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Under-18s: Walsall 3-0 Accrington

20 November 2018

It was three goals, a clean sheet and back-to-back wins for Walsall Under-18s against Accrington Stanley in the Youth Alliance.

Captain Tom Leak opened the scoring before Joe Willis added a beauty before the break.

Alex McSkeane rounded off the terrific team performance early in the second period to increase his tally this season.

Victory for Walsall lifts them away from Stanley and leaves the visitors rooted at the bottom.

Coming into the fixture, it was a foot of the table clash, but the game bore no resemblance to the league standings.

The young Saddlers were on top from the early minutes, Jayden Campbell – who was let out of school for the match – won a string of corners that eventually led to the breakthrough with just a quarter-hour played.

Owen Nolan’s troubling corner was not dealt with at the near post and the ball dropped into a cluster of bodies. Leak stuck out a leg, prodding the ball towards goal and Accrington keeper Liam Isherwood could not prevent it from going over the line.

The early goal brought an assuredness to Walsall’s play. Encapsulated by the typically reliable midfield anchor, Alfie Bates who broke up play and spread the ball with pinpoint accuracy and vision.

Playing with confidence and dominating the game, Walsall found a second goal.

On 39 minutes, Campbell danced inside from the right-wing across the edge of the Accrington penalty area. It looked as if the ball may have run away from him as central defender Jack Evans charged out, however Campbell’s quick feet left himself crumpled by the flying challenge.

Referee Ben Watkiss did excellently to play advantage, allowing Willis to steady himself to curl a sweet strike into the far corner, setting it outside the post and nestling in the side-netting.

Minutes later, goalscorer Willis was booked for a boisterous challenge. He could not be kept out of the game in the first half.

Two-nil is rarely a comfortable scoreline and Accrington threatened to claw their way back into the second half before Graham Biggs’ side ended hopes of a comeback for the Lancashire outfit.

Another goal early in the half, this time from the prolific McSkeane, who also grabbed the winner last time out, away at Carlisle.

A characteristic jinking run on 58 minutes from Campbell got him to the byline where he pulled back a low cross. Kian Flanagan’s shot from six yards was blocked into the air and dropped kindly at the back post for McSkeane who tucked in left-footed.

Defensive strength then became the priority for Walsall in order to see out the win without conceding. Accrington found Leak and his backline to be immovable on the day and deservedly maintained their second consecutive clean sheet in the Youth Alliance.

Biggs was keen to emphasise the brilliant team display, commenting: “If we keep doing what we are doing the rewards will come.

“We dominated the game from start to finish and scored three goals. It is always great to get a clean sheet and on another day it could probably have been a few more goals.

“We have been working on forward play and that was evident. It was a good team performance. I think every man stood up to be counted, we did not carry anyone.”

Biggs also singled out goalscorers Willis and McSkeane for praise.

“Joe Willis has got to have a mention. He is a first-year boy and scored a great goal. His work ethic every single day is top drawer and Alex Mac was again on the scoresheet.”

He hinted at the talents of the Under-18s being noticed by the first-team staff, stating: “If the boys can keep performing at that level then there will be a few knocking on his [Dean Keates'] door.”

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