Walsall Under-18s cruised to a fourth successive win after a 3-1 victory over Port Vale in the EFL Youth Alliance.
Walsall stormed into an early lead thanks to a brilliant Ade Francis header before a bullet of a free kick from Ben Dallaywaters doubled Young Saddlers’ advantage.
Port Vale pulled one back with 15 minutes remaining before Saif Mukadam settled the contest in added time with a sweet strike.
The first half was dominated from by the hosts, although chances were fairly hard to come by.
A first chance for Walsall came when Dallaywaters‘ free kick struck from distance rattled the post, falling to Tommy Parker.
However, with the goal at his mercy, Parker was unable to keep his effort down and ballooned over the bar.
However, Walsall soon made their dominance pay after 12 minutes when Joe Foulkes and Jayden Campbell interchanged well before the latter played a through ball down the line which Foulkes latched onto following an overlapping run. Foulkes then curled in a delightful first-time cross from the byline to put the ball on a plate for Francis.
Francis then made no mistake with the header, powering it past the stranded goalkeeper.
Just 10 minutes later, defender Dallaywaters stood over a free kick in a similar position to one he thundered against the post previously.
This time, he fired an effort across goal which whistled past the sprawling goalkeeper and darted into the top corner, doubling Young Saddlers’ lead in emphatic style.
As the half wore on, Walsall continued to dominate the ball while struggling to create many big openings.
With the half time whistle closing in, a penalty area scramble cleared the ball only as far as Jayden Allamby-John who perfectly pirouetted to lose his marker before clattering a shot straight off the crossbar and behind.
As the second half began, there was a visible drop in intensity from both teams as Walsall worked to consolidate their impressive lead.
The half meandered towards the hour-mark almost eventless before a defensive mishap allowed the Port Vale striker in on goal.
His first effort was brilliantly saved by Lewis Walker and the goalkeeper was up sharply to produce an even better reflex save to send the ball behind for a corner and keep Walsall’s lead intact.
With just 15 minutes to go, a speculative hit from range wrong-footed Walker and nestled into the corner to half the deficit for Port Vale and ensured a tense final 15 minutes for Young Saddlers.
However, the points were made safe just seconds from the end when Campbell led a counterattack through the middle before feeding Mukadam into the left-hand side of the box.
The midfielder took one touch before firing a low effort across goal into the far corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
Miguel Llera appeared impressed by the impact his defenders had on the goals, with a goal and an assist coming from the back line, stating:
“As you saw, the back four is very technical. I’m really pleased to see a centre back [Dallaywaters] scoring goals.
“His main job is defending, but when he does score it is a massive plus to the team.
“Defensively they have to cut out the sloppiness because at certain times we were quite sloppy. Maybe they just had a little too much confidence.
“But of course, overall I am very happy with their performances.”