Walsall U18s 0-0 Morecambe U18s
Walsall Under-18s made it two clean sheets in a row after they held Morecambe to a goalless draw in Great Barr on Saturday.
Following on from their 2-0 away victory against Fleetwood Town last weekend, Young Saddlers staved off an early onslaught from The Shrimps and had the game’s best chance in the second half when Tommy Parker’s volley from six yards was saved wonderfully by Andre Mendes.
Morecambe had their fair share of chances, particularly through Cam Rooney who frequently popped up in space to strike goalward for the Lancashire side.
Joe Foulkes – in again as captain for the injured Luke Zona - set a fine example from beginning to end, leading his defence powerfully to clear the Morecambe barrage of aerial attrition.
A team of notable stature, Morecambe looked to be on top as they exerted their physicality in the very feisty opening minutes.
Crosses came and went for the visitors; a combination of excellent Young Saddlers’ defence and Tommy Jackson’s goalkeeping kept the score level.
Walsall had a strong penalty shout waved away when Callum Derry went down in the box, but neither team could find the cutting edge.
Foulkes came closest for Young Saddlers in the first half, volleying sweetly following a corner, but Morecambe’s man of the match Mendes was on hand to save for the visitors.
At half time, Walsall had three yellow cards after some poor challenges and heated exchanges during a cagey encounter.
In the second half, Rooney came near for The Shrimps with an effort from the edge of the box, but his strike just evaded the post.
That was as close as Morecambe came in the second period as the best chances fell the way of Walsall.
Parker and Saif Mukadam got in each other’s way swiping at the ball as Ramani Stephen’s header was parried out by a combination of defender and goalkeeper.
Walsall pressure mounted during the host’s brightest period and Parker should have got the breakthrough when Lewis Connolly’s defensive header fell short of Mendes leaving the striker with a six-yard volley.
Parker aimed for the corner, low down to the right of the ‘keeper, but Mendes’ pre-emptive dive produced a staggering tip past the post.
Parker and Young Saddlers could not believe it as Morecambe defenders thanked their goalkeeper for sparing Connolly’s blushes.
Mukadam then had his chance to score and looked clean through on goal in the final minute until the towering centre back Ayo Shogbeni tracked back and intervened, securing the point for Morecambe.
Head coach Miguel Llera was happy with a consecutive clean sheet that has seen his team push towards the form they began the campaign with:
“It was a consistent performance and I’m taking positives from today.
“Some days, if you can’t win, don’t lose.
“Our challenge from Christmas has been getting them fitter. The last two months have been really, really difficult times.
“We have been working off the ball and a lot in fitness.
“I think everything looks stronger and I hope we can reach the levels that we started the season at.”
Llera also had big praise for the defensive improvements in his side, particularly that of Josh Simcox and injury returnee Foulkes:
“Josh Simcox is a first year. He’s dropped back into full back and I think he is a much better player now.
“He’s growing in confidence and being really solid. His heading is magnificent – an example of how to head. His timing and aggression are class.
“Foulkesy [Joe Foulkes] as well has been doing really well.
“Problems with his ankle meant he was away for a long time and we miss him a lot. He came back in the last couple of games and his presence – not just how he’s performing – It’s about how the people around him respond and the rest of the players respect him a lot.”
Young Saddlers face Blackpool in their next fixture at Birmingham County FA Headquarters today (Tuesday 6th April).