MATCH REPORT | Stafford Rangers 3 Walsall 2

Walsall continued their build towards the 2017/18 campaign as a young Saddlers side took on Stafford Rangers at Marston Road.
On Wednesday evening a youthful Saddlers XI travelled to Marston Road to take on Stafford Rangers in the latest friendly fixture ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. We were in attendance, and our brief match report is below.

The match got underway at Marston Road and Stafford Rangers were quick to launch an assault on the Walsall goal, but Dan Westwood's second minute effort from the right of the box sailed over the bar without troubling Liam Roberts. The early frenetic pace didn't last long, as both teams settled into the game, each enjoying some good prolonged spells of possession.

A little after the game reached the quarter hour mark, a headed clearance from Kory Roberts was picked up the prolific Westwood, but the striker's effort cleared the bar by some distance. The hosts continued to attack the Saddlers goal and the pressure paid off in the twenty first minute; a lovely strike from Louis Briscoe finding it's way into the net via the crossbar.

Buoyed by their goal, it took just three minutes for the hosts to find a second, as Westwood found the target, turning a lovely ball into the box past Liam Roberts who was powerless to stop it. The Saddlers, keen to get a foothold back in the game, showed more forward prowess following the two Stafford goals, and thirty two minutes in, Jordon Sangha won a corner for his side when a shot on goal was deflected behind. The ball was swung into the box and Milan Butterfield got his head to it, but the Bermudian midfielder was unable to control his effort and the ball sailed over the bar.

As we headed into the final five minutes of the half, Levi Reid almost further extended his sides lead, but his effort didn't worry Liam Roberts as it cleared the bar. The Saddlers, keen to get a goal back before the break, were quick to get the ball back up the other end, in a move which culmintaed in a low effort from Mitchel Candlin being deflected behind for a corner, which Rangers cleared. Moments later, on the cusp of the referee's whistle, Cameron Peters almost found a late goal back for his side, but Adam Whitehouse was equal to it and held well, ensuring Stafford kept their two goal advantage heading into the interval.


Walsall started the second half brightly, with Will Shorrock, who was offered a professional contract with the club at the end of last season, firing a twenty five yard effort inches over the bar, just three minutes in. The game then settled again, with both sides happy to enjoy spells of possession as they looked to build attacks from the middle of the park.

The Saddlers had the ball in the back of the net, ten minutes into the half, when Candlin and Tobias Hayles-Docherty combined to set up Peters who turned the ball home, but the flag was raised alerting the referee to an offside infringement from the goalscorer, and the goal was disallowed. The hosts launched an immediate counter, winning themselves a corner as the ball was deflected behind. The ball in from the flag-kick was a good one, finding the head of Michael Batchelor, who nodded home to put his side three goals to the good.

There was some good skill on show from the young Saddlers, who kept the ball well and demonstrated some lovely passing play at times, but their finishing lacked accuracy, something which became increasingly frustrating as the match wore on, with countless attacks culminating in off target shots. The game became something of a midfield battle as we headed into the final half hour, with Stafford seemingly content to hold onto their lead and slow the pace a little as they began to make changes to their line-up, allowing more players to enjoy a run-out.

With twenty minutes still to play, the Saddlers almost got a goal back, when Hayles-Docherty broke free of his marker and fired a good looking effort in, but Whitehouse was alert and cleared the danger. Three minutes later, Walsall were more successful in their endeavours, with Candlin firing a superb twenty five yard effort past Whitehouse.

The Saddlers continued to press as they looked to get a second goal back. It took them eight minutes, but after some good build-up play, Candlin was eventually able to convert a second time, turning home a cross into the box from substitute, Cody Fisher. Keen to find an equaliser, the boys from the Banks's continued to push forward, testing Whitehouse. The Stafford 'keeper did well to keep his sides, now slender, lead intact, pulling off a remarkable move to deny Fisher in the eighty third minute.

Whitehouse's efforts in goal paid off as his side saw out the remainder of the match without incident. A decent performance from the young Saddlers, who enjoyed some good spells on the ball, who although disappointed not to win, will take much away from the tough pre-season challenge, not least two good goals from Mitch Candlin.

Briscoe (21'); Westwood (24'); Batchelor (57')

Candlin (74',81')

REFEREE | Mr. Steve Martin (Staffordshire)
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