Saturday, 7 May 2016

Mansfield Town 0 v Cambridge United 0 - SkyBet League 2

Saturday 7th May 2016
SkyBet League 2
at Field Mill/One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Cambridge United (0) 0
Nah, I don't know why people put the half time scores in brackets when it was a 0-0 draw either.
Attendance: 3,548, inc. 564 away fans
Mansfield Town:
Scott Shearer, Malvind Benning, Ryan Tafazolli (James Baxendale 46’), Krystian Pearce, Lee Collins, Mitchell Rose, Adam Chapman, Chris Clements, Matty Blair, Emmanuel Dieseruvwe (Zayn Hakeem 56’), Matt Green (Adi Yussuf 83’)
Unused subs - Brian Jensen, Reggie Lambe, Jamie McGuire, Jason Law
Cambridge United:
Will Norris, Leon Legge, Berry (Max Clark 62’), Harrison Dunk, Josh Coulson (Mark Roberts 46’), James Dunne, Zeli Ismail, Jimmy Spencer, Ben Williamson (Ryan Donaldson 85’), Rayn Ledson, Darnell Furlong
Unused subs - Sam Beasant, Elliot Omozusi, Shane O'Neill, Dylan Williams
Prior to kick off, the old North Stand clock was unveiled on top of the Bishop Street Stand, where it has been carefully restored by way of a lasting memorial to Kim, club director for youth development's Steve Hymas' 26 year old daughter, who tragically passed away in June, having only recently become a mother herself.
I can't imagine what Steve has been through during what must have been a completely awful twelve months for him, I certainly couldn't have held things together and conducted myself with the kind of composure and dignity that my good friend Steve has done. Respect mate.
It's not always the first place you'd ever look for spiritual enlightenment, nor is it an eternal source of positivity and upbeat vibes... and even though there are several regular participants whose considered input raises the intelligence quota above the speculative knee jerk reactionary bar that others have seemingly settled for, the Stags fans forum still leaves a hell of a lot to be desired at times.
However, I feel compelled to draw the attention of the outside world to this internet chatroom and here are a couple of links that lead to two currently active threads on Stagsnet, pertaining to the Mansfield Town Under 18 team: Zayn Hakeem and Under 18s parade trophy today
I was invited to go onto the pitch with the triumphant youth team for their presentation, but I declined, ever so politely.
Sure, there is far more than anybody could ever realise going on behind the scenes at any given time and I'm happy to weigh in with whatever may need doing, but today's fifteen minutes of fame was for the young Stags players and they've well and truly earned it.
It was all about them... not me.
It was a fantastic gesture for Adam Murray to line up the first team players to form a guard of honour for the youngsters as they came out to parade their trophy this after, top man!
So another season has come and gone at Field Mill.
Was it a good one?
Yes, is surely the correct answer, on so many levels, because the bigger picture makes for very optimistic viewing, in my humble opinion, based on what I'm seeing and hearing from on the periphery.
I'd predicted a mid table finish and said before the season started that such a final placing in League 2, would surely be considered as progression in the grand scheme of things, compared to the recent years, where the Stags haven't exactly hit the ground running since they were promoted back into the Football League.
'Mid table mediocrity' is how some people will view it, but I would suggest that the pros are far outweighing the cons and things are moving in the right direction.
Overnight instant success isn't an option for a club like Mansfield Town and those who are pining about getting the apparently good times back would do well to remember that the 'glory years' encompassed just one season outside the bottom two divisions back in 1977-78.
Of course we'd all love to see the Stags strutting their stuff at a higher level, or 'Doing a Doncaster' as somebody put it, but check out which division Rovers will be playing in next season.
The club has to grow from within and do so at a sustainable rate; and to that end, the introduction of an Under 21 side next season, who will compete in the reserve league, is a step, if not a massive stride, in the right direction.
Of course, there is a tinge of disappointment, seeing that the Stags flirted with a top three place at one point and wasn't very far off of a play off place for the vast majority of the season, but shoot me down in flames if you must for thinking this way... but, if Mansfield Town had taken the step up through the end of term play off lottery, are they ready to compete at a higher level yet?
The pragmatic realist in me says 'not quite', but I'm sure they will be in twelve months time.
And I am full of optimism for the 2016-17 season (though reading the above you might not think so) and looking forward to watching the progression of a few of the clubs youngsters as they step up through the ranks
Talking of which...
Heeere's Zayn!!!
To be brutally honest, this afternoon's end of season, going through the motions, nothing to play for, goalless draw took on the persona of a practice match and an opportunity for some of the people who were (just about) involved to top up their tans before they jet off for a couple of weeks in the sun.
I did have my suspicions when I saw a few beach towels laid out on the pitch prior to kick off and the referee chastising several players for wearing flip flops.
Cambridge's manager Shaun Derry put the lacklustre down to the fear factor, with neither team wanting to lose on the last day of the season, hmm... a likely story!
Lee Collins put in a decent shifty, both in his own role and when he moved across to fill in for Ryan Tafazolli at hlaf time.
Matt Green did score via the underside of the crossbar just before half time, after Tafazolli had flicked on Chapman's free kick, but the Stags front man had strayed offside.
Tafazolli didn't come back out for the second half, having sustained a broken wrist. If rumours are to be believed, thos opening 45 minutes will be the last time that the popular centre half, who made a clean sweep of all the first team player of the season awards prior to kick off, will be turning out in the Stags colours., with that horrible club from the other side of the M1 apparently being his most likely destination. He has served Mansfield Town well, he deserves much better than a move to there, so fingers crossed, if he is on his way, it will be to a bigger and better club than the Spireites.
Although football is essentially a team game, it was nice to see Tyler Blake picking up the prestigious Jack Retter Trophy as young player of the year.
Knowing Jack as well as I did, I can safely say that he would have wholly approved of this particular award going to such a player, who is earmarked as having a great future at the One Call Stadium.
Tomorrow night, John Dempster, the manager of the Under 18 side will also be receiving an achievement award for this season's efforts... and rightly so.
Although today's game was regarded as a non event to many of those present, it was a BIG milestone in one 17 year old footballers life, when Zayn Hakeem came off of the subs bench in the 56th minute to make his Football League debut, which is a testament to the unstinting support of his wonderful family, his friends and everyone involved with the youth team set up... and of course the efforts of Zayn himself.
In the case of both Zayn and Tyler, you can say Nottingham Forest's loss is most definitely Mansfield Town's gain, because they let this pair slip through their academy network... don't you just love a happy ending!?
Zayn, along with fellow second half substitute James Baxendale, injected a bit of life into the game and were well received by the Stags faithful. 
Hakeem very nearly created an opening from his very first run with the ball and his raw eagerness was a joy to behold.
Obviously the youngsters at the club will be filtered into the squad rotation process that first team games revolve around as a slow trickle, rather than a flood and the really hard work starts now, but when their call comes, just like young Mr Hakeem, they'll be ready to go and won't let anybody down.
So there you go, a positive note to end the season on... and I'm already enthused about next years campaign and can't wait for it to start.
The future's bright, the future's amber and blue.
Come on you Stags!
FT: Mansfield Town 0 v Cambridge United 0