Walsall Under-18s made it three games unbeaten after a 1-1 draw with Blackpool in the EFL Youth Alliance.
Young Saddlers dominated the opening stages and found the breakthrough when Saif Mukadam’s cross was turned into his own net by Luke Mariette after 10 minutes.
Blackpool clawed their way back with Rob Apter poking the ball home following a goalmouth scramble before half time and despite a number of golden opportunities to retake the lead, Miguel Llera’s side had to settle for the point.
A result to build on for Walsall heading into a congested period of fixtures as teams in the EFL Youth Alliance North West division play catchup for copious COVID-19 fixture cancellations.
Improvements were obvious to see among the players in fitness and decision making as Walsall pressurised Blackpool from the opening minute.
Early domination sent Tommy Parker through on goal after just five minutes. The angle for a shot was closed well by Charlie Monks and Parker’s strike drifted wide.
The intensity continued from Walsall and paid off when high pressure caused Blackpool to crack.
Mukadam pinched the ball high up the field and charged into the box with support arriving. His powerful, low cross met the backpedalling defenders in the six-yard box and Mariette could only divert into the goal.
Ahead and dominating the game, Joe Foulkes had a chance to double Young Saddlers’ advantage when he drifted to the back post unmarked from a corner. Foulkes could only head wide as the opportunity went begging.
Moments later, at the other end, Blackpool found a way back through Apter. Walsall defenders, who came into the game off the back of consecutive clean sheets, found themselves struggling from a long throw in.
Lewis Walker made a save amid the scramble but could do nothing when Apter stubbed the ball in from six yards.
Walsall made enough chances to retake the lead. Marvellous Onabirekhanlen got into some dangerous positions but failed to make Monks work too hard in The Seasiders goal.
Monks was on hand again to deny Mukadam’s strike after his relentless pressing helped him pickpocket the Blackpool full back Perez Goumou.
Later in the second half Jayden Campbell let loose a thunderous effort from range which had Monks rooted. Fortunately for the visitors, the winger’s shot landed wide of the post and Blackpool took a point back to the coast.
It was an annoying afternoon for Young Saddlers’ head coach Llera, who reflected on two points dropped:
“I’m frustrated. I feel like we lost to be honest. We had the chances, and we didn’t score them.
“We started the game pretty well. We were on top of them and creating chances to score. We became a little bit flat and let them grow into the game.
“The goal came from a throw that we didn’t defend properly, that’s not acceptable.
“The second half I think we did as much as we could to score the goal.
“The kids gave everything they had, and this is what we are expecting from them.”
Llera also rued his side’s missed opportunities and vowed to keep working on Walsall’s attacking game for the run-in:
“I’m more worried about scoring goals than conceding goals.
“Credit to the back four, they are doing very well. We need to improve the attacking side of our game.
“There’s a little bit of a lack of quality. We need to keep working to try to improve our finishing and score more goals.”