Adam Murray and Richard Cooper’s young guns have been eliminated from the Football Conference Youth Alliance League Cup after they lost on penalties to MMU at the Cumberland Arena.
Despite trailing 2-0 with less than five minutes remaining, our youngsters staged a stirring fight-back as goals from Jordan Jones and Jack Thomas helped to force spot-kicks.
But after MMU shot-stopper Ben Crellin saved efforts from Matt Harris, Keiran Coupe and Jason Gregory respectively, Mitchell Lovatt retained his composure to fire the hosts into Round Two.
MMU, who are based in the Cheshire town of Crewe, dominated for lengthy periods and went ahead on 17 minutes when Tom Williams drilled a low 30-yard effort past Stags ‘keeper Ryan Hopkins.
Defender Ben Birch headed against the woodwork as Mansfield threatened a response early in the second period, before Leroy Chakarykuwa doubled MMU’s advantage.
The Stags came close to reducing arrears when winger Matt Jones, who hasn’t scored in over two years, saw his powerful low-drive agonisingly cannon back off the post.
Jordan Jones established a glimmer of hope five minutes from the final whistle, as he combined with striker Matt Harris and curled his low 12-yard shot into the bottom corner.
And the Mansfield comeback was complete in stoppage-time when substitute Thomas found the target with a sweet 20-yard drive that took a wicked deflection off Matt Jones.
However, MMU ultimately emerged victorious from a tense and nervous shoot-out, as they gained revenge for the spot-kick defeat that we inflicted on them in last season’s competition.
Crellin guessed correctly in order to deny both Harris and Coupe, though there were no problems for Thomas, Blake Vincent and Liam Marsden, all of whom found the target.
With scores level after five penalties each, Gregory stepped forward at what was now sudden-death stage, but squirmed with anguish as his shot was palmed clear by Crellin.
Lovatt, only introduced to the action late in the second period, then retained all of his composure with the final spot-kick to send Hopkins the wrong way and fire MMU into Round Two.
Stags: Hopkins, Jordan Jones, Vincent, Marsden, Gregory, Birch, Robinson (Coupe), Turner (Thomas), Harris, Pursglove (Hawkins), Matt Jones. Subs Not Used: Williams, McAllister.