An early Jimmy Knowles effort was enough to separate the Stags and Walsall in Tuesday afternoon’s Central League clash at The RH Academy.
The 18-year-old forward opened the scoring in the sixth minute with his first-time effort.
There were chances for both sides to add to the game’s goal tally, but Knowles’ strike proved to be the difference by the full-time whistle.
The Stags went with a mostly youthful lineup for the clash, which was supported by first team forwards Craig Davies, Omari Sterling-James and Jordan Graham.
In windy conditions, the game saw its opening goal inside the first ten minutes. When the ball fell kindly to Knowles at the edge of the box, his powerful, first-time effort flew past Jack Rose into the corner of the net.
The young striker had an energetic start to the contest and was tackled by Zak Jules at the last second as he looked to break past the Saddlers’ defensive line at pace.
Walsall responded with a chance of their own two minutes later. The visitors looked to have crafted a certain equaliser when Tom Leak brought the ball down in the area, but the midfielder’s effort was stopped by a reflex Aidan Stone save.
Mansfield under-18s’ midfielder Ethan Hill – who started alongside fellow youngster Kyle Tomlin in the midfield pivot – almost had a dream start to life with the reserves, but dragged his effort just wide after breaking clean through on goal.
In an end-to-end clash, it was the visitors who created the next opportunity, but James Hardy miscued his effort from inside the area, allowing Stone to claim.
The last chance of the half fell to the game’s sole goalscorer, Knowles, but the forward’s strike from distance was held by Rose.
After the break, Knowles was once again at the heart of a Mansfield attack. He managed to show an impressive burst of pace to get the better of Kory Roberts, but was denied by a fine save from Rose after pulling the trigger.
The Stags were finding plenty of joy down the left via Knowles, who saw his effort fly just over the crossbar after cutting inside on his right foot.
After making a great save in the first-half, Stone went one better in the second period, producing an incredible acrobatic stop to keep out Elijah Adebayo’s powerful header.
Into the last ten minutes, and Sterling-James fired an effort over the crossbar after receiving an accurate pass into feet from Davies.
There was a chance for Sterling-James to put the game beyond any reasonable doubt in added time, but saw his chipped effort saved by Rose after being played through by Tomlin.
This was the final action of the contest, with Knowles’ goal helping the Stags to maintain their unbeaten start to the Central League season.
STAGS’ XI: Stone (GK), King, Sketchley, Tomlin, Walker, Clarke, Sterling-James, Hill, Davies (C), Knowles, Graham (Lawson 46’).
UNUSED SUBS: Campbell (GK), Saunders, Molyneaux, Ingram.
WALSALL XI: Rose (GK), Willis (McSkeane 46’), Lynch, Leak, Roberts, Jules (Coogan 46’), Nolan, Bates, Adebayo (Pearce 66’), Perry (Moss 46’), Hardy (Candlin 46’).
UNUSED SUBS: N/A
REFEREE: Wayne Cooper