Saturday, 1 October 2016

Doncaster Rovers 0 v Mansfield Town 1 - EFL Youth Alliance (NE)

A world record attempt, for the longest U18 match report ever.
Saturday 1st October 2016
EFL Youth Alliance
at Cantley Park, Doncaster
Doncaster Rovers U18 (0) 0
Mansfield Town U18 (0) 1
Tom Marriott 69
For action photos and rogues gallery click: HERE
Doncaster Rovers:
James Leverton, Tyler Walker, Coby Price, Morgan James, Reece Fielding (C), Joe Dunnett, James Morris, Jacob Fletcher, Lewis Scattergood, Will Longbottom, Matt Overton
Subs - Keegan Townrow, Louis Jones, Brandon Horton, Cameron Barton
Mansfield Town:
Sam Wilson, Teddy Bloor, Henri Wilder, Cain Smith (C), Kane Baldwin, Kieran Harrison, Nyle Blake (Surafel Behailu 73), Cameron Healey, Zayn Hakeem, Devante Reittie (Alistair Smith 87), Tom Marriott (Keaton Ward 87)
Unused subs - Aiden Walker, Harry Bircumshaw
Tom Marriott's 'crafty' opportunist second half strike, was all that separated the two sides at Cantley Park, as the young Stags maintained their unbeaten start to the season, that now stretches to nine games in all competitions, including six back to back league wins, while they've conceded just one goal in seven starts in the North East Division, which they currently lead by five points from second placed local rivals Notts County.
There was just one change to the Stags line up today, with Devante Reittie making the starting eleven due to Ashanti Pryce being unavailable, the quality of the available replacement illustrates the strength in depth of the current squad.
In spite of their league position, Doncaster gave John Dempster's side a decent game, with a line up that included several players who can boast of having been involved with the first team this season, in actual fact, some of them played at the One Call Stadium in the EFL Trophy game against Adam Murray's side in August, which Rovers won.
As reigning champions, teams seem to be going that extra mile to topple the Stags off of their perch, but they adapted well to the threat posed by Rovers today, as they implemented a 'horses for courses' policy to deal with their South Yorkshire opponents, who play on a ground that quite literally backs onto Doncaster Racecourse and is surrounded by streets and public houses named after famous horse racing venues and events.
On a perfect pitch, the going was good to firm, as the players went under starters orders and the thoroughbred that is Cameron Healey got the game underway.
It soon became apparent, that Doncaster would be giving no quarter and that they considered the Stags scalp a very desirable one to take on their home-turf.
The home side were well drilled, strong in the tackle and robust in the way that they applied their game plan across the middle of the park, in a manner that augmented their no frills, no nonsense approach to defending.
Given the 100% commitment and effort they were showing, it wouldn't surprise anybody who is au fait with Mansfield Town's recent first team playing history, that the 'hard working and combative' Former Stags midfielder enforcer John Schofield is one of Rovers youth team coaches.
As an aside, Schofield was actually linked with the first team manager's job at Field Mill a few years ago, but Billy McEwan was appointed instead.
Rovers keeper, a Retfordian by the name of James Leverton, was making his first start since these two sides last met back in March at Rainworth (another closely fought game that the Stags also won 1-0) and evidently had a point to prove as he put a determined shift, while Sam Wilson was made to work hard to add to his impressive clean sheet tally at the other end too.
Without the heroics of both keepers, the score would quite probably have been far greater today.
Marriott created the visitors first opening of the game, when he ghosted past Tyler Walker on the left flank, but Leverton got down to parry his shot away and when Nyle Blake reached the rebound first, the local assistant referee raised his flag to penalise Zayn Hakeem for straying offside.
Hakeem's frustration was compounded throughout the afternoon, when the same eagle eyed match officials seemed to be having an amnesty on big centre halves called Reece, restraining and pulling the shirt of any player wearing a number nine on the back of an amber coloured garment.
Rovers pushed forward in numbers and it took the combined efforts of Cain Smith and Henri Wilder to clear the danger created by Matt Overton's left wing cross, but the home side picked up the ball back up and James Morris made a darting run down the right flank, but Marriott was faster than his opponent and having caught up with him, put in a tackle to prevent a cross.
Morris won the ball back from the corner kick, but Wilson rushed from his line forcing the 'Donny' midfielder to hurry his shot, which flew harmlessly past the post as a consequence.
Cain Smith unleashed a shot from twenty five yards that deflected wide off of Reece Fielding.
Marriott picked out Kieran Harrison from the corner, who rose like a salmon to head the ball down into the path of Hakeem, but he cleared the crossbar (and then some) with a wild shot.
Once again Leverton denied Marriott from close range, before getting his fingertips to the same players corner and helping the ball on towards Joe Dunnett, who launched it away to safety.
Hakeem tried freeing Blake down the right flank with a diagonal ball, but Rovers were defending in two banks and they closed the lively attacker down in numbers.
Reittie picked up the ball in midfield and ran forward thirty five yards, before the home defence crowded him out as well.
Doncaster looked very adept at smothering out any sort of creative forward movement by the league leaders, while getting the ball to their attackers quickly, once they had (re)gained possession.
Mansfield for their part were doing well to absorb the home sides fast paced counter attacking prowess, with Kane Baldwin and Kieran Harrison in particular dealing with being thrust into the line of fire. But the visitors had Wilson to thank for keeping the score level, when he pulled off a good instinctive save, as Lewis Scattergood hit a rasping shot on the turn from the edge of the area.
As the home side advanced down their left wing, Teddy Bloor won the ball with a firm but fair tackle that both John Dempster and Mark Peters would've been proud of in their playing days (in fact even the legend that is Brian Kilcline might have jumped over that one) and stroked the ball forward to Healey, who slipped a measured pass through to Hakeem, but as he stormed forward with menace he was stopped by in his tracks by Fielding, with a tackle that would've had Eddie Waring purring with unrestrained joy.
While Zayn put his clothes back on, the referee took Fielding to one side and yellow carded him.
Reittie collected the ball with his back to goal and turned it into the path of Hakeem, but Cody Prior intercepted the intended pass and cleared towards the halfway line... and when Blake showed a clean pair of heels to three Rovers players out on the right flank, he found that pretty much all their other lads were waiting to clear his cross... safety in numbers n' all that.
With some of the tackles and close 'marking' that the match officials were letting go, it was somewhat ironic that Tom  Marriott was cautioned for speaking out of turn after being clattered into.
But dealing with the way that different referees interpret the rules (and for the most part Mr Blades and his two assistants had a good game), is just as much a part of learning about the game as getting to grips with hard working opponents is... and Donny Rovers certainly fell into that category today.
Bloor, Blake and Hakeem, were combining well with the midfield duo of Healey and (C) Smith to try utilising Reittie's pace on the deck against Rovers towering central defensive pairing, but their back three/seven (depending on which team was in possession) proved to be just as comfortable with the ball at their feet as they were in the air.
Rovers almost nicked the lead right on the stroke of half time, but Wilson did well to pluck the ball from under his crossbar, as Scattergood met Prior's left wing cross head on.
HT: 0-0
The visitors had done well to repel Rovers tactic of containing the ball in midfield for long spells and not giving their visitors any time to dwell on the ball or make decisions, before attacking the Stags at a high tempo down the flanks and through the channels.
Doncaster were combining their pace with no small amount of physicality, not in a way that could in any way be considered dirty or against the rules of the game, but they definitely excelled in the ancient art of maximum competitiveness and keeping things tight.
Which is exactly the sort of thing that any of the youth team who make it through to the first team will come up against each and every week, when time will be of the essence whenever they're on the ball, in a man's world where a win at all costs mentality prevails.
During their half time team talk, Mansfield had tweaked things just enough to overcome the problems that they needed to solve against a very resolute home defence.
Marriott was openly enjoying his forays down the left flank far more than the Rovers right back was and he came close to breaking the deadlock from the restart, when he skipped past a tackle and cut inside before shooting over the bar.
Moments later, Hakeem broke through the middle of the Rovers defence from Blake's knock and was only denied by Leverton's quick reactions.
The Rovers keeper was soon in action again, when he did well to get down to his left and keep Reittie's close range shot out, after Hakeem had shrugged off his marker and unselfishly laid the ball off sideways to his striking partner.
Marriott danced past two defenders and delivered another teasing cross and when Fielding managed to knock the ball off of Hakeem's shooting foot, it fell into the path of Reittie who was thwarted by yet another stop by Leverton.
Harrison picked the ball up in midfield and played it to Bloor on the right wing, but Leverton was having a great game and plucked his cross out of the air.
Having withstood a wave of attacks, Rovers countered and Scattergood unleashed a shot from twenty yards, but Wilson twisted in the air and tipped the ball over.
The Stags rode their luck when Hakeem only half cleared the resulting corner into the path of James Morgan who drilled his shot just past the right hand post and into the side netting.
Reittie chased the ball down towards the left hand corner flag, but having reached it, found himself heavily sandwiched between two defenders while a third one kicked out at him.
"What for ref!?" protested one of the culprits (as Mr Blades awarded the inevitable free kick), without even a hint of irony in his tone, in spite of the fact that at least two assaults and one foul had been committed, along with several other infringements that any judge and jury worth their salt, would have had to take into consideration.
So on 69 minutes, Marriott stood deliberating his options as his team mates jostled for position with the Rovers defenders at the back stick, before spotting that Leverton had moved slightly off of his line to gain an advantage when the cross came in, so Marriott swung a crafty free kick into the space between the keeper and his near post, that curled in under the crossbar as Leverton back pedaled desperately, but could only get his fingertips to the ball as it crossed the line.
What a brilliantly executed moment of quick thinking by Tom Marriott, who immediately vanished beneath a pile of celebrating team mates.
With their noses in front, Mansfield grew in confidence, (A) Smith rolled the ball forward to Hakeem, who nudged it back into (C) Smith's path, but Leverton was equal to his effort from twenty yards.
Doncaster dusted themselves down and went looking for an equaliser, but it was Mansfield's turn to show how to absorb pressure and counter attack now.
The home side forced two corners, but Harrison cleared the first and Wilson was fouled as he rose to collect the ball from the second.
Hakeem stayed forward to battle it out to the finish with Leverton, who made two saves from the Stags striker and also did enough to put him off with another goal attempt right at the death, when Zayn was booked for time wasting, after kicking a ball (but not the actual match ball) away, out of frustration, as his momentum carried him beyond the touchline.
As Keaton Ward ran the clock down by the right hand corner flag, the referee blew for full time and John Dempster's side had ultimately 'out fought', but more importantly 'out thought' a very good, well organised and hard working Rovers side.
Doncaster gave the young Stags a different set of problems to deal with today, but they gamely battled on and worked out all of the answers and won the day, by virtue of Marriott's cheeky finish and Wilson's agility at crucial times. But, that said, it was also great team effort and example of the camaraderie that keeps on building between everyone involved, as the Stags go marching on.
FT: Doncaster Rovers 0 v Mansfield Town 1