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Youth report: Fulham 3-1 Stags

16 December 2016

Mansfield Town’s under 18s bowed out of the FA Youth Cup third round after suffering a 3-1 defeat against a strong Fulham under 18s side at Motspur Park.

Although the Stags struck first with an outstanding goal from Nyle Blake close to the half-time, a Michael Elstone double followed by Moritz Jenz’s goal in the second half stole the show for the hosts.

The home side began pressing for an opener early on, looking to make inroads down the flanks with explosive pace, and on the first minute itself, frontman Elstone darted down the right and set up attacking midfielder Jayden Harris, but the Mansfield defence recovered in time and cleared Harris’ effort off the line.

Fulham continued their dominance in possession, and on six minutes, left-back Steven Sessegnon weaved his way forward and tested Stags' custodian Xavier Sundby with a left-footed drive, which the latter stopped well.

The frantic passage of play from the hosts continued, and talisman Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson curled a free-kick wide from 25-yards.

The Sessegnon-Sundby duel was revived again on 16 minutes, but the Mansfield stopper came up trumps with a crucial save.

John Dempster’s Stags' side were having to do all the running in their half now, as Sundby was called into action soon after as Elstone tried his luck, but failed to beat the Mansfield goalkeeper.

On the half-hour mark, Icelandic striker Thorsteinsson had a go from distance again, after twisting, turning and letting fly a snapshot, which went wide.

But on 35 minutes, Fulham’s dominance suffered a huge blow as Mansfield took the lead through winger Blake. A sweeping move down the middle saw creator Jason Law free fellow attacking partner Zayn Hakeem down the left, he drove into the box before whipping a searching cross to the back post, which was tapped home at the far stick by an onrushing Blake.

In the last major action before half-time, both goalkeepers were pressed into action in close succession. While Fulham’s number one Taye Ashby–Hammond palmed away Law’s dangerous cross, at the other end Sundby did superbly to thwart a volley from Joseph Felix.

The second half began in the same high-octane fashion as in the first period, and Fulham soon restored parity on 47 minutes. The Cottagers mounted a charge with pace, and Elstone let fly from the edge of the box, which beat Sundby with the help of a deflection.

The Stags responded by regaining their composure and forcing two consecutive corners, but they could not find a way past the alert Fulham rearguard.

The U18 Premier League side continued to turn the screw, intent on consolidating their dominance; and just past the hour mark, Elstone completed his double. Sundby’s outstanding acrobatics first denied Jenz’s headed effort, but he could do little as Elstone tucked home on the rebound.

The away side looked to bounce back immediately, as midfielder Cain Smith tried to drive through on his own but was halted by a tackle from behind, resulting in a free-kick from 30-yards. Smith himself stepped up to take the shot, but was repelled by the wall.

Come the 71st minute, Fulham extended their lead as Jenz out-jumped his marker during a free-kick to nod home his side’s third goal.

Stags’ custodian Sundby and defender Kieran Harrison had to be alert to prevent a fourth goal from Fulham, with the duo first pairing up to keep Thorsteinsson at bay, while Sundby himself tipped away Ryan De Havilland’s venomous drive to safety after that.

The home side then ensured they protected their lead pragmatically for the remainder of the game, quelling any chance of a possible comeback from the Stags, who were unlucky to exit the competition after showing much promise early on.

Stags' XI: Sundby, Bloor, Baldwin, C. Smith, Ratcliffe (A. Smith 83’), Harrison, Wilder, Healey, Hakeem, Law (Reittie 78’), N. Blake (Pryce 53’).
Subs: Dumbleton, Hunt.
 
Fulham XI: Ashby-Hammond, Fossey, Sessegnon, Thomas, Jenz, Garrido Rodriguez, Felix (Kwietniewski 52’), Harris (Asare 84’), Elstone, De Havilland, Thorsteinsson.
Subs: Lukwata, Pearce, Opoku.

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