Saturday, 12 October 2019

Mansfield Town U18 1 v Bradford City U18 3 - EFL Youth alliance (NE) & Mansfield Town 6 v Oldham Athletic 1 - EFL League 2

Saturday 12th October 2019 (12 Noon Kick Off)
EFL Youth Alliance (North East Division)
at the R&H Academy, Pleasley
Mansfield Town (1) 1
Shamar Lawson 35 pen
Bradford City (1) 3
Charlie Wood 31
Connor Morris 49
Dan Francis 58
Mansfield Town:
Mason Campbell, Larell King, Kian Sketchley, Kyle Tomlin, Nathan Saunders, Jamie Chisholm, Rio Molyneaux, Ethan Hill, Ingram, Shamar Lawson, Osaretin Otote.
Subs - Leon Philips, Frank Cooper, Arun Jones, Josh Scott, Kian Dean.
Bradford City:
Darryl Ombang, Hayden Smethurst, Dan Francis, Kian Scales, Harvey Rowe, Fin Cousin-Dawson, Cole Roberts, Olivier Sukiennicki, Connor Morris, Connoe Shanks, Charlie Wood
Subs - Ollie Norman, Jonny White, Frankie Sinfield
Mansfield Town went into today's Under 18 game on the back of four consecutive league wins; and although that unbeaten sequence was interrupted, when they lost 3-2 in a cup game at Parkgate against Rotherham United last Friday, their recent form had seen the young Stags overtake Doncaster Rovers in the Youth Alliance table, to claim top spot... for the time being at least.
Doncaster, who leapfrogged back over the Stags today, by virtue of a 4-0 win against Huddersfield Town at Cantley this morning, have also suffered a home a defeat against today's visitors to the R&H Academy: Bradford City last month... and it was easy to see why, because on the strength of this hard working performance, the Bantams have a good few promising youngsters coming up through their ranks, even though, the current league positions suggests that their approach to the development teams, is based more on nurturing talent, rather than worrying too much about actual results.
Whereas by contrast, Mansfield have picked up an impressive array of silverware over the past few seasons, to compliment the good habits that a number of their home-grown talented proteges have carried through the the first team with them (winning in itself is a good habit, of course). Two of those players are on the bench for this afternoon's first team game against Oldham Athletic... and they both appeared in Tuesday night's EFL Trophy game against Crewe Alexandra too. And they weren't the only U18/U21 players who were drafted into the squad in midweek either.
Maybe it's just me having a slightly warped sense of humour, but it amused me no end that there were scouts present at this Youth Alliance fixture, to run the rule over the seventeen year old striker: Jimmy Knowles... "You're at the wrong game guys! But you can read all about him in the first team match reports tomorrow morning's newspaper!"
Far be it from me to divulge which club had anyone present, to watch the promising young striker... but bloody hell! Knowlesy is too good for Swindon Town.
The Stags made an impressive start to the game, creating a hosts of chances, but Darryl Ombang, the visitors keeper looked in impressive form and was undeterred a the stiff diagonal wind, that was blowing right across the Academy complex, giving the ball a life of it's own, while it was in flight.
On any other given day, the hosts might have been comfortably ahead, well before Charlie Wood actually opened the scoring for the visitors just after the half hour mark, from close range, when a right wing cross bounced up awkwardly in between Jamie Chisholm and Mason Campbell, making it difficult to clear the ball that fell invitingly for Wood to provide his finishing touch.
One of the main features of the Stags attacking play, was Rio Molyneaux getting in among the visitors defence from the right hand side, and it was Molyneaux who broke clear and tried to take the ball around Ombang, but the Bantams keeper clipped him, halting the live-wire number seven in full stride, and giving the referee no option but to blow up and point to the penalty spot.
While Ombang dived one way, Shamar Lawson, calmly dispatched the ball the other, to level things up from the resulting penalty kick, just three minutes after Woods had put the Bantams ahead.
HT: Stags U18 1 v Bantams U18
At half time, I moved my car from the remote corner I had abandoned it in. Because, the Academy site had been a hive of activity with four other games in progress on the various pitches when I had arrived... meaning that space was at a premium, I relocated to a now vacated parking spot facing the pitch, from where I watched the majority of the second half, from the warmth of my drivers seat. 
Maybe that's cheating in your book, but I'm writing this one... and besides, after leaving here, I'll be exposing myself to the elements yet again later this afternoon, at Field Mill, a ground that towers all cathedral like, over everything around it, acting like a bloody big wind break, so needs must!
While I was actually conducting a rescheduled (at very short notice) job interview on my phone... the visitors weighed in with two more goals, from Connor Morris and Dan Francis, before seeing the game out, while the Stags struggled to get back into the game, as they battled to break down an extremely well organised Bradford rearguard and to make any headway into the stiff wind.
Oh well! It turned out that it really is all about progress and player development at this level then... and results genuinely are of secondary importance after all, especially today.
For what it's worth... I've been offered the job that I was interviewing for, but before I go home to discuss the situation with my finance manager (AKA spouse), there is the small matter of a first team game to attend to first.
FT: Mansfield Town U18 1 v Scunthorpe United U18 3
Apologies to anybody who might have overheard me swearing on the phone, when Francis got Bradford's all important third goal.
Apparently, the crude interruption and interjection into my conversation, demonstrated that I am a passionately loyal kind of person.
Next Saturday, Bradford City U18's entertain Burton Albion at home, while Mike Whitlow and Simon Ward take their side to North East Lincolnshire, for an away game against Scunthorpe United. Both games are scheduled to kick off at 11AM.
Moving swiftly on, the Stags Academy is only a short drive away from Field Mill/the One Call Stadium... and I was soon at the latter, around forty minutes before today's main event, brimming with excitement and optimism.
Point & hope photo gallery from today's games: Click HERE
The new fan zone area, behind the Ian Greaves West Stand, was proving popular among supporters from both clubs, who were mingling in good numbers among the various bars and food vendors, against a backdrop of fun and games for kids of all ages.
But I'm a mardy bugger, so I avoided any of the 'attractions' on offer... and went straight into the ground instead, to soak up the pre-match atmosphere, for what it was, with the rest of the anti-social old gits. 
Saturday 12th October 2019 (3PM Kick Off)
SkyBet EFL League Two
at Field Mill/the One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town (3) 6
Maynard 31, 34, 45'+4,
Mal Benning 56 (not an own goal as reported elsewhere)
Dapo Afolayan 66,
Jimmy Knowles 83 pen
Oldham Athletic (1) 1
Tom Hamer 43
Attendance: 4,368 (inc. 441 away fans)
Mansfield Town:
Conrad Logan, Mal Benning, Krystian Pearce (C), Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald (Dapo Afolayan 60), Otis Khan, Nicky Maynard (Knowles 69), Conor Shaughnessy, Ryan Sweeney, Kellan Gordon, Danny Rose (Andy Cook 55)  
Unused subs - Aiden Stone, Will Tomlinson, CJ Hamilton, Ali Smith.   
Oldham Athletic:
Gary Woods, Alex Iacovitti, Fillipe Morais, Urko Vera (Jamie Stott 39), Mohamed Maouche (Dylan Fage 62), Chris Missilou, Mohamed Sylla, Jonny Smith, Tomas Egert, David Wheater (C), Tom Hamer.  
Unused subs - Gregor Zabret, Ashley Smith-Brown, Scott Wilson, Kieren Adams, Chris Eagles
Oldham arrived at Field Mill, two points and two league places behind the Stags, having won two, drawn five and lost five, of their opening twelve games. Last weekend the Latics held high flying Cheltenham Town to a 1-1 draw at Boundary Park, a result that prevented the Gloucestershire side from taking over at the top of the table, while knocking their local rivals Forest Green Rovers into second pace.
Meanwhile, at the same time, John Dempster's Stags were chalking up their second away win of the season, at Blundell Park, against play off contenders Grimsby Town.
I think that it is probably something of an understatement, to say that both teams really needed a result today, to kick-start their respective seasons into life, while there is still time to claw their way up towards the business end of the table.
The Stags thrashed Oldham today, and the final scoreline was an accurate barometer of how the game played out.
By heck! I really, really enjoyed that... even though certain factions of the home crowd will have been hugely disappointed with the result, because they had come to see the Stags manager hung, drawn, quartered, brutally fist f*cked, completely humiliated and possibly even cremated on a pyre in the centre circle, just for good measure... you know who you are!
In response to their own team's downfall, the visiting supporters stripped their shirts off, bounced up and down and spent the afternoon singing the praises of their club. Respect is due in spades to them, as they took the days events squarely on the chin and indulged in a communal display of ironic gallows humour and defiance.
The more goals their completely overrun side conceded, the more lively and vocal they became too... which was in stark contrast to two squabbling home supporters I followed down the exit stairs after the game: "Six-one and you're still f*cking moaning!", "They haven't beaten anyone any good yet, they'll not win anything with that lot, they only beat nine men!"
I hung around on the landing to avoid the temptation of adding my own input and getting involved in this increasingly heated debate. 
Regardless of how many players the visitors had sent off today, Mansfield still have to overcome plenty of outspoken opponents from within their own ranks in the stands... these people aren't in the majority, but they're certainly the most forthright in expressing their views. 
Each to their own, innit? Opinions on politics and football are just like big, wet eggy trumps, people (myself included, probably) can only tolerate the whiff of their own.
However, I think that this afternoon's performance and result spoke volumes for itself, don't you?
"The first goal was scored in the thirty first minute"
Are you sure!?
But, I would hate to be accused of bias, impartiality or of taking sides, so moving swiftly on to the game itself.
From the outset, the visitors were under the cosh, as the Stags went at them 'full throttle', pretty much as John Dempster had intimated that they would in his pre-match press interview two days ago.
Conor Shaughnessy was pivotal to much of what was good about Mansfield today, even though Nicky Maynard will probably get more of the plaudits because of his goal scoring prowess.
It was Shaughnessy who got the ball rolling for the opening goal, spraying the ball out to Kellan Gordon on the right, who delivered an inch perfect cross for Maynard to direct a header past Gary Woods. 
And from their very next attack, the Stags had doubled their lead, when Maynard found the net again, from close range, despite the close attention of Alex Iacovitti, following some great work on the left from Otis Khan in the build up to the goal. Oldham were under siege from all directions.
Three minutes after Maynard's second goal, the Latics were reduced to nine men, when Filipe Morais (second yellow card offence), and Tomas Egert (a straight red card), were both dismissed, when Morais went in late on Neal Bishop as he passed to Mal Benning who was wiped out by a bad challenge from Egert as the ball reached him.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Dino Maamria, the visitors manager, spoke of the match match referee, Lee Swabey, having a 'moment of madness', when he sent the two Oldham players off, but when he looks at the incident again later on, he'll realise that it was, in actual fact, his own players who had completely lost the plot in this particular instance. Mansfield themselves have been beset with disciplinary problems this season... and have also experienced some big decisions that have gone against them. 
But what goes around n' all that... and Mr Swabey was 100% correct at this juncture.
But, of course, this is Mansfield Town, so it was almost inevitable, that when the odds, in a game that they were already dominating, had just been stacked even more heavily in their favour, they conceded a goal against the nine men of Oldham, when Chris Missilou sent the ball across the face of the face of the hosts goal and Tom Hamer was on hand to stroke the ball into the back of the Stags net, as Conrad Logan pushed the ball away in his direction.
Ironically, as the gaps opened up because of Oldham being two players short, it was Maamria's side who had momentarily used the extra space to their advantage.
However, the goal was akin to Oldham pushing their luck and disturbing a nest of bees with a pointed stick... and in first half stoppage time, they were stung again, as Shaughnessy's delightful forward pass put Maynard clear on the visitors goal again, and the Stags striker, took the ball past Woods before rolling it into the back of the unguarded net.
HT: Stags 3 v Latics 1
So far this season, Mansfield have had no luck at all whenever I've seen them play, apart from the bad kind, but there was an element of good fortune about their fourth goal today, as Mal Benning's low delivery into the Oldham six yard box, from out on the left hand side of the area, took a slight nick off of the visitors captain David Wheater, which completely wrong-footed Woods as he advanced from his line in anticipation of a cross... and the ball rolled, almost apologetically over the line and into the net.
No need for any deliberation over whether it was Benning's goal or an own goal... that was payback for the lunge that Egert had taken at the Stags number three during the first half.
Substitute Dapo Afolayan added a fifth in the sixty sixth minute, when Maynard surged forward, before drawing two defenders and the Oldham keeper towards him, before slipping a sideways pass into the path of Afolayan, who only had to keep the ball on target, as Woods lost his bearings and his footing.
Oldham's Dylan Fage had gone to ground, as Maynard powered past him, thankfully his injury wasn't as serious as first feared, but he'd suffered from a heavy concussion and was actually momentarily unconscious. 
To his enormous credit, the Stags captain Krystian Pearce, was the first man on the scene... and while his team-mates were charging down the pitch to score their fifth goal of the game, oblivious to Fage's predicament, Pearce quickly assessed the situation, checked Fage over and put him into the recovery position, in advance of the medical staff, from both clubs, reaching the casualty.
Thankfully word came through, shortly after the game, that Dylan Fage was recovering well, because it was a worrying time when he lost consciousness and was stretchered off of the pitch, after lengthy treatment, with his neck in a support brace.
With seven minutes to go, the Stags added a sixth goal to their total, when the referee awarded a penalty after he adjudged Hamer's robust tackle on Afolayan, to be a foul.
Benning, unselfishly handed the ball to teenage substitute Jimmy Knowles, who took responsibility for the kick... and buried the ball like a seasoned pro, to become the youngest ever Mansfield Town player to score with a penalty, just days after his first ever first team goal in the EFL Trophy game against Crewe.
FT: Mansfield Town 6 v Oldham Athletic 1
Truth be told, 6-1 didn't flatter Mansfield today, in actual fact, they could've won by an even bigger margin.
The next two weekends sees the Stags travelling to Forest Green Rovers and Walsall respectively,
 with a Tuesday night game against Salford City sandwiched in between.
Oldham's next three games see them face Macclesfield Town and Walsall at home, before they go on the road to Port Vale... the Latics supporters deserve a bit more application from their team and a few 
more points on the board on the strength of their support today.
Whisper it in hushed tones, but the Stags are now five points off of the play off places, it'll be a tall order to get anywhere near that level for a while yet, but now they're nearly up to full strength, the signs have looked promising over the last two weekends.
Tactically and personnel wise, the back to back wins have been the fruit of two completely different game plans... and though next weeks visit to Stroud will see Mansfield face a much sterner challenge than they did today, momentum can be a very advantageous weapon to have in your arsenal.
I enjoyed that ;-)