The Saddlers’ Development Squad started their 2017/18 Central League North campaign with a convincing home defeat to Port Vale.
Deadline-day signing Zeli Ismail played the full game and created the first chance on seven minutes, slipping in Jordon Sangha who curled a first-time right-footed shot against the top of the bar.
Walsall could have taken the lead five minutes later when Will Shorrock tricked his way past a defender and pulled the ball back for Mitch Candlin but he blazed over from close range.
The Saddlers threatened again midway through the half, Ismail driving into the box before rifling a fierce effort against the post from a very tight angle.
But it was Vale who went ahead on 33 minutes, Cameron Stewart delivering a fine left-wing cross which Tyrone Barnett headed down for Jack Stobbs to convert.
It should have been 2-0 moments later, when Barnett’s powerful drive was handled by a sliding Milan Butterfield but the forward blasted the subsequent penalty high over the bar.
The Valiants began the second period brightly, with trialist Stewart seeing a deflected cross come back off a post and Billy Reeves ballooning over after good work from Stobbs.
A second goal duly arrived on 56 minutes, Dan Turner firing Stobbs’ right-wing cross into the roof of the net at the near post.
Stobbs was again the architect as Vale added a third two minutes later, whipping in a low centre which the unmarked Anthony de Freitas slotted home.
Turner was denied his second of the afternoon by a fine finger-tip stop from Liam Roberts, who then parried Lucas Green-Birch’s drive.
Sandwiched in between those saves, Roberts saw a headed clearance hit Turner and roll towards the line, but Tom Leek spared the keeper’s blushes by getting back to clear.
The Saddlers pushed for a consolation late on, with James Gibbons clearing Simeon Jackson’s attempt off the line and Ismail lashing a fierce shot wide of the near post.
Team (3-4-1-2): Roberts; Kendrick, Butterfield, Leek; Shorrock, Flanagan, Cuvelier, Sangha; Ismail; Candlin, Jackson.