Striker Zayn Hakeem netted for Mansfield Town’s under 18s as they drew 1-1 with local rivals Notts County at Rainworth in the Football League Youth Alliance on Saturday.
The point gained from this entertaining draw means that the young Stags stay in second place in the table, two points behind leaders Scunthorpe United with a game in hand.
Only three points now separate the teams in third and ninth place in the table, in what has been a very competitive season in the North East division of the Football League Youth Alliance. County had triumphed 4-0 over the Stags the last time the two sides met, on a very wet and windy November day at Arnold.
Mansfield made a fast start to the game, as Hakeem powered his way into the Magpies’ area, but goalkeeper Joe Searson-Smithard was quickly off his line to cut out the danger.
Hakeem's running created another opening moments later, when he advanced down the left flank and delivered the ball to strike partner Tyler Blake who flicked it into the path of attacker Jason Law, but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
With 23 minutes on the clock, left-back Louis Danquah showed some good touches out on the left-wing and found last week’s match-winner Cain Smith with his cross, but County defender Harry Bugg charged his shot down.
Tyler Blake then pounced and unsettled the Magpies’ defender and won the ball with a crunching tackle, before slipping a short pass to Hakeem who opened the scoring from eight yards out with a cultured finish.
County were almost on level terms immediately when they pushed forward from the restart with a quick passing move which finished with Montel Gibson hitting the crossbar.
Soon after, Hakeem used his pace to bamboozle the visiting defence once again and Bugg clipped the Stags’ danger man with a mistimed tackle as he headed for goal.
The referee pointed to the penalty spot, but less than five minutes after he'd opened the scoring, Hakeem drilled the ball wide of the right-hand upright.
With half-time approaching, County forced a corner kick out on the left flank. Stags’ stopper Adam Bishop dealt with the in-swinging cross and the ball was cleared, but only as far as Jack McMillan who struck a
first time shot that hit Cameron Healey in the face.
HT: Stags 1-0 Magpies
As play recommenced in the second half, Mansfield won a corner from their first attack and County could count themselves lucky that centre-half Kieran Harrison's thumping header from Danquah's delivery went a few inches wide of the post.
Midfielder Cain Smith then linked up with Harrison and fed the ball to Hakeem on the edge of the area, but he was met by a crowd of striped shirts and the move was snuffed out.
The visitors launched the ball up the field to striker Montel Gibson, who surged past Harrison with a burst of pace, but with Bishop advancing from his line to meet the County attacker, Gibson tried to curl the ball round him, but his attempt went wide.
The game had become a real end-to-end affair, with both teams going for goal. It was a highly enjoyable spectacle for the crowd, but agony for the managers and coaches as both sides had opportunities to score.
However, County pulled level eight minutes from time when Sam Osborne hit a close range shot straight at Bishop from Remaye Campbell's cross, and forced the ball over the line from the rebound.
Forwards Devante Reittie and Nyle Blake were introduced late in the game and Searson-Smith was called in to action, saving close range efforts from both players, before the younger Blake brother almost nicked the win for Mansfield right at the end.
He rode the challenge of George McCartney, spotted the ‘keeper off his line and stabbed the ball towards the bottom left-hand corner of the goal, but saw it roll agonisingly wide.
FT: Stags 1-1 Magpies
Mansfield Town: Adam Bishop, Teddy Bloor, Louis Danquah, Cain Smith, Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison, Tyler Johal (Charlie Shaw 42), Cameron Healey (C), Tyler Blake, Jason Law (Devante Reittie 67), Zayn Hakeem (Nyle Blake 86)
Notts County: Joe Searson-Smithard, Jordan Richards Remaye Campbell 42), Kenan Leyton, Dominic Brownhill, Jordan Ashantie, Harry Bugg (George McCartney 73), Alex Howes, Luther Wildin (C), Montel Gibson, Jack McMillan (Nathan Cobain 78), Sam Osborne