Reaction from Walsall Vs Aston Villa
A crowd of 5,735 packed into the Banks's stadium for the pre season with a generous Villa following as they made the short trip up the M6.
Walsall played in a 4-4-2 formation with Stokes, Lancashire, McDonald and Westlake at the back, Gray, Richards, Taundry and Jones in Midfield with Deeney and Byfield up front. Matthew Richards was captain for the occasion.
The game started pretty strong for the Saddlers but the threat of Premiership outfit was never far away. The back four kept many of the dangers away, and were thankful for a little wayward finishing from the Villa front men.
Westlake and McDonald looked sharp throughout the first half, and the height and strength of McDonald paired up nicely with the tall and agile John Carew.
Jeers of the Saddler faithful were heard as Aston Villa shots were fired, only for them to head straight over the bar.
Walsall were busy throughout the first half, with some good passing around the pitch.
Some good work between Westlake, Jones and Deeney on minute 14 was blocked by Aston Villa. Good work by Richards just moments before unluckily saw his shot edge wide of the post.
Steve Jones was on hand to support the two forwards on minute 20 as Byfield passed to Jones and then to Deeney, his shot saved by Brad Friedel.
Aston Villa edged into the lead as Andrea Weimann was set up and his shot was fired past Brain. Unlucky Saddlers but Aston showed their shooting prowess.
As the clock ticked down, the Saddlers continued to battle with some decent play, but the went into the break one nil down.
On 57 minutes, the ball went across the Villa goal with Richards passing to Stokes and then to Byfield, but his shot was saved.
An unlucky miss ensued on minute 64 as some good work by Deeney, Gray and then to Byfield,but his shot whacked the cross bar and then Deeney saw his deflection go over the bar. Saddler fans were all but celebrating the goal that was not meant to be.
Weimann was on hand to double the Villa lead shortly after, as Brain spilled a save and the striker was on hand to capitalise on his mistake.
A quieter end to the game ensued as the typical substitutions were made. Paul Marshall replaced Matthew Richards and Aaron Lescott replaced Darryl Westlake. Richards had a fine stab at being captain and was seen vocal and encouraging throughout the game. 8/10
Smith replaced Lancashire shortly after and Nicholls replaced Byfield.
It was barely seconds that Nicholls scored the first goal of pre season for the Saddlers. Taundry put a fine ball to him and he was ready and waiting at the right of the goal to put the ball away. Finally, a goal for the Saddlers!
As the game wound down, Paterson came on for Jones, Sean Geddes for Taundry and David Beven for goalkeeper Jonny Brain.
Some good chances for the Saddlers were seen late on, but the result stayed at 2-1.
It was a decent run out for the Saddlers, as the pre season is coming to an end. Walsall passed nicely, had a fair amount of shots and were playing cohesively. A progression has been noticeable throughout the warm up games, with the 4-4-2 seemingly more effective than the 4-3-3. Despite the scoreline, I am pretty confident that, with league one opposition, we could do quite well! We look forward to the final pre season game at Port Vale on Saturday.