EFL U18 Youth Alliance Cup - Group 5
at the Worksop Van Hire Stadium, Clipstone FC
Mansfield Town (1) 3
Nyle Blake 3,
Riley O'Sullivan 48,
Aiden Walker 78
Walsall FC (0) 0
Flickr photo gallery click HERE
Xavier Sundby, Cameron Weston, Henri Wilder (C), Harry Bircumshaw, Lewis Gibbens, Aiden Walker, Cameron Jones, Jack Cornell (Luke Morgan 61), Nyle Blake (Kamen Cashmore 80), Keaton Ward (James Tague 69) Riley O'Sullivan (Iyrwah Gooden 80)
Unused Sub - Harrison Davison GK
Ethan Dawe, Luke Little (Derbert Massamba 80), Cody Fisher, Ben Kendrick, Sam Leivesley, Joe Brown (Ben Friel HT), Kian Flanagan (Dan O'Sullivan HT), Alfie Bates (Dylan Parker HT), Joe Cairns , Mitch Candlin (Ethan Freemantle 80), Stefan Mason (C)
All subs used
As the season goes into the Xmas break, the reigning back to back EFL Youth Alliance (north) champions (I might just have mentioned that before, eh!?) are currently at the top of the table again, on goal difference over last season's main title rivals, Oldham Athletic.
Nyle Blake put Mansfield ahead in only the third minute of the game, keeping his cool and rolling the ball past the Saddlers keeper Ethan Dawe as he advanced from his line, after Jack Cornell had spotted a gap in the Walsall midfield to set the wheels in motion in the build up to the goal.
Mansfield thought they had doubled their lead, when O'Sullivan stabbed the ball home from close range, after Dawe had parried Cameron Jones glancing header from Keaton Ward's right wing delivery, but the linesman's flag was up and the goal was ruled out for offside.
Moments later, Blake broke free through the left channel to meet Aiden Walker's long delivery with his head, but he couldn't quite get enough purchase on his effort to steer the ball inside the left hand post and the visitors got away with a bit of a let off.
Clear cut chances were at a premium as both sides had to make allowances for the icy wind that was blowing across the pitch.
The visitors went close to levelling things up during the closing stages of the first half, when Xavier Sundby did well to turn Kian Flanagan's stinging angled shot away from ten yards.
From the resulting corner, all of Walsall's players and coaching staff appealed loudly for a penalty, with a collective 'hand ball!' claim, but I didn't get a clear view because I was at the other end of the pitch watching the game through some spectacles that Arsene Wenger had very kindly loaned to me, so I couldn't possibly comment on the incident. I'm sure that these kind of things even themselves out in the grand scheme of things.
HT: Stags U18 1 v Saddlers U18 0
The Stags second goal owed much to the battling persistence of Harry Bircumshaw, who bounced off of several challenges as he advanced twenty five yards towards the Walsall goal, before Riley O'Sullivan knocked the ball past Dawe from close range, meaning that the home side had scored in the third minute of both halves.
Both teams had half decent calls for penalties waved away by a referee who was evidently fond of firm but fair borderline challenges inside the area.
Aiden Walker had a goal ruled out for offside, but he'd have the last laugh to that end pretty soon.
Walsall were defending robustly as Ward, Sullivan and Blake were all thwarted by last ditch saving tackles and blocks.
Bircumshaw was on the receiving end of some heavy challenges from all angles, which in turn led to a few players squaring up off the ball, as the Stags remonstrated about the treatment that their number four was being subjected too.
Lewis Gibbens almost put the game out of the Saddlers reach, but diverted Blake's sideways knock just wide of the left hand post.
Kamen Cashmore put an inswinging corner into the visitors six yard box from the right wing and Walker headed home the Stags third goal from two yards out in the seventy eighth minute.
The final ten minutes were no place for the faint hearted or squeamish, as the challenges flew in and several stand offs threatened to flare up, as a public demonstration of how young men occasionally let their testosterone levels get the better of them.
Stefan Mason laid the ball off to Cody Fisher just outside the Stags area, but he blazed his shot over the bar, while Dawe kept the margin of victory down to a semi respectable level when he pulled off a great reflex save to deny Cashmore.
Sundby claimed Daniel O'Sullivan's corner kick authoritatively and quickly released the ball to send Cashmore on a run forward, but almost inevitably, he was unceremoniously flattened the moment that he ventured over the halfway line.
Walker almost added another goal for Mansfield right at the end, but he nodded Bircumshaw's corner just the wrong side of the right hand post.
FT: Mansfield town 3 v Walsall 0