Checkatrade Trophy | Walsall Win Against Weakened West Brom

Jon Whitney's Walsall faced West Bromwich Albion's Under-21s in their opening group game of this season's Checkatrade Trophy.
Jon Whitney's Walsall were back in action on Tuesday evening as they played host to West Bromwich Albion's Under-21s in the opening group game of this season's Checkatrade Trophy competition. Here is our brief match report.

L.Roberts; Kinsella, K.Roberts, Guthrie, Leahy; Morris, Flanagan, Kouhyar, Ismail; Bakayoko, Agyei

Substitutes | Gillespie; Devlin, Sangha, O'Sullivan, Shorrock, Mason, Candlin
Palmer, Soleman, Ferguson, Jameson, Melbourne, Clayton-Phillips, Bradley, Chambers, Field, Tulloch, Morton

Substitutes | House, Rogers, McCourt, Harmon, Pierce, Azaz, Healy

The Saddlers, who had voted against a return to the current format of the competition, named a strong side as, thanks to the rules of the competition, manager Jon Whitney was only allowed to change four outfielders and the goalkeeper from the last competitive match, although other rules do allow for further chances, which he took advantage of.

West Brom named a weakened squad as their first-team will be facing Manchester City in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening, leaving Professional Development Phase Coach James Shan with a selection headache.

Walsall started the game well, seeing plenty of the ball and, following an early stoppage for a clash of heads involving on-loan Burnley striker Dan Agyei, were in control of the tie creating plenty of attacking moves as their young opponents looked to get into the match.

The Saddlers had several efforts on goal in the opening stages as Zeli Ismail, Kieron Morris, Dan Agyei and Amadou Bakayoko all took aim before the mid-way point in the first-half, but were all denied by a combination of defensive strength, poor aim and/or a lack of space in front of goal.

There was the odd danger sign at the other end for the men in red as a rare Baggies attack almost resulted in the opening goal after around twenty-three minutes of play as Alex Bradley broke forward and sent a lobbed effort just over the crossbar as Liam Roberts struggled to get back on his line.

The first-half looked to be heading for a goalless conclusion, however sixteen year-old striker Rayhaan Tulloch struck late on to send his side into the break in the lead as he was on the end of an Aram Soleman cross, Maz Kouhyar, who had seen an effort of his own tipped over the bar some ten minutes earlier, beaten for pace as Soleman broke free to get the ball into the box.


The second-half started off slowly but would burst into life after around nine minutes of play as flame-haired midfielder Reece Flanagan cut the ball inside and unleashed a right-footed effort from just outside the area. His shot flying into the corner as the Saddlers got back on level terms.

Walsall almost went into the lead a few minutes after they levelled the scores as Kieron Morris rose well to meet Liam Kinsella's cross but could only head the ball onto the crossbar as the scores remained all-square.

The Saddlers went into the lead with just over fifteen minutes of the game remaining as Deadline Day arrival Zeli Ismail fired home from Kieron Morris' floated cross. A superb pass from Reece Flanagan to find Morris in space as the Saddlers got themselves in front.

With around ten minutes of the second-half remaining Walsall would put the game beyond their opponents as Luke Leahy's cross-come-shot got the best of Baggies 'keeper Alex Palmer who was beaten at his near post.

There were no further goals in the game as the Saddlers opened their group campaign with an (eventually) comfortable win.

Flanagan (54') Ismail (73') Leahy (80') // Tulloch (45+3')
REFEREE | Darren Handley
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