Mansfield Town under-18s made a winning start to their EFL Youth Alliance campaign with a 1-0 victory over Bradford City under-18s on Saturday.
Nathan Caine’s penalty in the first-half turned out to be the winner, in a game where the amber and blue kept a clean sheet away from home.
Under-16 right-back Taylor Anderson started the game as part of a young back-four, helping to keep the ball out of Mansfield’s net throughout the 90 minutes.
Under-18s’ coach Mike Whitlow (above) says that the clean sheet from such a youthful defence was the most pleasing aspect of the game.
“It was a very pleasing performance right from kick-off,” he began. “The lads have been working really hard since they’ve come back into the building.
“Bradford beat us twice last year and are a very good football side. We set about working on our intensity and closing down throughout the week, and the lads implemented it.
“It’s great to win but I was more delighted with having an under-16 at right-back, Taylor Anderson. It was a massive boost for everyone having someone so young in the team.
“It was a very young back four. It was pleasing to see how the second years looked after the new boys.
“When you play against Bradford, you know they are a team that can open you up, so it was really pleasing [to keep a clean sheet].”
Whitlow also says that Stags’ youngsters have been a ‘credit’ since returning to football, following the national lockdown.
“They’ve been a credit [since returning after lockdown]. Liam Hearn [assistant professional development coach] has joined us and he’s a really calm, collected figure. He’s great with these young lads.
“It’s been a mad period of trying to fit a lot into a short space of time, as well as their education. But they’ve been a credit.”
Stags’ young guns are next in action against Huddersfield Town under-18s on Saturday 19 September (11am kick-off). All of Mansfield’s under-18 fixtures – home and away - are currently being played behind-closed-doors, so no supporters will be allowed to attend the match.
STAGS’ XI: Campbell (GK), Anderson, Collins, Tomlin (Bouch 73’), Cooper (C), Hill-Smith, Caine (Lawson 45’), Hill, Deakin (Edwards 70’), Davies (Reynolds 83’), Sketchley.
UNUSED SUBS: Mason (GK).