Walsall Under-18s put up a spirited display against Port Vale in the EFL Youth Alliance at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday, earning a point in the process.
Despite Walsall’s early pressure, neither side could break the deadlock, as the match ended in a goalless draw. Both teams orchestrated a dominant defence, which meant there was a lack of clear-cut opportunities.
Vale began to grow into the game in the latter stages of the first-half. A consistent flurry of set-pieces caused a potential overload into the Walsall box, but a controlling performance from Rio Sawyers in defence stopped any oncoming Port Vale players.
The Saddlers’ first chance fell to Ronan Maher. After Callum Derry beat his opposing man with a quick piece of footwork, he played the ball back into the box - just evading the oncoming Maher. Apart from that, there were very little early chances. Neither side could gain the upper-hand in midfield; it became a scrappy battle thereon.
With the commencement of the second-half, the match picked-up where the first-half ended. Walsall’s Josh Simcox came close with a shot from just inside the box following the corner, but that is all the Saddlers could muster in the opening stages of the second-half.
Tommy Jackson was tested by a quick free kick routine from Port Vale. A short pass to the edge of the box was played, which set their fullback up for a shot. Jackson matched the strike with a fine save, parrying it wide of the goal.
With around 15 minutes remaining, substitute Lucas Edwards made a darting run forward with the ball. He skipped past two oncoming Port Vale defenders, and it looked like he was destined to shoot. However, a last-ditch challenge meant that the ball went behind for a corner, which was easily dealt with by the keeper.
The final chance of the match fell in the last minute of injury time. Piers Juliff’s lobbed attempt beat the Port Vale keeper, before bouncing just over the goal, sealing the match as a draw.
The Saddlers will hope to build on this draw in their next fixture, which is away to Shrewsbury Town on Saturday 5th February.