Mansfield Town under 18s emerged victorious from their FA Youth Cup first round tie with a 3-0 win over Cambridge City this evening.
Goals from Tyler Blake, Cain Smith and Alistair Smith ensured the Stags booked a place in the second round to face either Peterborough United or Dereham Town.
Under 18s’ head coach John Dempster made one change to the starting line-up that went ahead twice against Hartlepool United on Saturday and were pegged back to a 2-2 draw – loanee Tyler Johal was cup-tied after involvement in the qualifying stages of the competition for Ilkeston FC, and Tom Marriott replaced him.
The game started relatively brightly with both sides having chances in the opening stages – Rhys Westbury saw a header float just wide of the upright, while Stags’ attacker Zayn Hakeem found a yard of space but could only fire wide.
Cain Smith was next to go close for Mansfield as he made an attacking run forward, although he saw his powerful strike go past Robbie Ponting’s right-hand post.
Marriott was looking tricky as he made his way out wide to deliver the cross, and he came close to finding Hakeem at the back-post but the centre-half could’ve so easily turned the teasing cross into his own net in heading behind for a corner.
Hakeem then collected the ball in space on the edge of the area shortly afterwards, and lined up a shot which Ponting held onto gratefully. The former laid off Marriott for another opportunity at the Lilywhites’ goal, but the attempted curler aiming for the top corner was well held by the goalkeeper.
With the fog clearing slightly as the first period progressed, a superb cross was directed towards the onrushing Louis Danquah who had strode forward, and his venomous header was tipped behind for a corner by Ponting.
In the 23rd minute, Rob Holmes had a wonderful opportunity to put the away side ahead after 16-year-old Sam Wilson allowed the slippery ball to fall out of his hands from a set-piece, but he couldn’t capitalise from a matter of yards and it trickled just wide.
Tyler Blake then had an attempt at goal for Mansfield, but he didn’t get strong enough contact on his header after a pinpoint cross. Marriott’s guile in attacking-midfield was causing a frequent problem for the Lilywhites as he was often given the ball, but the away side were throwing bodies on the line and refusing to let the Yellows in.
Hakeem and Blake continued to look dangerous when the ball entered the offensive positions, although the ball beyond the defence wasn’t being provided, with Cambridge performing valiantly.
With half-time approaching, Hakeem showed an impressive turn of pace to knock it past his marker with his first touch, accelerate towards goal and hit a low shot which was turned behind by Ponting. And with three minutes on the clock until the interval, Mansfield took the lead.
Hakeem drove a crisp effort goal-bound which Ponting couldn’t hold on to, and it fell for the alert Blake who grasped the opportunity to get his second goal in the space of three days and converted from close range.
Having notched 12 goals in the competition before their visit to Nottinghamshire, Cambridge got out of the blocks in the second-half with a hint of urgency and Charlie Woolfe audaciously whipped towards goal, but it flew over.
The hosts responded in a positive manner and soon extended their lead. Hakeem laid it off for Cain Smith, who viciously arrowed the ball into the bottom corner of the net. And that would signal the pedal being firmly pressed by Dempster’s men, as they hoped to add gloss to the display.
But it was Woolfe who partook in the next action against Stags’ defence as he ran menacingly with the ball, but his marauding run was capped off by a tame effort which Wilson held on to.
A glorious chance was carved out after a long ball was played over the top, and Hakeem remained composed to find his strike partner Blake who drew a fantastic save from Ponting who made himself big.
Mansfield’s front play was getting more clinical and despite playing on Saturday afternoon against Hartlepool, fatigue didn’t appear to be an issue as they sought a third goal. Many of the squad didn’t appear in last season’s FA Youth Cup run to the fourth round but maturity in the performance was evident as they passed it around with confidence.
Cain Smith’s thunderous strike looked destined to nestle the back of the net, but the Ponting was again even to it to deny the diminutive midfielder. Hakeem’s endeavours all evening were hugely beneficial for his teammates, and he nearly rewarded himself with his first goal of the night but he placed it agonisingly wide.
Visitors’ boss Darren Wood tried to engineer a change in the game by making all three substitutes by the 76th minute, but the tide wasn’t turning as Stags’ energy ran the show and kept their opposition penned back.
Although Hakeem hadn’t found the net, his keenness to was outweighed by unselfishness as he opted to thread Blake through on goal, but the pass was cut out just in time. Eamon Henderson came close to reducing the arrears, but he scuffed it wide.
Down the other end, Mansfield added gloss to a fine display with a third goal – Alistair Smith slipped in a threatening position when played through and just when it looked as if the chance had gone, he regained his composure to lash into the top corner of Ponting’s net to round off a fine display.
STAGS' Starting XI: Wilson, Bloor, Danquah (Shaw 83’), Shires, Ratcliffe, Harrison, C Smith (Behailu 87’), Healey, Blake, Marriott (A Smith 59’), Hakeem.
Subs not used: Hampson, Baldwin.
Cambridge City Starting XI: Ponting, Sabatino (Taylor 54’), Warwick, Richardson, Holmes, Johnson, Horton (Loker 54’), Macculum, Woolfe, Goddard, Westbury (Henderson 76’).
Subs not used: Greenland, Dean.