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Youth report: Stags 0-2 Walsall

24 October 2016

Mansfield Town must now wait to see if they will qualify for the second round of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup after falling to a 2-0 defeat against Walsall on Saturday.

Stags have finished third in their group but must wait to see if they will qualify as one of the top third-placed teams. 

The league website shows John Dempster's side as having qualified by virtue of finishing second in their table, but they have listed the result from this game incorrectly as 1-2, instead of 0-2.

Stags fell to their third consecutive defeat against the Saddlers, who now occupy top spot in the group, where they have only lost one game so far all season.

During the opening exchanges, winger Tom Marriott was looking to impose himself out on the left and he tested the Saddlers’ defence with an early cross, but they stood firm and cleared the ball away to safety.

Striker Jason Law turned and shot from 15 yards, but Ben Kendrick charged the ball down and the opening came to nothing.

The game picked up in pace, but not in quality, as both teams passed the ball about frantically across the middle of the pitch, without a great deal of forward movement in evidence, while a string of stray passes broke up any kind of rhythm.

Some fairly rash tackles saw the referee having to intervene frequently, in one incident, Teddy Bloor was scythed down late with a fairly cynical challenge, which knocked him out of his stride for a while.

Walsall escaped from the midfield stand-off, but when Will Shorrock launched a searching ball towards the Stags’ six-yard box, Ashley Maddocks fouled defender Kieran Harrison and play was brought to a standstill once again.

The Stags utilised Marriott as an attacking outlet once more and he floated a great measured ball infield to midfielder Cain Smith, who picked his spot in the top right-hand corner of the Saddlers’ goal, but Brandon Ganley managed to reach the ball and gathered it at full stretch to deny Mansfield a first half lead.

Dan Vann repeatedly tried to release the visitors’ front men by hitting speculative long balls out towards the right flank, but left-back Henri Wilder was in control of the situation, snuffing out several attempts from the visitors to attack the home side's goal from the right.

Shorrock almost released Cameron Peters, but Harrison moved in quick to intercept with one of his trademark well-timed and well-executed challenges.

Peters threatened again, pushing on through the left channel, but defender Kane Baldwin snuffed out the Saddlers’ attack. 

Joe Cairns broke down the right flank for the visitors but centre-half Morgan Ratcliffe was on hand to rescue the situation. Sam Tonks, the visitors’ right-back got as far as the by-line with an overlapping run, but Marriott had tracked him and put in a firm tackle to retrieve the ball.

Mansfield picked up the ante slightly towards half-time, with Marriott's long pass to winger Nyle Blake cut out by Vann, but the loose ball fell to Jason Law who unselfishly played it sideways to Bloor, whose shot was smothered by Ganley.

Ratcliffe came closest to breaking the first half deadlock, when Marriott picked out the defender’s run with a measured cross, but his header flew wide of the upright.

Half-time: Stags 0-0 Saddlers 

The visitors introduced both Cody Fisher and Dan O'Sullivan from the bench for the start of the second half and both substitutes had a big impact on the final outcome.

Baldwin added his presence to the Stags’ attack but Callum Cockerill-Mollett, the Saddlers’ captain, was looking formidable in his left-back berth.

Walsall picked up the ball and quickly turned attack into defence, but Cairns headed wide from Peters’ forward pass.

Blake put on a burst of pace as he headed towards the visitors’ area, but he was tripped to give Stags a free-kick. Bloor, adapting well to his midfield responsibilities, dropped the resulting free-kick towards midfielder Cameron Healey, however Ben Kendrick won the heading duel and nodded the ball away from danger but only as far as Cain Smith, who drilled the ball over the bar from 20 yards.

Law and Baldwin exchanged passes 18 yards from goal, with the latter crossing towards Ratcliffe, but Kendrick was strong in the air again and when Harrison latched on to a headed clearance, his shot skimmed off Ratcliffe and fell wide of the left-hand upright.

Walsall, sensing that this game was there for the taking, sent on Derbert Massamba in place of Cairns who had run himself to a halt and the Saddlers were transformed from a side who were just about shading the battle for midfield, to an imposing attacking force.

O'Sullivan, a diminutive yet powerful and highly competitive player, held off a challenge and released Peters down the left wing, he crossed to Massamba and his first touch was only a matter of inches wide of goalkeeper Sam Wilson's left-hand post.

Cain Smith slipped a pass through the Walsall defence to Marriott, but Ganley got down well to keep out his angled shot.

Lezion Cela took advantage of some hesitant defending and smashed the ball wholeheartedly towards the Stags’ goal, Wilson bravely blocked the shot but couldn't quite keep hold of the ball and O'Sullivan pounced on the rebound to open the scoring. 

The Saddlers’ goalscorer had been causing problems for the home side since he had entered the fray and had looked like the most likely candidate to break the deadlock. 

Striker Devante Reittie had already been introduced to bolster the attack and now attacking midfielders Ali Smith and Surafel Behailu were introduced to get in among the visitors’ defence, as a draw would guarantee the Stags safe passage into round two.

But as the home side reshuffled their shape, Peters picked up the ball and powered his way straight through the centre of the Mansfield backline and crashed an unstoppable shot past Wilson, who had now been left woefully exposed twice in the space of just six minutes.

The Stags were in disarray as Shorrock set up Peters for another chance, but Wilson held on to the ball tightly.

Peters was by now the only Walsall player in the Stags’ half as the visitors defended in numbers, but as a long clearance reached the lone striker, he still managed to force a good save from Wilson.
 
Cody Fisher had been getting stuck in for the Saddlers cause since half-time and his considerable input to keeping it tight at the back for Walsall.

In stoppage time, Ratcliffe headed the ball across the face of the Saddlers’ goal to Baldwin, whose well struck shot was saved by Ganley and the visitors held on to the win.

Full-time: Stags 0-2 Saddlers 

Stags’ line-up: Wilson (C), Baldwin, Wilder, Smith, Ratcliffe, Harrison, Bloor (A.Smith 81), Healey, Blake, Law (Reittie 75), Marriott (Behailu 81)

Unused subs: Sundby (GK), Walker

Saddlers’ lineup: Ganley, Tonks, Cockerill-Mollett, Maddocks, Vann (Fisher 45, (Mason 86)), Kendrick, Cairns (Massamba 64), Cela, Peters, Freemantle (O'Sullivan 45)

Unused subs: Candlin


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