The Development Squad made a winning start in the Central League with a 4-0 victory away at Walsall.
Gabriel Osho opened the scoring in the first half before Dan Hawkins scored a second half brace and substitute Lewis McKinley completed the scoring.
In the pouring rain at the home of the Birmingham County FA Salford started brightly and within a minute Liam Loughlan’s glancing header was blocked by a Walsall defender. A minute later Hawkins fed through Tafari Moore on the left who squared for Loughlan, but this time the midfielder’s placed effort was parried over.
Walsall wouldn’t create much during the afternoon’s course, but Nick Hayes was called into action in the 10th minute when Troy Perez-Duah hit a shot from the right-hand edge of the box.
Shortly after the Ammies took the lead; Kevin Berkoe’s attempted cross was blocked for a corner that Loughlan delivered. Osho arrived at the near post and unchallenged directed a header into the bottom-right corner. Berkoe would soon have an effort himself when Hayden Campbell’s pass was inviting for the shot; with plenty of momentum the former Oxford United defender could only shoot over.
The high press was paying dividends as Salford won possession high upfield in the 20th minute, and Hawkins was played in from the left. With options in the middle, the Welshman opted to go for goal himself but was denied at the near post by Lewis Walker. A minute later possession was won on the right with Osho and Loughlan exchanging passes; the latter found space for a shot from the top of the box but could only bend an effort past the far post.
So far so good for the Ammies who were well on top, and Walker’s goal continued to be threatened as Louie Walsh and Loughlan both had efforts to double the lead before Walsh was denied again, driving in from the left but having the angle closed down by the Walsall stopper.
In the final minute of the half a Hayes goal kick ran through for Moore, but he couldn’t quite get a touch to take the ball round the advancing Walker and the hosts cleared their lines. Perez-Duah managed to get onto the end of that one, but couldn’t get round Sam Fielding who conceded a corner that was dealt with.
A good platform at the break to build on in the second half, although Warren Joyce’s side could have been further ahead. However they seized the initiative in the second period to return up the M6 with the points.
On 51 minutes, McKinley drove forward on the left and rode two challenges, with the ball falling kindly for him from the second. He slipped a pass inside for Hawkins who was making the run ahead, and the forward kept his cool to clip a shot past Walker at his near post.
Five minutes later the game really started to slide away from Walsall, despite the rain starting to clear up. Loughlan won possession in the middle and played a pass down the inside right which Hawkins latched onto and lashed a shot into the roof of the net for 0-3.
Hayden Campbell was looking to get in on the act as he attempted a volley from outside the area just after the hour mark. It would have been a spectacular finish except Walker was well positioned to make the save.
A rare opportunity came for Walsall next as they broke on the left, but Hayes blocked the low shot at the near post. The result was a corner which was swung into a good area, but neither Foulkes Joe nor Joe Perry could meet it uncontested at the back post.
The pattern of the game soon resumed as Hawkins was in for the hat-trick, but he couldn’t quite connect with Moore’s cross from the right, before a Berkoe cross deflected off substitute Liam Humbles and nearly caught Walker out at the near post, but the keeper stepped across to save.
He was picking the ball out of the net again with 12 minutes to go, and again as a result of the persistent Salford pressure up top. A clearance from Loughlan’s tricky run came straight to Berkoe on the left who guided a delightful cross in that was met by McKinley’s timely run, the forward steering a clinical header past Walker.
Phil Perry came on for the final 10 minutes, but nearly scored with his second touch. A free kick was taken quickly on the right that Perry controlled with his first touch then curled a shot with the second which narrowly beat the crossbar and came back off the stanchion holding the net up. Another Perry effort was blocked in the last five minutes, and the resulting corner came to Humbles who fired wide.
Nevertheless a relentless performance from Joyce’s troops, and a good start to the Central League campaign.
Starting XI: Nick Hayes, Gabriel Osho (13), Kevin Berkoe (A, Y60), Owen Evans, Sam Fielding (C), Harry Ditchfield (Humbles 56’), Tafari Moore (Perry 82’), Hayden Campbell, Louie Walsh (McKinley 46’), Liam Loughlan (AA), Dan Hawkins (51’ 56’).
Subs: Max Williams, Lewis McKinley (78’, A, Y50), Phil Perry, Liam Humbles.