Stags’ under-18s fell to their first defeat of the league season at the weekend, losing 2-0 to Burton Albion after winning their opening two fixtures.
Two goals inside the first 25 minutes saw the hosts advance into the lead, with Stags unable to get on the scoresheet despite an improved second-half showing.
Under-18s’ coach Mike Whitlow says that his charges can learn from the defeat.
“Win, lose or draw, we always look at who has done well and performed at a very high standard,” he began. “We look at who has learned [from the game before].
“It [Burton game] was a massive learning curve for the back-line against the wind. Overall, Burton moved it really well first-half and we didn’t really get to grips with that.
“We got better in the second-half and created some chances. Nathan Caine got his 90 minutes in and was unfortunate as he hit the post.
“There were a lot of pleasing things but it’s a massive learning curve, going off the back of two really good performances, you must start the game how you ended the last one.
“You must be on the front foot and collectively, it’s important how you help your team-mates. The two goals they scored were disappointing with how they exploited the space behind us.
“It’s easy for us coaches to expect perfection but these lads are learning. You go there with a big smile on your face after two wins and two clean sheets, but after 23 minutes you’re 2-0 down.
“We want to implement the things we’re working on the training ground every single week. It’s more about how we conceded the goals and what the lads have taken from that.”
Whitlow says that a loss can sometimes be more beneficial to young players – in terms of development – than a victory.
“It’s about what we’re here to do – win a league title or produce a professional footballer? We’re trying to produce professional footballers and give these kids the best chance to express themselves and play,” he added.
“They’re encouraged to go and be the best players they can and get that pro’ contract. My job is to get the best out of these young lads.
“The start of the season and what’s gone on [being awarded Category 3 academy status] has been great for us.
“You have George Cooper, who is a second year, marshalling probably the youngest defence in the EFL Youth Alliance that we’ve seen since we’ve been here.
“We want to produce footballers and give them an environment where they’re going to learn. They’re going to make mistakes but it’s about what they learn from them.”