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Youth report: Stags 3-0 Walsall

16 December 2017

Mansfield Town's under 18s progressed to the knock-out stages of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win against Walsall at the Worksop Van Hire Stadium on Friday.

Goals by strikers Nyle Blake and Riley O'Sullivan put the Stags in control with centre-back Aiden Walker's close-range header effectively ending the tie as a contest late on.

The win sees Stags qualify from Northern Group 5 as winners with a 100 percent record in the competition, winning all four of their group games.

A feature of Mansfield's season has been their fast starts and this game was no different when after two minutes, a clearance in midfield ran all the way through to Blake who slotted calmly past Walsall 'keeper Ethan Dowe.

The visitors' first opportunity came on 16 minutes when Stags lost possession halfway inside their own half which presented Mitch Condlin with a shooting chance from around 25 yards, but his well-hit strike whistled wide of the left-hand post.

Both teams cancelled each other out for most of the half as Mansfield looked comfortable with their 1-0 lead with Walsall struggling to maintain any pressure on a Stags' backline which had kept six clean sheets in their last seven games.

On 23 minutes, centre-back Walker found himself in the final third and delivered a deep, out-swinging cross to the far post, but Blake headed wide while under pressure from the Walsall defence.

Seven minutes before half-time came the visitors' best chance of the game. Some good work by right-winger Kian Flanagan saw his cross met by Stefan Mason whose close-range attempt was blocked by a sprawling Lewis Gibbens and the rebound was smashed over by left-back Cody Fisher from six yards.

Similar to the first-half, Mansfield came out of the blocks quickly for the second, and a determined, bustling run from midfielder Harry Bircumshaw saw him charge his way through two Walsall defenders.

The ball broke to an unmarked O'Sullivan who slid in and placed his close-range shot into the top right corner to put Stags 2-0 ahead.

The goal seemed to drain all confidence from Walsall as Mansfield imposed themselves further.

On the hour, O'Sullivan's attempt from 20 yards was parried back into the penalty area by Dowe who reacted quickly to pounce on the rebound.

Five minutes later, a sweeping move involving some inventive link-up play between Blake and O'Sullivan ended with midfielder Keaton Ward being through on goal, only for a last-ditch tackle to prevent it being 3-0

Walsall's only attempt of the second half came when Condlin picked up the ball on the left of the Stags' penalty area, around 20 yards out, and dribbled across the box to fire a shot straight at Stags' 'keeper Sundby who parried it out for a corner.

The game had been competitive, but without any serious incident. That changed on 73 minutes when a late challenge on Bircumshaw by Condlin sparked a melee involving most of the 20 outfield players.

After things calmed down, the resulting free-kick led to a Stags' corner which provided the game's third goal. Defender Aiden Walker, who also scored in the previous game against Crystal Palace, nodded in from a yard out to make it 3-0.

Despite booking their place in the next round, the Stags wanted more and second-half substitute Kamen Cashmore ran through on goal only to be stopped by an onrushing Dowe.

The rebound fell to fellow substitute James Tague, and his effort was also blocked by the 'keeper who suffered a head injury in the scramble and play was stopped.

With the late challenge on Bircumsahw and the scenes that followed seemingly forgotten about, an eventful end to the game showed that passions were still running high.

There was still time for one last cynical challenge when Daniel O'Sullivan hacked down Bircumshaw on the halfway line. The midfielder made no attempt to play the ball and was booked for the tackle.

The referee allowed the free-kick to be taken and blew the final whistle straight after.

Stags ultimately came through a bruising encounter with a routine 3-0 win to progress to the next round of the competition.

STAGS' XI: Sundby, Weston, Wilder (c), Bircumshaw, Gibbens, Walker, Jones, Cornell (Morgan 60), Blake (Cashmore), Ward (Tague 67) O'Sullivan (Gooden 80)

SUBS NOT USED: Davison

WALSALL XI: Dowe, Little, Fisher (Freemantle 74), Kendrick, Leivesley, Brown, Flanagan (Derbet 65), Bates (O'Sullivan), Cairns, Condlin, Mason (c)

SUBS NOT USED: Friel, Parker


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