The Iron youth team kicked off their league campaign with a respectable 1-1 draw against Lincoln City at a wet and windy Winterton.With influential youth team captain Taron Hare missing through a knee injury sustained at Bottesford last Saturday, it was the capable central midfielder and vice-captain, Levi Sutton, who led the team out for the opening game of the new season.
The Iron youngsters looked lively from the first whistle and it shortly became obvious by the pace of the opening 10 minutes that every claret and blue on the pitch was eager for the season’s initial game.
The Iron’s football showed calmness and composure in the first half as their passes on the ground were executed nicely from defence to midfield in an attempt to move the ball forward.
Centre back Jacob Hood teased the Lincoln City strikers several times showing composure by bringing the ball out of defence before releasing a well timed pass into midfield. Connor Purdue and Sutton worked well together in midfield as they tried to set the Iron on the attack.
Passes played out to winger Reece Mosanya were proving to be a great choice as he stormed up the left wing, defeating players at ease with his quick feet and electrifying pace. After four minutes it was Mosanya who delivered an excellent cross in to striker Kyle Wootton at the far post but the front man fired his shot just over the crossbar as united showed their intent.
Further opportunities followed for the home team as they dominated the early stages of the game with Purdue, Sutton and first year striker Noel Burdett all having strikes on target but each effort was comfortably saved by Lincoln’s keeper Henry Smith. At this stage City had to defend resolutely to stop United taking the lead and the visitors defended their goal well under pressure.
The Imps also showed strength in going forward on the counter attack with some impressive link up play by Barr-Roberts and Helsdown, resulting in a fierce shot at goal which the Iron’s Patrick Weaver did well to save.
United’s back four stood tall against the opposition’s strikers throughout the first half with Cleminshaw and Hood making it especially difficult for Lincoln to create any goal scoring opportunities from any pressure the visitors had. However, in the 38th minute City did pose a real threat when a ball landed centrally outside the Iron’s penalty area but fortunately Cleminshaw intercepted and United accelerated away to start yet another counter attack.
Although goalless, the first half was played at a good tempo by both sides and at this point it was anybody’s game although United had wasted good chances to open the scoring. The Iron’s juniors displayed good defensive skills by tracking back and winning possession from the visitors and when United had the ball they counter attacked at pace and moved the ball well by passing it neatly on the playing surface. Pressure in the final third was present from the home team but the end product was, more often than not, easily dealt with by Lincoln’s number one Smith as United just needed to improve their end product of a better cross, pass or shot and surely a deserved goal would come.
Within the first three minutes of the second half, Kyle Wootton bagged himself a goal to open up the scoring for the new season. Reece Mosanya’s fierce attempt was blocked and it was the Iron’s number nine, who was following up and pressuring the away team keeper as Wootton tucked the ball away to give United the lead. It was Kyle’s sixth goal in five games so far this season as he looks set to build on last season’s goal scoring exploits.
The academy’s U18 team reacted well to scoring the goal and possession was dominated by United for a long period after going in front.
However, on the hour mark City responded with a fierce counter attack of their own. A diagonal ball was played from right to left over the home team’s defence and behind first year right back Riley Baker. As the ball dropped towards the left side edge of the box it was a race to get to the ball first. City’s Jenk Akar won the race and as Baker tried to get his tackle in, Akar managed to drive the ball into the back of Weaver's net, producing Lincoln’s equaliser.
United came back at City and it was Sutton displaying good vision bringing Jack Mawson into the game as Mawson drove down the right wing before delivering a ball into the box. Burdett was unable to take the shot as Lincoln’s defence was quick to intercept.
Possession remained fairly equal as the teams entered the last 15 minutes of the second half; with both sides showing desire to win the game but the tempo of the game had decreased as expected.
On 72 minutes Burdett turned sharply in the box and with the goal at his mercy and with only the keeper to beat, Burdett blasted his effort over when it looked likely that he would score.
In the 87th minute Reece Mosanya used his pace once again and cleverly cut inside the full back before driving a low ball towards the goal. City’s keeper Smith got a hand to it and parried the ball out to leave his goal wide open at the far post. Noel Burdett was following up for the Iron but could not connect and was unfortunate not to score what would have potentially won the game for the home team.
In response to almost going behind, Lincoln’s right back broke clear of his marker to make a smart run down the right wing and his effort on goal was well dealt with by United shot stopper Weaver.
United kept pushing towards the final third looking to win the game but City were there to intercept play as United’s youngsters couldn’t finish the game off which made it frustrating for them.
The final whistle blew and the City players seemed very pleased with the result. However the home team players looked disappointed as they knew that with the number of chances they had created they should probably have won the game.
Academy manager Tony Daws said, “There were a lot of positives to take from the game, there was some excellent individual performances and then also some parts of our play that we need to work on to improve. The most apparent being our final third play as we created enough goal scoring opportunities but the final pass, cross or shot at goal let us down too often today.
"Having said that, this is the first league game of the season we had four first years start the game and the group have only played together four or five times during pre-season, so there’s a lot we can take away from the game
"To be fair to Lincoln, they are a former Football League club and still attract players of a good quality and credit to them, they worked really hard today and made it a difficult game for us, as they always do, there are no easy games."