Stags’ reserves came back from a goal down to beat Rotherham United 4-1 in a highly-entertaining Central League fixture at The RH Academy on Tuesday afternoon.
The Millers opened the scoring through Jerome Greaves, but the Stags equalised two minutes later via Omari Sterling-James’ precise effort.
Mansfield never looked back from this position, with goals from Jordan Graham, Aiden Walker and Tyrese Sinclair securing an emphatic win.
A mixed lineup was named for the clash, with youngsters Jimmy Knowles, Kian Sketchley and Jamie Chisholm included alongside senior pro’s Bobby Olejnik and Omari Sterling-James.
It was the visitors who enjoyed a perfect start to the game, opening the scoring through Greaves in the fourth minute. The frontman was left with a simple finish once shot-stopper Olejnik had made a good save.
The amber and blue looked to find an instant response, as the lively Knowles fired over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
The Stags did not have to wait long for the equaliser, though, which came via a classic counter-attack. Striker Graham led the charge upfield, sliding through Sterling-James, who found the bottom corner with his accurate drive.
After a frantic start, the game produced few chances until Knowles was felled in the area by Bolton Makwedza after an impressive run.
Graham stepped up and sent goalkeeper Elliot Ellis the wrong way with his spot kick, marking his second goal in as many Central League fixtures after finding the net against Walsall last time out.
The ever-dangerous Knowles was at the heart of the action once more as he latched onto a pass in the box, taking the ball around the Millers’ shot-stopper before seeing his shot cleared off the line by Jake Cooper.
From the resulting corner, the ball worked its way towards the lurking Tyrese Sinclair, who forced the unsighted Ellis into a reflex save as his volley made its way through a crowded Rotherham box.
Graham believed he had doubled his tally for the afternoon as he scooped the ball into the Rotherham net, yet was denied his brace by the raising of the offside flag. The striker found himself through on goal just a minute later, but his strike was met by a fine save from Ellis.
There was an enforced Mansfield change just before half-time, as Chisholm was replaced by fellow under-18s’ defender Nathan Saunders after going down with injury.
After the break, the first Stags’ chance resulted in a goal. A pinpoint delivery by Sterling-James was met by defender Aiden Walker, whose header found the far corner.
Mansfield continued their impressive start to the second period, netting their fourth goal on minute 54. Sinclair drove into the right-hand side of the penalty area before firing low past Ellis in emphatic fashion.
Knowles then found himself with two chances in quick succession. The young striker was denied from close range by Ellis, before hitting the side netting after taking the ball past the Millers’ stopper.
There was then a return to action for striker Craig Davies, out since December with an ankle injury, as he replaced fellow forward Jordan Graham.
Captain James Clarke went close to Mansfield’s fifth in spectacular fashion, volleying just over the crossbar following his late run into the penalty area.
As the final seconds ticked away, there was nearly a goal for long-term absentee Davies, as he fired just over the bar from Walker’s low delivery.
After a scare in the opening moments of the game, the amber and blue produced a strong team performance to earn their first Central League victory of the campaign.
STAGS XI: Olejnik (GK), Clarke (C), Chisholm (Saunders 41’), Walker, Sketchley, Law, Smith, Sinclair (Molyneaux 84’), Sterling-James, Knowles, Graham (Davies 67’).
UNUSED SUBS: Stone (GK), Tomlin.
ROTHERHAM XI: Ellis (GK), Makwedza, Hinds (C), Spence, Hill, Cooper, Peel-Evans, Lamy, Greaves, Gratton, Gateshill (Smith 63’).
UNUSED SUBS: Kenny (GK), Hanley, Scott, Wenham.