Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mansfield Town 2 v Scunthorpe United 1 - FLYA (NE)

These two sides played out a closely run draw at the Lawrence Academy in Scunthorpe back in September, see here and here for more details.
Today the visitors arrived at Rainworth, perched at the top of the FLYA (NE) table, three points ahead of the young Stags, who still had a game in hand over the north east Lincolnshire side.
This impressive win by John Dempster's side, who were back to their best following a disappointing result at Chesterfield last week, puts them right back in the title race.
Saturday 30th January 2016
Football League Youth Alliance (North East)
at Kirklington Road, Rainworth
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Tyler Blake 22, Drew Gibson 86.5
Scunthorpe United (0) 1
Jack Dyche 86
Mansfield Town:
Adam Bishop, Teddy Bloor, Charlie Shaw, Drew Gibson, Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison (C), Cain Smith, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake, Tyler Johal, Zayn Hakeem
Unused subs - Devante Reittie, Tom Marriott, Alistair Smith, Kane Baldwin, Sam Wilson (GK)
Scunthorpe United:
Ben Ledger, Riley Baker, Fortunate Sitole, James Dean-Atkinson, Charlie Cleminshaw (Harvey Ablett 73), Lewis Butroid, Noel Burdett, George Hornshaw, Jack Dyche (C), David Barber (Leslie Sackey 60), Sonny Shilling
Unused subs - Joe Parker, Michael Tolchard
When the team sheets were released, it became apparent that several changes had been made to the starting eleven since last Saturday.
Several regular watchers of the Under 18 team games, were slightly concerned that the players seemed to have lost some of their impetus during the enforced Winter break; but were satisfied to see that the collective spark had been reignited again today.
The Stags kicked off on a bitterly cold morning, knowing that they were going to have to be at their very best to get anything against a strong Scunthorpe side, and in the event, they weren't found wanting in any quarter and turned in a great performance.
It wouldn't be stretching a point to say that their dominance throughout the game wasn't really reflected by the narrow margin of victory.
Earlier this season, John Dempster had addressed a seminar of club sponsors at the One Call Stadium and emphasised that his priority with the youth teams was the development of players, while results were of secondary importance. But the win today and, more importantly, the manner in which the league title favourites were overcome by an all round team performance, was a little bit special.
On days like this, when everything that has been worked towards at the academy training sessions all falls into place, it is a complete vindication of the clubs approach to their development programme and makes all of the effort worthwhile for everyone.
Mansfield went straight for the jugular from the off and Ben Ledger, the visitors keeper, was called into action almost immediately, when Zayn Hakeem saw off a challenge from Fortunate Sitole and powered a shot towards the Iron goal.
Kieran Harrison, who had been handed the captain's armband today in recognition of some solid performances in the centre of defence of late, played a long free kick forward to Tyler Blake, that Ledger initially struggled with, but saved at the second attempt.
The Scunthorpe back line, were very strong in the tackle, with Riley Baker and Charlie Cleminshaw in particular looking as uncompromising as anything that the Stags have come up against this season. But the home side were relishing the challenge, with Hakeem and Tyler Johal combining well and working off of each other to keep a very competent visitors defence on their toes.
Judging by the smiles on the faces of the Mansfield players they were loving every minute of it.
The Stags took the lead on 22 minutes.
Zayn Hakeem won the ball on the left hand side of the area and laid it back to Charlie Shaw who crossed first time to Drew Gibson, two Scunthorpe defenders blocked Gibson's route to goal and the ball broke loose to Tyler Blake, who without any hesitation shot past Ledger from ten yards out, before the Iron defence had the opportunity to close ranks again.
Baker over-hit a backpass to Ledger that had the Scunthorpe keeper muttering under his breath as he chased a lost cause and the ball went out for a corner.
Teddy Bloor's in-swinging kick was cleared back towards him from the six yard box, but the Stags right back drilled his shot into the side netting.
Adam Bishop's first touch came when he held onto a deep cross from Noel Burdett, that moved around in the strong gusts that were whipping across the Kirklington Road ground and justifying the decision to build a very productive wind farm in the area. Burdett for his part, was probably Scunthorpe's best player on the day, which illustrates what a good job the Mansfield defence were doing containing some of the most talented attacking players in this league.
Morgan Ratcliffe was unflappable in defence alongside Harrison who was excelling in the role of captain and effectively snuffing out the threat of the highly rated Jack Dyche. The full backs were both getting up in support of their attackers, with Charlie Shaw putting in what was possibly his best performance of the season, while Cameron Healey and Cain Smith, fought doggedly for control of the midfield, which freed up Blake and Gibson to join in with the attack, where a was a real pleasure to see the understanding that Hakeem and Johal are developing between them.
As the first half came to a close, Ratcliffe cut out a cross to the prolific Dyche from Noel Burdett, that typified Scunthorpe's attacking play thus far, inasmuch as, Bishop left the field of play at the interval with a clean sheet under his belt, but apart from dealing with a few awkward crosses, he hadn't had a single save to make.
HT: Mansfield Town 1 v Scunthorpe United 0
The second half started in pretty much the same vein as the first, with the Stags defence and midfield suffocating any attempt to get back into the game by the league leaders, while they attacked frequently at pace, with a quick passing and moving game that got in among the ever attentive Iron back four.
A sustained spell of attacking from the home side, put Scunthorpe under the cosh, but the much anticipated second goal evaded a very lively Stags side, until right at the death.
James Dean-Atkinson fouled Hakeem out on the left flank, but Bloor's free kick was scrambled away.
Hakeem forced a corner that Bloor took, picking out Healey, but his towering header was saved by Ledger.
Drew Gibson muscled through the defence with a powerful run and once again 'Scunny' had Ledger to thank for keeping them in the game as he saved bravely at Gibson's feet.
The visitors tried to switch things around by defending a line higher up the pitch, which allowed Johal to race forward unchallenged from Gibson's through ball and Ledger had to sprint twenty yards out of his area to launch the ball out of harm's way.
Dean-Atkinson tried to release Dyche with a forward pass, but Harrison thwarted the Iron striker and cleared the ball out of the area and when Scunthorpe regained possession of the ball, Sonny Shilling over-ran it to the byline and aimed a cross cum shot into the side netting from a near on impossible angle.
Gibson was playing like a man possessed today, he battled forward past two challenges and cued up a chance for Blake, who was unlucky to see his effort deflected over the bar.
Scunthorpe were trying to get back into the game, with Burdett in particular looking to be a threat, but the home side were flying and looking to finish this very entertaining game off.
Healey sent Blake away but the visitors keeper showed yet again why his side concede so few goals with another fine save.
Hakeem was tripped by Cleminshaw just outside the left hand side of the area.
Johal's free kick picked out Gibson, who headed wide of the post from a great position just a few feet away from the line.
Gibson brushed himself down and started the next Stags attack with a defence splitting pass to Johal, who forced a corner off of Harvey Ablett.
Bloor's flag kick was cleared as far as Johal, who was a whisker away from topping off an impressive shift, with an 18 yard shot that crashed off the crossbar.
The visitors went three at the back as they looked to get back into the game inside the last ten minutes.
Dyche broke into the box and homed menacingly towards Bishop's goal, but Ratcliffe had the situation covered and nicked the ball away with a timely block.
Leslie Sackey found himself one on one against Bishop but he sliced the ball well wide of the goal as the Stags keeper raced out to block him and forced a rushed shot from the Iron substitute.
There were just four minutes left on the clock, when Dyche exchanged passes with Hornshaw inside the Stags area and knocked in the equaliser. In spite of Harrison and Ratcliffe keeping the Scunthorpe striker under wraps, he'd had one clear cut chance all game and he'd taken it.
However, there were still four minutes on the clock, when Mansfield quickly restarted the game and broke forward at pace, Drew Gibson surged into the area and and thumped a low cross past Ledger.
The closing minutes became a bit frantic, with both sides gathering angrily around Teddy Bloor after he'd been scythed down, but when things settled down and one player from each side was shown a yellow card (Ratcliffe and Sackey), the Stags kept their composure, closed ranks and didn't give their visitors a sniff of an late goal.
A thoroughly deserved, high tempo win for the Stags, who really ought to have won by more goals.
There were some big performances all over the pitch today and every single one of them played their part.
This display was on a par with the impressive win at Bradford City earlier in the season and showed yet again, that John Dempster's side can rise to the occasion when they come up against top class opposition.
FT: Mansfield Town 2 v Scunthorpe United 1
The Stags U18 side are playing away at York City next Saturday, hopefully they can reproduce the sort of form that they showed today. I'm already looking forward to it.