A huge thank you to Kelham Hilton for this report from Friday night's Youth Alliance Cup group game:
Mansfield Town 3-3 United (Youth Alliance Cup)
Carlisle United under-18s were forced to settle for a draw in an entertaining clash at the RH Academy.
The Cumbrians had twice lead a topsy-turvy affair thanks to a brace from DJ Taylor and a second-half strike from Jamie Armstrong.
United looked set to take all the points with just three minutes remaining but were pegged back through Josh Scott’s penalty.
The hosts had the first opportunity after two minutes. From a Carlisle corner, the Stags broke as Rio Molyneaux powered down the right flank.
The winger cut the ball back to Ryan Ingram, but the striker couldn’t get a connection on the ball as it was scrambled away by Elliot Day.
Down the other end, Jamie Boyle was forced into a save after Jack Ellis slipped the ball through to Kyle Soper. With the forward bearing down on goal, the Stags’ stopper did well to keep out his deflected effort.
The amber and blue went close on nine minutes, when Scott diverted Arun Jones’ set piece over the bar.
In an open first period, it was The Cumbrians who opened the scoring with nine minutes played, when Keelan Leslie found DJ Taylor who drilled a low shot past Boyle from 25 yards.
The home side went searching for an equaliser and very nearly had it when Ryan Ingram saw his effort saved by Gabrial Breeze.
Mansfield had responded well to the early setback and equalised on 15 minutes. After sustained pressure, Arun Jones headed home a cross from the left side.
Stags were given the chance to turn the game on its head two minutes later, when the referee awarded a penalty for a foul on Ingram. Josh Scott saw his spot-kick saved but Ingram arrived to fire in the rebound.
Moments later, he almost extended the lead further, but the forward could only head wide from Jones’ pinpoint freekick delivery.
Visiting goal-scorer Taylor then tried his luck from a similar range on 25 minutes, this time though, Boyle was equal too it as he palmed his drive away for a corner.
On the half-hour mark, Mansfield went close again. Jones and Molyneaux combined to great effect down the right, with the latter picking out Scott with a cross, but he could only direct his powerful effort over the bar.
Scott went close again shortly after, when Saunders picked him out with another excellent cross. The striker did well to brush off the challenge of the defender but unfortunately, he couldn’t find the target with his header.
The visitors equalised six minutes from the break, as Taylor scored his second goal of the contest. The winger cut inside from the left and again found the bottom corner with a fine long-range strike.
The Cumbrians squandered a glorious chance to go into the break ahead when Jack Ellis arrived at the back post to meet Lewis Rocks’ corner. He couldn’t keep his effort down though, as it cleared the crossbar.
Carlisle began the second half as they’d ended the first and were rewarded for their pressure when substitute Jamie Armstrong drilled home to put them back in front after 57 minutes.
The Stags responded through Molyneaux, who tested Breeze with a cross-cum-shot on the hour-mark after a good team move.
Jones had been a threat from set-pieces all evening and he found a team mate once again on 68 minutes. This time, George Cooper beat his man and was unlucky to see his header fly over.
With a quarter of the game remaining the home side forced a corner and after some pinball in the opposition box the ball broke to Molyneaux, who couldn’t keep his shot down as it sailed over the bar.
The hosts were pushing for a leveller but were struggling to test the opposition goalkeeper, however with three minutes left, they were handed the opportunity to salvage a draw.
Molyneaux was too quick for Roan Steele who hacked him down in the box to concede another penalty.
Having had his initial spot-kick saved, Scott made no mistake this time as he fired home emphatically to level the contest.
Both sides had opportunities in the dying embers of the match to take three points. Kyle Soper went close for the visitors as his rasping 25-yard effort cleared the post.
Stags nearly won it deep into injury time when Molyneaux sent in a low cross which evaded everyone before trickling out of play.
The referee ended the affair shortly after, with the sides sharing the points in an entertaining clash at the RH Academy.
Mansfield XI: Boyle, Sadler (Caine 64’), Sketchley, Tomlin, Armsden, Cooper, Ingram (Dean 81’), Saunders, Scott, Jones, Molyneaux. Subs - Phillips, Adams, Fisher.
United XI: Breeze, Steele, Leslie, Walton (Armstrong 45’), Lightfoot (Charters 45’), Day, Rooks, Ellis, Soper, Swailes, Taylor. Subs - Birch, Bell, Robinson.
Carlisle United U18 v Bradford City U18 - FA Youth Cup round two - Brunton Park - Monday 11 November - kick off 7pm
Next up for the young Blues is the Monday night home game against Bradford City in round two of this season's FA Youth Cup competition.
Academy boss Eric Kinder said: "I said it at Salford, but this is a fantastic competition. These lads now have the chance to play under the lights at Brunton Park and that is a valuable and great experience for them.
"I have no doubt that it will affect some of them. There will be nerves, but if they can settle and play their game they'll be okay. We've seen the good and bad from them in recent weeks, but one thing we can't complain about is the way they're approaching things.
"Bradford are a good side, we know that, and they'll come here looking to get at us quickly. We have to match that. Obviously we've had a problem with scoring goals but three on Friday night at Mansfield is another boost to confidence.
"We have excellent delivery from the likes of Charters and Armstrong, and others, and it's just a case of making sure we make the right decisions in the right areas.
"It's a night we can all look forward to and, as always in this competition, we know who the winner gets in the next round. Round three will be a home tie against Stoke City for the successful team, but we can't allow ourselves to look too far ahead.
"There's an important job to do against Bradford first. Monday night is an occasion we have to deal with and, if we do, that's when we can start to look forward."
Tickets will be priced at £3 for adults and £2 for concessions, and will be available from the west stand ticket office from 6pm on the night.