Walsall's Under-18s recorded a comfortable 3-1 win against Burton Albion in the Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Mitchel Candlin, Kian Flanagan and Joe Cairns were enough to give Graham Biggs' side all three points in this group stage fixture and despite a late consolation goal from Brewers captain Regan Ganley, the young Saddlers side can be happy with their performance.
In what was a quiet first half with very few chances, it was the hosts who opened the scoring three minutes before half-time.
Candlin, who was one of several stand-out performers in the game, weaved his way across the Burton box before firing back across goal into the bottom-left corner to make it 1-0.
Seven minutes into the second half, The Saddlers doubled their lead this time through Flanagan. Daniel O’Sullivan cleaned up a wayward cross on the right wing before laying it off to Flanagan who was in acres of space on the edge of the area, with the midfielder then producing a wonderful curling effort into the top-left corner.
With less than 25 minutes left to play Walsall made it three, this time through Cairns. The winger swivelled on the edge of the box before firing into the bottom corner to put the game beyond the reach of the visitors.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes of play, a committed Albion side pulled one back through Ganley, whose diving header beat Saddlers keeper Brandon Ganley at his near post.
Despite conceding late on, manager Biggs was pleased with the overall performance and the attitude that his players showed in the game.
“We have had a disrupted period of time since our last game which was against Mansfield Town as we’ve had two league games called off due to poor weather conditions and we’ve also had the Christmas period but we have tried to keep everyone positive," he said.
“I have arranged a lot of friendly games and the attitudes of our lads when games have been called off has been first class.
“Their attitudes in training and their application have been really good and we’ve just tried to keep everything really positive and the message before the game was to take that positivity into the game and I thought we played some of our best football of the season today.
“The lads were disappointed to concede the goal at the end because at 3-0 the game is over and done with and you’ve got yourself a comfortable victory.
"It’s then all about making sure the lads have that professionalism about them as we are preparing them for the next level and it’s disappointing to concede from a set piece.
“We have spoken a little bit about it after the game and we will do the analysis on it with the lads in the week to try and improve on it.”
And Biggs admitted that his side have been working hard on stretching defences in training, with Dylan Parker, Cairns and Candlin all putting in extra work to make sure that training pays off in matches.
Biggs continued: “We have been working hard with the front three lads who were up there today since the Mansfield game and despite the break of Christmas we actually only had a few days off because we have been working hard and we’ve had games and we’ve tried different things.
“What we have tried to encourage is keep the ball, don’t force passes, which I thought we did a little bit in the first half but I could understand why we were forcing them.
"But then we have been working on the front three and their shape and movement to pull the opposition defence wider throughout the game and I thought they were first class today.”