A resolute performance from Walsall under-18s helped secure all three points against Fleetwood Town.
The opening half ended goalless with the away side hitting the woodwork twice in the space of just two minutes. Kian Flanagan then broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half with a sumptuous strike from the edge of the area.
The Young Saddlers defended well as they restricted Fleetwood to very few clear-cut chances to end a run of eight matches without a win.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to the visitors. Shayden Morris’ deep cross to the back post found Carl Johnston, whose looping header was well saved by Dominic Rogerson.
Fleetwood dominated the majority of possession throughout the first half, but the Young Saddlers held firm at the back, causing a few problems of their own on the counter attack.
Walsall danger man Alex McSkeane was a thorn in the away side’s defence throughout the afternoon and following some great work down the right, his cutback was inches away from finding a team mate.
Towards the end of the half, the chances began to flow. First, Walsall ‘keeper Rogerson could only parry Morris’ low effort into the path of Enoch Takpe, but he somehow crashed his rebound against the crossbar.
Fleetwood rattled the woodwork for a second time just two minutes later. Takpe’s lay off found Carl Johnston at the edge of the area and he powered a right footed effort against the foot of the post.
Anthony Williams went close for the visitors at the beginning of the second period, as his deflected long ranged effort rolled just wide.
After soaking up some early pressure, it was Walsall who broke the deadlock in spectacular style. Fleetwood could only clear Joe Brown’s cross straight into the path of Flanagan and he unleashed an unstoppable half volley beyond the desperate dive of Pengelly.
The Young Saddlers took confidence from their opener and went close to doubling their advantage when substitute Danny Coogan saw a goal bound effort well blocked by Kai Steer.
Fleetwood then came within inches of finding an equaliser with just 20 minutes to play. First, Johnston saw his back-post header heroically cleared off the line by Sam Leivesley. The visitors’ number 11 then turned provider as he found Takpe unmarked in the area just a minute later, but he blazed his effort over the cross bar.
Walsall held firm to claim a deserved three points and will now look forward to a trip to Wigan Athletic in two weeks’ time.
Kyle Kirby was pleased with the three points but believes his side has played better without success in recent weeks.
He said: “[I am] delighted with the result. I think we have probably played better at times in previous games and we’ve been unlucky in certain instances or we just haven’t been prolific in front of goal.
“Today, we got a decent goal from Kian Flanagan, which was a real good strike, but we sort of rode our luck today and come away with three points when a draw would have probably been the fair result.
Kirby also revealed that the Young Saddlers adopted a different approach to Saturday’s encounter.
He said: “This week we stripped it right back so there was a change of shape. We worked on it during the week and it’s something that the lads are familiar with.
“We just wanted to make sure we got our distances right and remained compact to make sure nothing got played through and build our counter attacks from there.
“In previous weeks we have dominated the ball and been on the wrong side of results but today we haven’t had as much of the ball but been on the right side of the result.
“You can probably count on one hand where we haven’t been at it, but today I thought everyone, either starters or lads coming on played their part and we couldn’t really ask anything more of them today.”