Walsall 1 Aston Villa 1: All Square in WS1 Walsall 1 Aston Villa 1: All Square in WS1
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Walsall 1 Aston Villa 1: All Square in WS1

Here is our Match Report from the Saddlers' pre-season meeting with Aston Villa.
Looking to build upon their midweek triumph over Leamington, the Saddlers welcomed Unai Emery and his Aston Villa side to Poundland Bescot Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

With his squad looking to build fitness ahead of their opening League Two clash with Morecambe in a couple of weeks' time, Mat Sadler named a strong line-up, which included a few trialists and fringe prospects.

The game took a little while to settle down, with the first real opening not arriving until the ninth minute as Aston Villa attacker Emi Buendia saw an effort deflect past Owen Evans' post and behind.

The visitors continued to enjoy the lion's share of the ball and were able to create the next opening of note as Ollie Watkins' cross rolled across the face of the Walsall goal as an onrushing Aaron Ramsey was unable to get on the end of the pass.

The first goal of the game arrived shortly after the half-hour mark, and, despite the visitors looking marginally the more threatening of the two, it was Walsall that opened the scoring as Danny Johnson put the ball beyond Filip Marschall after the visitors failed to clear a Chris Hussey corner.

Sadly for the Saddlers, their lead didn't make it to the break as Ollie Watkins was able to level the scores from the penalty spot after Jaden Philogene's attacking drive forced the Walsall backline into an error with Watkins sending Evans the wrong way.

HALF-TIME
WALSALL 1-1 ASTON VILLA

Both managers made changes at the break, with Oisin McEntee, Danny Johnson, and Freddie Draper being replaced by Joe Riley, Jamille Matt, and Douglas James-Taylor for Walsall, while Villa saw Josh Feeney, Tim Iroegbunam, and Aaron Ramsey replaced by Ezri Konsa, Calum Chambers, and Morgan Sanson.

Not a lot happened in the opening stages of the second-half, though the Saddlers were dealt something of a blow as substitute Douglas James-Taylor was forced off with an injury as C.Trialist took his place in the side.

The first real effort on goal of the half went the way of the visitors as, after Morgan Sanson's deflected effort resulted in a corner, Matty Cash sent a shot well over Owen Evans' crossbar and towards the busy motorway behind the away stand.

Walsall's first opening of the second forty-five came at around the hour mark as a corner kick was sent into the box, where Jamille Matt climbed highest but couldn't get a meaningful touch with the ball going wide of goal.

The two managers were soon considering their options once again as Liam Gordon, Donervon Daniels, Priestley Farquharson, Isaac Hutchinson, Tom Knowles, Chris Hussey were replaced by Joe Foulkes, Ronan Maher, B.Trialist, Taylor Allen, D.Trialist, Tom Owen for the Saddlers.

Villa's changes saw Filip Marschall, Matty Cash, Diego Carlos, Lucas Digne, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Douglas Luiz, Emiliano BuendΓ­a, and Ollie Watkins make way for Viljami Sinisalo, Lemare Bogarde, Ben Chrisene, Kadan Young, Travis Patterson, Seb Revan, Tommi O'Reilly, and Omari Kellyman.

Walsall's next attempt to go back into the lead saw substitute Joe Foulkes, who spent last season on loan with Kidderminster Harriers, win the ball on the right before finding Ryan Stirk in space, sadly the former Birmingham City man could not produce a meaningful effort as he saw a shot blocked.

The Saddlers' next substitution saw Stirk replaced by first-year pro Marvellous Onabirekhanlen, the academy graduate given around ten minutes in front of a crowd of over 9,000.

Villa weren't without minor openings of their own and looked to take the lead for the first time with around five minutes of the game remaining as substitutes Tommi O'Reilly and Seb Revan both saw shots go wide of the Walsall goal.

Hot prospect Ronan Maher was the next to try his luck as the former scholar, who always poses a threat in attack, dragged a shot just past the post from the edge of the area, close, but not close enough as the game ended in a draw.

A good fitness exercise for both sides as they continue to prepare for their respective 2023/24 campaigns.

FULL-TIME
WALSALL 1-1 ASTON VILLA
JOHNSON (31') WATKINS [P] (43')
AT 9,328 (3,975) BESCOT STADIUM
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