AXA FA Youth Cup, 3rd round
Walsall 1-5 Spurs
Traffic might have come to a standstill on the notorious M6 but our Academy boys hit top gear straight away in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday night.
The assembled cars and lorries were still at a walking pace within a goal kick of the Bescot Stadium as we kicked-off at 7.30pm but there was nothing pedestrian about the way Pat Holland's boys went about this tie.
Only four minutes had ticked by when Jamie Slabber controlled Stephen Kelly's pass, turned on a sixpence and was fouled by Eliott Paschalis. John Sutton confidently slid home the penalty and we were away.
The boys were determined to stamp their authority on the game and with Ben Bowditch and Dean Marney snapping into tackles, the home side were never allowed to settle.
It took until the tenth minute for Walsall's first attack and via a debatable free-kick, Paschalis warmed Rob Burch's hands from 20 yards.
That effort aside, play was mainly concentrated in the Walsall half in the first half-hour.
We caused all sorts of problems down the flanks with the combination of Kelly and Lee Barnard on the right and David Galbraith down the left. Galbraith's pace was a constant threat and Slabber almost capitalised on the cross of the half after 14 minutes only for his goalbound header to strike a defender.
It was still all Spurs and no surprise when the second goal arrived. Marney led the charge from the edge of his own box, Chris Herron's overlapping run took the right-back out of the frame, Marney fed Slabber and was in the right place to tap home the second.
Walsall had the chance to hit straight back but Taiwo Atieno headed over from close range. That chance coincided with Saddlers' best spell of the half but Burch wasn't tested again until the second minute of the second half, when he comfortably held onto Atieno's header.
A third goal was always going to end the game as a contest and what a beauty it was. With 58 minutes on the clock Barnard collected the ball 30 yards out on the right-hand side of the area and looked to be forced away from goal until he wrapped his left foot around a 20-yard drive into the opposite corner.
To their credit Walsall hit straight back. Bennett floated in a free-kick, Matthew Fryatt headed back across goal and Atieno got the just rewards for his efforts by drilling home from eight yards.
Just in case there were any thoughts of a comeback, the three-goal advantage was restored almost immediately. With 65 minutes gone, Marney's corner found Sutton and he was wheeling away celebrating his second as Bowditch and Ron Henry followed in.
Kelly's runs down the right continued to cause havoc in the home defence, a dribble the byline almost led to an open goal for Slabber and striker latched onto Sutton's pass to bring the best out of Stretton in the home goal.
A fifth goal looked likely and Barnard produced another belter. Galbraith's cross evaded Sutton in the area but came out to Barnard, 20 yards out, and he met it with a delightful curler into the top left corner - 76 minutes on the clock.
We continued to press. Henry's effort from Jimmy Lee's corner was squeezed off the line, Mark Hughes headed over from resulting corner and the same combination saw another Hughes header saved.
Kelly had valid claims for another penalty in injury time and we finished the tie as we started - with Lee firing a shot on goal.
A job well done in front of a crowd of 1,041.
Walsall: Stretton, Joseph, Bennett, Paschalis, Harris, Cunliffe, Worley (Taylot 87), Caines, Fryatt (Willetts, 74), Atieno, Taylor (Lloydd, 58).
Spurs: Burch, Kelly, Herron, Bowditch (Hughes 77), Henry, O'Donoghue, Barnard, Marney (Wettner, 82), Sutton, Slabber (Lee, 77), Galbraith.