Walsall Player/Coach Mat Sadler was proud of the players who featured in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Preston North End in the Central League.
Despite facing a Preston side with a number of experienced Championship and former Premier League players in it, the Saddlers took the lead through a trialist before their resistance was broken in the second half when Brad Potts levelled.
Walsall had a mixture of first team, young pros and academy players involved in the game and Sadler was delighted with how they all performed to earn a draw against a strong outfit.
“I was very proud of the boys,” he said.
“It was sweltering heat, we had three first years start the fixture in amongst some young pros and a couple of trialists so it was very much a team that we put out which on paper, was inferior to them.
“They had a centre-forward who has gone for millions of pounds in transfer fees in his career and their team was littered with players that I’ve played against and they’re full-fledged, Championship players so to come away with a 1-1 draw under all those circumstances, especially the heat, I was proud as punch – they were fantastic.
“The experiences that some of those young boys faced yesterday will stand them in such good stead moving and improving further on in their career.
“I’d like to highlight Noel (Angafor) the centre-half having to deal with two lads who have gone for millions in their career. You’re talking about an academy scholar who dealt admirably against the pair of them. Yes, there were times when they got the better of him but there were other times when he got the better of them so it will be a fantastic learning curve for him. Ronan Maher, played fantastically well and Marvellous (Onabirekhanlen) lead the line really well against some accomplished defenders."
As well as the academy players involved, first team players Jack Rose, Tom Leak, Alfie Bates, Zak Mills, Joe Willis and Danny Coogan also featured against the Lilywhites.
Sadler felt it was important they got minutes in their legs and an opportunity to impress Head Coach Matt Taylor, who attended the match, ahead of a busy period.
“We’ve got games coming up which those lads will feature in,” Sadler commented.
“The squad in the way that it is means that everyone’s going to get their opportunity so games like yesterday are vital for them to prepare themselves for when they do go in.
“Zak Mills has played first team this season, Tom Leak has played in the first team this season, Alfie Bates played a number of games last season, he’ll be looking to stamp his mark on the first team in the coming weeks so it was an opportunity to show the Head Coach who was there watching what they’re about.”