Stags’ reserves ran out dominant 5-1 winners over Peterborough United in their Central League Cup clash at the RH Academy on Tuesday afternoon.
The game was the first of four Central League Cup group stage matches that Mansfield will play, and they made the perfect start with a stellar outing.
Forward Omari Sterling-James found the net twice in the match, along with strikes from Cameron Healey, Tom Fielding and Jordan Graham.
Stags started with a three-at-the-back system, mirroring the formation utilised by the Mansfield first team, using midfielder Keaton Ward as the central centre-back.
Sterling-James and Graham lead the line in what was Stags’ first Central League or Central League Cup fixture since October.
Mansfield started the better side, with Sterling-James winning a free-kick in a dangerous position early on. The forward took the set piece he won, lifting the ball over Josh Allen’s crossbar.
Sterling-James was at the heart of the action once again moments later, nodding a Fielding free-kick marginally wide of the far post.
Before long, Mansfield made their dominance pay by finding the opening goal. The visitors failed to clear their lines properly, which lead to Healey connecting with a diving header. Despite Allen’s best efforts, the ball rolled over the line for 1-0.
Peterborough almost produced an instant response, when Sam Cartwright’s outstretched leg nearly bundled the ball home at the back post.
Despite what was a golden chance for the Posh, it was the Stags who doubled their lead on the 22 minute mark.
Fielding was released beyond the Peterborough back-line, and his scuffed pass found the feet of Sterling-James who rolled the ball home into a vacant net.
The Stags turned on the style after doubling their lead, with Fielding almost finding the net in superb fashion. Graham found the forward with a neat dink over the Peterborough back-line, prompting him to force a strong save from Allen with his volley on the swivel.
There were chances at either end within the space of a minute, as Fielding saw his long-range free-kick flash past the far post, before Sam Wilson was called into action in the Stags’ goal following a quick Peterborough counter-attack.
Minutes before the half-time break, the visitors went close again, with Harrison Burrows’ deflected effort hitting the outside of Wilson’s post.
It was the Stags who started the second period the better side, and extended their lead just four minutes after the restart.
The ball fell kindly to Sterling-James after a scramble in the area following a Mansfield flag kick, and the forward volleyed home with expert precision to the bottom corner.
The attacker almost had his hat-trick, when he was inches away from getting a toe to Graham’s low cross along the face of goal.
Just past the hour mark, Mansfield made it four through Fielding. The Stags caught their opponents napping with a quick throw, leading Sterling-James to tee up Fielding, who found the top corner with a composed finish.
Peterborough resorted to long range shooting in an attempt to salvage a consolation goal, with Callum Cooke seeing his effort sail over the crossbar.
Wilson was called into action from a Posh free-kick, and he reacted smartly to get a strong hand to Jack Gurney’s low strike.
The visitors did improve their showing towards the end of the contest, and were rewarded with a goal. Substitute Nathan Rudman found striker Matty Stevens, with the latter producing a neat turn and finish to make it 4-1.
Iyrwah Gooden, brought on in the 79th minute, went close to finding the far corner of the net after dancing past his marker inside the area.
Mansfield found their fifth goal just before the full-time whistle, through Graham. Midfielder Harry Bircumshaw played the forward through with a sublime pass, resulting in the No.9 taking the ball around the Peterborough goalkeeper and sliding the ball into the empty net.
Graham’s strike capped off a dominant performance from the Stags, giving them a perfect start to the Central League Cup group stage.
Mansfield’s reserves are next in action against Notts County reserves in the Central League Cup on Tuesday 18 December. A venue for this fixture is yet to be confirmed.
STAGS’ XI: Wilson, Walker, Ward, Gibbens, Blake, Law, Healey (Baldwin 70’), Bircumshaw, Fielding (Gooden 79’), Sterling-James, Graham.
UNUSED SUBS: Squires, Bloor, Fisher.
PETERBOROUGH XI: Allen, Lyon, Smith, Cooke, Garner (Fosu 46’), Cartwright, Borg, Gurney, Brookes (Rudman 52’), Stevens, Burrows (Douglas 60’).
UNUSED SUBS: Jones, Horne.