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Under 18s: Walsall 3-1 Port Vale

19 March 2024


Under 18s: Walsall 3-1 Port Vale

19 March 2024

Charlie Wragg bagged a brace to win all three points for Walsall Under 18s against Port Vale.

A first half double from the striker gave the Young Saddlers their first league win since October, in the reverse fixture away at Vale.

For the second time in a week, Wragg scored within ten minutes with Jaiy Leydon chipping a ball over the defence for Wragg to run onto, before he rounded the keeper and passed into an empty net.

Port Vale equalised soon after through Clayton Malbon, on 28 minutes. The winger received the ball in his stride outside the box and took a touch to set himself before shooting at the near post. Jenson Kilroy in goal got a hand to the ball but was not able to keep it out.

Kilroy was able to redeem his earlier mistake on the stroke of half-time, six minutes into time added on. From a free-kick in his box he launched it towards Wragg who controlled it on a dime. The number nine twisted and turned around two defenders and the goalkeeper and finished for his second of the day.

The referee allowed the game to be restarted but blew his whistle immediately and the teams went into the break, with Walsall much the happier side.

The Saddlers started the second period as they ended the first, on the front foot.

On 57 minutes Jackson Preece picked the ball up just inside the attacking half and went on a silky run before crossing the ball into the box. It was deflected by a Port Vale defender but unfortunately for him it came straight off his shin and arrowed into his own goal, doubling Walsall’s lead to make it 3-1.

Walsall battled resiliently for the rest of the game and held on to claim all three points in another impressive performance.

Professional Development Phase Coach Ryan Simmonds was pleased with the win but adamant that the development and performance of his players is more important.

“We’ve said all season it’s about development and that winning doesn’t matter,” he said.

“People would say no, you’re lying and I’m not, but winning is nice, of course it is. Everyone wants to win. But it’s not win at all costs, it’s winning in the right way to suit the club's values and the club's principles.

“The boys were excellent today, from everyone that came on the pitch, everyone that started, really good solid performance today.”

He also spoke on the number of players that have played under him this year.

“At this time of year, we’re blessed that we’ve got the under 16’s that we are giving scholarships to next year, we also had a few trialists in,” he commented.

“We’ve got the second years coming back from loan, things like that. So you’re able to adjust and it doesn’t matter who’s coming in and who’s playing, they know that the values, the principles of everything stay the same. That’s what’s key to having a squad because it shouldn’t really matter who comes in.

“Then the boy Will Hetheridge came on for his debut, I think it’s the fourth Under 15 that we’ve been able to give a debut this season which is just amazing, I don’t think there’s many other academies that are doing that, so it’s just really pleasing from a development point of view as well.

“We changed personnel, changed shape and the boys showed how intelligent they’re becoming, in a football sense, to be allowed to change the shape and it not look like a problem, I thought they were amazing at that.”

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