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Goalkeeper impresses and 14-year-old shines for under-18s

23 November 2020

Academy professional development coach Mike Whitlow shared his post-match thoughts after Mansfield’s under-18s lost 2-0 to Grimsby Town on a blustery day at the RH Academy, the club’s training ground.

Two first-half goals from Grimsby striker Luis Adlard saw the Mariners advance into an early lead in the Youth Alliance League match, and despite going close on a number of occasions in the second-half, the Stags were unable to respond.

Whitlow was impressed with some of the football on display but says his youngsters need to learn from their mistakes.

“We moved the ball well at times. Ethan Hill [was] getting on it and moving it which was pleasing [and] I thought Shamar Lawson put a shift in today,” he told iFollow Stags.

“[But] we started and in five minutes we’re one-nil down from nothing.

“If teams pass through you, break you down, score wonderful goals [then that’s fair enough].

“This is where learning and developing becomes important because you can’t start a game for two weeks running giving teams a goal head start.”

Ronnie Kokkinos, aged just 14, came off the bench in the second-half and sparkled on his home debut for the under-18s, which left Whitlow delighted.

“Ronnie is ace,” said the under-18s’ coach. “We took him with us to Burton and he got a little five-minute cameo and he got a little bit longer on today.

“He’s technically very, very good,” he added.

“It doesn’t matter who he plays whatever size, age, whatever you come up against – he just wants to play football. Give him the ball and he can deal with it.

“So credit to Ronnie, [he was] not fazed. The lads gave him the ball and trusted him, why? Because they know he can deal with it.

“Hopefully he’ll keep developing and growing and there’s plenty more at the younger ages that are coming through at the moment like Ronnie, and hopefully in the near future they’ll get opportunities.”

Second-year goalkeeper Maison Campbell also stood out for the Stags in the between the posts, playing out well from the back and making a number of excellent saves to deny the opposition.

The coach was pleased with the goalkeeper’s display but challenged him to keep improving.

“To be fair to Maison, we wanted him to be more vocal [and he was]. His distribution was a lot better.

“He’s got Sam Wilson [academy goalkeeper coach] looking after him and he’s got to grow in confidence. He’s got to keep working on all those attributes and his development will [depend] on how hard he works, what he puts in and how much he takes on board.”

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