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10th September 2021 0:00

U23 Premier League Cup
Mansfield Town U23 3-0 Sunderland U23
Caine 17, Law 25, Sinclair 35
Attendance: 345

Daniel Egginton at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

A clinical performance from Mansfield's young guns and fringe players earned them three points in their opening Premier League Cup group stage game, with first-half goals from Nathan Caine, Jason Law and Tyrese Sinclair seeing off a younger Sunderland side. Following recent results for the first team, one would be forgiven for thinking that many of the players on show would have been wanting the opportunity to impress Nigel Clough - who was observing proceedings from the Quarry Lane End - and hoping to fight their way into his plans for upcoming games.

Indeed, for eight of the players who started against Harrogate in the EFL Trophy last week (and two of the subs), it was the chance to put that game behind them with an impressive performance. The three changes to the team of six days before were George Cooper for Farrend Rawson in defence, Ryan Stirk for Ethan Hill in midfield, and Caine for George Lapslie. Caine played up front with Sinclair playing in a deeper role. It appeared to me to be the diamond formation in midfield to start with, although the Stags played with a fluidity that allowed chances to materialise from all areas of the pitch. Sunderland started a young team, mostly aged between 19 and 21, with no over-aged players. There was international talent for the Black Cats in the form of Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka, capped at U21 level for Sweden.

Both sides made chances from set pieces in the opening minutes, Mansfield's James Clarke forcing a save from the keeper and Sunderland left-back Tyrese Dyce crashing a header against the woodwork at the other end. Jordan Bowery could have given Mansfield the lead during the opening salvoes as well. Stirk found him in the middle of the box with a cross, but the striker couldn't get enough behind his effort to beat the goalie.

It was the Stags who would break the deadlock just after the quarter-hour-mark, from another corner. The ball was sent in from the right by Sinclair, and after a header down by Keaton Ward, Caine got his head to the ball to beat Jack McIntyre in the Sunderland goal.

Mansfield had the chance to go two up a couple of minutes later. Bowery slid a pass across to Harry Charsley on the right-hand-side, who beat his man before seeing a low shot blocked.

After 25 minutes though, it was 2-0 to the hosts, from yet another corner. This one was half-cleared by the defence, but only as far as Jason Law, who rifled home a volley from the centre of the box.

Just after the half-hour, Will Harris could have halved the deficit for Sunderland. He broke free from the defence before hitting a shot from the left-hand-side of the box which fizzed wide. Sinclair punished that wastefulness moments later, receiving a wonderful pass from Caine before rounding the goalkeeper and tucking his shot away to make the lead 3-0. It was no more than Mansfield's young attacking players deserved for their effort and creativity in attack during the first half.

There was still time for more chances before the interval. A long ball to Harris caused momentary confusion in the Mansfield defence, allowing him to get a shot away, which George Shelvey did well to deflect onto the post and allow Ward to clear. It was good defensive work from Ward that started a counter-attack a couple of minutes later, one-touch passing football from the Stags ending with a shot just wide by Charsley from outside the box. Tyrese Sinclair could have scored a second with yet another chance from a corner in injury time, heading into the side netting at the back post.

Half-time: Mansfield 3-0 Sunderland

The visitors needed to roll the dice at half-time, and they did, bringing on creative midfielders in Stephen Wearne and Tom Scott. For Mansfield, no changes at half-time, but a shift in tactics. Sinclair appeared to be playing further forwards as more of a conventional winger.

Kimpioka hit a speculative shot wide early in the second half, before Mansfield made two chances down the left flank, firstly through a cross which couldn't quite tee up Caine, and then through a switched ball to Charsley, who played a good ball through to Sinclair but watched his teammate fire over the bar.

Sunderland made their final change on 67 minutes, Nathan Newall replacing Dyce. They still couldn't find the net a minute later, despite the creativity of Wearne to set up Ellis Taylor, his one-on-one shot saved by Shelvey.

Despite the comfort of their lead, the hosts decided to save their fresh legs until late on. Taylor Anderson replaced Clarke at right-back, before the impressive Caine came off for James Gale. Former Derby academy prospect Gale was a deadline day signing for the under-23 team after catching Mansfield's attention with four goals and three assists in four games for Long Eaton United at the start of the season.

A late chance for Kimpioka went begging as he fired over the bar from the centre of the penalty area. Mansfield had done very well to largely restrict the Black Cats to half-chances, which they did not take.

Towering forward Jack Deakin made a late cameo appearance, replacing Cooper, Bowery moving to centre-half.

And so it ended, a very impressive 3-0 victory for Mansfield over one of the elite academies in this competition. A mention must be given to how the players picked themselves up from the disappointment at Harrogate last Tuesday, and the professionalism shown by the senior players in the team (a point also made by academy manager Richard Cooper). How many of these players will see imminent first-team action will remain to be seen, but they reminded us of what they are capable of, and did nothing to harm their reputations.

Cooper was impressed, saying after the game that the lads had been set a target of playing positively, and to a high tempo with and without the ball, and they had done that, especially in the first half. For younger players, he said, this competition is a fantastic opportunity to give them experience they might not get in the course of their normal academy games, especially in front of a supportive crowd.

Stags U23: (4-4-2): Shelvey; J.Clarke (Anderson 69), Cooper (Deakin 89), Ward, Burke; Stirk, Charsley, Law, Sinclair; Bowery, Caine (Gale 71).
Subs not used: Mason, Hill.

Sunderland U23: McIntyre, Richardson, Dyce (Newall 67), Wilding (Wearne 46), Younger, Jessup (Scott 46), Kachosa, Sohna, Harris, Kimpioka, Taylor.
Subs not used: Carney, Almond.

Referee: Garreth Rhodes.


Report: Stags U23 3-0 Sunderland U23

The Stags made an impressive start to the Premier League Cup group stage with a 3-0 win at home to Sunderland U23.

Mansfield were clinical in the first-half, scoring three times in 35 minutes without reply from their visitors.

Nathan Caine, Jason Law and Tyrese Sinclair all finished well to give Richard Cooper’s side a sizeable advantage at the break.


On a warm evening at One Call Stadium, it was the Stags who would boast the stronger start.

From an early corner, James Clarke flicked Sinclair’s delivery towards goal, forcing Jack McIntyre into an impressive reflex save.

The visitors went close from a corner of their own soon after, with Tyrese Dyce heading against the crossbar from eight yards.

Midfielder Ryan Stirk crossed accurately towards Jordan Bowery in the area, but the forward could not generate the power required to beat McIntyre.

The Stags, who had looked dangerous from corners in the opening 20 minutes, etched their name on the scoresheet with a flag kick from the right-hand side.

Sinclair’s floated delivery was flicked on towards Caine, who headed in the opener from close range.

Moments after the goal, Ryan Burke was shown the first yellow card of the game following a heavy challenge on Ellis Taylor.

Mansfield found a second goal inside 25 minutes through Law. After a corner was half-cleared, the midfielder guided a left-footed volley into the bottom corner.

Sunderland looked to reduce the deficit through Will Harris, who struck wide from the left-hand side of the box.

The Stags had their third not long after through Sinclair. Caine turned provider this time around, finding the attacking midfielder with a neat pass from the right. Sinclair expertly rounded McIntyre before rolling the ball home into an empty net.

Harry Charsley looked to add a fourth for Mansfield on the stroke of half-time, but fired narrowly wide with a first-time strike from the edge of the box.

Sunderland made a double change at the break with a view to igniting a comeback, as Sam Wilding and Cameron Jessup made way for Stephen Wearne and Tom Scott.

But it was the Stags who would continue creating the game’s greater opportunities, with Sinclair going close once more. Law’s cross-field pass was well controlled by Charsley, who slipped the ball through to Mansfield’s No.17. Sinclair beat his man with a dummy before shooting just over from inside the box.

George Shelvey was called into action as Taylor went through on goal, but the on-loan Nottingham Forest shot-stopper produced a fine save with an outstretched boot.

Mansfield then made their first change as Taylor Anderson replaced Clarke, two minutes before James Gale recorded his first outing in Stags’ colours, coming on for Caine.

Sunderland had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Garreth Rhodes when Harrison Sohna struck into the midriff of Keaton Ward.

The visitors continued their pursuit for a consolation as Harris struck marginally wide after a neat turn inside the area.

Sinclair looked to carry the ball upfield following a Sunderland corner, but was tripped by Ethan Kachosa, a challenge worthy of a booking from Mr. Rhodes.

Benjamin Kimpioka had a late opportunity to reduce the deficit but blasted over the bar after beating his man.

It was a professional second-half display by the Stags who protected their three-goal advantage to make a winning start to their Premier League Cup campaign.

Next up in the competition is a trip to Wigan Athletic U23 on Thursday 28 October.

STAGS XI: Shelvey (GK), J. Clarke (C) (Anderson 69’), Cooper (Deakin 89'), Ward, Burke, Stirk, Charsley, Law, Sinclair, Bowery, Caine (Gale 71’).

UNUSED SUBS: Mason (GK), Hill.

SUNDERLAND XI: McIntyre (GK), Richardson, Dyce (Newall 67’), Wilding (C) (Wearne 46’), Younger, Jessup (Scott 46’), Kachosa, Sohna, Harris, Kimpioka, Taylor.

UNUSED SUBS: Carney (GK), Almond.

REFEREE: Garreth Rhodes.

ASSISTANTS: Daniel Guest & Danny Jarvis.

FOURTH OFFICIAL: Matthew Jackson.


Elliott Dickman left disappointed by Sunderland's display at Mansfield in Premier League Cup

Elliott Dickman says Sunderland U23s performance 'wasn't us' as his side began its Premier League Cup campaign with a 3-0 defeat at Mansfield Town.

The Black Cats conceded three times in the first half of their first Group E fixture, with Nathan Caine, Jason Law, and Tyrese Sinclair scoring the Stags' goals at Field Mill.

Tyrese Dyce and Will Harris hit the woodwork for Sunderland, also in the first half, but the real problems are at the other end of the pitch where the Wearsiders have now conceded 13 goals in four games in all competitions this season.

Dickman said: "That wasn't us tonight. We're disappointed, and fair play to Mansfield who came out with more energy than we did.

"There were parts in the game where we did OK - but that was just OK.