Posted by: Bescot Banter


On Wednesday evening a Walsall Football Club Select XI travelled the short distance to Chasetown to face the Scholars in the Saddlers' final pre-season fixture ahead of the 2014/15 Sky Bet League One season. Bescot Banter columnist Pete Sadler was there and he shares his views on the game below.
On Wednesday evening a Walsall Football Club Select XI travelled the short distance to Chasetown to face the Scholars in the Saddlers' final pre-season fixture ahead of the 2014/15 Sky Bet League One season. Bescot Banter columnist Pete Sadler was there, and he shares his views below.

So after the good performance from the first team, plus a smattering of fringe and youth players, yesterday versus Villa I have definitely got the Walsall bug back...not that it ever left of course! Keen to follow the progress of the rising talent which is becoming synonymous with the club, much to the delight of the Saddlers faithful, I made the trip with my bro to Chasetown to see a select XI take on the home side.

The starting line-up for the Super Saddlers contained yesterday's man of the match Liam Kinsella utilised in a central midfield position as opposed to the right-back spot he occupies with the first team, alongside captain for the day Jake Heath. Rico Henry started again at left-back, continuing on from his starting position versus Aston Villa, with the only other names I was familiar with being new signing Craig MacGillivray in the sticks and Amadou Bakayoko up top (not including Sam Ottley who started at right-back and I realised started following me on twitter on Saturday following the Mansfield game...cheers Sam, spread the word I'm great and semi-entertaining).

The game started at a decent pace and I was impressed with the following through of the ethos of technical and crisp passing from the first team, keeping the ball and switching it early. Maybe it's not everyone's cup of tea, I hear enough grumblings on the terraces, but I like it. Kinsella seemed to be able to drop deep to collect the ball from the back four and give the option of switching it wide or with intricate passes forward to Ama who held the ball up well, bringing others into play.

Other than the lads who have already featured for the main squad I was hugely impressed with the wide players; Rory Oliver who played on the right side of midfield and Kane Lewis on the left. Oliver seemed to always be positive on the ball, rarely losing possession and maintaining width by always being an outlet. Lewis on the opposite flank was a real creative threat going forward and worked tirelessly in all areas to press and win back possession. It was no surprise that the goal came from a near piece of skill from Kinsella on the near touchline before spraying the ball wide to Lewis, interchanging with Henry on the far side to cross low and provide a simple finish from striker Brendan Pooni. 1-0 to the Saddlers at the break.

After a trip to the gents, a walk round the pitch and a tray of chips (yes that's right chips at a footy ground...sort it out Walsall FC yeah?) the second half began with a number of changes, Kinsella leaving the fray at the break and Henry shortly after...but not before Ama was taken out by the opposition keeper trying to head-on a long ball over the oncoming keeper only to be denied by a covering defender. A slight re-shuffle on the left meant Lewis dropped into left-back and conceded a penalty virtually straight away. MacGillivray sparing his blushes with a fine stop from the resulting spot kick, which was follows up with further impressive stops; the best of which being a one-on-one save late on. A very good show from the reserve keeper shows promise for pushing O'Donnell to continue his fine form for the first team, or risk losing his starting place.

A raft of changes for the home side late on, matched by the Saddlers admittedly, lost the continuity of the game and nothing really caught my eye personally late on of note. My only criticism would be that there were opportunities to get more shots away and test the keeper which were not taken at times, instead allowing a flustered opposition to regain their composure and defensive lines, whilst we passed the ball backwards when in positions where we outnumbered the opponents. All in all though a decent performance and I look forward to see who kicks on from the current young crop.

F/T: Chasetown 0 Walsall XI 1 (Pooni)

Walsall XI: MacGillivray, Ottley, Henry, Kinsella, Probert, Smith, Oliver, Heath, Bakayoko, Pooni, Lewis 

Subs: Rowley, Roberts, Shakespeare, Delaney, Sangha, Jamie Smith, Reid, Kouuyar

By: Pete Sadler.
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