A brave performance from Rotherham United’s Academy, which saw them compete with their Mansfield Town counterparts for 10 men for a long period, were beaten 4-2 in extra time in the second round of the FA Youth Cup.
The Millers made the early running as Jacob Gratton calmly fired his side into the lead from the penalty spot before Joshua Scott restored parity seconds before half time. Substitute Nathan Saunders gave the hosts the lead after a bright start to the second period before matters were compounded for Ciaran Toner’s side as Harrison Beeden saw red for a tackle on the halfway line.
A gutsy display from the Millers though saw Gratton pounce to grab his second of the game late on and send the tie into extra time, where goals from Ryan Ingram and Rio Molyneaux cruelly ensured that the Millers’ 2019/20 campaign in the competition came to and end.
The hosts took the early incentive and threatened with the first chance of the game which fell to Shamar Lawson but his thunderous drive ended up wide of the target.
The tie would swing in the favour of the Millers minutes later though when the lively Jerome Greaves wriggled free of a home defender in the box, who clipped the heels of the forward as he escaped his attentions leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the penalty spot.
Gratton was the man tasked with taking the spot kick and stood up to the task confidently, expertly despatching his penalty into the bottom left corner, despite the goalkeeper diving the right way.
Greaves was unlucky not to see his side awarded another penalty as a result of his clever play in the box on 12 minutes, after a low pass in from the right paved the way for a brilliantly disguised stepover before he appeared to be clattered by a late challenge, but referee Jack Forder had a good view of the incident and opted to wave play on.
That decision saw the hosts break up to the other end of the pitch where Lawson had another sight of goal, where he fired narrowly wide from eight yards out.
The young Millers came close from a set piece routine with Wilf Peel-Evans heading Joel Spence’s corner at goal, but goalkeeper Jamie Boyle bravely got up to pluck the ball out of the air in a crowded penalty area.
Elliot Ellis was then forced into the save of the game at the other end, producing an excellent reaction save to somehow keep out Joshua Scott’s close-range effort and preserve Toner’s side’s advantage.
Boyle in the Stags’ goal then had to get a firm palm to Gratton’s piledriver before another powerful strike from the same player this time whizzed wide of the upright.
The Millers looked set to be ahead at the break as the board for two minutes of added time went up, but Mansfield had other ideas. Joshua Scott, who had already tested Ellis, this time made no mistake as he timed his run to perfection to steer home a cut back from the byline and make it 1-1 moments before half time.
Half-time | Mansfield Town 1 v 1 Academy
The hosts started the brighter of the two teams after the restart and threatened early through Kyle Tomlin and then Rio Molyneaux but the Millers stood firm and repelled the Stags’ early advances.
Peel-Evans then sent a warning shot across the bows of the hosts with a long-range strike which was initially too hot for Boyle to handle before he gathered at the second attempt, but the task was about to become much harder for Toner’s side.
There looked to be little danger as Molyneaux broke down the Mansfield right but a rash challenge from Harrison Beeden saw him sent for an early bath as he cleaned out the Stags’ midfielder in front of the home dugout.
Saunders then took advantage of the extra man in their ranks as he edged the Stags in front on 69 minutes, showing good composure to steer the ball home after it had dropped kindly for him in the penalty area.
The Millers understandably had to endure period of pressure but did so admirably with some brave defending from Bolton Makwedza and Joel Spence among those keen to ensure the hosts couldn’t extent their lead.
Jacob Gratton had proven to be a thorn in Mansfield’s side all evening and he came close to getting his reward as he twisted free on the edge of the area to fire a shot at goal which was well-blocked.
Gratton’s and the Millers’ persistence would eventually pay off as the attacker finally rippled the net. This time, he wasn’t the architect himself, instead pouncing on a defensive error to run through one-on-one and coolly slot the ball home to make it 2-2 a minute from time.
Toner’s side almost nicked it right at the death when Jake Hull’s goalbound header looked destine for goal following a corner, before being cleared from under the crossbar in stoppage time.
Full-time | Mansfield Town 2 v 2 Academy
There was little action of note to report on in the opening stanza of extra time with a couple of dangerous deliveries from the hosts amounting to the most danger, without testing Ellis in the Millers goal.
Gratton continued to try to carve an opening for his side ploughing a lone furrow as the man leading the line but was unable to conjure any magic before the interval.
Extra time half-time | Mansfield Town 2 v 2 Academy
Robbie Gateshill’s introduction had seen him provide some real quality from set piece situations and he obliged again in the second half of extra time with a delightful free kick cross which flashed agonisingly beyond three red shirts at the back post.
Makwedza was called into a fantastic last ditch tackle as the half progressed but despite the Millers’ resilience the Stags would find a way through.
With four minutes left of extra time, substitute Ingram drilled an effort from an acute angle to perfection and it rocketed it’s way into the far corner to give Mansfield a 3-2 lead.
The Stags then guaranteed their place in the next phase of the competition in some style, as a classy finish from Molyneaux saw him curl an effort into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Extra time full-time | Mansfield Town 4 v 2 Academy
Academy | Ellis; Makwedza, Hull, Beeden, Smith; Scott, Spence, Gratton, Peel-Evans; Kenny, Greaves.
Subs | Burnett, Gateshill, Millen, Salah, Wenham, Hanley.
Mansfield Town | Boyle, Bayliss, Sketchley, Tomlin, Cooper, Armsden, Molyneaux, Hill, Scott, Knowles, Lawson.
Subs | Philips, Sadler, Saunders, Jones, Ingram, Fisher, Caine.