Walsall U18s got back to winning ways against Notts County in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup and are now two wins from two in the competition.
After missing a penalty five minutes prior, a Charlie Wragg goal with 10 minutes to go saw the home side come out on top in a game where each goalkeeper saved a penalty.
Walsall struck first through another goal from Jaiy Leydon, his eighth of the season, half an hour in. A Dan Clarkson cutback from the touchline fell perfectly to Leydon in the box who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Neither side were able to fashion any clear-cut chances in the minutes that followed and so the first half came to a close with all the action to come.
On 57 minutes the action came as Walsall were unable to clear a corner and gave away a penalty. Zac Denman stepped up for The Magpies, but hit it with little power, making the save easy for Jenson Kilroy who guessed correctly and dived down to his left.
On 70 minutes however, James Sanderson got the equaliser for the away side, courtesy of some pinball in the box following a corner.
Just five minutes later, Clarkson won a penalty, after his cross hit a defender’s arm. Wragg stepped up for The Saddlers and hit the ball with power to Joshua Murtagh’s right, but Murtagh was able to palm away.
Wragg made up for his earlier mistake with a goal 81 minutes in. Captain Dylan Thomas won the ball in his own half and started a counter-attack by playing a long ball through to Leydon. With the goalkeeper rushing out he only just kept the ball but did not have the opportunity to shoot as defenders got back. It was laid back to Wragg on the edge of the box who smashed it past the players on the line with no hesitation.
The teams played out a tense final ten minutes, with Notts having a couple of chances to tie the game, but Walsall were able to keep them out and maintain their 100% record in the cup.
Professional Development Phase Coach Ryan Simmonds was pleased with the result and how his squad played.
“I wish we could play this cup every week, it seems to get the best out of the boys,” he said.
“It was a good win, started well like we did last week. We score a very good goal through Jaiy, switching the ball which you need to do against a 5-3-2. Switching the ball early to Dan, Dan makes a pass, runs forward, everything that he’s been taught by Duane (Youth Development Phase Coach Duane Allen) in the 16’s, gets onto the ball and a great cross from the kid and a great finish from Jaiy.”
Simmonds had nothing but praise for his players who showed the resilience to come out with a win, singling a handful out.
“The mentality was different,” he said.
“Tom Cox and Stan Straw are the reason why we win that game. Because of the amount of blocks they made in the second half, their constant organisation and talking to people. Zak (Poskitt) played out of position at left back, an under 16 (Dan Clarkson) playing at right back, that’s why we win the game today.
“Yes, Charlie and Jaiy will get the plaudits for scoring a goal and Dylan for another great performance, but we win the game because Tom and Stan are prepared to do the horrible stuff that people don’t like doing in football.”
When asked about Stan Straw, Simmonds seemed especially excited by his potential.
“Stan’s an outstanding centre-half. We think really highly of Stan, he’s only just turned 15, but his mentality is that of a 22-year-old man, he’s like a leader and we’re really excited to see Stan flourish over the next year.”