Friday, 3 November 2017

Grimsby Town 0 v Mansfield Town 1 - FA Youth Cup R1

Friday 3rd November 2017
FA Youth Cup First Round
at Blundell Park, Cleethorpes
Grimsby Town (0) 0
Mansfield Town (0) 1
Sam Jackson 73
Admission £3 inc. team sheet
It was always going to take something a bit out of the ordinary to separate these two well matched sides and in the seventy third minute, that magic moment of individual brilliance came when Sam Jackson, who had entered the fray as a half time substitute, picked up a great knock forward from Aiden Walker out on the right, twenty five yards (at least) away from the Mariners goal, switched the ball between his feet and buried a sweetly struck shot into the top left hand corner of the net, beyond the clawing reach of Corey Briggs, the Grimsby keeper.
Initially, both sides had their moments as the game ebbed and flowed from one end to the other, but I think it would be fair to say that both defences ruled the roost during the first half.
However, after the break, the game opened up more with Nyle Blake crashing the ball against the woodwork with a thumping header and Riley O'Sullivan going close as the Stags tried to put the game to bed, while Josh Walker repeated the 'crossbar challenge' trick at the opposite end for the Mariners.
Grimsby had two penalty appeals ignored in the opening twenty minutes by the referee David Jones, who had a good view of both incidents, in the first instance Josh Walker over ran the ball and fell as (A) Walker (no relation) moved across him to make an interception and moments later Brandon Buckley collided with the same Stags defender as the Mariners attacker looked to use his 'inertia' to nudge (A) Walker and prevent him from making a clearance, but found his marker to be more solid than he maybe appears to be.
(J) Walker was being frustrated whenever he tried finding an opening via the flanks, because Cameron Weston and the visitors captain Henri Wilder, were both slamming the door shut in his face and keeping that route closed, watching the Grimsby play-maker tightly, with the same kind of diligent and unselfconscious close attention, that your Gran's horny Jack Russell shows your leg when you nip round her house to eat turkey sandwiches and watch a black & white James Stewart film on Boxing Day.
Lewis Gibbens wasn't missing a single ball in the air and Xavier Sundby would happily gather the kind of crosses he was fielding at regular intervals all night long.
The hosts defence weren't giving Rhys Sarson, (who had scored in the Stags previous game against York after coming on as a late substitute) much room to manoeuvre, but the close attention that he was getting, afforded Riley O'Sullivan more room to operate and Nyle Blake to make a telling contribution through the middle and out wide on the left.
In  the middle of the park Harry Bircumshaw and the battling Jack Cornell, were redefining the word tenacious, while Keaton Ward complimented their willingness to do the 'getting a foot in' and 'digging the ball out' dirty work, with his usual abundance of flicks, tricks and impressive range of passing and high quota of decent deliveries from set pieces.
We were blessed tonight, that only the Main Stand on Harrington Street was open for spectators, because that meant we weren't exposed to stiff wind that was blowing in from the adjacent Humber Estuary.
Ward delivered a long free kick towards Sarson, but Briggs came off his line to punch the ball off the Mansfield striker's head.
Right on the stroke of half time, out on the Grimsby left flank, Buckley combined with Jock Curran and Bilal Sesay, who knocked a dipping cross into the path of (J) Walker, but as he tried to glance a header over the advancing Sundby, he could only flick at the ball with his fringe and the Stags were glad to see the ball go across the face of their goal and wide for a goal kick.
HT: Mariners 0 v Stags 0
It was indicative of how well the two defences had been performing during the opening forty five minutes, when both sides took off their respective centre forwards as part of a second half reshuffle.
Cornell had certainly been making his presence felt so far and he'd obviously irked Jamie Goddard at some point, as the Mariners number seven went in high on the Stags holding midfielder, getting his foot up in a manner than Jackie Chan would have been proud of, but that went against the grain with the referee. I suspect that in the heat of a first team game with the crowd venting their outrage, young Mr Goddard would've received a greater punishment for that sort of challenge. I hope it was just a one off, because all told, he's better than that.
But Cornell took the knock in his stride and was soon in the thick of things again, laying the ball out wide to Blake, who drew two defenders before rolling the ball back to Wilder whose cross was scrambled clear by Matt Pollock before it could reach O'Sullivan.
(J) Walker exchanged passes with Goddard, before driving the ball low across the face of the Stags goal, but Sundby had it covered.
Buckley made a darting run forward, but before he could lay the ball off in the final third, (A) Walker fronted him up and almost casually took the ball away in a calm and assured way, before playing it out of defence.
Moments later Buckley arrived on the edge of the Stags area in full flight again, but this time (A) Walker realised that composure and an assured interception weren't optional and flattened his opponent instead, meaning he'd have to reign himself in for the remainder of the game as Mr Jones brandished a yellow card. Needs must!
As the second half moved on, the Stags grew in stature and began to put the home defence under the cosh.
Wilder swung the ball into the six yard box and Blake's crashing header thumped against the bar. O'Sullivan beat Briggs all ends up with a shot on the turn, but the ball went narrowly past the wrong side of the post.
Myles Lawman lashed a long range free kick towards the bottom corner of the visitors goal, but Sundby got down well to his right to make a save.
Then came Jackson's party piece... an exquisite finish to put the visitors in the driving seat.
Briggs saved from O'Sullivan as Mansfield streamed forward to ram home their advantage.
Cornell who had taken a bit of a battering in midfield, but who, to be fair, had given just as good as he got, was taken off to prevent any further damage and his replacement Luke Morgan was soon adding fresh impetus to the game, spraying the ball wide to Blake, whose left wing delivery was only half cleared as far as the impressive Ward, who was crowded off the ball by three Mariners players.
Mikey Davis tried his luck for the home side, but his long range strike was turned away by Sundby.
Buckley slipped a pass through to Richardson who laid it off sideways to (J) Walker who lost his footing, amid optimistic calls for a penalty, but with less than five minutes remaining the appeals were unwarranted by wholly understandable.
Blake picked up the ball just outside the Mansfield area and hooked a long clearance down the park for Iyrwah Gooden to chase, but as the ball bounced in front of the Stags late substitute, Briggs had dashed out of his area and headed the ball away, a fraction of a moment before Gooden could connect with it.
Grimsby flung everything at Mansfield in stoppage time, but Kyle Richardon over-hit a long range shot into the deserted Pontoon End stand and right at the death, as hard working Buckley was about to test Sundby from twelve yards, Gibbens pounced and and made well timed and excellently executed tackle and that was the last action of this hard fought cup tie.
FT: Grimsby Town U18 0 v Mansfield Town U18
Grimsby had certainly given Mansfield a good run for their money tonight, but hard graft, unstinting determination and that one outstanding moment of quality from Sam Jackson, won the game for the Stags, who now face a trip to the New York Stadium, to take on fellow EFLU18 Youth Alliance side Rotherham United in the next round. 
See you there!