Mansfield Town under 18s’ head coach John Dempster says he has learnt a lot after watching his side exit the FA Youth Cup against Sunderland at One Call Stadium this evening.
The Stags put in a performance with a lot of heart, but came unstuck against a clinical Black Cats side who took their chances to win 5-1 and go through to the FA Youth Cup fourth round stage.
Devante Reittie did offer a glimmer of hope with a stunning equaliser immediately after Sunderland had taken the lead on the half-hour mark, although their Category One opponents ran away with the game in clinical style.
But Dempster believes he has learnt a lot about his side by watching them take on such a challenge, and thinks it won’t have a negative effect on how he reviews the current season so far.
“I learnt so much about the players tonight – although we got beaten 5-1, that’s a collective, it’s not the back four or goalkeeper which were at fault - we’re all in this together. There were some good individual performances.
“They’ve earned a small break over Christmas – they’ve worked hard for over five months now and they’ve gone from some 15-16 year-olds who were straggly teenagers that came in on the first day – [now] they’ve started to fill out, started to mature.
“This result against an outstanding outfit isn’t going to put a negative side effect on the hard work we’ve done this season. They’ve been excellent as a group and as long as they come back after the Christmas break chomping at the bit, I’ll be happy.”
And despite thinking his side will learn from the occasion, Dempster reckons his youngsters paid a heavy price for conceding at the times they did, and praised the good football the Tyne and Wear outfit played.
“Sunderland were a quality outfit, we knew they were before the game, we had them watched several times. We knew we had to be at our best. Credit to them, they passed the ball around nicely and scored some good goals.
“Whether you play Sunderland or a team in our league, if you concede a goal before half-time and after half-time, it’s going to be tough. When you’re up against a [Barclays Under 18] Premier League outfit like
Sunderland, who are good at keeping the ball, it’s going to be a difficult night.”
You can watch Dempster’s interview, in full, on Stags Player.