Saturday, 22 April 2017

Mansfield Town 2 v Burton Albion 1 EFL Youth Alliance

Saturday 22nd April 2017
EFL U18 Youth Alliance
at Kirklington Road, Rainworth MW FC
Mansfield Town (2) 2
Nyle Blake 26, Jason Law 44
Burton Albion (0) 1
Joe Sbarra 48
Flickr photo gallery: CLICK HERE
Mansfield Town:
Wilson, Bloor, Baldwin, Ward, Ratcliffe (C), Harrison, Wilder, Healey, Hakeem, Law, Blake (Reittie 82)
Unused subs - Sundby, Dumbleton, Walker, Smith
Burton Albion:
Hawkins, Cooke (Hart 83), Hutchinson, Hallahan, Cotterill, Dowd, Saville, Harrison (Savage 65), Sbarra, Matthews (Steer 73)
Unused subs - Ollie Fairbrother, Ethan Vale
The Stags youngsters went into this game secure in the knowledge that their fate was in their own hands and a two point haul from their remaining two games would see them crowned as champions for the second year running, regardless of what happened anywhere else.
In the event, they claimed all three ponts against a spirited Brewers side, who obviously hadn't just come to make up the numbers.
Having started on the front foot, with Zayn Hakeem, Nyle Blake and Teddy Bloor taking the game to their visitors from all directions, while utilising the height of Cameron Healey to good effect inside the Albion goalmouth.
Callum Hawkins, the Burton keeper got the faintest of touches to a towering header from Healey to help the ball over the crossbar, but the unsighted referee awarded a goal kick. Match officials are only human and they occasionally make mistakes, just like the players.
Joe Sbarra provided Burton with their first attack, when he cut in field from out on the right flank, but his shot was easily dealt with by Sam Wilson.
Mansfield had one hand on the championship trophy, when Kane Baldwin's long distance delivery found Jason Law with his back to goal and as the visitors defence tried to crowd Law and Hakeem out of the game, between them they managed to knock the ball sideways into the path of Nyle Blake, who crashed it past Hawkins to put the Stags ahead.
Hakeem strode powerfully forward for thirty yards, before wrong footing two defenders who were tracking him and having changed direction, rolled the ball sideways to Healey, but Tom Hammerton managed to intercept his intended pass and cleared the danger, for now.
Bloor's left wing corner towards the Stags skipper, Morgan Ratcliffe, was headed back towards him by Jayden Cotterill and when the Stags number two crashed the ball across the six yard box, it deflected wide off of Danny Cooke's right hand, but the referee waved away the appeals for a penalty, ruling that Cooke had been unable to get out of the way and any contact was purely unintentional.
Eager to ram home their advantage, the Stags created a string of chances,but only managed to clear the crossbar three times in quick succession, with Henri Wilder letting rip with a long range shot, Law turned the ball over from ten yards after Blake had headed Bloor's cross down to him and Kieran Harrison diverted the ball over, when he met another cross from Bloor over with a powerful header.
With half time fast approaching, Jason Law spotted a gap in the Albion defence, put on a burst of pace to shimmy through it and confidently side footed the ball beyond the reach of Hawkins.
Right at the start of the second half, the Stags made hard work of clearing the ball out of defence and Joe Sbarra pounced to take advantage and rolled the ball into the back of the net from close range.and all of a sudden, it was 'game on' again, with everything still to play for.
Keaton Ward carried the ball forward thirty yards, avoiding two attempted tackles, before laying the ball off the Law, who quickly played it to Wilder on the right flank, before taking the return pass and showing some neat touches to get beyond Reece Hutchinson and crossing to Ward who had continued his run, but when the industrious midfielder shot from just inside the Burton area, Cotterill blocked his effort.
Wilder tried his luck with a speculative shot from twenty yards and when the ball ricocheted back to him he knocked it back to Ward, who danced through  the left channel and whipped a cross into the path of Blake and Hakeem, but neither of them could quite get a foot on it and Burton had a lucky escape.
Harrison swerved a free kick from outside the area over the Burton defensive wall, but Hawkins had it covered and plucked the ball out of the air.
Ward teed the ball up nicely for Wilder, but he couldn't keep his shot on target as he blazed the ball wide of the left hand upright.
Burton were still a threat going forward and Wilson did well to keep out a well struck low shot by Charlie Dowd.
Dowd once again, showed good attacking intentions when he combined with Hallahan, but Wilson had read the situation well and claimed the ball.
The Brewers were defending in numbers and piling forward as a compact unit whenever the opportunity to counter attack arose, in the eighty ninth minute of the scheduled ninety, Hammerton broke free inside the Stags area and he unleashed a shot from ten yards and time stood still momentarily as it looked for all the world as if the celebratory champagne would have to stay on ice for at least another week, but Wilson had advanced bravely from his line and blocked the Burton captain's thumping shot.
Play switched ends quickly and Hakeem's persistence saw him release Wilder at the second attempt, but Hawkins twisted and turned the ball over the bar... and moments later, the final whistle signalled celebration time for the victorious Stags as they held on to clinch the title that they had been defending since last May.
What a fantastic achievement for all involved.
FT: Stags U18 2 v Burton Albion U18 0
Anyway... there's no need to go on and on and on and on, we are the champions my friends, and we'll keep on fighting 'til the end.