Saturday, 8 October 2016

Hartlepool United 1 v Mansfield Town 0 - EFL Youth Alliance

Saturday 8th October 2016
EFL Youth Alliance
at Blackhall Colliery Welfare Park
Hartlepool United (0) 1
Liam Travers 90+4
Mansfield Town (0) 0
For more pictures from this game click HERE
Hartlepool United:
Scott Moloney, Kenton Richardson, Jack Cooper (Brooklyn Miller 58), Jacob Owen, Jordan Fielding, Ethan Wood, Liam Travers, Lewis Orrell, Connor Simpson (Dan Fell 72), Josh Hawkes, Jon Weirs
Unused subs - Alex Lawrence, Dan Boyle
Mansfield Town:
Sam Wilson, Teddy Bloor, Henri Wilder, Cain Smith, Kane Baldwin. Kieran Harrison, Nyle Blake, Cameron Healey, Zayn Hakeem, Devante Reittie (Alistair Smith), Surefel Behailu (Keaton Ward 77)
Unused Subs - Harry Bircumshaw, Aiden Walker, Xavier Sundby (GK)
What had been great week, all told, for the Stags youngsters, that saw Tom Marriott pick up the man of the match accolade after being fast-tracked into first team action in an EFL Trophy win at Port vale in midweek and Zayn Hakeem called up for international duty with Antigua; ended in frustration, as John Dempster's side went down 1-0 to a sucker punch in the fourth minute of added time, at what is fast becoming a bit of a bogey ground for them, having capitulated in the second half at the same venue last season.
It would be churlish to point out the lacklustre nature of Mansfield's performance as a contributing factor to their own downfall, given that they went into today's game previously unbeaten all season, particularly when they ultimately fell to late, late goal after the referee had added an unfathomable amount of stoppage time on at the end of a scrappy game.
But in the final analysis they didn't play anywhere near as they're capable of and were found wanting as regards that extra push of power and penetration required in the final third to grind out results in these sort of games, as Pools defended well against a decent supply of ammunition from Nyle Blake, Teddy Bloor and Henri Wilder.
As reigning champions and current league leaders, this Mansfield side are going to find teams putting in that bit extra and upping the ante against them this season, wanting to be the ones to pull the rug from under their challenge... and so it proved to be today, a Hartlepool, who haven't exactly been pulling up any trees this season, competed for everything and anything and closed ranks to squeeze the life out of any attacking inclination that their illustrious visitors might have had. A point that was demonstrated right from the off, from the Stags first attack, when Cain Smith threaded a pass through to Zayn Hakeem, who was met head on by the home side's goalkeeper who charged from his line like a man possessed and cleared the ball with a no nonsense challenge.
Sam  Wilson will probably have been the most frustrated player on the pitch when the winning goal went in, because he, more than anybody, had done more than his share of hard work to salvage what had looked like a draw as several of his teammates had a collective off day.
He saved from close range as Connor Simpson got onto the end of Liam Travers' sideways pass, smothered the ball down by his right hand post as Kenton Richardson's cross/shot almost crept into the corner of the goal and got behind Travers' long shot to collect the ball safely.
The Stags keeper had only conceded one league goal prior to today this season, his contribution to their league position and unbeaten run shouldn't be underestimated.
The Stags were passing the ball around well on what was a decent playing surface, but most of their aesthetically pleasant movement was width ways across the pitch, rather than from back to front.
Whereas whenever the home side picked up possession, they built up the momentum forward from their defence. It wasn't always easy on the eye, but it was effective nevertheless.
Blake was fouled out on the right wing and Bloor made could use of the chilling coastal breeze from  the free kick, but Moloney palmed the ball away from under his bar and the Pools defence reacted quickest to reaching the loose ball.
Devante Reittie forced a save from Moloney, that resulted in a corner that Surfel Behailu dropped into the six yard box, causing chaos among the defending team, but Moloney managed to punch Wilder's goal bound header away.
Pools came close to breaking the deadlock Jack Cooper's long range cross into the Stags area, but their towering centre forward Connor Simpson headed wide.
Whenever the Stags crossed the halfway line the home side got behind the ball in numbers, so spotting having worked out that his passing options were severely limited, at best, Kieran Harrison, who has been Mr Consistency for both the Under 18 and Under 21 sides this season, unleashed a twenty five yard shot, that Moloney did well to hold onto at full stretch.
Jordan Fielding under hit a clumbsy back pass to Moloney, that Reittie couldn't quite get a meaningful touch on, but still managed to roll the ball into the path of Blake, who uncharacteristically shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Hakeem sliced an angled shot past the post, after taking the ball wide past Moloney.
A good striker should never be afraid to miss or let their head drop when they have just spurned a good opportunity. Especially in  Zayn's case, who has been in great form all season and had scouts from Manchester City and Fulham running the rule over him today following the announcement of his call up by Antigua, but moving swiftly on, that particular finish wasn't exactly international class
To compound his misery, Hakeem was then booked for an innocuous foul, the first he had committed all game, just before the break, moments after the referee had also cautioned Pools Jon Weirs, rather harshly, for a mistimed challenge.
In first half stoppage time, Travers went close to grabbing the lead for the home side, but Kane Baldwin prevented him from shooting with a well timed tackle.
HT: 0-0

Travers was proving to be a thorn in the Stags side, but he blazed a shot high and wide at the beginning of the second half. Wilson went 'route one' with his goal kick that travelled in the wind as far as Blake who travelled down the right flank, before Cooper got his foot in, but he only managed to clear the ball as far as Bloor, who was tracking Blake's run and he chipped a deep cross into the Pools box towards Hekeem, that Moloney did well to intercept.
The clearance found it's way harmlessly back to Wilson who launched the ball to Hakeem, who in spite of Cooper's close attention, managed to direct the ball wide to Blake, who rode a challenge before forcing a good save from Moloney, down to his right, with a low curling shot that was destined for the bottom left hand corner.
Cain Smith and Cameron Healey were having to dig deep into their resources of energy to get a foothold in the overcrowded middle ground of the pitch as the game became increasingly scrappy as both teams contended with the stiff wind.
Reittie and Bloor made some headway down the right flank, But Moloney held onto the former's cross, while Jacob Own held on just as tightly to Hakeem to prevent him from challenging for the ball.
The Stags striker wasn't getting either the rub of the green or the benefit of any help whatsoever from the referee as his frustrating afternoon  went from bad to worse.
Hakeem was then pushed off the ball by Cooper and though it was possibly the easiest call that the referee had to make all afternoon, the Pools full back had an attack of the red mists and remonstrated so angrily with the official, that his manager took the wise precaution of substituting him, before he got himself into real bother.
The Stags got the ball into Hartlepool's area via a string of flicked on headers from Bloor, Reittie, and Blake, before Hakeem nodded the ball down into the path of Behailu who beat Moloney but saw his shot skim wide of the left hand upright.
Hawkes played a rangy ball down the flank to Lewis Orrell, who swung a first time cross towards Simpson, but Harrison authoritatively took control of the situation and headed the ball firmly away into the distance.
Hartlepool surged forward again, with Hawkes taking a return pass from Simpson, before Bloor blocked his shot at the expense of a corner.
Blake took up the initiative down the right flank, but was stopped in his tracks by Weirs, who was living life dangerously after already being booked in the first half.
Harrison put himself bravely in  the way of Travers' shot from the edge of the box and turned the ball behind. Orrell played the ball towards Hawkes, who was hovering near the touchline and planted an inswinging cross onto the head of Fielding whose header was kept out acrobatically by Wilson.
The home side were peppering balls into the Stags rearguard for a spell, but Wilson and his defence were showing the sort of form that has taken them to the top of the table.
Blake showed a clean pair of heels to Weirs and picked out (C) Smith with his cross, but Brooklyn Miller blocked the resulting shot and diverted the ball wide.
The home side struggled to clear the resulting flag kick and the ball found it's way back to (C) Smith, who was only denied by a great save from Moloney.
Pools counter attacked from Moloney's drop kick and there was (C) Smith again at the other end, clearing a flick on from Travers.
Wilson pulled off a top draw save that looked to have added another notch onto his clean sheet record and preserved a point for thee unbeaten Stags, when he did well to reach the ball in his top left corner. when Travers met Hawkes cross with a thumping header.
Moloney, who hitheto hadn't put a foot wrong all game, dropped Blake's cross in his six yard box, but the Stags players didn't react quickly enough to capitalise as the Pools keeper breathed a sigh of relief.
Hakeem went over in the box under a challenge from Kenton Richardson, but it was a fair tackle and another opening went begging. Bloor won the ball out on the right and laid a pinpoint pass into the path of Blake through the channel, whose shot across the face of goal only needed the slightest touch as it went agonisingly wide of the upright.
Kearon Ward was now probing for an opening down the left flank having entered the fray from the bench, but the home side were putting up a determined resistance.
Deep into stoppage time, the Stags repelled Hartlepool for what looked like the last time as they saw the ball out for a corner. But as the ball came in, Travers got up above a scrum of players and planted a downward header into the mix, that Wilson manged to get a hand too but couldn't keep out.
So with 94 minutes on the clock, the Stags restarted but didn't have enough time to salvage a draw and their impressive nine game unbeaten run had been cruelly ended, just moments before they had moved into double figures.
Mansfield had been out of sorts at times and nowhere near their best, but it would be difficult, churlish and harsh to say anything too disparaging about today's 'one off' in lieu how the team have applied themselves as a whole and what they have achieved over the season so far.
They now need to show a positive response to today's performance, when they come up against Rotherham United on Friday afternoon.
FT: Hartlepool United 1 v Mansfield Town 0