Mansfield Town under-18s’ coach Mike Whitlow says that his side showed great ‘heart’ and ‘honesty’ as they progressed to the third round of the FA Youth Cup with a dramatic extra-time victory over Rotherham United at One Call Stadium.
After falling behind to an early penalty, the young guns rallied to take a 2-1 lead through Joshua Scott and Nathan Saunders.
The Stags were pegged back late on, as Jacob Gratton netted his second of the evening to force extra-time.
With the contest heading for penalties, substitute Ryan Ingram stepped up to put Mansfield back in front before Rio Molyneaux sealed the victory with a stunning goal moments later.
Whitlow said that his team were a ‘credit’ but urged his charges to be more clinical in front of goal, after the amber and blue were taken to extra-time despite carving several clear cut opportunities throughout the 90 minutes.
“We were an absolute credit,” he began. “I think it was a really good advert for the FA Youth Cup tonight. We saw two teams battle hard against each other and there was some really good football on show. I think we showed great heart and honesty.
“I think Ethan Hill was impressive in midfield for us, he covered a lot of ground and looked after the ball very well.
“If the ball doesn’t go in the back of the net you don’t win the game. We’ve created the chances again, but we have to take them. It puts pressure on the back four when we don’t take our chances, so we need to take more.”
"We saw two teams battle hard against each other and there was some really good football on show. I think we showed great heart and honesty."
The young guns’ reward for defeating the Millers is another home game in the third round. This time, the Stags will be welcoming Queens Park Rangers under-18s to the One Call Stadium.
“QPR will come here - they’re a Championship club with a great academy setup and some unbelievable players,” added Whitlow.
“We’ll dust ourselves down. We’ve got a few games between now and then so we will look to try and build momentum.
“Winning games is great; we want these lads to go on and win professional contracts. If they keep performing and putting themselves on a big stage, they’ll have a great opportunity.”
Substitute Ryan Ingram, speaking after the game, said he was ‘buzzing’ with his contribution as he came off the bench to put the Stags in front in extra-time.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” said the striker. “As soon as it got to extra-time, I knew I could get on and change the game. I feel like I did that, scoring the third goal to put us ahead.
“The feeling is indescribable. The ball fell to me and I just put my laces through it. I was buzzing to be able to celebrate with my teammates and the fans.”
Midfielder Ethan Hill played the full 120 minutes and was singled out for special praise from his coaches. Hill was pleased with the way he and his team-mates stuck together in testing circumstances.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to play in front of a crowd and win at the One Call,” said Hill. “I was absolutely shattered come the second-half of extra-time, but we got through it and stuck together.”
Stags’ under-18s will play Queens Park Rangers at home in round three. The tie will be played in the middle of December at a date and time to be confirmed.
All three interviews with Mike Whitlow, Ryan Ingram and Ethan Hill will be available to view on mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.