Alfreton Town 0-6 Walsall - Report
They say you should never read too much into pre-season form. In fact, the only time people seem too is when you`re losing the friendlies. But tonight saw a very impressive performance against what we made to look very inadequate opposition.
Alfreton, who let`s not forget hammered a Sheffield Wednesday XI 14-0 two pre-seasons ago, went into this game on the back of a 3-1 home reverse to Birmingham City, before holding Burton Albion to a 1-1 draw at the weekend, so on paper they looked decent opposition. An Alfreton fan in the pub before kick off actually told us that they played so well on Saturday that he was genuinely expecting a win tonight.
The Saddlers lined up with ex Sheffield Wednesday stopper Richard O`Donnell in goal. A back four of Purkiss, Downing, Butler and Mal Benning. Across the middle we had trialist James McQuilken on the right, Featherstone and Mantom in the middle, and Keiron Morris on the left. New signing on loan from Chelsea, Milan Lalkovic, started up front with Romaine Sawyers. Ex Saddler Chris Westwood was the notable name in the home sides line up.
We started the game at a decent pace on what was still a warm night in the East Midlands. If we did have a failing in that first half an hour it would have been that we were over playing. We still managed to force a number of smart stops from Morch in the home goal as first Lalkovic from a free kick, and then the impressive Keiron Morris twice, forced him into action. Mantom was the next to test the keeper, before moments later clearing the stand with another effort that hit the roof of a nearby house.
When the break through did eventually come it was thanks in part to a mix up between defender and goalkeeper, and persistence from Sawyers to seize on the hesitancy and loft the ball over Morch to give the Saddlers the lead. It was 2-0 six minutes later when Lalkovic beat the Alfreton defender all ends up before smashing in a drive at the near post from an ever tightening angle.
HALF-TIME: Alfreton Town 0 Walsall 2
Half time saw both goalscorers replaced by our two new permanent signings; the returning Craig Westcarr and the promising Troy Hewitt. Benning, Butler and Mantom were also replaced by Taylor, Holden and Baxendale respectively. The Saddlers were still controlling the game but a lapse in concentration at the back caused a mix up between Holden and O`Donnell that left Alfreton with a virtual tap in, but somehow they managed to squander the chance and put it over the bar.
The Saddlers possession football was beginning to tell on their tiring hosts and more gaps started appearing in the defence. Purkiss, Downing, Featherstone and Morris came off, with Ben George, James Chambers, Reece Flanaghan and Ashley Hemmings coming on.
This proved to be the catalyst that saw the floodgates open as shortly after, a low cross from Baxendale saw Ashley Hemmings pick his spot from the edge of the area to drill low just inside the post for 3-0. Two minutes later it was 4-0, with Baxendale again the provider, dancing through the defence to pull back for Westcarr to tap home.
There was still time for another mix up in the Saddlers defence, when O`Donnell came to claim a ball James Chambers was clearing. Again though, the hosts failed to even hit the target when they really should have scored. A better team than Alfreton would have punished us twice tonight.
Westcarr then doubled his tally for the evening a few moments later, latching on to a through ball from Flanaghan to place his shot just inside the keepers left hand post.
The scoring was completed by Troy Hewitt, who had looked a threat all second half, when he tucked home from close range with the last kick of the match from a Ben George cross.
You don`t read too much into friendly form, but you can only beat what`s in front of you, and we did that comprehensively tonight. The bigger tests will come in the next week though with the home friendlies against Leeds and Forest. We`ll have a much better idea of how this squad is shaping up at 10 o`clock next Tuesday night, but it`s not looking bad at the minute.
FULL TIME - Alfreton Town 0-6 Walsall