Walsall Under-18s fell to defeat in a well-fought thriller against Oldham Athletic.
Five goals in the first half saw the hosts succumb to a 3-2 loss to the visitors, whose three goals came within a seven-minute period.
Walsall began the match on the front foot, dominating the opening stages of play. Callum Derry got the Young Saddlers off the mark with a composed finish past Alfie Brindley-Smith. The goal came after merely seven minutes. Owen Watkins breezed past the Latics defence before setting up Derry for a simple finish.
The hosts nearly doubled their lead straight from kick-off. Derry stole the ball from the Oldham defence before charging towards goal. His low-strike beat Brindley-Smith in goal, however rolled just wide of the post.
The Latics were on the back-foot and searching for an equaliser. Their first chance fell to Kane Badby, who split the Walsall defence with a darting run. Tommy Jackson was quick to react, though, and stand tall to block the forward’s shot.
There was a strong unity within the Young Saddlers defence. They had been on top throughout the opening 30 minutes and looked dominant in the air, it was going to take some luck to get past them. Unfortunately, that is what happened. Koffi Moore’s strike from just within the penalty area rebounded off of the post and onto Rio Sawyers, who could do nothing but watch as the ball rolled into the net.
The response was quick from the hosts, though. Just a minute later they pinned the Oldham defence into their box before Derry fired the ball into the back of the net, this was just what was needed.
However, although it seemed the Young Saddlers would be going into the break with the lead, the game was turned on its head as the Latics struck twice just before half-time. A combination of a Jim Simms penalty and a Moore shot from close-range turned the tides in favour of the visitors.
The second half was extremely lacklustre compared to the first. Neither side could grab a hold on the game and failed to build on what they had previously done.
Fraser Cookson came close with a free-header in the box, Aaron Atkinson had a long-ranged effort saved and Badby continued to drive at the Walsall defence, but that was it for the visitors. The Young Saddlers’ equalising chances fell towards the end of the match. A flurry of demanding corners aerially challenged Cookson and Damon Park, but it did not reap any rewards.
Walsall Under-18s next match is against Shrewsbury Town in the Youth Alliance Cup.