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Under-18s: Walsall 3-0 Accrington Stanley

30 September 2019

Captain Joe Willis flourished as Walsall Under-18s recorded a 3-0 win over Accrington Stanley in the EFL Youth Alliance.

The young Saddlers opened the scoring in the first half with Willis’ confidently placed penalty, before extending their lead with goals from substitutes Jayden Campbell and Luke Pearce in the second half.

Miguel Llera’s side came into the game off the back of a 1-0 defeat to Blackpool but responded resoundingly with a second 3-0 home league victory in succession.

The former-Sheffield Wednesday defender has led the young Saddlers to an exciting start to the season, implementing a new philosophy that has kept his side unbeaten at home.

Walsall began the game on the front foot and looked to play the ball out from the back at any given opportunity, although play was often broken up by fouls in the opening stages.

Willis looked to be the source of creativity at Ray Hall Lane.

The young Saddlers' number eight whipped in a freekick from deep inside the Accrington Stanley half, finding Saif Mukadam. Mukadam struck well, but his volleyed effort was welcomed into the gloves of Louis Hood.

The home side soon went in front when Willis was brought down inside the opposition box after cutting inside from the left flank. A confident and assured penalty from the captain put his side one up heading into the break.

A thrilling start to the second half saw Luke Zona scramble back to throw his body on the line, denying the visitors a certain equaliser.

Walsall heeded the Accrington warning and began to dominate. Willis was once again at the centre of play as he clipped a delightful pass in behind to Mukadam whose effort was saved.

Llera urged his team on emphatically from the touchline and soon his side doubled their lead.

Moss’ defence splitting diagonal pass found the run of second half substitute Campbell. Campbell’s initial effort was denied by Hood, but the winger made no mistake in his second attempt as he arrowed the ball into the bottom corner.

Second half substitutions proved integral for Walsall. Pearce made it 3-0 having been brought on fewer than 20 minutes prior. Willis’ perfectly lofted pass found the onrushing striker who coolly slotted the ball past Hood.

Llera expressed his delight with his side’s performance as the young Saddlers walked away with three points, three goals and a clean sheet.

“I am really happy with the three points," said Llera. 

“The most important thing is how the players perform individually because they know they are here to try and play in the first team.

“At the moment we are trying to create a culture and perform like a team where everyone plays well. I think that everyone understands that.

“We are playing well at home [this season] with three goals and a clean sheet today.”

Two of Llera’s second half substitutes scored extending the young Saddlers’ lead. Llera spoke of his pleasure with the squad's attitude.

“The players on the bench know it is difficult to play in the starting 11 because the competition is high, they all know that," he continued.

“I am pleased to see that when my players come off the bench, they want to impress my staff and I because they want a place in the starting 11.”

Walsall's Under-18s now look ahead to their clash away to Chesterfield - Llera’s former club - in the Youth Alliance Cup.

“It is going to be a little bit weird [returning to Chesterfield] but I am looking forward to the game.

“We are looking forward to the game and want to get three points.”

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