Stags’ under-18s showcased an excellent performance in a convincing 3-1 win away to Grimsby Town under-18s at Cheapside Training Ground on Saturday afternoon.
The Youth Alliance League match between the two sides saw the Stags get off to a near perfect start when Riley O’Sullivan found the net just past the five-minute mark.
Jack Cornell and James Tague added to the scoreline with two excellent long-range efforts to give Mansfield a 3-0 lead going into half-time. Grimsby got one back in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the game, as Stags collected all three points in an all-round impressive display.
John Dempster’s side were once again ruthless in front of goal as following this result, the Stags have now scored three or more goals in a single match on no less than seven occasions already so far this season.
James Tague was back in the Stags’ starting XI following his absence against Hartlepool, with Rhys Sarson the man making way. Noah Stokes was also given his first start of the campaign, replacing Lewis Davis in the Stags’ backline.
Stags got off to a dream start, against a side unbeaten in the league so far this season, when O’Sullivan managed to prod home a Jamie Chisholm knock-down from close range, giving Mansfield an early lead.
Just five minutes later, Cornell found himself with a sight of goal from 30 yards out. The Stags’ midfielder took his shot early, which seemed to catch the Grimsby ‘keeper slightly off-guard, as the ball sailed through his hands and into the back of the net for 2-0.
Although possession for both sides was fairly even, Mansfield were making the most of theirs, as Tague was about to post his entry for goal of the season so far.
The Stags’ attacking midfielder took the ball under pressure 35 yards out, shifted it from under his feet and just right of centre he whipped a delicious curling effort into the far corner of the net for 3-0.
A couple of half chances fell to the home side before the break, as they looked for the diagonal ball from right to left in a bid to get in behind the Stags’ back-line. The Mansfield defence held firm though, limiting Grimsby to little more than shots from range.
The second half began as did the first, with Stags on-top and creating early chances. Tague was instrumental in the midfield and after some neat build up play with Jimmy Knowles, he saw his effort from the right side of the penalty area flash just inches wide of the far post.
Moments later, Tague and Knowles linked up again. Tague collected the ball on the halfway line, out towards the left-hand touchline, and instinctively whipped a left footed diagonal ball over the top of the Grimsby backline. Knowles collected the ball in his stride, and flashed a vicious volley just wide of the ‘keeper’s near post.
In the 57th minute, right-back Larrell King – scorer of the opening goal in Stags’ last fixture – flew down the right-hand touchline with the ball at his feet and dug-out an excellent cross into the box which Knowles met with a volley, only for a defender to make a much-needed block in front of his own goal.
The next 15 minutes or so saw the home side construct some good attacking moves, with Warren Squires being kept honest in the Stags’ goal, following a close-range header that he managed to tip over his crossbar.
Grimsby were forced to look to the wide areas, as the Stags’ backline – lead by a sensational captain’s performance from Chisholm – shut the door on anything that came through the middle. Aided by the height and aerial prowess of Jordan Armsden and Stokes, the home side were getting little joy from crosses into the box either.
O’Sullivan worked tirelessly, tracking back to stop attacks building down the right and then supporting the attack down the left, with a succession of drilled crosses into the opposition box, causing moments of uncertainty in the Grimsby defence.
With ten minutes to play, Grimsby grabbed themselves a consolation. Squires produced a good initial stop, but unfortunately could only palm the ball back into the path of Adlard, who fresh on as a substitute directed the ball into the back of the net.
No clean sheet for the Stags, but a splendid defensive display never the less. Stags utilised some effective game management in the final minutes and saw the game out in a professional manner, as the referee brought an end to proceedings in what was an excellent performance from John Dempster’s boys.
Next up for the Stags is a trip to face Fleetwood Town under-18s, as they return action in Group 4 of the Youth Alliance Cup. With two wins from two so far in the competition, a win on Saturday could well ensure their qualification into the knockout stages.
STAGS’ STARTING XI: Squires, King, Stokes, Cornell, Armsden, Chisholm (c), Knowles (Langton 88’), Saunders, Tague (Sarson 81’), Sinclair, O’Sullivan.
SUBS NOT USED: Marrs, Ingram.
GRIMSBY STARTING XI: Battersby, Jamieson, Saunders, Curran, Pollock, Powles, Painter, Richardson, Burrell, Buckley, McPherson.