A young Rotherham United second string were narrowly beaten by Walsall on Tuesday afternoon, as the behind-closed-doors encounter in the West Midlands ended 2-1 in favour of the Saddlers.
With a double-header of Sky Bet League One games coming up for the first team in the form of Saturday’s trip to Accrington Stanley before a top of the table clash with Coventry City the Tuesday following, it was left to Ciaran Toner and a team largely made up of the club’s Academy players to fulfil the fixture on the 4G pitch on-site at the Banks’s Stadium.
The Millers started the brighter of the two sides and took the early incentive as Ciaran McGuckin opened the scoring with less than 10 minutes on the clock, but they were only able to hold that lead for a similar period after the goal.
Luke Pearce’s precise low drive on 22 minutes saw the Saddlers restore parity before they enjoyed a spell of pressure which a resolute Millers’ rearguard was able to withstand until the interval.
Half time | Walsall 1 v 1 Reserves
Alex McSkeane signalled the hosts’ intentions to try and take the lead following the restart, as he delivered a good ball in, only to see Pearce miss the chance to double his tally as he headed over Laurence Bilboe’s goal.
The Millers youngsters, who were dealt the recent blow of the news that Jacob Gratton will be a long-term absentee as a result of an ACL injury, would have been worried to see towering forward Jerome Greaves withdrawn early, after being stretchered off from the reserve outing just after the hour.
When the stoppage for that injury was over, it wasn’t too long before Walsall edged themselves in front and it was another slice of bad luck for Toner’s men which allowed the Saddlers to do so.
76 minutes had elapsed when Danny Coogan’s centre was turned beyond Bilboe by the retreating Jake Hull, to cruelly undo the Millers’ hard work to this point.
In typical Rotherham United fashion though, Toner’s men battled on and almost found an equaliser near the end. It took a fantastic save from Walsall goalkeeper to deny Luke Hodgkinson with less than 10 minutes left, as he thwarted the Millers winger with a top drawer one-handed stop.
Full-time | Walsall 2 v 1 Reserves
Reserves | Bilboe; Makwedza, Hull, Spence, Scott; Hodgkinson, Beeden, Peel-Evans, Kenny; McGuckin, Greaves.
Subs | Farrar, Millen, Hanley, Salah, Wenham.