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Reserves report: Rotherham United 2-3 Stags

30 January 2018

A superb hat-trick from Omari Sterling-James helped Mansfield Town book their place in the Central League Cup final with a 3-2 win over Rotherham United at Roundwood Sports Complex this afternoon.

In a first half which saw little goalmouth action, defender Michael Iheikwe headed the hosts in front on the stroke of half-time.

Immediately after the break, Sterling-James levelled the tie with a tidy finish from the edge of the area.

It was Sterling-James who fired the Stags ahead with a superb strike from 20 yards out, curling the ball into the bottom right corner.

Defender Paul Digby turned into his own net deep into injury time as the game looked to be heading to extra-time.

But Sterling-James added his third of the afternoon, lofting the 'keeper from 20 yards out with the last kick of the match.

The win means Mansfield are into the final of the competition, where they will meet Wigan Athletic.

Stags named a strong squad for the tie, with new loan signing Adam King named in the starting XI.

It was Rotherham who started the game the stronger and in the fifth minute, a cross was floated into the box towards Bobby Olejnik who was able to calmly punch clear. A minute later, midfielder Will Atkinson was forced to block a cross at the expense of a corner, which was comfortably dealt with by Olejnik.

Mansfield's first chance came in the 10th minute when loanee Adam King was teed up on the edge of the area by frontman Lee Angol, but his effort was blocked before Hayden White hit a powerful strike which was parried wide by Rotherham 'keeper Laurence Bilboe.

A cagey first half-an-hour saw little goalmouth action with one piece of action seeing Digby flagged offside after trying to connect with a Sterling-James free-kick in the 24th minute.

Rotherham forward Kuda Muskwe had a half-chance but blasted his effort straight at Olejnik.

In the 34th minute, Angol darted down the left and was given time and space to cut into the box but his shot took a deflection on its way over the crossbar.
Sterling-James had another free-kick and this time decided to go for goal.

From 22 yards out, he lifted the ball over the wall but also narrowly over the bar, brushing the roof of the net.

Muskwe was able to unleash a low cross but Olejnik was alert and able to smother ball at his near post.

At the other end, five minutes before the break midfielder Calum Butcher played in Sterling-James who danced his way past two defenders but his low ball across goal was hooked clear.

Alex Bray was next to force a good save from Olejnik, cutting in from the right before a trying to curl an effort into the top right, but the Stags' 'keeper did well to tip the ball over for a corner.

It was from that corner that the hosts took the lead as centre-half Michael Ihiekwe lost his marker to head home from the cross of Mason Warren. It was the first time that Stags had conceded in the competition this season.

Midfielder Jack Thomas and defender Lewis Gibbens were introduced for the second period, with White and King making way.

After the restart, Stags found themselves immediately level. Sterling-James produced a tidy finish from the edge of the area after clever play from Jimmy Spencer.

Mansfield continued to pressurise with Bilboe denying Butcher by tipping his effort onto the crossbar.

On the hour mark, dangerman Sterling-James found space to strike from 25 yards out but his effort fizzled past the left post.

In the 66th minute, Jason Law replaced skipper Zander Diamond with Digby taking the captain's armband.

With 20 minutes remaining, Mansfield continued to put pressure on the Rotherham defence and ultimately find a winner. Spencer did well to make a connection with Hunt's free-kick but his header floated well over the bar.

In the 75th minute, Sterling-James added his second of the afternoon by curling an effort into the bottom right corner from 20 yards out, beating Bilboe at full stretch; a goal worthy of winning a cup tie.

Mansfield had to withstand some late pressure as a Rotherham corner was floated into the far post but it evaded all Rotherham players before being cleared.

Deep into added-time with a place in the final well within their grasp, Digby turned into his own goal following a Rotherham corner and it looked like the game was going into extra-time.

However, almost directly from the restart, Stags won it with yet another late winner. A long ball forward from young centre-half Gibbens wasn't dealt with by the Millers' defender and Omari Sterling-James nipped in to secure his hat-trick.

He beat Rotherham 'keeper Laurence Bilboe to the ball and neatly lobbed it over him from 12 yards out to book Stags' place in the final.

ROTHERHAM XI: Bilboe, Cummings, Ihieke, Southern-Cooper, Purrington, Taylor (Maguire 46), Wiles, Warren, Bray, Kayode (James 53), Muskwe (Murr 61)

SUBS NOT USED: McMahon, Trialist

STAGS' XI: Olejnik, White (Gibbens 46), Diamond (c) (Law 64), Hunt, Digby, Butcher, Atkinson, King (Thomas 46), Sterling-James, Spencer, Angol

SUBS NOT USED: Wilson, Blake


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