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Under-18s: Walsall 1-0 Fleetwood

14 November 2017

Walsall Under-18s got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win over Fleetwood Town thanks to a first-half strike from striker Joe Cairns.

The goal came with less than a minute on the clock as strike partner Mitchel Candlin glanced a header over the two Town centre halves releasing Cairns who calmly finished under visiting goalkeeper Harry Turner.

After the break, there was a change of system for Walsall as Joe Brown went off with a twisted ankle, meaning that manager Graham Biggs reverted back to a standard 4-4-2, as opposed to the 3-5-2 system he played in the first half.

And it wasn’t until the 86th minute that Fleetwood really tested Brandon Ganley in the Saddlers net. With the clock ticking down, the visitors went all out and were denied superbly by Ganley on a number of occasions within a matter of seconds, capping off what was a gritty performance from the entire team.

Substitute Debert Massamba could have rounded things off with a last-minute goal as he rounded Turner but his effort unfortunately hit the inside of the post.

Manager Biggs was pleased with overall performance of the team. He said: “I am very pleased that we have managed to get ourselves a clean sheet. I am also pleased that we probably played the best football in this game that we have played all season, especially in the first half, I thought we were outstanding.

“The possession and passing stats will have probably gone through the roof. We have spoken to the lads quite a bit since the Doncaster Rovers came about trusting each other a bit more with the ball and I think they showed that in the game.

“I think we had a bit of everything in the game. The passing football that we played was superb, our ball retention and possession was great and in the last five minutes we have had to battle for the three points so that showed the battle and belief that this group of young lads have.”

At the heart of the possession play was central midfielder Alfie Bates, who was a standout performer. Biggs was quick to praise the youngster, as well as admitting that he has caught the eye of first-team manager Jon Whitney.

He continued: “Alfie is a massive prospect for the club. We went to train with Jon last week and he caught his eye and the chairman’s eye so he is certainly heading in the right direction and he is a fantastic player for us to have.”

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