Saturday, 22 October 2016

Mansfield Town 0 v Walsall 2 - EFLYA Cup Northern Group Stage (Group 2)

Saturday 22nd October 2016
EFLYA Cup. Northern Group Section. Group Two.
at the Worksop Van Hire Stadium, Clipstone FC
Mansfield Town U18 (0) 0
Walsall U18 (0) 2
Dan O'Sullivan 79, Callum Peters 85
For more photos from this game: Click HERE
Stags Youth:
Sam Wilson (C), Kane Baldwin, Henri Wilder, Cain Smith, Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison, Teddy Bloor (Alistair Smith 81), Cameron Healey, Nyle Blake, Jason Law (Devante Reittie 75), Tom Marriott (Surafel Behailu 81)
Unused subs - Xavier Sundby (GK), Aiden Walker
Saddlers Youth:
Brandon Ganley, Sam Tonks, Callum Cockerill-Mollett (C), Ash Maddocks, Dan Vann (Cody Fisher 45, Stefan Mason 86)), Ben Kendrick, Joe Cairns (Debert Massamba 64), Lezion Cela, Cameron Peters, Ethan Freemantle (Dan O'Sullivan 45)
Unused sub - Mitchell Candlin
The Stags must now await their fate, to see if they will qualify for the second round by virtue of being one of the best third placed finishers from the group stages.
Alas, the league website (via Soccerway) shows John Dempster's side as having qualified by virtue of finishing second in their table, but the site admin have listed the result from this game incorrectly as 1-2, instead of 0-2.
And to that end, one would have to feel a modicum of sympathy for the Saddlers if they hadn't progressed into the next round, after having won this game at Clipstone in the manner that they did.
Because on the balance of play, they definitely deserved their win, against a fairly lacklustre young Stags side, who fell to their third defeat in a row.
Walsall currently occupy top spot in the EFLYA North West Division, where they have only lost one game so far all season, so John Dempster and Mark Peters knew that their team would be up against a strong challenge today... and the West Midlands based visitors certainly proved to be just that.
During the opening exchanges, Tom Marriott was looking to impose himself out on  the left and he tested the Saddlers defence with an early cross, but they stood firm and cleared the ball away to safety.
Jason Law turned and shot from fifteen yards, but Ben Kendrick charged the ball down and the opening came to nothing.
The game picked up in pace, but not in quality, as both teams passed the ball about frantically, but sideways, across the middle of the pitch, without a great deal of forward movement in evidence, while a string of stray passes broke up any kind of rhythm.
Some fairly rash tackles saw the referee having to intervene frequently, in one incident, Teddy Bloor was scythed down late with a fairly cynical challenge, which knocked him out of his stride for a while.
Walsall escaped from the midfield stand off, but when Will Shorrock launched a searching ball towards the Stags  six yard box, Ashley Maddocks fouled Kieran Harrison and play was brought to a standstill once again.
The Stags utilised Marriott as an attacking outlet once more and he floated a great measured ball infield to Cain Smith, who picked his spot in the top right hand corner of the Saddlers goal, but Brandon Ganley managed to reach the ball and gathered it at full stretch to deny Mansfield a first half lead.
Dan Vann repeatedly tried to release the visitors front men, by hitting speculative long balls out towards the right flank, but Henri Wilder was in control of the situation, snuffing out several attempts from the visitors to attack the home side's goal from wide right.
Shorrock almost released Cameron Peters, but Kieran Harrison moved in quickly to intercept with one of his trademark well timed and executed challenges.
Peters threatened again, pushing on through the left channel, but Kane Baldwin snuffed out the Saddlers attack. Joe Cairns broke down  the right flank for the visitors but Morgan Ratcliffe was on hand to rescue the situation. Sam Tonks, the visitors right back got as far as the bi-line with an overlapping run, but Marriott had tracked him back and put in a firm tackle to retrieve the ball.
Mansfield picked up the ante slightly towards half time, with Marriotts's long pass to Nyle Blake, was cut out by Vann, but the loose ball fell to Jason Law who unselfishly played it sideways to Bloor, whose shot was smothered by Ganley.
Ratcliffe came closest to breaking the first half deadlock, when Marriott picked out the centre halves run with a measured cross but his  header flew wide of the upright.
Right on half time, Cairns tried an improvised twist and shoot on the turn goal attempt, having received the ball with his back to goal, but what he possessed in creativity, he lacked in accuracy. And when Peters tried his luck from distance Harrison got in the way of his shot to preserve a clean sheet going into the break.
HT: Stags 0 v Saddlers 0
The visitors introduced both Cody Fisher and Dan O'Sullivan from the bench for rhe start of the second half. And both substitutes had a big impact on the final outcome.
Baldwin added his presence to the Stags attack but Callum Cockerill-Mollett, the Saddlers captain, was looking formidable in his left back berth.
Walsall picked up the ball and quickly turned attack into defence, but Cairns headed wide from Peters forward pass.
Blake put on a burst of pace as he headed towards the visitors area, but he was tripped. Bloor, adapting well to his midfield responsibilities, dropped the resulting free kick towards Cameron Healey, however Ben Kendrick won the heading duel and nodded the ball away from danger but only as far as Cain Smith who drilled the ball over the bar from twenty yards.
Law and Baldwin exchanged passes eighteen yards from goal, with the latter crossing towards Ratcliffe, but Kendrick was strong in the air again and when Harrison latched onto a headed clearance, his shot skimmed off of Ratcliffe and fell wide of the left hand upright.
Walsall, sensing that this game was there for the taking now, sent on Derbert Massamba in place of Cairns who had run himself to a standstill and the Saddlers were transformed from a side who were just about shading the battle for midfield, to an imposing attacking force.
O'Sullivan, a diminutive yet powerful and highly competitive and combative player, held off a challenge and released Peters down the left wing, he crossed to Massamba and his first touch was only a matter of inches wide of Sam Wilson's left hand post.
Cain Smith slipped a pass through the Walsall defence to Marriott, but Ganley got down well to keep out his angled shot.
Lezion Cela took advantage of some hesitant defending and smashed the ball wholeheartedly towards the Stags goal; Wilson bravely blocked the shot but couldn't quite keep hold of the ball and O'Sullivan pounced on the rebound to open the scoring. The Saddlers goalscorer had been causing problems for the home side since he had entered the fray and had looked like the most likely candidate to break the deadlock. Eleven minutes to go... advantage Walsall!
Devante Reittie had already been introduced to bolster the attack and now Ali Smith and Surafel Behailu were introduced, to get in among the visitors defence, as a draw would guarantee the Stags safe passage into round two.
But as the home side reshuffled their shape, Peters picked up the ball and powered his way straight through the centre of the Mansfield backline and crashed an unstoppable shot past Wilson, who had now been left woefully exposed twice in the space of just six minutes.
The Stags were in disarray as Shorrock set up Peters for another chance, but Wilson held onto the ball tightly.
Peters was by now the only Walsall player in the Stags half as the visitors defended in numbers, but as a long clearance reached the lone striker, he still managed to force a good save from Wilson.
Cody Fisher had been getting stuck in for the Saddlers cause since half time and his considerable input to keeping it tight at the back for Walsall was one of the key issues that overcame the reigning EFLYA North East champions in their own back yard. But when Fisher and Cockerill-Mollett
both went to clear the ball at the same time, there was a nasty clash of heads and the Saddlers number 12 came off worse as both club's physios attended to him and he left the pitch with blood showing through the bandaging that was wrapped around his head.
Thankfully I can report that after the game Cody Fisher was alright, hopefully his recovery is swift.
In stoppage time, Ratcliffe headed the ball across the face of the Saddlers goal to Baldwin, whose well struck shot was saved by Ganley... and that was it.
FT: Mansfield Town U18 0 v Walsall U18 2
It would appear that Mansfield Town and Carlisle United are the two sides with the best third placed coefficients, so fingers crossed.