Walsall Under-18s registered a resounding team display, dispatching Carlisle 3-0 in the EFL Youth Alliance.
Young Saddlers’ head coach Miguel Llera was delighted with a terrific tactical performance topped off with goals from Perry Moss, Saif Mukadam and Luke Pearce.
A far-cry from March when the same fixture placed the reds on the end of a disappointing 2-1 defeat.
From the opening minutes, it was clear this would not be a similar encounter.
Young Saddlers dominated the opening stages with organised defence and large shares of possession, heaping territorial pressure onto the visitors.
Enjoying much of the ball, winger Jayden Campbell shone brightly as grey clouds descended and heavens opened above Birmingham County FA Headquarters midway through the first half.
His powerful run teed up Ade Francais for the first golden opportunity of the game, but the striker smashed the woodwork with a left-footed effort.
Without carving out many more major chances, Walsall continued to exert their dominance on the fixture forcing Carlisle into poor passes and snuffing out the blues’ attacks.
After 40 minutes, Young Saddlers found the elusive cutting edge in front of goal when Danny Coogan - who excelled in his new role at right back – picked out Moss with a whipped cross.
Moss’ flicked volley was pinpoint and ensured the post would not deny the home side a second time as it bounced off Isaac Robinson’s upright and into the net.
One goal to the good at the break, it was imperative Walsall ensured their good work in the first period would not be undone against a previously unbeaten Carlisle.
Fortunately, Young Saddlers were unphased and further pressure forced the travelling outfit into a first substitution after 55 minutes.
Walsall did not let up and turned the screws once more, Campbell characteristically charged down the wing and delivered a tantalising ball for Mukadam whose shot slid wide from six-yards with the goal begging.
However, this was a sign of things to come and five minutes later, Mukadam got on the end of another dangerous Campbell cross and tapped home at the back post to double the lead.
With 20 minutes left, Walsall had all but secured victory, reducing the visitors to half chances whilst searching for the third goal which they found with ten minutes to go.
Captain Joe Willis – who was imperious in defensive midfield alongside Sam Perry – delivered a corner to the back post which was met by Joe Foulkes. His powerful, low header deserved a goal to match his defensive performance, but Robinson in the Carlisle net blocked into the path of substitute striker Luke Pearce who nodded home.
Running riot against a strong side, Pearce put the ball in the net again just two minutes later but was adjudged offside, much to the disappointment of Llera in the technical area.
The Young Saddlers boss was congratulatory of his players for their efficiency and tactical showing in the match:
“We started the game really concentrated, with good energy and commitment that we were looking for.
“We played a very clever game from a tactical point of view. We were better than them in every part of the pitch.
“They are a very good team and we made them look a poor team.”
Llera also had praise for the passion and physical improvement of his side who were relentless for 90 minutes:
“I told them this is what I am expecting from the club. This is the culture I am trying to create.
“When each game is over, each player must have given his best and given 100 percent desire, commitment and passion.”
Llera is passionate and vocal on the touchline and explains how he wants his side to be an extension of himself when they welcome Salford City next weekend:
“Salford are a good team, but there is not any fear. The lads are looking forward to playing them. It can be a massive step for us.”