Central League: Walsall 2 Rotherham United 1

Walsall's development team were back in Central League action on Tuesday afternoon as they played host to Rotherham United Reserves at Banks's Stadium.
The match was played on the 4G pitch behind the HomeServe Stand at Banks's Stadium as the pitch at the Birmingham City FA's headquarters on Ray Hall Lane remains in poor condition due to a combination of several fixtures and recent bad weather.

Walsall development coach Brian Dutton named a fairly young team with the first-teamers Jack Rose, Kory Roberts, Alfie Bates and James Hardy also among the starters as they look to force their way back into contention.

Walsall XI: Rose; Coogan, Lynch, K.Roberts, Zona, Bates, Nolan, Hardy, Candlin, McSkeane, Pearce

Substitutes: Walker; J.Perry, Sharpe, Francis, Campbell
Rotherham United XI: Bilboe; Makwedza, Hull, Spence, Scott; Hodgkinson, Beeden, Peel-Evans, Kenny; McGuckin, Greaves

Substitutes: Farrar, Millen, Hanley, Salah, Wenham

The first attacking move of note went the Saddlers' way as midfielder James Hardy did well to read the flight of the ball following a poor clearance before bringing the ball down with his chest and sending an effort over the bar.

Sadly for the Saddlers they would soon fall behind as Northern Ireland schoolboy and Under-17s international midfielder Ciaran McGuckin was on hand to slot past on-loan Southampton stopper Jack Rose to put the Millers into the lead.

Walsall were able to level the scores shortly after the match reaches the midway point in the first-half as highly-rated striker Luke Pearce - who continues to battle for a place in the first-team - slotted the ball past Millers stopper Laurence Bilboe, putting his team back on level terms.

The Saddlers' next goal-scoring opportunity fell the way of recently-signed former Reading winger Jack Nolan, with the left-footed wideman seeing a free-kick take a deflection and slip just wide of Bilboe's goal with the scores remaining tied.

Walsall were soon back in attack and saw another effort drift past the post as strikers Mitchel Candlin, who recently returned from a loan spell with Nuneaton Borough, and Alex McSkeane combined to see the latter's header go just wide of goal.

1 - 1

The Saddlers' next opportunity came via a link-up between youth strikers Alex McSkeane and Luke Pearce with McSkeane's cross finding Pearce in space, but sadly the youngster could only guide his header over the bar.

There was a fairly lengthy pause in play shortly after the match reached the hour mark as Jerome Greaves recieved the physio's attention before ultimately being stretchered off the field of play.

Walsall were able to put themselves into the lead shortly after play had resumed as defender Danny Coogan saw his cross bundled home by unfortunate Millers defender Jake Hull as the Saddlers went ahead.

Rotherham thought they'd levelled the scores with just over ten minutes of normal time remaining as  Luke Hodgkinson broke free before seeing a shot superbly saved by Rose, the on-loan Saint stretching out a hand to deny the visitors.

The Saddlers went on to make a change as Ade Francis replaced Luke Pearce, some welcome fresh legs for Duttons' team.

Rose wasn't allowed to bask in the glory of his superb save as he soon back in action with Ethan Kenny forcing him into a save, this time the stopper protected his goal with his legs as the Saddlers remained in the lead.

The Saddlers' next change saw Alex McSkeane make way for Jayden Campbell as the match continued.

Summer signing James Hardy continued in his quest to grab a goal as he forced 'keeper Bilboe into a save with just a minute of normal time remaining. The stopper was equal to the effort but it was a save which had to be made.

Shortly after Hardy's effort, substitute Campbell showed some neat control as he broke in off the left wing before curling an effort just past the post. Nice burst of pace from the newly blooded attacker.

There were no further goals as the Saddlers earned a rare win in the Central League, on to Saturday when Port Vale come to town!

2 - 1
Pearce (22')
Hull [OG] (76')
McGuckin (9')

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