Stags’ under-18s made it five league wins from their last five after convincingly beating Oldham Athletic under-18s 4-0 at The RH Academy on Saturday afternoon.
Stags wasted no time getting their noses in front in the game, when Jimmy Knowles side-footed home the opener inside five minutes.
This led to a flurry of goals for the home side, with James Tague’s drilled effort and two Riley O’Sullivan strikes giving Stags a 4-0 lead before 20 minutes had been played.
Stags’ resilient defence held firm to make it three clean sheets from their last four league games.
Mansfield started the game with purpose on a chilly afternoon at The RH Academy, and on the four-minute mark, they grabbed the game’s first goal.
Kian Sketchley surged forward from left wing-back, delivering an inch-perfect low cross from the touchline which the academy’s leading top-scorer, Knowles, dispatched in clinical fashion.
Just one minute later, Stags doubled their advantage. From 25 yards out, Stags’ skipper Tague lashed a left-footed effort, which arrowed into the right-hand corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
Minutes later, Stags got a third. This time, a wayward back-pass from an Oldham defender led to the ball falling kindly to a grateful O’Sullivan, who took his opportunity, calmly tucking the ball home from just five yards out.
On 16 minutes, a Tague corner from the left-hand side was met by O’Sullivan once more, as he ghosted into the area, losing his marker and sweeping the ball past the Oldham goalkeeper.
It was a fantastic start to the game from the amber and blue, as they continued to press the ball intensely when not in possession, whilst when they themselves had the ball, they were causing real problems for the visitors with some excellent link-up play and intelligent movement.
On the half-hour mark, Keaton Marrs stood firm at his near post in the Mansfield goal to deny Mason Livesy, after the Oldham striker drilled a fierce effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Moments later, Sinclair’s deflected effort momentarily wrong-footed Ewan Macfarlane in the Oldham goal. However, the ‘keeper did well to adjust his feet and get down low to his left and divert the ball behind for a corner kick.
Then, a slightly under hit back-pass from Noah Stokes, who had made an impressive start to proceedings, was pounced upon by an energetic Livesy, but Marrs was quick off his line and bravely slid out to twice dispossess the Oldham striker and eventually clear.
Stokes then delivered a pinpoint pass forward into the path of Knowles, who had timed his run to perfection, and using his strength to hold off the defender, the Stags’ forward got his shot away, but it deflected behind for a corner ball.
Moments before half time, a rare attempt at goal from holding midfielder Matty Langton whistled agonisingly past the outside of the Oldham ‘keeper’s far post.
The second 45 began as had the first, with Stags on top, threatening early on. Just two minutes after the restart, a curling Sketchley cross to the back post found Knowles, whose volleyed attempt flashed just wide of the near post.
O’Sullivan, in search of his hat-trick, produced a splendid turn on the left-hand side of the penalty area which got him away from two defenders, but the forward was denied by a good save from Macfarlane who managed to beat the ball away.
Stags’ intensity was there for all to see, as the relentless Knowles dispossessed an Oldham defender on the edge of his own area. The ball broke to Tague, who aimed a placed attempt towards the far corner of the goal, only for it to bounce just wide of the far post.
With 10 minutes of the second half played, Oldham twice came close to Marrs’ goal; firstly, a Max Norman free-kick from a central position curled just wide of the far post, before Reece Gaskell’s neat turn and drive was well saved and held by Mansfield’s number one.
On the hour mark, O’Sullivan drifted out to the right-hand side before cutting back onto his left foot and smashing his attempt goalward, drawing a good save from the Oldham ‘keeper once more.
Led by an emphatic Jordan Armsden, the Stags’ defensive unit were withstanding any potential attacks from the away side, as the Stags’ centre-half threw himself in front of an incoming shot, then chased down his own block to eventually win a throw-in for his side.
Stokes then headed over from an in-swinging Tague free-kick, before Sinclair, who had covered every blade of artificial grass, ran at the defence before laying the ball off to Joao Rangel. His pass found Rhys Sarson, who did well to shake off the attentions of the Oldham centre-half, but his driven attempt was well saved.
The tireless Sinclair then won possession back high up the field, before feeding Langton whose powerful effort was well saved.
With five minutes remaining, Oldham’s best opportunity came when Gaskell broke through one-on-one, but couldn’t keep his effort down as it bent just wide of Marrs’ far post – keeping Stags’ clean sheet intact.
The game was brought to an end by the referee’s final whistle, and Stags’ superiority in the game was such that John Dempster’s side might be slightly disappointed not to have added to the four goals that they got in the game.
STAGS’ STARTING XI: Marrs, Stokes, Sketchley, Langton, Armsden, Chisholm (Davis 20’), King (Rangel 25’), Tague (c) (Saunders 72’), Knowles (Molyneaux 64’), Sinclair, O’Sullivan (Sarson 64’).
SUBS NOT USED: N/A
OLDHAM STARTING XI: Macfarlane, Phelan, Hachett, Swarby-Neavin (c), Grundy, Gaskell, Wych, Livesy (Emerson 66’), Sheriff, Norman, Williams.
SUBS NOT USED: Hough, Allen, Hughes.