Result: Walsall Youth 4-0 Altrincham Youth (FA Youth Cup 2nd Round)
Walsall Youth Scorers: Brown o.g.(2), Rush (19)(85), Bakayoko (66)
Venue: The Banks’s Stadium (Thursday 21st November 2013, 7.00pm)
Wednesday afternoon, I see that Altrincham’s Youth side have made it into the second round of the Youth Cup, and are playing away at the Bescot (now Banks’s) Stadium, against their counterparts from Walsall. A third round game at The Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion awaits the winners.
Booking myself on the supporters’ coach, well minibus, I boarded at the Vine Inn and set off on our journey down through Cheshire, before eventually joining the M6 motorway. Whilst on the transport, we were given a message of thanks for supporting the young Robins on, quote, ‘the biggest night in the youth team’s history’, and how grateful the management and players were. Obviously, despite travelling as a neutral, I still wanted to see the local lads do well. A league ground is something of a rarity to me, and the Banks’s became only my fourth venue of such (Old Trafford, DW Stadium & Gigg Lane being the other three), although the latter of the three is a bit of a cheat, as it was to watch FC United rather than Bury so I’m not sure whether or not I can truly count in it as a league ground yet?
Anyway, after we were unloaded at the ground reception someone was given directions that the entrance to the ground was just to the right, near the ‘clubhouse’. Despite these instructions, we ended up going on a lap of the ground, which was decent for me, as I intended to take some photos anyway, but every other member was definitely disgruntled by this. Upon returning to the reception, it was discovered that the turnstile in operation was tucked away, indeed, just to the right of the reception. So, after paying my £5 to the gateman, I was slightly concerned by the lack of teamsheet/programme but I needn’t have worried as soon after I was approached by a lady in a high-vis jacket who proceeded to offer me a teamsheet. A novel use of a steward!!
Happily stocked up with the teams’ details, and somewhat sheltered from the wind in the main stand, I kept myself occupied for the 40 minutes to wait before the kick-off by watching the Walsall side’s preparations, which included a defensive display where the number 6 proceeded to show what was to come by comfortably booming every header miles! A look around the stadium shows three stands of almost identical size, on both sides of the pitch and behind the (from the main stand) right hand goal, although the main stand is where the boxes and other function areas are situated. Behind the left hand side goal is a two-tiered stand, emblazoned with white seats spelling out ‘WFC’ up at the top of it. It has a capacity of 11,300.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your point of view!), I can’t find any history for the Youthies so onto the game now, and Altrincham’s best hope was to frustrate their opponents for as long as possible. Unfortunately, there was a horrible moment for the Robins’ right-back David Brown just two minutes in, when he left his goalkeeper helpless, as he passed to the left of the advancing Josh Samberg who went to the right, and the ball rolled into the empty net. They doubled their lead after 19 minutes, as Westleigh Rush received the ball on the edge of the area from Bakayoko, who beat his man pulled it back to the attacker, and Rush did the rest firing hard and low past Samberg. Samberg kept his side in the game with a string of saves, helped out along the way by wasteful finishing mainly from Swifts’ top-scorer Amadou Bakayoko. 2-0 at half-time didn’t reflect the Saddlers‘ dominance of the game, with Alty struggling to get the ball at times, and only having 2 attempts at goal.
At half-time, I went looking for some hot refreshments, but got lost in the back of the stand, and decided instead to head for the bar area situated up at the top of the ‘Main Stand’. The bar was more of a function room really, and comfortably coped with the 150+ fans in attendance, with many indulging in an alcoholic beverage of their choice, whilst digesting the 1st half action, and first-team matters.
The players emerged into sight and everyone began to leak out of the glass doors and back into their seats. Would there be a chance for Alty to get back into this tie? Unfortunately for me as a neutral, the answer was no. With skipper Liam Kinsella running the game tidily in the deep-lying midfield role, and Alex Dallison dealing with any threats posed by the Altrincham front pairing of Louis Potts and recent first-team bencher Max Pouncey, Walsall continued to rip apart Altrincham’s backline in a scene not too far removed from the Alamo. Time after time they broke through, but this wasn’t to do with any lack of effort from the Cheshire side, just a large difference in quality, being that it was the first time many of Alty’s players would have played against players at such a level. On the hour, Alty were dealt a scare after Samberg was left prone on the floor after a brave piece of goalkeeping at the feet of Bakayoko. He recovered to play on, which was good to see. However, it was three soon after, as Bakayoko finally found the net from inside the six-yard area, converting a low ball in. The wonderfully named Tevin Shakespeare came on for Bakayoko, and didn’t give the Alty backline a moments rest with his pace and direct play causing many problems , and a fourth was added late on as the impressive, dynamic Rush fired home a free-kick across Samberg and into the far corner. It was a superb strike, that he almost bettered moments later, when he bent a 25 yard effort from out near the right-hand angle of the 18-yard box against the join of post and crossbar. As it was, the referee, who had an impressive game as well to be fair, Matthew Jones blew his whistle moments later, to end the suffering of the visitors, and booked Walsall their trip to the Hawthorns, and a date with The Baggies in the third-round. We boarded the coach soon after, with not too much disappointment in the ranks of the travelling supporters, having already known the task that lay ahead at the beginning of the night, and knowing the young Robins gave their all but it wasn’t enough to get close to the higher-ranked, talented Walsall Youth side.
Game: 7/10- Good Quality, sadly very one-sided.
Ground: 9- Very smart, and quite modern too.
Fans: 7- Not too many made the effort on a cold Thursday night, but those that did were treated to a good win. A couple did think that every tackle made by an Alty player was a foul though!
Food: N/A- Tried to find some, but got lost, so couldn’t!
Programme: N/A- No programme issued, but a teamsheet was given out.
Value For Money: 10- Can’t complain. All the way to Walsall for £16 on the bus, and just £5 entry to tick off The Banks’s Stadium.
Referee: 9- Had a good game, but had little to do.
My Walsall Youth M.o.M.- Westleigh Rush
My Altrincham Youth M.o.M.- Josh Samberg
Walsall Yth: 1.Richard Jones, 2.Jamie Ashmore, 3.Rico Henry, 4.Liam Kinsella(c), 5.Alex Christopherou, 6.Alex Dallison, 7.Cameron McKenzie, 8.Luke Delaney, 9.Amadou Bakayoko(1), 10.Westleigh Rush(2), 11.Alex Reid SUBS: 12.Tevin Shakespeare(p), 23.Rhys Lovett, 14.Jordan Garner, 15.Levi Rowley(p), 16.Kyle Rowley(p)
Altrincham Yth: 1.Josh Samberg, 2.David Brown(1o.g.), 3.Matthew Graetzer, 4.Tom Clarke, 5.Derek Ubah, 6.Patrick Crilly, 7.Spencer Cunliffe(c), 8.Matthew Todd, 9.Max Pouncey, 10.Louis Potts, 11.Robert Gilroy SUBS: 14.Kane Hughes(p), 15.Joe Coffey(p), 16.Louis Brown(p), 17.Tom Westall, 18.Stephen Bullen
Officials: Referee: Matthew Jones. Assistants: Scott Simpson, Mark Murfitt 4th Official: Glyn Thomas