Express & Star

Pre-season: AFC Telford United 0-2 Walsall - Report

Walsall grabbed their first victory of pre-season as well-taken goals from Andy Williams and Isaac Hutchinson saw them prevail at non-league AFC Telford United.

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Having sustained a 4-0 defeat to Villa before drawing 1-1 with Leamington, Michael Flynn's Saddlers displayed encouraging ruthlessness at the New Bucks Head.

National League North outfit Telford proved a tough nut to crack. Williams, though, headed Walsall into the lead on the stroke of half-time and had a hand in Hutchinson's eye-catching effort from distance shortly into the second period.

The Saddlers threatened to add a third in the closing stages and will take positives from the display – the main one their sharp finishing.

Walsall's Brandon Comley.

They will also want to brush up on some things, having given the ball away cheaply on a fair few occasions, as they gear up for the start of the new League Two campaign against Hartlepool United at Bescot in a fortnight.

Walsall handed a start to teenager Ronan Maher after his impressive substitute displays against both Villa and Leamington.

They were lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation, with colossal centre-half Manny Monthe given freedom to get forward as a left-back while Flynn Clarke was operating in behind strikers Maher and Williams.

The Saddlers had trialists Timmy Abraham, Aneurin Livermore, Cameron Green and Jonas Mukuna on the bench. Centre-half Ben Richards-Everton – previously part of that group – was not present, though.

Flynn's side had the lion's share of possession early on in the sunshine, but Telford had the first proper chance.

Jordan Piggott wriggled free of the Walsall backline and got on the end of a floated free-kick, sending a volley wide of the far post.

Peter Clarke looked solid at the back for the Saddlers as he won a series of headers. Brandon Comley was doing a tidy job in midfield as well, showing lots of energy and breaking up play with a few well-timed tackles.

In the final third, however, Flynn's men were not having a great deal of joy.

Walsall in pre-season action at AFC Telford United

Flynn Clarke got on the end of a low cross from Hutchinson but was denied by Robbie Evans before he could pull the trigger.

The Bucks were giving a good account of themselves and could have easily taken the lead as centre-forward Byron Moore released fellow attacker Devarn Green.

He rounded Walsall keeper Owen Evans before the shot-stopper recovered quickly and spread himself to deny Green's low strike.

Walsall's Brandon Comley.

The Saddlers were guilty of several stray passes throughout the half and had struggled to fully find their rhythm, but they displayed a much-welcome clinical edge to go in front just before the interval.

Flynn Clarke worked his way to the byline and sent a cut-back onto the head of Williams, who gratefully nodded the ball into the bottom corner for his second goal of pre-season.

Walsall would go on to double their advantage just after the restart.

A massive header from Donervon Daniels almost set Williams free. The veteran was denied, but Hutchinson swiftly pounced on the loose ball as he curled home from 20 yards.

Telford's trialist keeper got a hand to it but was unable to keep out the sweet left-footed strike.

The Saddlers had made three changes for the start of the second period as Liam Kinsella, Douglas James-Taylor and trialist Green replaced Flynn Clarke, Maher and Taylor Allen, switching to a 3-5-2 formation in the process.

They made another triple substitution on the hour mark as Abraham, Livermore and Liam Bennett entered the fray.

Young trialist Mukuna also came on along with Brendan Kiernan – the winger getting his first workout of the summer.

Walsall's Ronan Maher.

Those changes and another drinks break in the heat disrupted the flow of the game..

Both teams, though, eventually began to offer more going forward again.

One of the Bucks' trialists tried his luck from range and forced Evans to parry the ball behind for a corner.

Mukuna soon used his speed to create a yard of space at the other end but dragged his attempt wide of the near post. A rare mistake from Kinsella saw Evans run through and hit the side netting for the home side.

Abraham – the younger brother of England and Roma star Tammy – did his best to get on the scoresheet towards the end but a toe-poked attempt from close range was tipped wide.

A sound day's work for Walsall, who are now preparing for a much different test as they host Championship club Coventry City on Tuesday night.


Telford (4-3-3): Trialist A; Dugmore (Nolan, 51), Piggott, Brown, Bood (Bailey, 76) ; Evans, Jae Chong (Ekpolo, 29), McLintock (Trialist B, 65); Green (Baker, 76), Moore (Abbey, 76), Daniels (Trialist C, 65)

Walsall (4-3-1-2): Evans; White, Daniels (Bennett, 60), P Clarke (Livermore, 60), Monthe; Hutchinson (Mukuna, 65), Comley (Kiernan, 69), Allen (Green, 46); F Clarke (Kinsella, 46); Williams (Abraham, 60), Maher (James-Taylor, 46)

Not used: Przybek (gk)

Goals: Williams (45), Hutchinson (49)

Attendance: 1,080 (430 Walsall fans)