Ten-man Mansfield Town under-18s suffered their first home defeat of the season on Saturday against Fleetwood Town under-18s in the Youth Alliance Cup.
Frank Cooper’s first goal of the campaign handed the Stags a deserved lead at the break, but Fleetwood came roaring back in the second-half to claim victory in a feisty affair at the RH Academy.
With the scores level, the game undoubtedly swung Fleetwood’s way in the 67th minute when Ben Bayliss was sent off for a late challenge on Shayden Morris.
The Trawlermen took full advantage of the red card, scoring twice after that to condemn the Stags to defeat.
Mansfield had been guilty of starting their opening three games slowly but came flying out the traps in this one.
Ethan Hill was pulling the strings early on and after four minutes, he planted a perfectly weighted cross onto the head of Cooper. The defender couldn’t direct his header goalwards though as it flew wide.
Hill then fired a free-kick straight down the throat of Fleetwood ‘keeper Johnathan Borwick as the Stags pressed for the opener.
Fleetwood striker Shaun Sithole then had two glorious chances to give the Trawlermen the lead. His first was on nine minutes after he was played in by Kian Makepeace but Maison Campbell was there to save with his legs.
Then on 12 minutes, a wonderfully worked short corner routine should have seen Fleetwood open the scoring. Dylan Boyle and Morris combined to tee up Sithole, but the forward could only fire over.
The amber and blue opened the scoring on 18 minutes. Fleetwood struggled to clear Kian Sketchley’s corner and after a goalmouth scramble Cooper was on hand to turn the ball over the line.
The Stags then went in search of a second and Hill was desperately unlucky not to extend the lead on 25 minutes. Another corner was only cleared as far as the midfielder who connected beautifully with a volley, but it was too high.
Hill then drove through midfield and played a wonderfully weighted through ball into the right channel for Joshua Scott. Despite having options in the box, Scott fired over from a wide angle.
On the stroke of half time, Fleetwood almost levelled. Great feet from substitute Cian Hayes saw him dance his way past two defenders, but he failed to beat another as Jamie Chisholm nipped in to deny a certain goal.
The amber and blue started the second-half as bright as they did the first and almost doubled the lead on 54 minutes.
Chisholm played in Scott with a searching cross-field pass, the striker then fed Hill who fired over from a good position.
Fleetwood then made the Stags pay for all their missed chances with the equalising goal immediately after.
Substitute Enoch Takpe fired home from a low ball from Morris and despite protests from the amber and blue players, the referee waved away the offside calls.
Takpe almost added to his tally on the hour mark. Once again, he combined with Morris but could only fire over from a good position.
Both teams were pressing for the all-important second goal and the Stags almost had it on 63 minutes. Hill again delivered a perfect set piece onto the head of Scott but the striker directed his header over.
The game then swung in Fleetwood’s favour on 67 minutes, as Bayliss saw red for a challenge on Morris.
After consulting with the linesman, the referee decided to send the defender off for a late tackle on the Fleetwood winger.
The Cod Army took full advantage of the extra man shortly after. From a corner, Makepeace lost his marker and fired past Campbell to put Fleetwood ahead.
The visitors were now firmly in the driving seat and had chances to add to their lead before they eventually did. A long-range strike from Carl Johnston was well saved by Campbell before Anthony Williams fired over Hayes’ low cut-back.
Fleetwood wrapped up the victory ten minutes from time. Again, Morris was the creator, cutting the ball back for Takpe. The striker composed himself to slot a low shot past Campbell for his second and Fleetwood’s third.
The Stags bravely went in search of a goal to get them back in the game but failed to test Borwick as Fleetwood held on for the win.
Ultimately, it was a disappointing end to the afternoon after a very strong first-half performance. The Cod Army took full advantage of Bayliss’ dismissal to claim the victory as the Stags opened their Youth Alliance Cup campaign with a defeat.
STAGS’ XI: Campbell, King, Sketchley (C), Cooper, Bayliss, Tomlin, Hill (Fisher 88’), Scott, Caine (Ingram 71’), Lawson (Molyneaux).
UNUSED SUBS: Phillips, Saunders.
FLEETWOOD XI: Borwick, Bird, Steer, Boyle (C), Barrett, Cooke, Johnston, Williams, Makepeace, Sithole, Morris.
SUBS: Goldsbrough, Pengelly, Takpe, Hayes, Flitcroft.