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Development Squad

Report: Saddlers reach final of Walsall Senior Cup

4 May 2023

Development Squad

Report: Saddlers reach final of Walsall Senior Cup

4 May 2023

Walsall left it late to make it through to the final of the Walsall Senior Cup with a 2-1 win against Heath Hayes.

Ronan Maher finished off a slick counter attack with just five minutes to go to give his team the lead for the second time on the night and win the game.

The Saddlers started strongly and took the lead five minutes in. Captain Ollie Jones played a diagonal ball over the top of the Heath Hayes defence from centre-back, which Heath Hayes defender Matthew O’Doherty tried to chest back to his keeper. Maher capitalised on the mistake and got to the ball before Adam Jenkins in the net did, flicking the ball over him and into the empty net.

Shortly before half-time, Tom Cox spurned a golden opportunity to double the lead from a corner. He did well to lose his marker and meet the ball well but was only able to put his header wide of the post. 

Ten minutes into the second half Sam Perry went on a marauding run from defensive midfield and found himself one-on one with Jenkins. He kept his cool but failed to score, with Jenkins standing tall and blocking the shot, keeping his side in the game. 

Jay Brown equalised for the hosts on 78 minutes, through a header from a corner. The midfielder rose well and headed powerfully, giving George Barrett in goal little chance.

Five minutes later the home side won another corner, which was defended well. Will Uchenna found himself with the ball at his feet on the edge of his own box and took off running, with defenders snapping at his heels. After getting as far as he could, he offloaded to Marvellous Onabirekhanlen, who played a ball over the top to Dylan Thomas on the right wing. Thomas beat a defender and passed to Maher who cut inside another defender and hit a shot from the edge of the box which nestled in the bottom left corner. 

This led to a nervous final ten minutes including stoppage time for the Saddlers, but they managed it well by rarely losing the ball, leading to huge celebrations as the referee blew for full-time. 

Academy Manager Rob Williams thought the players did well to play against men, and is excited for their opportunity in the final next week.

“Overall, I think we deserved it, we were way better than them,” he said.

“The big bits are I think, we had a team that’s not played together before. Ram’s [Maher] obviously been around a little bit but the 16s haven’t played with him before and Taylor Allen we get today and Sam Perry trained with us on Monday, so they’ve not been together. But having them does help, because it gives you a bit of experience, it gives you a calm head.

"And it’s difficult for 16, 17-year-old kids to play against men no matter what the level of the men’s game is, it’s very different to what they’re used to. 

“The amount of learning and the value in it tonight for them is incredible. I thought our boys did great and I’m really pleased for them and proud of them.”

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