Mansfield Town under-19s picked up a point in an enthralling 3-3 draw against Huddersfield Town in the Youth Alliance League at Millers Oils High Performance Complex on Saturday.
Stags' starting lineup saw under-16s’ centre-back Cormac Maher feature once again after being involved in the Notts Senior Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening against Carlton Town in which he played the full 90 minutes alongside first team defender Riley Harbottle at One Call Stadium.
Theo Avery, the 16-year-old shot-stopper, was named on the bench for the first time after being a part of Republic of Ireland's training camp last week.
First-half goals from energetic midfielder Finn Flanagan and right-back Taylor Anderson saw the Stags lead on two separate occasions prior to the interval, but goals from midfielders Hakeem Sandah and Temidire Okuwa meant the two sides went in level at the break.
The Terriers took the lead for the first time two minutes into the second-half as Sandah fired home his second of the game but the visitors never lost hope and got their reward on 81 minutes when attack-minded midfielder Jakub Kruszynski found the back of the hosts’ net.
The first chance of the game fell to amber and blue’s attacker Alfie King on seven minutes following a driving run into the opposition’s box where the forward took fire at goal but ‘keeper Francis Hurl managed to make the save.
Mansfield were rewarded for their bright attacking start on 14 minutes when forward McKeal Abdullah set the ball back to the edge of the box and Flanagan arrived to fire home into the bottom corner to break the deadlock.
Huddersfield started to grow into the game after falling behind and came close to finding the equalising goal on 18 minutes when right-back Joseph Johnson whipped a low cross into the penalty area but Stags’ goalkeeper Louie Turner managed to claim the ball and prevent a dangerous effort on goal.
Hakeem Sandah restored parity for the hosts on 22 minutes as he hammered the ball into the back of Turner’s net from the edge of the box.
And only two minutes later Sam Collins’ side regained their advantage. Kruszynski delivered a perfectly weighted free-kick into the box and skipper Taylor Anderson emerged from a crowd of bodies to stab home Mansfield’s second goal from close range.
Despite playing at right-back, it was Johnson who was causing the majority of the Terriers’ attacking threat and he had another effort on goal on 33 minutes. Turner was alert to the danger and managed to make a smart save to keep his side in the ascendancy.
Huddersfield found a leveller on the stroke of half-time. Tyree Sanusi’s initial effort on goal was blocked and Okuwa was on hand to knock the ball beyond Louie Turner.
And only two minutes into the second-half the hosts took the lead for the first time in the game. Hakeem Sandah grabbed his second of the day as he managed to sneak the ball beyond Stags’ ‘keeper from a tight angle.
Early on in the second-half Sam Collins made a number of changes in the space of 15 minutes. Left-back Louis Bonser, King, Flanagan and midfielder Curtis Davies were replaced by under-16s’ full-back Elliot Hartmann, defensive midfielder Charlie Carter, creative midfielder Bailey Hamilton and pacy forward Noah Aynsley-Johnson, respectively.
Mansfield’s plethora of changes included a few tactical adjustments, one of which saw Anderson move over to left-back to allow Hartmann to feature in his regular position on the opposite side of defence.
Jakub Kruszynski had a brilliant opportunity to bring his side level on 69 minutes. After receiving the ball in the space on the edge of the box his effort ultimately lacked the composure needed as his shot went over Hurl’s crossbar.
The Terriers had the chance to extend their lead on 75 minutes as Okuwa was presented with a brilliant chance but dragged his effort wide.
That miss proved costly for the hosts as Kruszynski found Stags’ equaliser on 81 minutes after expertly finding the bottom corner from the edge of Huddersfield’s area; a much deserved goal for the visitors following their hard work in the second-half after going behind.
Sam Collins’ young guns had a wonderful chance to win the game in additional time as Anderson delivered a great ball into the area but striker McKeal Abdullah was unable to hit the target.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN: Hurl, Johnson, Beedie, Weston, Parker, Helliwell, Sandah, Okuwa, Deru (Bakre 65), Vost (Animasahun 58), Sanusi
UNUSED SUBS: Walpole, Fletcher
MANSFIELD TOWN: Turner, Anderson, Whyle, Maher, Bonser (Hartmann 53), Davies (Aynsley-Johnson 66), Flanagan (Hamilton 58), Kruszynski, Kokkinos, King (Carter 57), Abdullah
UNUSED SUB: Avery