Luke Pearce’s thunderous header secured a point in the Youth Alliance Cup group as Walsall Under-18s drew 1-1 with Scunthorpe United writes Jake Stokes.
The visitors opened the scoring early on when Joey Dawson turned the ball in from close range. Walsall soon equalised through Pearce with a thumping header thanks to a Jayden Campbell cross.
A win for the Young Saddlers would have guaranteed qualification from the Youth Alliance group. However, due to previous results the Young Saddlers remain in contention to qualify as one of the best runners-up.
The opening minutes proved to be a close affair between the two sides as they battled for a foothold in the game.
Alex McSkeane had the first big chance when he found himself unmarked at the back post. He rose and headed powerfully, but Tom Collins saved well for the Lincolnshire side.
Soon the visitors found a pocket of space for themselves outside the Walsall box. Harry Jessop’s shot was blocked by Joe Foulkes and ricocheted unfortunately into the path of Dawson who was lurking at the back post. The tall number nine converted the loose ball from six-yards past a helpless Dom Rogerson.
Walsall looked to find a prompt equaliser through McSkeane once again who drove inwards before his shot was gathered by Tom Collins.
Lacking the incisive pass in attack and struggling to build the slick passing moves we have become accustomed to this season at Young Saddlers, captain Joe Willis called on his team to ‘lift it’ after 20 minutes.
Just five minutes later and the galvanised Young Saddlers equalised in style through Pearce. Quick thinking and a perfectly weighted, lobbed free kick from Sam Perry found the run of Campbell. The winger reached the by-line and whipped the ball across the face of goal finding the head of Pearce. The striker’s header bulged the net, giving the goalkeeper little chance, topping off a fantastic week for the youngster that saw him among the substitutes for the first team match against Chelsea Under-23s.
Willis led his side out for the second half in search of a goal. Both sides battled hard for a breakthrough and the Young Saddlers looked as if they would take the lead. The ball was zipped across the face of goal and fell to Campbell at the back post. The tricky winger took a touch where he might have shot in order to use his stronger right foot, but his shot was blocked.
The closing stages of the game tested the defensive will-power of each side.
Walsall had a succession of corners and threw everything at the Scunthorpe defence even after nine minutes of stoppage time.
Some penalty area pinball could not bring about a winner and Young Saddlers had to share the points with The Iron.
Miguel Llera claimed he was disappointed to not have won the game but was impressed with a number of individual performances:
“I think that we were the better side, but football is about goals and we conceded a sloppy goal.
“The first goal changed how we played. There were some good parts to our performance and some good individual performances too. Luke Pearce played really well.
”It is disappointing because it was a scrappy game. The thing that concerned me was their [Scunthorpe United’s] transitions. Any counter attack from them and we looked vulnerable at the back. We did ok, but I think we can do a lot more.”
The Young Saddlers manager continued to explain how his side have a lot to learn when looking to control a game:
“The thing they have to learn is that every game is a tough game. They need to learn to play from the first minute and to be a winner from the first minute.
“You cannot give the opposition any advantages. We were sloppy and gave away an easy goal.
“The game became very scrappy in the second half and we didn’t win the match. We need to be more consistent and show more character. We need to control games better.”