Fleetwood Town’s Under 18s came back from behind to claim a stunning 3-2 win against Mansfield Town in the Youth Alliance Cup at Poolfoot Farm on Saturday.
Town dominated from the outset, and their pressure told when forward Shayden Morris opened the scoring with a brilliant long range strike.
Jimmy Knowles and Tyrese Sinclair scored for Mansfield either side of half time, but Ryan Rydel equalised before Morris got his second of the game, scoring a late winner to clinch the three points in dramatic fashion for Town.
Town flew out of the traps in the first half and applied instant pressure on the Mansfield defence, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
Striker Kian Makepeace went close before Town had a goal disallowed when James Hill’s header was spilled into the net by Keaton Marrs, but the referee deemed the challenge to be a foul on the Mansfield goalkeeper.
Town dominated in the wide areas as Morris almost found O’Halleron, then Liam Goldsborough’s crossed to Anthony Williams, who fired over from the edge of the box.
Town then appealed for a penalty as Rydel, a constant threat down the left, crossed in to Makepeace. The Town forward was brought down in the box, but the referee waved play on, and Williams’ follow-up was just wide of the post.
On the half-hour mark, Town got the goal they deserved for their sheer dominance. Morris was found in space around 25 yards from goal, he turned and smashed a pile driver into the far corner of the goal to give the home side the lead.
Just minutes later, Town almost doubled their lead as O’Halleron was inches away from heading in after Rydel swung in an appetising ball. Mansfield were struggling to contain Town’s attack in the wide areas, and overlapping full-backs Rydel and Goldsborough were causing big problems for the Stags defence.
With Town unlucky to be heading into the break with just a one goal lead, Mansfield scored a shock equaliser on the stroke of half-time with their first real attack of the game.
Town’s attack broke down, leaving them short at the back, and with Katlego Mashigo unable to make up the ground despite his best efforts, Sinclair swung in an inch-perfect cross to striker Knowles. His first time scissor kick on the volley flew into the far corner of the net, and within a matter of seconds Mansfield levelled the game at 1-1.
It was a testament to Town’s relentless attack in the wide areas that Mansfield were forced to change their formation at half time. Larrell King and Jack Cornell made way for Matty Longton and Rhys Sarson as the Stags changed to a 3-5-2 formation.
Riley O’Sullivan and Nathan Saunders offered a bigger presence as wing-backs in an attempt to stop the constant flow of Town crosses.
But within minutes of the restart, Town had a wonderful opportunity to regain their lead. O’Halleron was brought down in the box, but the Town striker dragged the resulting penalty kick wide of the post.
With the Mansfield defence reluctant to close down Rydel, the Town full-back had two efforts from range, curling just over and drawing a good save from Marrs.
Mansfield then threatened through substitute Rhys Sarson, who’s shot from inside the box was well saved by Scott Pengelly, but then the Stags took the lead in the 62nd minute as Mansfield winger Sinclair turned his man in the box and smashed the ball into the top right corner.
Town didn't let their heads drop and picked up where they left off, with Rydel producing another fine save from Marrs.
And with 72 minutes gone, it was Rydel who deservedly levelled it up for Town. His low drive from outside the box smashed into the bottom corner off the inside of the post to make it 2-2.
Town made a triple substitution as they searched for a winner as Rydel, Williams and Hill came off for Greg McCarragher, Alkeo Bani and Akiel Raffie.
O’Halleron was then hacked down on the edge of the box by Jordon Armsden, and he curled the resulting free kick just over the bar.
With 87 minutes gone, Town claimed a dramatic winner – and it is hard to dispute that they deserved it over the course of the game.
Against strong opposition, Jamie Cooke and O’Halleron fought bravely to both win a 50/50 that saw Morris put through on goal.
The Town forward had too much pace for the Mansfield defence, and as he closed in on goal, with just the keeper to beat, he calmly placed his shot into the bottom corner to make it 3-2.
The referee blew for full time to confirm an impressive win for Town. It was no more than they deserved for some sublime attacking play throughout the match.
Town XI: Pengelly, Goldsborough, Rydel (McCarragher 74’), Hill (Bani 74’), Cooke, Williams (Raffie 74’), Mashigo, Matete, Morris, Makepeace, O’Halleron.
Subs not used: Clayton.
Mansfield XI: Marrs, Stokes (Rangel 74’), King (Sarson 45’), Cornell (Longton 45’), Armsden, Chisholm, Sinclair, Saunders, Knowles, Tague, O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Squires, Ingram.