TOWN Reserves were hit by an early second half strike as they slumped to only a second defeat of the season at the McAlpine yesterday afternoon.
Walsall youngster Tai Atieno gratefully latched on to a long punt from midfield on 50 minutes and, with Town caught cold at the back, goalkeeper Jacob Giles came out to the edge of the area, only for Atieno to dink the ball past him into the empty net and earn victory for the Pontins Holiday League Premier Division pacesetters.
Town created the best chances in the first half but failed to make them count, and the match petered out in the second period.
Nigerian international Efe Sodje, aiming to pip teammate Steve Yates to the vacant centre-back slot in the likely absence through injury of Ian Hughes at Macclesfield in Division III on Saturday, was guilty of missing a gilt-edged header from great provider Rob Edwards' corner on 20 minutes.
And three minutes later, both John McAliskey and Andrew Holdsworth had shots blocked by goalkeeper Shaun Allaway.
Giant loan striker Fola Onibuje showed he is more than just a targetman by demonstrating neat footwork on the ball and was a constant thorn in the side of former Millwall, Wolves, Crystal Palace and Norwich defender Neil Emblen.
Youth team goalkeeper Giles denied Atieno on 38 minutes, saving solidly from his header, and at the other end, Onibuje's lay-off to Adnan Ahmed should have been returned but Ahmed drove it wide of the near post when Onibuje was clear.
Surprisingly, there was a lukewarm response from Town to conceding the goal, with no real urgency shown in the search for an equaliser in a game watched by 117.
Walsall looked more lively going forward, although on 54 minutes, Onibuje set up Holdsworth, who laid it off for fast-approaching Tyrone Thompson, but he followed a familiar and frustrating trait and shot over the bar.
Giles denied Matty Fryatt a second Walsall goal when he blocked confidently at the post on 73 minutes.
And 10 minutes from time, Town could have levelled when Ahmed took Edwards' accurate pass in his stride, only to flick his shot over.
Town's second string have a chance to make amends when they host Sheffield Wednesday on Monday (2.00).
Town: Giles, Booty, Edwards, Holland, Yates, Sodje, Holdsworth, Thompson, Onibuje, McAliskey, Ahmed. Subs not used: Walsh, Draper, Hardy, Young, Evans.
Walsall: Allaway, Wright, Ullathorne, Oakes, Emblen, Carbon, Smith, Taylor, Atieno, Fryatt, Bennett. Subs not used: Willetts, Dann, Platt, Jameson, Harkness.