Saturday, 30 April 2016

Grimsby Town 0 v Mansfield Town 2 - FLYA (NE)

Saturday 30th April 2016
Football League Youth Alliance - North East
at Cheapside, Waltham
Grimsby Town (0) 0
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Kieran Harrison 36, Zayn Hakeem 72
A result that means Mansfield Town U18 are FLYA (NE) champions
Click HERE for Flickr photo gallery from this game
Corey Briggs, Adam Lanis, Mikey Davis, Myles Lawman, Joe Crowther, Cameron Hough, Max Wright, Tom Sawyer, Bilal Sessay, Callum Jennings (C), Jamie Gooddard
Subs - Joey Finnigan, Jack Pearson, Ben Sibbick, Ryan Evans, Charlie Lofts
Adam Bishop, Teddy Bloor, Louis Danquah, Cain Smith, Morgan Ratcliffe (C), Kieran Harrison, Tyler Johal, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake (Tom Marriott 87), Alistair Smith (Devante Reittie 84), Zayn Hakeem (Nyle Blake 79)
Unused subs - Sam Wilson, Kane Baldwin
The real beauty of this championship clinching performance, is that all but a couple of this Stags side are still first years, who are still eligible to play at this age level next season, it's a mouthwatering prospect and bodes very well for the future progress and development of the youngsters, who were actually light of two players who they could have selected today (including a 16 year old), because they were away on first team duty at Leyton Orient.
A good number of this years successful Under 16 crop of players will also be available to join John Dempster and Mark Peters side next season too.
Exciting times ahead then.
Although their fate was in their own hands and a win would secure the league title regardless of how Scunthorpe United fared today, the Stags knew they were going to have to work hard against a young Mariners side who had proved to be tough opposition in both league and cup competitions already this season.
Mansfield came out all guns blazing and Tyler Blake chased down Corey Brigg and forced him into a save inside the first minute and the Grimsby keeper was called into action again moments later when he had to sprint out of his area, to nick the ball away from Zayn Hakeem, who had dispossessed Joe Crowther in the middle of the park before charging toward's the home side's goal.
Kieran Harrison broke up an attack and switched play into the host team's half with a quick pass to Cain Smith whose wide ball to the ever willing Tyler Johal, was whacked out of play by Adam Lanis as he raced back to prevent a cross into his goal area.
Bilal Sassey broke free down the right flank, but Grimsby's first attack was thwarted when Teddy Bloor stooped to head the Grimsby number 9's cross away.
The Stags right back is a real box to box player and within minutes of tidying things up at one end, he was involved at the other, providing the ammunition for Johal at the other end,with a throw in that Crowther failed to deal with and Briggs was called on again to thwart the Stags as he grabbed at Johal's shot.
Briggs' long clearance bounced deep inside the Mansfield half but as Tom Sawyer raced after the ball, Adam Bishop had spotted the danger and came off his line to collect, with Joe Harper screaming at the Mariners number 8 to get the ball out wide to Huckleberry Finn, who had made an crafty blind side run. OK, I made that last bit up to see if the Stags website admin were paying attention or not ;-)
Ali Smith was excelling the role as a foil to his fellow attackers and was unlucky when his measured ball through to Tyler Blake came to nothing when the assistant referee's flag went up late.
But as Grimsby conceded possession quite quickly from the resulting free kick, Ali Smith struck again and released Tyler Johal through into the penalty area, but with only Briggs to beat, the ball sat up awkwardly and Johal shot over the bar from 10 yards out.
Sessay got forward for the home side, but as his pace got him in behind the Stags defence, Bishop reacted quickly and smothered the ball at the Mariners striker's feet.
Though this game was being billed as the day the Stags clinched the title, the home side were ignoring that script and the visitors were relieved to see Callum Jennings shoot over the bar from 12 yards after Max Wright had picked him out with a great pass.
Bloor's cross was fumbled by Briggs and fell to Johal whose goal bound strike was blocked by Crowther and ricocheted into the path of Cain Smith and his crashing shot through the crowded goalmouth was deflected wide of the right hand post. 
It was quite fitting that when the Stags finally did beat the deadlock it was through a combination of two of their most consistent performers over the course of the season... when Louis Danquah's corner kick, was met by Kieran Harrison who headed the ball firmly into the back of the Mariners net.
Tyler Blake slipped the ball through the Grimsby back four who were defending high up the pitch, but the Stags were frustrated again by another late flag after Hakeen had seemed to time his run to perfection.
Tyler Blake appeared to be tripped in the Grimsby area but the ref waved play on, Cameron Hough, Grimsby's centre half nudged the ball to his keeper, but Hakeem burst in to plant the ball past Briggs. But, once again, the linesman endeared himself to the local supporters and raised his flag, to signal an offside infringement to the referee who chalked Hakeem's strike off.
The Stags captain Morgan Ratcliffe, delivered a long ball towards Tyler Blake, but Briggs came off his line a caught it, in spite of his defence having temporarily gone AWOL
HT: Mariners Youth 0 v Stags Youth 1
Tyler Blake drew a defender out of position as he slowed down his run towards the edge of Briggs' penalty area and rolled the ball into the space he had created for Hakeem to run onto, but, with so much at stake, the first team fringe player was too eager to get his shot away quickly and he sliced the ball wide of the target.
Another goal always looked to be on the cards as the visitors upped things a notch and put Grimsby under a sustained spell of pressure.
Jennings was marshaling his Mariners team mates well, as they battled hard to clear their lines, but they had Briggs to thank for clawing the ball away from the visitors forwards, when Ratcliffe headed Danquah's right wing free kick back across the front of the goal.
Hakeem burst past Hough and advanced on Briggs goal, but the Grimsby defender pulled him back and they crashed to the floor together.
Once again the match officials saw no wrong in a clumsy Mariners challenge and the home side got away with what had looked like a stonewall penalty to the parents and supporters from Mansfield who were stood directly in line with the incident.
A bit of niggardliness began to creep into the game, as the visiting players felt they weren't getting the rub of the green, while the hosts seemed to be getting away with far too many indiscretions.
The Stags won a corner when Adam Lanis lost a tussle for the ball with Tyler Blake. Bloor floated the ball beyond the back post, Cameron Healey nodded it back across the face of Grimsby's goal and Morgan Ratcliffe glanced a header against the upright.
Tenuous decisions apparently balance themselves out over the course of a season, but the Stags were denied what looked like another definite penalty, when Ali Smith forced his way past two defenders and sprinted into the Grimsby area, Crowther caught him with an outstretched leg, there was a cracking noise as their boots came together and the Stags number 10, with goal at his mercy was tripped. The only decisions that seemingly needed to be made was whether the foul had occurred inside the area or out, and how the Mariners captain would be dealt with, given that Alistair was the last man. The crowd held their breath and waited to see what the referee was going to do... he did nothing... apart from wave play on.
The young Stags weren't going to let the way things were panning out knock them out of their stride however and fortunately Ratcliffe was still focused enough to realise that Grimsby had broken forward on the counter attack and was on hand to clear Bilal Sessay's goal bound strike off the line.
It was apparent that with just the one goal cushion, the Stags would need to score again while they were pushing forward and vulnerable to a counter attack, but they must have wondered if the fates were against them when Bloor hooked a cross in and Tyler Blake directed his header out of the reach of Briggs, but the ball cannoned back off the left hand post.
But in the 72nd minute the Stags were nearly home and dry, when Ali Smith and Tyler Blake homed in on the Mariners keeper in tandem and he had to push the ball away to his left where Hakeem was arriving at just the right moment to roll the ball over the goal line and all but claim the victory and the league championship for the Mansfield Town.
Hakeem had two more chances to increase the lead, but Briggs turned one around the upright and the Mansfield frontman who had given his all chasing everything and anything today, headed the other over the bar, before he hobbled off with cramp to be replaced by Nyle Blake, a product of the Stags Under 16 side, who looks to be comfortably taking the step up a level.
Briggs turned a header from Nyle Blake onto the bar, when Johal put found him with a telling cross... and the Stags substitute came close again when Briggs saved from John Dempster's youngest youngster, when he shot from 12 yards despite being held back.
Blake junior was running amok in the Mariners area as the clock ticked down and when he rolled the ball back from the dead ball line to Johal, the former Ilkeston player was only inches away from scoring as his shot cleared the bar.
The last action of the second half, saw Cain Smith drill the ball narrowly wide from outside the area, but mattered not, the final whistle sounded and the celebrations began... we are the champions my friends!
FT: Grimsby Town U18 0 v Mansfield Town U18 2
Footnote to a great season:
Of course, football at this level is all about nurturing talent and helping to bring out the best in developing young footballer; essentially, nobody likes to lose, but results should never take precedence.
The enjoyment, camaraderie and bonding associated with this young Stags side this season is the most important thing, even though it is very nice to finish the season off at the top of the pile, in a league where the majority of opposition sides boast stronger and older squads of players.
The management, players, coaches, support staff, the families and supporters who have turned out to support this Under 18 adventure over the season, not forgetting the directors who oversee the development side of things at Mansfield Town, have had a great time together, it is a real shame that the season is now over, but the party isn't going to be and the friendships and links we've formed as we all gelled as a group aren't going to go away, as everyone moves on to the next phase.
I have worked with and met some truly awesome people this season, thank you for your time, effort and support... it has been my most enjoyable season ever and I feel privileged to have rubbed shoulders with you all.
But, everything else aside, well done lads! It is all about you.
You've got the future at your feet now, enjoy yourselves!