Walsall Under-18s secured back-to-back wins in the EFL Youth Alliance with an excellent 2-0 win over Salford City on Tuesday afternoon.
Tommy Parker opened the scoring in the first half with an acute finish before his second half effort set up Marvellous Onabirekhanlen’s rebound tap-in.
Miguel Llera’s side defended resolutely throughout and have recaptured the sparkling form and impressive fitness they began the season with heading into the final few fixtures.
With four games in 10 days in order to catch up a lag in fixtures from COVID-19 postponements, Young Saddlers are back on track to finish the season strongly now everyone is fit and firing.
The improved fitness was evident to see early on as Salford were hounded by high-pressing wingers and full-backs Josh Simcox and Jack Lynch.
Within two minutes, Young Saddlers had already created a guilt-edged chance when Alex Worley arrived unnoticed at the back post from a Lynch corner.
His cleanly struck volley drifted over the crossbar but served as a warning to the visitors of what was to come.
After a little lull in play, Lynch picked up the ball and lofted a clever pass to Parker who had ran beyond the Salford back line.
His left footed strike squeezed in off the far post after the angle was made difficult by the defenders.
Parker had run tirelessly for a number of games without scoring and the opening strike was just reward for the striker’s hard work.
Giving Walsall the goal advantage at the break, it was imperative Salford were not allowed a way back as they were in the return fixture – a 3-2 comeback victory.
Kyle Sharp – who began on the unfamiliar right wing before playing more centrally later on – struck the post flush with a stunning volleyed strike from 18-yards out, almost taking the game away from Salford.
Onabirekhanlen was introduced in midfield for Ronan Maher and he instantly made his physical presence known with some battling tackles and neat interplay.
He was also on hand shortly after coming on when Parker turned creator, running through one-on-one. Max Williams in the Salford goal parried Parker’s venomous strike into the path of Onabirekhanlen who obliged with the simple finish.
Comfortably ahead and dominating large parts of the game, it was Walsall’s aim to see out the game with a clean sheet.
There were a few panicked moments when Lucas Kirnon repeatedly found himself on the end of crosses for the visitors, however, the full-back spurned his opportunities ensuring Young Saddlers kept a consecutive clean sheet.
Lynch even found himself showboating in added time when he did a roulette spin to pinch the ball and escape from Tom Shepherd in Walsall’s own penalty box.
Llera was delighted with the performance from his side and shared his excitement for the final four fixtures of the season.
“It was a good performance from the whole team," he said.
"When we play like that it is difficult for someone to come and beat us.
“I think that the team are going to finish really strong. Circumstances at the beginning of the year made it really tough for us; we had to cancel a lot of games [because of] weather conditions and COVID-19 isolation. It was affecting the lads really massively.
“Now we are starting to be the same team that started the season. The performances are solid and fitness levels of the lads are very high. We are pretty confident we can finish the league on a high level of performance collectively and individually.”