Walsall Under-18s suffered late heartbreak against Mansfield Town on Saturday as they lost 2-1 in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup group.
Young Saddlers took the lead after 19 minutes when Ben Dallaywaters’ free kick was parried out by the Mansfield goalkeeper to Ade Francis who poked it into the roof of the net.
Dallaywaters was at the heart of the action again, but this time for the wrong reason as he picked up a red card for swiping the legs of a Mansfield player just outside the box. Many thought the red card was harsh as he was not the last man and the Mansfield attacker still had a lot of work to do to get to goal.
As the game went on, Walsall struggled to cope with the pressure that Mansfield put on and eventually persistence punished Miguel Llera’s side when Stags equalised in the 61st minute. It was a ball crossed into the box which found a Mansfield striker in space who calmly gave Lewis Walker no chance.
Mansfield looked the stronger side as Walsall struggled to get a foothold in the game. Despite looking dangerous on the counter-attack, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Young Saddlers after going down to 10 men.
Walsall added fresh legs multiple times, turning to the bench for an impact. Samim Sarvari, Brad Taylor and Jayden Allamby-John were all introduced to try and sway the game back in Walsall’s favour, but they were unable to as Mansfield held firm at the back.
The visitors had a chance to finish the game with five minutes to go as Nathan Caine found himself through one on one against Walker but couldn’t convert. A great save from the big man in goal looked as if he has secured the draw for his side.
However, it wasn’t meant to be as Walsall’s resistance finally crumbled when the visitors grabbed the winner in the 92nd minute causing late heartbreak. A blocked shot fell straight in the path of Jack Deakin who went through one on one and made no mistake with his finish.
All of the Walsall resilience had been undone in the last few minutes of play. A gut-wrenching result for the youngsters who made a great showing after more than 70 minutes with a man-deficit.
Miguel Llera said how pleased he was with the performance from his young lads despite the result.
“It was hard playing 75 minutes with 10 men, but the lads understood their shape and their roles very well. They [Mansfield Town] didn’t create chances and we defended very well in large parts of the game.
“To concede a goal in the 92nd minute is very disappointing, but this is football and these things happen.”
Moving forward the head coach is confident about the future of the Under-18s side despite stuttering after a flying start to the season.