Mansfield Town U18s 4-1 AFC R&D U18s / MAA

AFC Rushden & Diamonds / Malcolm Arnold Academy crashed out of the FCYA League Cup 1st Round after poor performance in a 4-1 defeat to Mansfield Town.

Before the game, manager Darren Purse stressed the importance of doing well in cup games, as wins can breed confidence which the players can take into their league performances. However the only thing the players will be taking from this game is thoughts on where it all went wrong.

The scholars were back to near enough a fully fit squad, with Ieuan Ivett and Joe Ackroyd returning to the starting 11 from injuries but it proved to be to no avail.

Diamonds started the game well and had three good chances to be ahead after 20 minutes. Thomas Craddock, Luke Garner and Harrison Desborough all had chances to put Diamonds ahead – probably the best chances of the game. However, they failed to take their chances when on top and ultimately conceded soon after.

Against the run of play, after a great Diamonds start, Ieuan Ivett had the ball in midfield on 21 minutes. 30 yards from his own goal, he tried to beat his man rather than playing the ball into the channel, whilst under pressure, therefore he was dispossessed. Mansfield broke quickly and went on to score beyond Sam de Boer in the Rushden goal to make it 1-0.   

But Rushden quickly responded after their early domination. 28 minutes gone and the scholars had a corner. Desborough whipped the ball in which was met by Ackroyd and the near post, and his header fell into the path of Ben Peaks, after the ball was cleared off the line, who tapped in at the back post, making it 1-1.

As the saying goes, you’re at your most vulnerable when you score, the MAA boys did just that. From kick off the ball was sent up field from Mansfield, a lack of communication from goalscorer Peaks and Ackroyd resulted in them both going for the same ball. The ball evaded both which gave the striker an easy chance to score… But Sam de Boer was quick out of his goal and clattered the player on the edge of the box for a free-kick. The referee was very lenient as de Boer could have seen red, or at the very least been booked. But the goalkeeper went unpunished and Town scored direct from the free-kick putting Mansfield back in the lead.

Half Time. Mansfield Town U18s 2-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA.

After strong words from Darren Purse at half-time, there wasn’t any signs of things turning around.

As just two minutes into the second half, the scholars fell further behind. From their Achilles heel, a corner, no one took control in the Diamonds penalty box by heading it clear or the goalkeeper coming out to punch. And it was easy for the man at the back post to head in to make it 3-1.

Then things went from bad to worse as it clearly wasn’t their day. 55 minutes in, Joe Ackroyd’s backwards pass to Sam de Boer was short and de Boer quickly had to come out to receive it and in doing so, catches the onrushing striker inside the box. If the first challenge didn’t warrant a caution, this one certainly did, however the referee once again, kept his cards in his pocket. And the ball was converted from the spot to confine Rushden’s woes.

Diamonds struggled to make an impact at all after the first 20 minutes and Mansfield restricted the scholars to just half chances. This match is certainly one for the players to put behind them.

Full Time. Mansfield Town U18s 4-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA.

After the game, I spoke to a frustrated manager, Darren Purse:

“The difference today was that Mansfield did the ugly side of the game, they put their bodies on the line and blocked shots, and got their bodies in the way when they need to, and we’re just too nice, too naïve. They looked like a professional outfit, we looked like a non-league outfit.

We’re conceding too many goals from set-pieces because of lack of attitude, lack of commitment, bravery and will to defend. We’ve conceded too many goals this year, but it’s not through a lack of work rate, I can’t fault them for that.

The first 20 minutes we were brilliant, I love it when we can cut sides open but I’ve got to teach them how to win football matches. I don’t know how, but we’ll overcome it, it’s a new experience for me too. It’s a learning process for us all, it’ll take time but I will get them to do it.

It’s frustrating for me, that’s two cup competitions we’re out of now, and barring the English Schools Trophy game, that’s three on the bounce we’ve lost. That’s not what I’m about, I don’t like losing football matches –and the lads need to get that mentality too.

We now all have to go away, myself included, and think, ‘what could I have done better in that game today.’ Everyone’s got to learn from it, and if we do, it makes us a better player and a better person.”

Looking ahead to Monday’s match against Desborough Town in the NFA David Joyce Cup 1st Round, Purse is looking to quickly move on.

“You can’t cry about it, we need to get back to winning ways, sooner rather than later. If we play like we did the first 20 minutes today, we’ll do alright and win more games than we lose. But if we play like we did the other 70 minutes, we’ll carry on conceding four or five goals.

We did really well in this competition last year, and I said I expect to do as well as, if not better than we did last year. Because with the group of players we have we should be doing better.”

Report by Hayden Pott.