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Under 18s: Walsall 1-1 Salford City

6 February 2023


Under 18s: Walsall 1-1 Salford City

6 February 2023

Ronan Maher scored a long-range strike to earn the Saddlers a point at home against Salford City.

Salford striker Ethan Smith opened the scoring in the first half but Maher was able to level the scoring midway through the second half.

The home side started slowly, which has become a worrying trend this season, but the game sparked into life 20 minutes in when Marvellous Onabirekhanlen hit a bobbling ball first-time high and wide from 30 yards out. 

Walsall seemed to gain confidence from this half-chance and had a flurry of attacks over the following ten minutes with none really troubling the Salford defence.

This confidence was quickly shut down by the visitors, only two places above Walsall in the league standings but eight points ahead with two games in hand. On 40 minutes Smith put his side in front with a precise finish. With the ball played through to him from midfield he held off the defender well and finished powerfully into the top-right corner.

On 54 minutes, Maher, the 18-year-old with six appearances in the first team this season, picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and struck a curling shot which gave the visiting keeper little chance to level up the match.

Maher’s equaliser gave his side a noticeable boost in confidence, with a golden opportunity coming towards the end of the game after some good pressing led to a shaky Salford back-pass, that was latched onto by Will Uchenna and almost amounted to a goal but was defended well in the end. 

A nervous final ten minutes from both teams saw them each cautious to attack but they defended well and there was nothing to separate them at the final whistle. 

Professional Development Phase Coach Ben King was pleased with the point and praised his players for the competitiveness of the game.

“We were just a little bit inconsistent first half and that was our conversation at half-time,” he said. 

“There were moments in the game where we did really well and we did create a few chances, we had four big chances and the biggest thing is we just didn’t take those chances which was frustrating.

“Ronan scored the goal which was a well taken goal, people worked harder, we got tighter on them [in the second half].

“They didn’t have many major chances in the second half, we didn’t have many major chances so it was a bit more even, but it was competitive and we were trying to push for the win, so yeah, pretty happy.”

King also shared his thoughts on Maher’s development and the benefits for him and his teammates from his time with the first team.

“I think it helps with the transition from youth football to senior football,” King said.

“It’s nice to see today for example, bit quiet first half maybe he’s a little bit rusty on certain things but second half obviously, he gets the goal and grafted and worked hard. 

 “I think for the rest of the lads it’s good to see players that have got a professional contract, how they work, how they act.

“It’s them seeing what they need to do to gain that contract. I think it’s a win-win for everyone.”

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