Mansfield 1-0 Walsall
Walsall Reserves slipped to a narrow defeat against Mansfield Town as Jimmy Knowles’ first half goal was enough to earn the hosts three points in the Central League.
The 18-year-old capitalised on a sloppy error in the Walsall defence after just six minutes in a tight affair the RH Academy.
The Saddlers took a strong team to Nottinghamshire with a number of first team squad members making up the starting XI, including Elijah Adebayo, Zak Jules and Alfie Bates.
Brian Dutton’s side made a poor start and fell behind early on when Kory Roberts’ pass was cut out by Knowles and the forward tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
Walsall responded well to falling behind and had a good chance to level on 18 minutes when Jack Nolan found Tom Leak in the box who arrowed in a shot but it took a deflection and was heading wide before it was picked up by Adebayo whose effort was turned behind.
The Saddlers had good control for the remainder of the half but didn’t create too many clear-cut chances.
Dutton made four changes at half time with Alex McSkeane, Mitch Candlin, Perry Moss and Danny Coogan coming on in place of Jules, James Hardy, Sam Perry and Joe Willis.
Jack Rose was called into action early in the second half when Knowles burst through but the Southampton loanee did well to close down the angle and make a fine save with his feet.
Walsall’s best chance of the game came on the hour mark when Bates’ free-kick was met by Adebayo who directed a powerful header goalwards but Aidan Stone was equal to it and pulled off a fine save.
The Saddlers couldn’t quite build on that and Mansfield wrestled control as the game reached the closing stages.
In the end, the Stags saw the game out to claim the victory.
Rose; Willis (Coogan 45’), K. Roberts, Leak, Jules (Moss 45’), Lynch; Perry (McSkeane 45’), Bates; Hardy (Candlin 45’), Adebayo (Pearce 66’), Nolan.