Mansfield Town’s under 18s secured their fifth consecutive EFL Youth Alliance victory with a convincing 4-0 triumph at home to Bradford City on Saturday.
Mike Whitlow and Mark Peters took charge of the under 18s side for this game at Rainworth, which was effectively over as a contest after 45 minutes, by which time the home side had stormed into a four goal lead.
Mansfield made the early running through winger Tom Marriott out on the left when, inside the opening minute, the tricky winger sped past Jake Maltby's challenge, but having done the hard part and making himself room to shoot, he launched his effort over the crossbar.
But Marriott's blushes were spared when he tore down the left flank again after three minutes and played a square pass into the path of striker Zayn Hakeem who opened the scoring from ten yards.
Midfielders Cain Smith and Cameron Healey were fighting for every ball and winning control of the midfield as the Stags kept pushing forward in an attempt to cement their lead, but the Bantams counter attacked at speed and Casey Taglione was unlucky to see his volley from Niall Payne's cross crash back off of the crossbar.
Left-back Henri Wilder picked up the ball on the left-hand side of midfield and advanced towards the Bradford area before delivering a defence splitting through ball into the path of Ashanti Pryce, who left the Bradford defence chasing shadows before drilling the ball past George Kenworthy to double the Stags’ lead after 17 minutes.
Sam Wright tried to get the visitors back into the game, but just as he was about to shoot, defender Kieran Harrison timed his tackle to perfection before taking the ball away from the danger zone.
Mansfield were putting on a great demonstration of pass and move flowing football, with the full-backs linking up with the midfield engine room and wide players in an aesthetically pleasing fast tempo manner.
The Stags were using both flanks well, with Nyle Blake and Marriott causing the visitors a lot of problems.
Right-back Teddy Bloor launched a long free-kick into the visitors’ goalmouth that Bradford's defence struggled to deal with as Healey chested the ball down into the path of Pryce and Hakeem, but Kenworthy came off of his line quickly to put a halt to the situation.
The Stags made it 3-0 in the 34th minute when Wright bravely threw himself in front of Hakeem's shot from just outside the area, only to see the ball arc over his head and fall at the feet of Pryce, who took a touch before planting the ball past Kenworthy.
Hakeem broke into the Bantams’ area but his cross was cleared behind for a corner by Ollie Fitzpatrick. Baldwin almost scored from Marriott's corner kick, but Niall Payne managed to scramble the ball away from the Bradford goal.
In the final minute of the first half and with Mansfield still pushing forward in search of another goal, Reece Powell managed to nudge the ball out of the path of Pryce, but only managed to knock it into the path of Nyle Blake, whose first time shot found the back of the net via Kenworthy's outstretched fingertips.
Half-time: Stags 4-0 Bantams
The second half carried on in pretty much the same vein as the first half had finished, with the vast majority of the game being played in the Bradford half.
In spite of him not having an awful lot to do, goalkeeper Sam Wilson remained alert and focussed and he made a double save, parrying a long ball into his area that moved all over in the ever increasing wind, before recovering quickly and smothering the ball at Casey Taglione's feet.
Today marked Wilson's fifth clean sheet in six league games with his only 'goal against' coming in last Saturday's 3-1 win at Grimsby Town.
Hakeem picked up the ball in the middle of the park and sprayed the ball wide to Marriott, who had now switched to the right wing, but as Pryce pounced to put the final touch to his cross, Fitzpatrick hooked the ball away.
Marriott went close when Harrison rolled the ball into his path from Bloor's free kick, but Tom Windle blocked his shot on the line.
Maltby air kicked as he attempted to clear the ball on the edge of the Bradford area and Hakeem, who had instinctively anticipated the potential for error, seized possession and raced forward, but shot straight at Kenworthy.
Wilder put on a burst of pace and left two defenders in his wake on the left flank, but his cross found the side netting.
Midfielder Surafel Behailu dug the ball out of a congested midfield and played a diagonal pass out wide to Marriott, but within seconds he found himself surrounded by four Bradford players before he could deliver a cross.
Pryce came close to claiming his hat-trick when Dan Aitken struggled to clear Harrison's free kick, but Kenworthy plucked his header from under the bar.
Midfielder Alistair Smith went close from Hakeem's through ball, but Windle managed to get a touch on the ball and steer it past the post.
It was one way traffic as the game reached its climax but the final touch to increase the margin of victory was proving to be elusive.
The visitors’ defence now had the added problem of dealing with the lively striker Devante Reittie, whose pacey movement both on and off the ball was pulling them out of position.
Hakeem almost took advantage of the space that Reittie's introduction had created, but the ball clipped off the under-side of his boot when he looked odds-on to score from close range.
All-in-all, it was an excellent display of attacking and entertaining football from the Stags’ youth team as they collected another well deserved three points to keep them perched at the top of the table.
Full-time: Stags 4-0 Bantams
Mansfield Town: Wilson, Bloor (Walker 83), Wilder, C.Smith (C), Baldwin, Harrison, Blake (Reittie 52) Healey (Behailu 73), Hakeem, Pryce (A.Smith 79), Marriott (Bircumshaw 76)
Bradford City: Kenworthy, Maltby, Windle, Wright, Fitzpatrick, Powell, Mollanga, Boateng, Taglione, Payne (C), Hudson
Subs: Mullett, Warren, Farrar, Aitken