Assistant professional development coach Liam Hearn was impressed with the way his Mansfield’s under-18s side battled to 2-1 victory against Walsall on Saturday.
A goal a-piece from strikers Jack Deakin and Nathan Caine secured victory in the Youth Alliance Cup group stage match.
“The conditions were quite intense - the rain, the wind, a heavy pitch and a tough opposition proved a competitive game for our boys.” said Hearn, who took charge of the side following Mike Whitlow’s temporary role to assist with first team affairs.
“The team grew in confidence as the game progressed and I think that the highlight for us was the togetherness at the end to hold on to the lead and you could see how much it meant to the boys.
“They [Walsall] had a second or third year striker against two of our first year centre-halves and both of those had to stand up against it – which they did.
“In terms of their learning and their development victories like that are huge for them.”
With usual captain George Cooper called up to train with the first team, striker Nathan Caine was handed the armband on his return from injury and the coach was pleased with how he rose to the occasion.
“Nathan is a really good player.
“He brings a professionalism and work ethic that I think rubs off on the other boys.
“He wants to do things well, he applies himself immaculately and he was unfortunate with a couple of knocks he’s picked up, but his attention to everything that’s been said to him has been ‘top drawer’.
“He was our leader on the pitch. He led by example and ultimately got the goal which brought us a victory but more so it was nice to see him in the 18 yard box, as in the first half he was finding himself in good areas but not the spaces where I’d like to see him.
“He started getting higher up the pitch in the second half, and was very unlucky with a great effort and then his second effort went in the back of the net.”
Another positive for the under-18s in recent weeks has been the emergence of under-16 left-back Darien Wauchope, and Hearn was keen to encouraged the youngster after the match.
“Darien’s been a really good acquisition for the academy and the under-18s section.
“He got released from [Nottingham] Forest and I think that had a big impact on him. He’s quiet, he’s quite reserved and I think we’re starting to see him come out of his shell and show what he’s about.
“[It was a] commanding performance on Saturday, he grew into the game, he started off a little bit nervy as you would expect, especially playing against their winger who was very good.
“He grew into the game and towards the end he really got a grip on him and started to impose himself on the opposition which was great to see.
“[We’ve] got him in the gym working on his physicality, working on other aspects of his development and I think collectively as an academy he’s one to watch for the future.”
STAGS XI: Campbell (GK), Anderson, Wauchope, Collins, Hill-Smith, Hill (Pitts 90’), Bouch, Lawson (Hurdis 65’), Deakin, Edwards, Caine (Reynolds 70’)
UNUSED SUBS: Green (GK), Wilson