Saturday, 3 October 2015
Mansfield Town 0 v Shrewsbury Town 2 - FLYA Cup 2R
Football League Youth Alliance Cup 2nd Round
At Kirklington Avenue, Rainworth MWFC
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Shrewsbury Town (2) 2
Ethan Jones 17, 45+
Click HERE for a dozen or so photos from this game
Sam Wilson, Charlie Shaw (Surafel Behailu 81), Teddy Bloor, Drew Gibson, Kieran Harrison, Louis Danquah, Cain Smith, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake, Alistair Smith (Tom Marriott 69), Zayn Hakeem
Unused subs - Luke Bacon, Henry Brittijn, Morgan Ratcliffe
Leon Reece, Ryan Sears, Callum Roberts, George Hughes, Joel Bonner, Chris Gallagher, Jack Butts, John McAtee (Charley Higgs 80), Jordan Wilson (Joel Carta 90+2), Ethan Jones (C), Tom King (Nathan Mills 86)
Unused subs - Josh Agbozo, Joe Kenton
This term represents something of a steep learning curve for the first year Stags youngsters in John Dempster's side and today they were given a bit of a lesson on several fronts, by a visiting side who worked hard as a team, to defend and fortify their last third in numbers, giving the Stags little room to manoeuvre or space to create clear cut chances, while switching their shape and structure completely at a moments notice, to support their forwards numerically when they attacked.
Mansfield themselves had used a similar approach, built on teamwork, camaraderie and flooding critical areas of the pitch with bodies, to overcome the current league leaders Bradford City last week, where a paraphrased overview of the game might have read: "Hard work will always beat individual talent, when individual talent doesn't work hard", to coin a phrase.
The more time these development players spend together, the better they'll gel and these habits will become second nature.
The Stags youngsters have had a flying start to the season, this was their first loss of the 2015-16 campaign, but in Shrewsbury, they saw today the sort of standard they will be aiming to aspire to over this season... and moving forward, into the next one.
Ironically, they'll learn more about themselves and the players around them from days like this, than they ever could from turning a league full of inferior teams over on a regular basis, which is why the high standard of these FLYA sides is so important for this crop of players, who need to be testing their mettle and strength of character just as much as their football ability, against high calibre teams.
Development league football really isn't about results and although winning is always desirable, the game at this make or break stage of young footballers careers, needs to be viewed with a different kind of mindset to the 'win at all costs' mentality that exists when players reach the first team and the game is essentially results based.
Youth team football really is about producing the right sort of personalities, with good habits, making the right lifestyle choices, because all the raw talent in the world isn't enough on it's own.
So, in essence, the young Stags lost a single game of football today, but as a part of their two year learning programme, the experience was far more beneficial to them, than beating a bunch of kids from local non-league clubs ten-nil, on a weekly basis, in one of the other leagues they could be playing in, at a less competitive level.
With all due respect to such competitions of course.
But Shrewsbury regrouped quickly and within moments they had forced a corner at the other end.
They weren't what you'd call a direct side by any stretch of the imagination, but when they pushed forward, they moved quickly from one box to the other and hunted in packs.
Alistair Smith found a slight chink in the visitors armour and threaded a pass into the path of Tyler Blake, but the Shrews keeper Leon Reece moved quickly from his line to snuff out the danger.
Play switched quickly again and within moments Ethan Jones was bearing down on Sam Wilson, but he miscued his shot and presented the Stags stopper with an easy save.
Blake took possession of the ball in the visitors box and in spite of the very close attentions of his marker slipped a sideways pass to Alistair Smith, who first time shot was palmed away by Reece at the expense of a corner.
A long pass upfield found Ethan Jones, who held up the ball and opted to plant it just inside the left hand post as the Stags defence were caught in two minds by the Shrews cavalry who had turned up in support of their prolific striker... and with 17 minutes on the clock, the visitors were in front.
The Shrews put Mansfield on the back foot for an uncomfortable few minutes and it became apparent that Jones wasn't content to settle for just a solitary goal today.
But the Stags absorbed a spell of pressure and upped the ante themselves.
Alistair Smith was looking lively, his ten yard strike was blocked by the ever determined visitors defence and fell invitingly for Teddy Bloor, who's stinging shot was tipped around the post by the impressive Reece.
Bloor swung in the corner which was only cleared as far as Charlie Shaw, but the visitors defence closed ranks again and charged down his shot on goal.
The Stags, looking to draw level before the break, forced two more corners in quick succession, but when Bloor found Shaw once more, Reece was on hand again to pull off a great save.
In stoppage time, the Shrews countered down the right flank and a sweeping cross from Jordan Wilson was swept past Wilson from eight yards out by Jones, who bagged his second goal on the stroke of half time.
HT: Stags 0 v Shrews 2
A long range pass from Callum Roberts picked out George Hughes whose first time volley was saved by Wilson.
Shaw and Blake combined outside the visitors area and set up a chance for Alistair Smith, but he shot wide of the target.
Back came Shrewsbury through Tom King, he crossed to Jones who unselfishly played a sideways pass to John McAtee who blazed his shot past the right hand post.
Mansfield attacked down the left flank and Harrison's long throw into the mix was cleared for a corner. Bloor's flag kick was intercepted and Shrewsbury broke forward through their danger man Jones yet again, but when Chris Gallagher teed him up for his hat trick, the Shrews goalscorer squandered his chance to claim a hat trick.
Cain Smith was fouled, 40 yards from the visitors goal, but when Louis Danquah nudged a short free kick to Cain, he launched a speculative long shot well over the bar.
Time was running out fast for Mansfield now.
Tyler Blake was scrapping for every ball down the right flank with Callum Roberts, as the two of them indulged in a personal duel, but Roberts' defensive sidekicks had his back covered as Hakeem roamed dangerously in their midst.
From the goal kick, the visitors charged forward and Sam Wilson was a bit fortunate to see his point blank save from John McAtee rebound back into his arms off the upright.
Harrison swung the ball into the goal area and Cameron Healey climbed above everyone in the crowded goalmouth to nod the ball towards the goal, but Reece held onto it.
Cain Smith, Marriott and Hakeem passed their way past three challenges, but Shrewsbury closed ranks and shut them out again.
FT: Mansfield Town Youth 0 v Shrewsbury Town Youth 2
The visitors deserved their win and Mansfield had no complaints about the final outcome, but they will have picked up a few useful pointers to work on in training, from going head to head with a team of Shrewsbury's undoubted quality, so in the long term, that will be more beneficial than an extended cup run.