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Staffordshire Senior Cup report: Wolves Sporting 3-2 Walsall

22 February 2018

A young Saddlers' squad comprised of Academy players lost 3-2 to Wolves Sporting in the quarter-finals of the Staffordshire Senior Cup.

Goals from Ethan Freemantle and Stefan Mason in the first half gave The Saddlers the lead but Tom Hill's hat-trick ensured Sporting made it through to the final four.

After the U18s last game against Blackpool, The Saddlers had a week without a game after the late postponement against Carlisle aside from a Development Squad game on Tuesday which some of the young apprentices played in.

It was agreed as a result that the Under-18s would play in the Senior Cup game - and the match itself started at a fast pace in an highly competitive manner.

Joe Cairns went close early on in the game before FREEMANTLE put Walsall into the lead with a well-taken goal.

It didn’t take long before The Saddlers doubled their lead with some neat play from Owen Nolan who passed to MASON in the box. Mason did well to get away from his markers and finish well past the keeper.

The pitch was quite heavy and cutting up as the game went on, but Graham Biggs' side almost made it 3-0 with a great effort from Alfie Bates, but keeper Dale Reaney would make a good save from Bates's free-kick.

A misplaced freekick from Sam Leivesley allowed Wolves an opportunity to pull a goal back through HILL and this rocked the young lads who were playing against a much more experienced side. It did not take Wolverhampton long from another individual mistake to equalise wth HILL converting from close range.  

The second half started and as Biggs and his staff expected, Sporting put Walsall under a lot of pressure. The lads weathered the storm and went close on a couple of occasions from Cairns and  Freemantle.

But Sporting would grab their third - a bicycle kick at the back post from HILL the final goal of the game, despite a late Nolan effort.

The lads fought to the end but to no avail and we wish Wolverhampton Sporting good luck in the semi-finals. 

"This was a big learning curve for a very young side who need to understand game management, the state of the conditions and most definately the state of the game and when to slow things down and kill games off," said Biggs.

"It was great that the gaffer (Jon Whitney) took the time to come to the game which we thanked him for – it was a good opportunity for them to show the gaffer what they could do both in a football and psychological sense.

"Although the result wasn’t one anyone wanted the bigger picture was the development of these lads who one or two of them caught the gaffer's eye. 

"The gaffer came to the game to assess how the young lads could deal with the game playing against older and more experienced men, as this will become a big part of what they will have to endure if they become professionals."

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