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PREVIEW | Rovers U18s vs Mansfield U18s

5 January 2024


PREVIEW | Rovers U18s vs Mansfield U18s

5 January 2024

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Rovers U18s return to EFL Youth Alliance League action this Saturday for the first time in 2024 as they face off with Mansfield Town on the Eco-Power Stadium 3G.

Frank Sinclair’s side will be looking to start the new year as they finished the last one after putting together an unbeaten run through the last two months of the calendar year.

The exact same fixture last season saw Rovers come from behind twice through Harry Wood and Will Flint as the youth team snatched a late point at the Hoober Homes Elite Performance Centre.

Last meeting

The first meeting between the two sides saw Rovers almost take the lead twice with efforts cleared off the line but they ultimately fell to a 2-0 loss at the RH Academy.

A late Mansfield flurry saw U21 striker McKeal Abdullah net twice to secure all three points for the Nottinghamshire side on that occasion.

Despite the result on that day in September, the Academy showed a number of positives with five U16s making the matchday squad and one of which started in goal in Harry Gardham.

Recent form

Despite a fine start to the campaign, the Stags ended 2023 with just one win in five.

That run started with an impressive 4-1 win over Harrogate Town in the Professional Development League Cup but that result was followed up by two draws against Bradford City and another stalemate with Hartlepool United.

Most recently, Mansfield ended the calendar year with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hull City in the Professional Development League Cup.

Rovers final five games of 2023 saw the youth team collect three wins and two draws after beating Lincoln City, Morecambe and Bradford City before hard fought draws against Grimsby Town and Carlisle United.

The competition

Burton Albion continue to lead the way in the north east division of the Youth Alliance League with seven wins from eight and 21 points to open up a three point gap at the summit of the league.

Mansfield sit fourth just seven points behind the Brewers and six points ahead of Rovers who climbed to eighth following their recent run of form.

Notts County remain routed to the foot of the division with just one point from eight games in their first season since rejoining the EFL Youth Alliance.

Manager’s comments

Following a tough start to the season, professional development phase lead Frank Sinclair feels his side have turned a corner and are now on the right path.

He said: “The Academy is absolutely heading in the right direction, I think we’re in a good spot going into the new year but there’s still a lot of learning to come.

“We’ve had to up the standard in recent years because we couldn’t continue to settle for not competing and we’re setting out to continue that.

“To get to the professional level you need to be competitive and know what it takes to be a winner so it’s just about getting that into the players early.

“There’s a big difference in the strength and conditioning side of things that the lads need to take on board because it’s a big step between 18s football and first team level but I’m pleased with how the group are looking towards that.”

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