Sam Jackson scored the only of the game as Mansfield’s Under-18 side beat Grimsby Town 1-0 and booked their place in the FA Youth Cup second round this evening at Blundell Park.
Following a cagey affair that saw few chances, the right winger came off the bench and his 25-yard wonder strike proved to be the difference.
Both sides had big chances in the final 20 minutes, Josh Walker having the hosts’ best chance with his header rattling the crossbar while Brandon Buckley fired straight at Mansfield ‘keeper Xavier Sundby.
The Stags held out for the narrow victory which sees them into the second stage of the Youth Cup for the fourth time in as many years.
After an end to end first five minutes, Mansfield settled into the game and had the first opportunity of the match. Nyle Blake was able to carve through the Mariners defence before seeing his effort rise narrowly over the bar.
Just moments later Blake again was the danger, his long throw deep into the hosts box was flicked on towards Riley O’Sullivan but his weak header was straight at Grimsby ‘keeper Corey Briggs. O’Sullivan’s pace allowed him to dart forward unchallenged on the left wing ten minutes in, but his low cross was intercepted and cleared without difficulty.
The hosts had plenty of possession in the first fifteen minutes but failed to create any chances, unable to trouble the strong Mansfield defence who were the keen to limit the hosts’ time on the ball.
In the 18th minute, the Mariners looked for a penalty when Josh Walker went down in the box under pressure but referee David Jones waved away the protests without hesitation. Just a minute later, striker Brandon Buckley collided with Stags defender Aiden Walker on the edge of the penalty area as the forwarded chased an early cross but again the referee wasn’t interested in the home side’s appeals.
There was a short stoppage when Grimsby’s goalkeeper Briggs came out to punch a cross clear, colliding with defender Emil Powles. When play restarted, Blake was proving to be a real danger once again for Stags. Given time and space to run at the Mariners’ back four - his powerful strike was parried by Briggs who had to be alert to pounce and stop Blake from having a second opportunity.
Mansfield continued to dominate as, O’Sullivan volleyed well over the crossbar following a corner before Keaton Ward gifted Briggs the ball with a poor cross.
Grimsby were reduced from shooting from distance and when they were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from Xavier Sundby’s goal ten minutes before the half-time break, midfielder Myles Lawson decided to try and test the goalkeeper. However, Sundby was able to watch the effort go well over the bar.
A minute prior to half-time, the hosts were almost ahead following clever play. Bilal Sesay’s whipped cross knocked on to the back post by Buckley but Walker was unable to get make clean contact with the ball.
Both sides made changes at the interval, Sesay replaced by Rumarn Burrell for the hosts while Rhys Sarson made way for Sam Jackson for Mansfield.
Burrell immediately caused the Mansfield defence problems and just a minute after the restart was able to fire a low and powerful cross into the penalty area, blocked and cleared by Lewis Gibbens
Grimsby started the second period the stronger although goalkeeper Sundby was still yet to tested, easily able to claim numerous crosses from the hosts.
On the 55th minute, Blake’s long throw tactic was easily cleared and allowed the Mariners to come forward on the counter attack with Burrell’s fresh legs allowing him to burst forward on the right wing. However, a sloppy pass from the striker put an end to the home sides’ attack.
Grimsby were awarded a free-kick when Lawman was tripped twenty yards from goal. The midfielder, who saw a previous effort fly well over the bar, drilled this set piece opportunity low towards the left hand corner but it was held by Sundby.
Stags hit back on the counter as the game opened up on the hour mark. Substitute Jackson saw his cross desperately flicked away by a Mariners defender before O’Sullivan rattled the crossbar following Ward’s floated cross.
It was Mansfield who continued to dominate possession and have chances, O’Sullivan fired wide from just outside the penalty area. It took a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock. Winger Sam Jackson found the ball at his feet 25-yards from goal and decided to try his luck and his effort flew into the top left corner, leaving Briggs with no chances.
Stags almost doubled their lead on the 70th minute, O’Sullivan’s powerful strike straight at the goalkeeper. Despite Mansfield’s dominance, Grimsby continued to threaten and almost had an equaliser but Burrell was unable to find the target from eight yards out. Ten minutes from time Walker saw his header strike the crossbar as Grimsby continued to pressurise.
With Mansfield sitting back and defending their slender advantage, the hosts had another huge opportunity but Buckley went for power over placement and it was an easy stop for Sundby in the games’ final moments.
Mansfield held on to confirm their place in the Youth Cup’s second round where they face Rotherham United away.
GRIMSBY XI: Briggs, McMillan, Davies, Lawman (Richardson 76), Pollock, Powles, Goddard, Curran (Saunders 67), Sesay (Burrell 45), Buckley, Walker
SUBS NOT USED: Battersby, Richardson, Jamieson
STAGS’ XI: Sundby, Weston, Wilder ©, Cornell (Morgan 76), Gibbens, Walker, Blake, Bircumshaw, Sarson (Jackson 45), Ward, O’Sullivan (Gooden 86)
SUBS NOT USED: Mars, Johnson
REFEREE: David Jones