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Academy

Under-18s: Walsall 1-2 Notts County

22 October 2018

It was stoppage-time heartbreak for Walsall Under-18s in the FA Youth Cup first round against Notts County.

County led at half-time through Kion Etete but the Saddlers struck back midway through the second half with a goal direct from an Alfie Bates corner.

Walsall largely dominated the second period and pressed for a winner but were stunned when Etete latched onto a cross in the final minute of added time.

The early stages yielded very few clear-cut opportunities as both sides slowly grew into the fixture.

It took 20 minutes for the game to have its first shot on target, a long-range free-kick by Bates that was caught by County keeper Max Culverwell.

As the half continued, the away side gathered momentum and found the breakthrough on 40 minutes.

A Walsall clearance was headed back and dropped to Etete, who found himself between the midfield and defence. He knocked the ball out of his feet on the edge of the box and rifled in a shot past Ethan Dawe into the top right.

The benefit of Academy Manager Graham Biggs’ interval input was instant. Pressing high, giving Notts County little room for manoeuvre, Saddlers clawed their way back into the tie.

Just before the hour mark, Joe Willis and Jacob Walton made way for Perry Moss and Danny Coogan to add fresh legs to hound the County players.

Within ten minutes of the double substitution, Walsall levelled.

On 64 minutes, Saddlers won a corner and Alfie Bates – who made his senior debut in the Checkatrade Trophy against Middlesbrough this month – whipped a fierce cross towards the back post.

Misjudged by Culverwell in goal, Bates’ corner sailed towards the far upright and was helped in by the Notts County shot-stopper’s despairing glove.

With 25 minutes remaining, it looked as though Walsall may go on and seal progression to the next round.

Substitute Danny Coogan had the Saddlers’ best chance to take the lead when he was played through. His right-footed effort slid wide across goal, much to the relief of the County defenders that were scrambling back.

Other than a heart-in-mouth moment where Notts County winger Coden Duncan rattled the post from outside the box, it looked as though extra-time was a certainty.

That was until the final of four stoppage-time minutes when the Saddlers' FA Youth Cup hopes were shattered.

 The goal was a header from Etete, whose physicality and skill troubled the Saddlers backline throughout. Ethan Dawe rushed from his goal to collect a cross but Etete reached it first and the ball rolled into an empty net.

It was hard for the Saddlers to stomach after dominating the second half and the affair almost turned ugly just before the final whistle. Players from both sides became involved in a fray, resulting in yellow cards for Bates and Coogan.

Graham Biggs spoke of the disappointment in the dressing room.

“The lads are flat, absolutely flat and rightly so,” He said.

“If the defeat does not hurt them, then they are in the wrong industry because me and the staff are all as flat as you can imagine.

“I think the timing was cruel, it was in the 94th minute of 94 minutes in the game.

“First half, we played with real fear and nervousness, trepidation really.

“We did make the double substitution and set a higher press and I think that worked and we deservedly got the equaliser. We countered on them quite a lot but unfortunately we did not create enough clear chances.”


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