John Dempster’s youth team continued their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday after earning a 1-1 draw with Scunthorpe United.
The game was fiercely competitive from the start and it was a deserved draw for both sides as they fought to keep their respective unbeaten starts intact.
Striker Zayn Hakeem put the Stags ahead just before half-time but Jack Dyche’s second-half strike ensured that both sides left the St. Lawrence Academy with a point.
Scunthorpe striker Dyche was the standout performer in the Iron's side and he almost drew first blood when he headed Leslie Sackey's cross wide of Sam Wilson's goal inside the opening two minutes.
As the Stags looked to stamp their authority on the game, Tyler Blake escaped his marker and nipped the ball past Scunthorpe ‘keeper Ben Ledger's outstretched arm which seemed to catch the Stags’ striker’s foot. However the young Stags’ appeals for a penalty came in vain as the referee was unmoved and awarded a goal-kick to the Iron.
With the youngsters feeling aggrieved, defender Louis Danquah cleared the Iron defence with a cross to the back post from out on the left wing and striker Zayn Hakeem had timed his run to perfection but could only direct his header wide of the upright.
As the half wore on, Stags took the ascendancy as Scunthorpe struggled to retain possession and were forced to retreat deep into their own half to keep Mansfield at bay. The Stags were ready to pounce on any Scunthorpe mistake and they had a golden opportunity presented to them on the half-hour mark when the Iron hesitated in defence which gave Tyler Blake the chance to shoot from 20-yards and he saw his speculative effort beat Ledger but crash against the post.
Stags were unlucky not to be ahead after a number of good opportunities but Scunthorpe began to put our youngsters under pressure and forward Noel Burdett tested Wilson from distance but the Stags’ ‘keeper dealt with it comfortably.
Minutes later, Burdett threatened to break the deadlock again but he wasted a good opportunity from 18-yards as his free kick sailed safely over the crossbar.
With half-time approaching, the game became an open affair with Danquah and fellow defender Teddy Bloor both putting the home side's defence under pressure with crosses into a crowded goalmouth, but the United defence scrambled the ball to safety.
Midfielder Tom Marriott controlled the ball twenty yards from goal, skipped past a challenge and let fly with a stinging drive that Scunthorpe were grateful to see deflected wide via an intervention from Lewis Butroid.
Bloor swung the corner kick into the heart of the six-yard box where Hakeem stood his ground under pressure from several Scunthorpe defenders and turned the ball past Ledger to give the Stags a lead going into half-time.
HT: Iron 0 v 1 Stags
The Stags emerged for the second-half on the front-foot and looking to build on their lead. Tom Marriott was again unlucky as his crisp volley from 15 yards out flew just wide of the upright, much to the relief of the Lincolnshire side.
The ever-influential Tyler Blake broke free on the right flank and whipped in a cross onto the head of Marriott but his powerful effort was saved by Ledger at full stretch.
With just over ten minutes gone in the half, Scunthorpe hadn’t been able to create any openings of their own, with the Stags enjoying a spell of possession in the opposition’s half. They again attacked through Blake, this time down the left, but having evaded several challenges on his 40-yard run, he was stopped dead in his tracks with a firm but fair challenge from Iron defender Riley Baker.
The challenge seemed to ignite some energy into the Scunthorpe players as they ventured into the Stags’ half in the form of Sam Ebraheem, but Marriott blocked his run and Sonny Shilling's speculative drive from the loose ball deflected wide of Sam Wilson’s goal.
Scunthorpe had their ‘keeper to thank for keeping the score 1-0 as Ledger again pulled off a great save from Hakeem at point blank range after Marriott and Danquah had created another chance for Mansfield with a slick passing move.
Cain Smith and Cameron Healey were doing a fantastic job of winning the ball in the middle of the park and distributing it to the attacking players in the Stags’ side as they looked to double their advantage.
The Iron’s talisman Dyche, who was being watched by scouts from Manchester United and both Sheffield clubs on Saturday, went shoulder-to-shoulder with Kieran Harrison but managed to wrestle free of the defender’s advances to get his shot on target, but Wilson turned the ball away with his outstretched leg.
With Scunthorpe finally growing into the game, they again went close to getting back on level terms. Dyche, Lewis Butroid and George Barmby all went close with Wilson and Harrison having to be alert to keep the Stags in front.
Our youngsters were the architects of their own downfall as the equaliser came from their own attacking set piece. Harrison couldn’t get a touch on a Bloor free kick and Ledger snatched the ball from the air and launched a long clearance up the pitch and into the path of Dyche. The Scunthorpe striker sprinted onto the loose ball before advancing into the Stags’ box and side-footing it past Wilson to level the scores.
The goal revitalised the Scunthorpe players and Dyche began to look even more threatening when he slipped the ball through to George Barmby who found himself one-on-one with Wilson, but the Stags’ keeper stood tall to narrow down the angle and forced the pacey Iron forward to shoot high and wide.
With just ten minutes of the match remaining, the pulsating encounter could still have gone either way. Cain Smith and Hakeem played a neat passing triangle through the Iron midfield and Smith tested Ledger from 20 yards, but the Scunthorpe ‘keeper was equal to the attempt.
Moments later, Hakeem played the ball out wide to Alistar Smith who whipped a first time cross towards Tyler Blake, but Ledger pulled off another fine save to keep out what looked like a certain goal.
In stoppage time, Noel Burdett unleashed a shot from outside the area which took a deflection and looped over Wilson, but the Mansfield ‘keeper somehow leapt backwards to turn the ball away for a corner with his outstretched left hand.
Wilson collected the cross from the flag kick comfortably and moments later the referee blew for full-time to ensure that both sides remained unbeaten in the current Football League Youth Alliance campaign.
The young Stags next FLYA fixture is this coming Saturday 19 September vs York City. The game kicks off at 11am and will be played at:
Rainworth Miners Welfare,
Saturday 12 September 2015
St. Lawrence Academy,
Football League Youth Alliance
Scunthorpe United (0) 1
Jack Dyche 76
Mansfield Town (1) 1
Zayn Hakeem 44
Ben Ledger, Lewis McMichael, Sonny Shilling, Matt Stockill, Riley Baker, Lewis Butroid (Sam Ebraheem 55), Fortunate Sitole (George Barmby 44), James Dean-Atkinson, Leslie Sackey, Jack Dyche (C), Noel Burdett
Unused subs - Joe Parker, George Henshaw
Sam Wilson, Teddy Bloor, Louis Danquah, Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison, Kane Baldwin, Cain Smith, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake, Tom Marriott (Alistair Smith 78), Zayn Hakeem
Unused subs - Luke Bacon, Charlie Shaw, Henry Brittijn, Surafel Behailu