Walsall Under-18s fell to a second consecutive defeat in a hard-fought contest at home to Carlisle United on Saturday writes Andrew Maddox.
Mason Hardy’s second half penalty was enough to seal the points for The Blues, but the Saddlers fought the game well and remained in the contest until the end.
Walsall started the first half on the back foot. Within the first four minutes, the visitors latched onto a loose ball and charged through on goal. The shot clattered into the side netting, but it was an early warning for the Saddlers.
Less than two minutes later, Hardy struck the crossbar from point-blank range. Walsall were lucky not to be behind, but they grew into the game very quickly afterwards.
Callum Derry had Walsall’s first real chance on the 15 minute mark. He leapt onto a smart through ball and fired a powerful shot. A Carlisle defender got a block in and sent the ball looping over the goalkeeper, but it hit the bar and went out for a corner. The hosts took the lead three minutes later. Samim Sarvari floated in a fine cross towards Marvellous Onabirekhanlen who headed home well.
Carlisle sought to take the game back to Walsall afterwards and it didn’t take long for them to strike back. Tommy Jackson was forced into a smart save from a low Jack Ellis shot and tipped it behind for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Max Kilsby took advantage of a scramble in the box to stab the ball home and level the scores.
The game levelled out from here, with both sides struggling to carve out any real chances. Derry nearly met a smart through ball from Onabirekhanlen, but Scott Simons was first to the ball to stop the danger. Sarvari also had a sighter from range, seeing his effort go just wide of the near post. Daniel Baldwin also came close to retaking the lead, but the ‘keeper was equal to his shot from close range.
Ultimately, the visitors were able to snatch the lead from a scrappy period of play. Nick Balaroo caught Jackson off his line and arrowed a fine shot across the ‘keeper and inside the far post. It was somewhat against the run of play again as the game had devolved into a midfield battle with both sides not having much time on the ball.
The second half started much the same way that the first ended. Both sides struggled to get much time on the ball and tackles began flying in. However, Carlisle doubled their lead on the hour mark from the penalty spot. Noel Angafor was penalised for a body-check in the area and Mason Hardy graciously converted. Jackson went the right way, but he couldn’t quite reach the shot.
Walsall continued to search for a route back into the game, but it ultimately wasn’t to be. The introductions of Arjun Toor and Tayshen Robinson injected some new life into their game, but it sadly wasn’t enough. The Under-18s continue their campaign with a cup tie away to Burton Albion on Tuesday 24 August.
Miguel Llera commended Carlisle on their strength while also praising his Young Saddlers.
“They are a good team that were always looking for second balls," Llera said.
"long balls and the physical part of the game. They proved that they were stronger than us.
“We have a really young team who are not fully developed. They have kept a similar squad to the one that finished second in the league last season. It was a strong squad. Our first years brought the fight to their second years. They are going to be near the top of the league this year.”