YOUTH TEAM BEAT NOTTS COUNTY
FA Youth Cup Round 1
Mansfield Town 1 - 0 Notts County
Field Mill, Wed 2 Nov, 7.00pm
YOUNG HOPEFULS BID TO KICK OFF CAREERS
Evening Post, 03 November 2005
What have Mansfield Town and Notts County got waiting in the wings? With the pair drawn against each other in the FA Youth Cup, IAN WILKERSON went to Field Mill to find out
As the Roman Abramovich era continues to gather pace, clubs in the lower divisions are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
Notts County and Mansfield Town have never been regarded as big spenders, even in relative terms, so their youth teams take on a special significance.
And last night was an opportunity to see what both teams have on offer in terms of up-and-coming talent.
While neither can claim to have gathered the £17.5m Nottingham Forest have earned from their academy in recent years, there have been successes.
Jermaine Pennant and Liam Lawrence, for example, are now both Premiership footballers.
But for every top-class player, dozens of others fall by the wayside before earning a full-time contract.
The law of averages suggest the majority of those on show last night at Field Mill, in a game which drew 233 to watch on a rather nasty night weather-wise, will end up playing non-league football or even lower.
But, as well as the desire to impress, there was more at stake last night - local pride.
Apart from August's 3-2 win for the Magpies at Field Mill, which earned Gudjon Thordarson the manager-of-the-month award and condemned Notts to a winless two months, it is a fixture from which the Stags have gained plenty of joy in the last few years.
So it proved again last night.
It could never have been described as a cracking cup tie.
The two teams took a long time to size each other up as the first half concentrated on the midfield.
The fireworks that were being set off over the back of the Bishop Street Stand became a distraction and a glancing header from Stags striker Richard Lonsdale towards the end of the half, which should have gone in from a couple of yards, was the only incident of note.
Thankfully the second half picked up as tired limbs allowed for more space in the later stages.
Lonsdale missed another chance when he was set through, firing into the side netting, while Notts' Shaun Newton could have netted as well - only to dally on the ball too long and allow a Stags defender to get back and make a telling block.
It seemed neither side would be able to carve out a telling opportunity and extra-time looked a distinct possibility.
But Mansfield settled it with 26 minutes remaining.
Lonsdale turned provider after a surging run down the right.
His cross was laid back by Liam King, whose blond hair would have certainly drawn comparison with former Stag Craig Disley among the home following, and Liam Foster was on hand to smash the ball in off the bar.
The celebrations, culminating in an 11-man hug-a-thon, demonstrated how much it meant to the young Stags to have won through.
And, for one night, an analysis of whether they will be able to strengthen the first team was put to the back of the minds - in their one game of the season when winning did matter.
Whether the youngsters get the chance to build on it on a bigger stage, later in their careers, will only become apparent in the fullness of time.
But they have given themselves the opportunity and done themselves some credit.
MANSFIELD: Langford, Jones, Sargent, Foster, Beastall, Neely, Bunning (Warriner, 62), Kitchen, Lonsdale, King (Waite, 90), Deas. Subs not used: Thackeray, Storer, Palin.
NOTTS COUNTY: Dryden, Leslie (Moran, 90), Craven (Molloy, 71), Austin, Wilson, Dudley, Frost, Rimmington (Akers, 76), Newton, Clarke, Szondi. Subs not used: Hewitt, Gibbons.
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