Walsall 1 West Brom 2 - Report and pictures
A last gasp Hal Robson-Kanu goal saw Albion secure a pre-season win over Walsall as the West Midlands rivals ramped up their preparations for the new season.
In a keenly contested friendly at the Banks’s Stadium, the Baggies – under the guidance of assistant boss Ben Garner – took a second half lead through Sean Donnellan.
Jon Whitney’s Saddlers hit back with striker Amadou Bakyoko pulling them level with a little over 10 minutes remaining.
But it was the Baggies won the tie when Robson-Kanu produced a cool finish just moments before the final whistle.
With the new League One season just 10 days away, Whitney named what looked to be his strongest starting XI for the visit of the Premier League side.
Lining up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, Simeon Jackson started as the lone front man with Erhun Oztumer in the number 10 role and Joe Edwards and Kieron Morris out wide.
Albion, who also had an XI playing at Burton the same evening, began in a 4-4-2 system that saw Tyler Roberts partner Hal Robson-Kanu up front.
First teamers Chris Brunt, James McClean, Sam Field and Jonathan Leko were also given the chance to impress.
In what was a bright opening, both teams showed their intention to get the ball down and play inside the first 25 minutes.
But it was the Saddlers who looked the most threatening with Florent Cuvelier, Oztumer and Adam Chambers all seeing strikes from the edge of the box expertly saved by Boaz Myhill.
Whitney’s men were playing well with Cuvelier and Oztumer linking intelligently in midfield and new signing James Wilson impressing at the back.
And it took until the 35th minute for Albion to show any real attacking threat with a long ball over the top putting Leko through on goal.
The teenager looked to guide the ball past Mark Gillespie but the keeper did well to stand tall with Luke Leahy then producing a brilliant sliding tackle to clear the danger.
Suddenly the Baggies had a spring in their step and they should have taken the lead minutes later when Leko slipped in Robson-Kanu only for the Welshman to cannon a strike off the bar.
Albion remained on top after the interval and took the lead in the 53rd minute when – following McClean’s corner – Donnellan scrambled the ball home from close range.
Walsall responded with Cuvelier hitting a thunderous strike from 25-yards which was spectacularly parried away by Myhill.
And with a little over 10 minutes remaining the Saddlers got themselves level after some excellent work from substitutes Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Bakayoko.
After collecting the ball wide on the left, Cockerill-Mollett did brilliantly to beat his man hit the byline where he sent in a low cross.
And that delivery was met by Bakayoko who emphatically fired over the line despite a brave attempt from Brunt to hack clear.
That goal though would only prove a consolation with Albion retaking the lead just minutes later.
A lovely through-ball from substitute Kyle Edwards split the Saddlers defence and sent Robson-Kanu through one-on-one.
And the striker produced a wonderful finish to loft the ball over the onrushing Gillespie and win the tie.
Walsall: Walsall: Gillespie, Devlin, Wilson, (Roberts 83) Guthrie, Leahy (Cockerill-Mollett 46), Morris, Chambers, Cuvelier, Edwards (Kouyhar 72), Oztumer (Candlin 78), Jackson (Bakayoko 70).
Subs not used: Roberts, Kinsella, Flanagan.
Albion: Myhill, Wilson, O'Shea, Donnellan, Brunt, Leko, Field (Meredith 84), Harper (Chambers 78), McClean, Roberts (Edwards 70), Robson-Kanu.
Subs not used: Keranovic, Bradley, Soleman.