Walsall Reserves ended their Central League season on a high, sealing a narrow win over Huddersfield Town.
It was a game where the score perhaps didn’t tell the full story. The hosts dominated the major chances and, on another day, could have completed a rout.
A Saddlers team largely consisting of trialists made a bright start to the game, controlling much of the play and early exchanges. Huddersfield took ten minutes to get into the game, with Joe Littlewood having their first sighter. Walsall ‘keeper Zach Hedge failed to get enough distance on a punch from a corner, firing it straight into the path of the defender. He caught his shot on the volley, but Hedge was equal to it and made the save.
The Terriers could not hold Walsall back for long however, with Ronan Maher breaking their offside trap on the 20-minute mark. A good ball out from defence gave the forward the time and space needed to scream through, but a Huddersfield defender recovered well to block.
Just two minutes later, Hedge was called into action by Kyrece Lisbie. The pacey winger found space down Walsall’s left wing, but Hedge made a phenomenal double save to deny him. The second save fell back to Lisbie with an open goal to aim at, but his shot went into the side-netting.
Walsall’s trialists began to shine after half an hour, with Trialist D coming closest to scoring. Receiving the ball inside his own half, he charged through the Huddersfield midfield and reached their penalty area. A defender did recover, but Trialist D won the ball back and managed to shoot, but Josh Mazfari smothered the effort.
Jack Shaw, who made his first-team debut away to Colchester United on Saturday, then put Trialist C in minutes later. It was a looping ball over the defence that only Trialist C reacted to, but his powerful shot was saved well by Mazfari. Trialist C turned provider shortly before half time, perfectly teeing up Maher. He played a quick ball across the face of goal, but Mazfari was in a good position to save.
The hosts found time for one more chance before half time, with yet another trialist coming close. Trialist C had a powerful shot blocked, which fell to Trialist E on the edge of the box. The midfielder readied himself and let a venomous shot go, but it deflected agonisingly over for a corner.
Walsall started the second half in much the same way as they ended the first. Soon after the restart, Maher picked up the ball in midfield and looked to drive forward. He was brought down, but the referee rightly played the advantage and the ball fell to Trialist D. He threatened again from range, stinging the gloves of Mazfari from the edge of the box.
Despite having so many chances, The Saddlers had to wait until the 85th minute to find the breakthrough. Ronan Maher floated a corner towards the far post, with Trialist B rising highest to head home. It was no less than what they deserved given their earlier dominance.
It was a fine end to a turbulent season for Walsall Reserves, with attention now turning back to the first team for their clash with Swindon Town on Saturday 7 May.
Team: Hedge (GK), Trialist A, Trialist B, Leak, Shaw, Trialist C, Trialist D, Maher, Trialist E, Baldwin, Trialist F
Subs: Jackson (GK), Sawyers, Waddison, Cristofaro, Toor