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Under 17s kick off campaign with victory over Grimsby Town

30 August 2023


Under 17s kick off campaign with victory over Grimsby Town

30 August 2023

Walsall Academy Manager Rob Williams saw a lot of positives both collectively and individually as the Under 17s kicked off their Floodlit Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over Grimsby Town.

Dylan Thomas and Will Etheridge were on the scoresheet for the Saddlers in a close encounter.

Williams was pleased with how the players approached the match and with how the group gelled together quickly.

“It was a really positive start to their competitive season,” Williams said.

“It’s been a tough start for the Under 18s as a whole group but there are so many positives from the game. We were aggressive, we were on the front foot and scored two really good goals so it was a really strong performance and so many positives in not just the performance but individual players.

“It was the first competitive game for the Under 17s group since the back end of last season so it was a bit of a mix and match of the Under 17s first year scholars and the Under 16s so potential scholars moving forward. They haven’t played together much although they have trained together a lot.”

Just seven days before yesterday’s match against Grimsby, Thomas came off the bench to make his professional debut against Brighton and Hove Albion Under 21s for the first team.

It’s been quite the week for the 16-year-olld but Williams highlighted the importance of the journey for the academy players and the rollercoaster of emotions forming part of their development.

“It’s a tough but interesting time for the young players,” Williams commented.

“You go from playing 15 minutes with the first team on Tuesday night, to getting your GCSE results on Thursday and then playing in the Under 17s on the following Tuesday but that’s part of the challenge of a young player and managing the highs and lows, the dips and the troughs of being a young player.

“There were some standout performances and Dylan was one of them and he should be as one of the stronger players in the group. Looking beyond that, I’m looking at players as potential scholars for next season some of the Under 16s, Stan Straw, Marley Roberts and Will Etheridge, three of them who performed really well yesterday so thinking about where we are and moving forward, some real positives individually to take.

“Winning a game is great and they needed to win a game because it’s good for them but it’s clearly not all about winning that game, it’s about the individuals in that game and the pathway we provide for them to potentially become a player for Mat moving forward.”

Walsall Under 18s

Elsewhere, Walsall Under 18s are still searching for their first victory of the season after they fell to a 4-2 defeat against Accrington Stanley writes Sam Kauffmann.

Jaiy Leydon scored twice to level the scores before the break following Accrington Stanley’s early lead, but the away side were clinical in the second half to claim the victory.

Accrington right back Brad Kelly sneaked in at the back post on 11 minutes and tapped the ball in to score the visitors first of the day.

Just three minutes later, following a cleared corner, the ball was swung back in and Charlie Hall doubled the Reds' lead, directing a header past the helpless George Barrett in goal.

This sparked something for Walsall, with Leydon scoring the game’s third in the space of six minutes. Piers Juliff pulled the ball back to his teammate from the touchline and Leydon took a touch before placing it into the bottom corner.

The next goal, thirty minutes in, followed the home side’s first real period of possession. Leydon picked the ball up in the box, beat a defender with his first touch and slotted home with his second. This led to confidence shooting up and heavy pressure on the visitors' goal.

With the scores level at the break, Walsall came out confident but it was quickly brought down as The Reds regained their lead on 51 minutes with the ball bundled past Barrett following a scuffle in the box.

On 77 minutes the away side recovered their two-goal lead with a shot from the edge of the box after it was crossed back in, following Walsall clearing a corner.

The game proceeded to fizzle out as neither team was able to fashion any real chances.

Professional Development Phase Coach Ryan Simmonds was disappointed with the defeat but also saw the positives.

“I’ve said to the boys in the changing room that yes, we’re disappointed with the defeat, but not as disappointed as we were against Blackpool or Carlisle because for 35 minutes in the first half, when we scored our two goals the level was so high and the intensity was so high," he said.

“So there’s plenty of positives to go with the defeat.”

 He also spoke on the importance of a first win.

“You always want your first win. It breeds confidence. If you lose to many it breeds negativity.

“The boys are training so well at the moment. Their intensity levels in training, its more than they’ve ever been asked to do. So what happens in games as we’ve seen today, for 35 minutes they’re a better level than Accrington.

“They’re young so they make mistakes and we train every day to try and stop these mistakes, but ultimately it’s down to the boys on the pitch to feel the game, to feel the moment and to execute the action.”

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