Stags’ reserves were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Doncaster Rovers’ reserves in a Central League clash at Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena on Tuesday afternoon.
Mallik Wilks scored the game’s only goal with a well-taken finish in the first-half, and some inspired goalkeeping by Rovers’ stopper Louis Jones in the second period allowed the visitors to take all three points.
Stags named a mixed lineup for the clash, which included first team names such as Conrad Logan, Ben Turner, Alex MacDonald, Will Atkinson, Otis Khan and Nicky Ajose.
Mansfield made a strong start to the affair, going close within the opening five minutes. Atkinson’s deep cross found Riley O’Sullivan at the back post, who cut across the ball and fired his effort just wide.
Atkinson was to be the creative influence again when his searching pass picked out Ajose, yet the forward’s headed touch was a little heavy, and allowed Jones to collect possession.
Doncaster were starting to grow into the game by this point, and it took successive blocks from Turner and O’Sullivan to prevent Tyler Smith from finding the net.
The Stags’ back-line could do little about the next chance, as Wilks’ pirouette inside the area created a half-yard of space, which he took full advantage of by blasting the ball past Logan.
Rovers were in the ascendency after opening the scoring, yet Tommy Rowe failed to keep his effort down as he looked to curl the ball into the top right corner from just outside the area.
Space in a similar position opened up for Khan at the other end of the field, yet his curling strike resulted in the same outcome.
A quick turn of pace by Khan in the midfield allowed him to spray a pass towards Ajose, yet the attempt was expertly cut out by Aaron Lewis.
A touch by Alistair Smith - who was displaying a fine performance in the heart of midfield - took him past his marker, although the strike that followed brushed the bar.
Tom Fielding had the last chance of the first-half as he fired the ball straight at Jones after cutting in from a wide area.
The Stags started the second-half on the front foot and were almost immediately rewarded through Ajose, who was denied by Jones from a one-on-one situation.
Mansfield worked a free-kick in clever fashion, yet the resulting strike from Khan flew over the bar.
Doncaster set a reminder of the threat that were posing on the counter, yet Rowe’s volley flashed marginally wide from the edge of the area.
Fielding showcased his talent with some tricky footwork, and forced another fine stop from the Doncaster ‘keeper, who got a strong hand to his powerful strike.
Ajose was next in line to display some fine technique, as multiple stepovers opened up space in the area. The on-loan Charlton man was denied once again by an in-form Jones, who kept out his low drive.
Under-18s striker Jimmy Knowles took the place of Turner on the hour mark, and almost made an instant impact. A quick free-kick by Atkinson put the young forward through on goal, yet Jones was there again to keep the visiting clean sheet intact.
Knowles was presented with another opportunity after some eye-catching link-up play with Ajose, yet his strike had the same outcome, with Rovers’ ‘keeper once again making a save.
After a spell of pressure from the Stags, Doncaster were able to produce a swift counter-attack. The charge upfield concluded with a chance for substitute Will Longbottom, who fired wide from inside the box.
Ajose and Knowles once again linked up for the Stags, but the latter’s strike would produce the best save of the game so far from Jones, whose fingertips pushed the ball the wrong side of the post.
Despite the Stags creating the majority of the chances after the restart, the best opportunity of the second-half fell to Doncaster’s Smith, who somehow could not convert from six yards after a low ball into the area.
Stags’ stopper Logan was called into action after a relatively quiet second-half, proving his class with a sublime fingertip stop after a low drive from Rieves Boocock.
Mansfield had a late claim for a spot-kick after O’Sullivan was brought down in the area, yet referee Anthony Tankard waved play on.
Stags will feel hard done by after creating a hatful of chances – especially in the second-half – yet it was Doncaster who took all three points from an enticing affair.
STAGS’ XI: Logan, A. Walker, Wilder, Turner (Knowles 60’), Atkinson, O’Sullivan, MacDonald (Sinclair 84’), Smith, Khan, Ajose, Fielding.
SUBS NOT USED: Philips, Cornell, Saunders.
DONCASTER XI: Jones, Lewis, Horton, Prior, Blaney, Butler, Sadlier (Longbottom 62’), Rowe (Boocock 62’), Smith, Trialist, Wilks (Walters 46’).
SUBS NOT USED: Gibbons, Walker.