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Dempster commends Stags' defensive endeavour in Millers win

15 November 2017

Academy Manager John Dempster praised his side's resolute defending as they reached the third round of the FA Youth Cup after beating Rotherham United 1-0 at the AESSEAL New York Stadium this evening.

Both teams had chances in the first half but it took until the 54th minute for the deadlock to be broken – Stags' winger Iyrwah Gooden scoring the goal that proved to be the difference.

The young Stags were for forced to stand firm in the final half-an-hour as Rotherham tried to find an equaliser to send the game to extra-time but Stags dug in deservedly booked their place in the next round.

Reflecting on the game, Dempster said: "I'm extremely pleased. I think everybody saw that we played a strong Rotherham side today who shift the ball very well, play out from the back very well, and they caused us problems in the first half.

"We defended resolutely [in the] first half and we kept to our principles, defending compact and defending with desire. We tweaked the shape a little bit in the second half to give us a little more numbers up top to cause them more problems.

"I think we definitely shaded it second half, even towards the end when they were putting pressure on us, we were looking dangerous on the counter attack and we could have added a couple more goals.

"Credit to Rotherham, I think it was a brilliant tie and it's a great reflection on the quality in our league as we come up against Rotherham on a yearly basis and it's always a real battle. Today was no different and I thought both sets of players were a credit to the game."

Having beaten Grismby Town by the same scoreline in the first round, Dempster was pleased that his side were able to record another clean sheet, especially given the pressure his charges were under in the latter stages.

"[It was] incredible with the boys putting their bodies on the line, blocking shots and defending crosses.

"The goalkeeper Xavier Sundby was immaculate today. He had some very tricky shots to deal with, very difficult takes and he took them like a first team goalkeeper almost. Credit to him and credit to our goalkeeper coach Mark Kavanagh."

Stags will play Crystal Palace in the third round, a Premier League side with a Category One academy, and it's a tie which Dempster is relishing.

"I'm really looking forward to it [the next round]. We're not going to be there to make the numbers up; we'll have a right go.

"We'll have a game plan. We know that it will be a very big ask for us because Crystal Palace are a Category One academy with exceptional players.

"I know their ex-academy manager so I know what they're all about, their philosophy and it will be a mammoth task to get anything out of the game.

"What a reward for a group of players who have given their all for each other and all the academy staff and all their family and friends who were here tonight."


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