We caught up with Professional Development Phase Coach Ben King to discuss the Under 18s’ most recent outing against Shrewsbury Town and how the team are progressing.
WALSALL 1-1 SHREWSBURY
Walsall Under 18s picked up their first point of the campaign against Shrewsbury Town last weekend.
Noel Angafor netted for the Saddlers who came from behind to earn a draw after a determined display.
Professional Development Phase Coach Ben King was pleased with the performance and how the team competed.
“It was good, it was a competitive game and we were really happy,” he said.
“We went in to the game saying we needed to win the duels in the air, work hard and stick to our game plan. We knew Shrewsbury would be looking to press us aggressively and we knew they were going to try and play.
“Although in the first minute of the game we made a mistake and conceded, what was nice is that we battled hard and it was a good game in terms of competing for the ball. What’s nice is we won a lot of the first balls and we won a lot of the second balls. It showed that we really wanted to win the game.
“Going in to the second half, it was nice to get the goal from a free-kick. We had other chances in the game as well and we were thinking that we might be able to nick this right at the end with a couple of chances where Arjun has been in the box and we’ve had a corner where we’ve just put it wide.
“We limited Shrewsbury for the most part in terms of chances, they got down the wings a couple of times but we had two under 16s playing as both as our full-backs with Dan Baldwin and Rio Sawyers who were still out with concussion at the time but the Under 16s have stepped up and what a fantastic experience that is. I was really pleased with the performance, the fight and the battling of the players.”
The squad has been a bit thin lately following Ronan Maher's progression to the first team and having Baldwin and Sawyers missing since the opening game of the season with injury but King was able to provide a positive update on their condition.
“They’re back in now,” he confirmed.
“We’ve missed them for a few games as they’ve had to complete concussion protocol. They’ve had a couple of weeks off and I think they had a tough time to start but they’re back in training now and they’ll be back doing some friendly games as well to go from there.”
The Under 18s aren’t in action again until Saturday 10th September when they take on Accrington Stanley in the EFL Youth Alliance and King has welcomed the opportunity to work with the players on the training pitch and use last weekend’s draw as a base to build from.
“It’s exciting and we’ve got to use the result and performance as part of the process to build over the next two weeks.”
“We had a couple of tougher games and got thrown a few curve balls in those first few games which made it tough.
“Last season we didn’t really deal with the curve balls, this season we fought back and had a performance against Shrewsbury and been able to work on these things and really build from here.”