Cameron Healey netted a first-half header to send Mansfield’s under 18s back to the top of the Football League Youth Alliance with a 1-0 win over Grimsby Town.
Midfielder Healey’s 14th-minute goal at Kirklington Road was enough to catapult the Stags above rivals Notts County as the weather plagued the manner of the contest despite the endeavour of both sides.
The home team started on the front foot when Healey won the ball in the middle of the park and played it through into the path of Zayn Hakeem. The striker slipped it in between two defenders to Tyler Blake, but Oakley Heath-Drury came off his line quickly to block the Mansfield captain's effort.
Grimsby ventured forward and from their first attack, Max Wright tested Sam Wilson with a shot from 18 yards out that moved all over in the wind before dropping wide of the left-hand upright.
Louis Danquah looked unfazed by the conditions and the full-back assisted the only goal of the encounter which put Mansfield in the lead. He delivered a corner towards Healey on the edge of the box and the tall midfielder powerfully headed the ball down and into the back of the net.
Grimsby, who only have a solitary point in the league season so far, provided a heartened response when they went a goal down. Callum Jennings forged an opening but shot straight at Wilson, while Harry Clifton tested the Yellows’ goalkeeper who saved well.
Moments later, Clifton knocked the ball into the path of his strike partner Kris Fawcett and Wilson performed impressively when called into action again.
Shortly afterwards, Blake dribbled his way into the Mariners’ penalty area, but the visitors cleared the ball to the edge of the box, where Cain Smith took control and laid it sideways to Healey who nearly claimed a second goal for himself as Heath-Drury gathered the ball just underneath the crossbar.
Cameron Hough, at the heart of the visitors’ backline, was working his socks off to keep Blake and Devante Reittie at bay and right on the stroke of half-time, Blake and Hakeem combined to set Reittie up, but the danger was cleared.
HT: Mansfield Town 1-0 Grimsby Town
After the restart, Bloor launched a long free-kick from out on the right into the opposition’s goalmouth and Harrison knocked it back into the path of Cain Smith who hooked his shot wide.
Tom Marriott, Blake and Cain Smith combined in a flowing move to lay the ball out wide to Hakeem on the left flank, but when the cross came it was inches away from finding Blake who had continued his run forward.
Searching for an all-important equaliser, Max Wright was popping up in dangerous positions for the Mariners and Wilson did very well to keep a close range header out from the grafting winger.
Fawcett picked up a stray pass and advanced on the Stags’ goal, but Harrison cut out his route to goal and thwarted the away side’s centre forward. Clifton and Wright then swapped passes on the edge of the penalty area and once again, Wilson had to put his body in the way.
Looking to double the lead and kill the game, Hakeem knocked the ball out wide to Tom Marriott who beat Ben Sibbick with a neat step-over before Tom Sawyer halted him with a crunching tackle to concede a corner which was duly cleared.
Grimsby then enjoyed a spell of forward play but the tireless Stags’ defence were defiantly holding onto their slender advantage - Fawcett played the overlapping Sibbick through on goal but Danquah intercepted the ball and cleared.
The visitors were soon back on the prowl again and Fawcett teed up a shot for Clifton who forced another save out of Wilson.
Hakeem picked up a lofted ball in the offensive areas and surged down the left flank, but Reittie's shot from the former’s cross deflected inches wide for a corner.
Danquah swung a low cross in towards Harrison but Heath-Drury somehow managed to turn the ball around his post. Bloor took the resultant set-piece, but once again had no luck in keeping the ball on target as the frequent gusts were dictating most of the play.
As the game ran into stoppage time, fortunately Wilson was still focusing on the game instead of the brisk conditions, and he pulled off a great close range stop from Wright, before pouncing again to deny Joey Finnegan from the rebound to make certain of the three points and a return to the top of the table.
FT: Mansfield Town 1-0 Grimsby Town
Saturday 05 December 2015
Football League Youth Alliance (North East)
Kirklington Road, Rainworth Miners Welfare
Mansfield Town (1) 1
Cameron Healey 14
Grimsby Town (0) 0
Sam Wilson, Teddy Bloor, Louis Danquah, Tom Marriott, Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison, Cain Smith, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake (C), Devante Reittie (Alistair Smith 86’), Zayn Hakeem
Unused subs - Frazer Hampson, Charlie Shaw, Joel McClean
Oakley Heath-Drury, Ben Sibbick, Lucas Middleton, Tom Sawyer, Joe Crowther, Cameron Hough, Max Wright, Jamie Phillips (Adam Laws 79), Harry Clifton (C) , Callum Jennings (Joey Finnegan 70)
Unused subs - Jack Pearson, Jack Keeble