Moors Academy came up against high calibre opponents in League One Walsall’s U23 side yesterday, in a friendly that provided Solihull’s starlets the chance to showcase their skills.
They ended up the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline but the Moors youngsters can take a lot of positives from the performance.
They more than held their own, especially in the first half where for the most part, they dominated but lacked that vital cutting edge.
Rubyn Gill was Moors’ standout performer, deployed in his more natural midfield role, he showed real calmness and composure every time he received the ball.
Gill had the first sight of goal. But, after a lovely exchange between Jordon Clarke and Nathan Binner, he was only able to fire straight at the keeper.
He then turned provider, spraying a great cross-field ball to right back Michee Mbuti who whipped in a wicked delivery into Arman Khooshkoo.
It needed a first-time finish but Khooshkoo dallied and his shot ended up going the wrong side of the post.
As for the other end, Ben Kendrick, a former Saddler, and Cain Thomas were solid, thwarting any attack Walsall threw at them.
Then, another opportunity for Moors. Gill again the architect. He found Mbuti down the right, who laid it into Clarke who played it to Ryan Andrews, but his finish lacked conviction.
Then, on the stroke of half-time Walsall took the lead. In their first meaningful attack, they finished with aplomb.
Moors were caught high up the pitch, Walsall got in down the right and the winger was unselfish, squaring the ball to his teammate for an open goal. 1-0.
The goal was a sucker punch for Moors and a reality check in how they need to be more clinical in front of goal.
Coach Sam made wholesale changes at the interval. In truth, it unsettled Moors and they were never able to gain any real momentum in a very disjointed second period.
One switch gave Moors trialist Burke an opportunity to impress. His chance came early on, the ball fell invitingly, but he got his angles wrong and blazed wildly over the top.
Clarke was the next guilty party, clean through, he delayed at the pivotal moment and the defender was able to recover. It was a let-off for Walsall who then kicked it up a notch.
They capitalised on a reshuffled Moors back four and soon doubled their lead. A cross from the right, found the striker unmarked and he headed in from close range. 2-0.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Moors who had been their own worst enemy in the final third. Moors looked drained and Walsall soon bagged a third.
Moors’ defence dropped deep, allowing far too much time and space to Walsall’s number seven, who picked his spot and smashed it in from distance.
3-0 and game over. Moors didn’t give in but their race was run and as the game petered out, they appeared leggy and defunct of imagination.
It was a harsh lesson for Moors who can ill afford to be so wasteful. When given the chance, top quality opposition don’t need a second invitation and they will punish you.