempt marginally off target as the Saddlers tried force their way back into the match.
Walsall gave themselves a lifeline with 13 minutes remaining, when James Baxendale set up Sangha to fire a low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
In the closing stages, it became 4-3. Jordan Murphy switched the play to Cook, who skipped past his marker before sliding the ball under Boot.
However, the Saddlers were unable to find a leveller as they tasted defeat in the first reserve game of the season.
FULL-TIME: Walsall 3-4 Port Vale
Team: Roberts, Rowley (Sangha 61'), Naylor (Smith 61'), de Wit, Preston, Osbourne, Forde (Bakayoko 69'), Kinsella, Cook, Baxendale, Murphy.
Subs not used: Jezeph, Kounyar.