After finding themselves 3-0 down at the break against Burton Albion on Friday, Stags’ under-18s pulled two goals back through Noah Stokes in the second period and hit the post late on, yet could not find what would have been a deserved equaliser.
Mansfield started on the back foot as Kyle Tomlin’s misjudged backpass rolled all the way in at the far post, past the helpless Keaton Marrs.
The Brewers added to their advantage through Kyle Clamp and Ethan Vale in the opening period to extend their lead to three goals by half-time.
The Stags emerged as the much stronger side in the second-half, and pulled two goals back via Stokes’ penalty and header.
James Tague’s stoppage time free-kick looked to have gone all the way in, yet struck the far post to the dismay of the midfielder.
Academy manager John Dempster made three changes for the match, with Larrell King, Tyrese Sinclair and Riley O’Sullivan replacing Bradley Lathall, Nathan Saunders and Kamen Cashmore.
The hosts started the match the stronger side at St. George’s Park, and went close as Vale’s set piece from the corner of the area flashed just beyond the far post.
Clamp was looking dangerous in the opening stages, and put Marrs to the test with a first-time effort, yet the Stags’ goalkeeper was able to hold the strike.
Rio Molyneaux was called upon inside the Mansfield area when Vale curled in a dangerous cross, as the forward headed behind the delivery.
The Stags had strong penalty appeals waved away when O’Sullivan was brought down in the box after being found by Kian Sketchley.
Burton’s Jack Holmes managed to evade several challenges before firing at goal, yet the effort was straight at Marrs, who was forced into a routine save.
Sinclair then stepped up to take a free-kick he earned, curling the ball just over the upright from distance.
Stags’ number ten then found space with a neat turn, yet his 20-yard drive was well-blocked by the outstretched leg of Regan Ganley.
After a positive spell for the amber and blue, they went a goal behind in an unfortunate fashion. Right-back Tomlin looked to find Marrs between the sticks, yet misjudged his pass and saw the ball roll into the far corner of the net.
The Mansfield goalkeeper remained focused after the goal, making a superb reflex save from James Melhado’s powerful strike just moments later.
Burton, however, doubled their advantage through Clamp. The forward found space in the area, and confidently fired a first-time shot from Nathan Morley’s low delivery to beat Marrs.
Six minutes before the half-time whistle, the Brewers made it three. Vale, who had looked dangerous from set pieces throughout, curled a superb free-kick into the top corner, leaving Marrs helpless in the Mansfield goal.
The Stags, who went into the break staring at a three-goal deficit, had a perfect start to the second-half.
The referee had little choice but the point to the spot following a deliberate handball in the Burton box, before Stokes stepped up and confidently lessened the Brewers’ lead from 12-yards.
Sinclair went close just a matter of minutes later, when his volley from range dropped just wide of Oliver Fairbrother’s far post.
On 63 minutes, the Stags found their second goal of the afternoon, as Stokes arrived late at the back post to head home Tague’s deep free-kick.
The Stags were then in the ascendancy as Sinclair fed Molyneaux with a defence-splitting pass, yet the forward could only find the side netting with his strike.
Stokes almost had his hat-trick with another header at the back post, yet Fairbrother produced a fine reflex save to preserve the Burton lead.
With the Stags committing bodies forward in their search for an equaliser, the Brewers were given an opportunity to counter, yet substitute Tom Hewlett dragged his shot wide at the end of a free-flowing move.
Sinclair once again found Molyneaux with a precise pass, yet the latter saw his strike superbly blocked by the outstretched leg of Morley.
Five minutes from time, Sinclair lined up yet another free-kick, this one being well saved by Fairbrother, who dived to his right to prevent the effort.
The forward had another chance from a dead ball opportunity around 35 yards from goal, and went close as his dipping strike flashed over the bar, with Fairbrother left rooted to the spot.
In the dying embers of the game, the Stags were inches away from finding the equaliser they deserved. Tague’s cross from a deep free-kick somehow went through the sea of bodies in the area, before kissing the post and rolling behind for a goal kick.
Sinclair had another opportunity from a free-kick to level the score, yet his central effort was tipped over the crossbar by the Burton ‘keeper.
After a poor first-half display, the Stags emerged as the much stronger side in the second period, and will feel hard done by that their endeavour and merit did not earn them at least a point.
Mansfield’s under-18s conclude their season on Thursday 02 May against Scunthorpe United at the RH Academy (7pm kick-off).
STAGS’ XI: Marrs, Tomlin (Saunders 60’), Sketchley, Cornell, Armsden, Stokes, King (Lathall 63’), Tague, Molyneaux, Sinclair, O’Sullivan (Darby 75’).
UNUSED SUBS: Boyle, Cashmore.
BURTON XI: Fairbrother, Gilligan, Armitage, Vale, Ganley, Fairweather, Holmes (Shittu 74’), Melhado, Clamp (Hewlett 42’), Bromfield, Morley.
UNUSED SUBS: Smith, Carter, Richardson.