Stags' under-18s played out a dramatic 3-3 draw with Lincoln City under-18s at Brooksby Melton College on Saturday, in a game that saw both sides score in added time.
Mansfield twice fought back to level the score, with Tyrese Sinclair netting both goals, after Rhys Sarson had given Mansfield a first half lead when he calmly slotted home a penalty.
At the beginning of the second half, Lincoln got two goals in quick succession when Elliott Sartorius converted a penalty and Duncan Idehen headed home from a corner. Jon Smith had given Lincoln a late lead after sliding in to poke home for the visitors, before Sinclair fired home the equaliser with the last kick of the game.
Youth boss John Dempster will likely be delighted with his side for scoring three goals and creating a number of good chances, however, for a side who is usually so solid defensively, he will be disappointed to have allowed the opposition to score three goals of their own.
The Mansfield starting XI was unchanged for the third successive game in a row, following defeat to Scunthorpe a fortnight ago, before bouncing back to an impressive 3-1 Youth Cup win over Burton Albion five days later.
The game got off to a fierce start, with both teams quick to test the opposition’s defence.
Firstly, Jimmy Knowles, providing width on the left-hand touchline, managed to beat his man on the outside and pull the ball back into a dangerous position in the centre of the area – but it was Kyle Watkins, the Lincoln skipper, who dived in, managing to get a much-needed toe to the ball, preventing Sarson from being gifted an early opportunity.
With six minutes played, Mansfield showed their class by putting together a lovely attacking move. James Tague played the ball forward to the feet of Sarson, and with his first touch, he rolled the ball into Sinclair just inside the opponents’ half.
Sinclair immediately sprayed a ball down the left for Knowles to run onto, and once at the byline, the Stags forward cleverly nutmegged the defender before being brought down for a Mansfield free-kick.
Sinclair stepped up and whipped the free-kick into a dangerous position, and with Jamie Chisholm steaming in, the Lincoln centre half did well to head the ball to safety from almost underneath his own crossbar.
With a little over ten minutes gone, a slight mix up at the back for the Stags allowed Jordan Auebayo-Smith to get in behind the defensive line in the right-hand channel. The forward showed great pace as he ran inside directly towards Keaton Mars’ goal.
Jordan Armsden came hurtling across, trying to make up the ground to close off the shot, but Auebayo-Smith neatly shifted the ball inside the defender onto his left foot and shaped to shoot from the right corner of the six-yard box. Armsden, however, showed tremendous agility to shift his weight back inside and made a wonderful, last-ditch tackle to deny the striker a free shot on Mars’ goal.
Sarson, who got two assists in the Stags’ win against Burton Albion, was again showing his creativity going forward. In the 14th minute, he threaded a sumptuous ball through to Kamen Cashmore, who found himself through on goal. Cashmore showed great pace to get away from his man, but was clearly tripped inside the Lincoln penalty area, and the referee signalled for a penalty kick.
Sarson stepped up, and sent the ‘keeper the wrong way, slotting the ball low into the left-hand corner of the net to give the Stags a deserved 1-0 lead.
Following the goal, the away side began to mount some pressure of their own, with a flurry of set pieces keeping the Mansfield players camped inside their own half.
Charlie Hart swung in a left-footed corner for the visitors which Mars met with a good punch amongst a crowd of bodies to clear his lines. The loose ball was picked up on the right-hand corner of the area by Alex Wonham, who cut inside onto his left foot and unleashed a curling effort towards goal, that thankfully for the Stags, rose over the top of the crossbar.
Another corner from Hart, this time from the right side, wasn’t dealt with by the Stags’ defence, and the ball fell to Watkins on the edge of the six yard box, who from point blank range got good connection on his strike. However, the Stags’ 'keeper produced a splendid reaction save to keep his side in front as he beat the ball away, saving what looked like a certain goal.
With just over half an hour played, Sarson controlled the ball on his chest, and with his back to goal, lifted the ball over his head and the Lincoln back line. Cashmore was the first to react, latching onto the pass, but the striker couldn’t quite wrap his foot around the ball as his attempt flew wide of the near post from a tight angle.
It was a solid first-half display from the Stags, with Tague and Langton particularly impressive in the midfield, working tirelessly to help protect their defensive line and snuff out any Lincoln attacks.
The referee drew the first half to a close, with Lincoln perhaps finishing the half the stronger of the two teams.
Lincoln flew out the traps in the second half, with chances falling to Wonham, who curled his effort wide, before Auebayo-Smith broke free of the defensive line, but couldn’t get the purchase on his shot, as a thankful Mars collected his attempt.
Then, Watkins found himself unmarked from a corner, but his header went down into the ground and wide of Mars’ post.
Eventually, Lincoln’s pressure told, when Knowles was caught the wrong side of Jon Smith – fresh on as a substitute – and brought down the Lincoln forward in the penalty area, after he had latched onto a diagonal ball played from left to right.
Sartorius took the spot-kick and smashed the ball into the roof of net away to Mars’ right-hand side, giving the keeper little chance. That levelled the score and on the balance of play, it was a deserved equaliser for the away side.
Only three minutes later, the game turned on its head, as a Lincoln corner was whipped in and met by a powerful header from Idehen, who saw the back of the net ripple and give his side a 2-1 lead.
A slightly stunned Mansfield rallied themselves following going behind and went in search of an equaliser.
Auebayo-Smith continued to prove a real handful for the Stags’ defence, contesting every aerial ball and demonstrating a willingness to make runs in behind. It was the Lincoln number 11 who got on the end of a ball over the top. He broke clear of the defensive line, and bearing down on goal just right of centre, he got a sweet connection with his laces, but his shot flashed inches wide of Mars’ far post.
Stags’ skipper Tague was galvanising his team, driving them forward in search of the equaliser. With 15 minutes remaining, he played a through ball for Riley O’Sullivan on the left-hand side of the penalty area, who managed to return the ball back inside to his captain.
From the left, Tague teased a first-time, left-footed ball, in behind the Lincoln defence, almost begging for a Stags player to get on the end of it. Sinclair reacted first and got to the ball, taking a touch at the back post before sliding the ball into the far corner of the net for the equaliser.
Mansfield had the wind in their sails and with 81 minutes on the clock O’Sullivan again linked up well with Tague down the left-hand side as he played a neat one two with his skipper. O’Sullivan then pulled the ball back finding a well-timed run from Sarson, who smashed a side-footed effort towards the roof of the net. When it looked as though the net was about to bulge, the ball took the slightest of deflections which was enough to see it fly just over the top of the crossbar, as Sarson clutched his head in his hands in disbelief.
Neither side seemed content with a point and both sides went in search of a winner in what was a thrilling end to the contest.
With 88 minutes on the clock, Sinclair did well to get on the end of a Sarson through ball, and from the byline he clipped a dangerous looking cross into the area. Lincoln cleared their lines but only as far as Langton, who found himself with an opportunity to shoot from the edge of the area. The centre midfielder passed up the opportunity to shoot and slightly hesitated before trying to beat his man and then saw his attempted through ball run out behind for a goal kick.
In the 90th minute of the game, Lincoln got what they must have thought was the winning goal. A long clearance upfield into the left-hand corner was latched onto by Wonham, who managed to square the ball into the centre. Smith was the first to react and slid in to guide the ball home for 3-2 to the visitors.
Mansfield were again stunned to find themselves behind, but again, even with just seconds remaining, they fought their way back into the match.
Sinclair latched onto a loose ball in the penalty area and drilled a right-footed shot through the bodies, across the face of the goal and into the corner of the net.
The referee signalled that Sinclair’s effort was the last action of the game meaning both teams shared the spoils, taking home a point each in what was a thrilling end to the spectacle.
The Stags have collected five points from their opening four fixtures, with John Dempster’s side next back in league action when they travel to face Oldham Athletic on Saturday 08 September.
STAGS’ XI: Mars, King, Davis, Langton, Armsden, Chisholm, Sinclair, Tague (c), Sarson, Cashmore (O’Sullivan 51’), Knowles (Cornell 65’).
SUBS NOT USED: Boyle, Darby, Stokes.
LINCOLN XI: White, Bucci, Hart, Idehen, Flitton, Watkins, Akirvola, Wonham, Sartorius (Cann 70’), Liversidge (Smith 45’), Auebayo-Smith.
SUBS NOT USED: Cox, Tear, Gee.