Kameron Campbell’s late strike consigned our young guns to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Notts County at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
In a game of few chances, the youngsters staged a brave fight, but succumbed to defeat after Campbell fired home after a pass from Kyle Dixon.
The Stags had shot-stopper Jordan Fell to thank for ensuring County only found the net on one occasion, as the youngster produced a string of fine reflex saves.
Both teams adopted a cautious approach in the early exchanges of the game, with neither side giving much away in terms of chances.
Talented wide man Danny Barke won Mansfield the first corner after 11 minutes, from which Dean Robinson headed wide of the target after Liam Marsden’s back-post-delivery.
Joe Flint failed to hit the target after being put through by Jack Hawkins seconds later, before the League One Magpies enjoyed a sustained period of pressure.
Young Stags shot-stopper Fell was called into action when he palmed away a dangerous out-swinging corner from Jack Goulding, whilst Malachi Levelle-Moore and Mitchell Clarke both drove speculative attempts wide of the target.
County’s Campbell threatened to cause havoc inside the Mansfield penalty box with his torpedo-like long throws, but the Magpies were foiled on each occasion by a resilient central-defensive trio of Dean Robinson, Ben Birch and Billy Simpson.
Barke fired wide from 20-yards out as Mansfield enjoyed a rare attack close to the half-hour mark, whilst the industrious Hawkins would have put Flint clean through on goal, had it not been for an exceptional challenge from County centre-half Liam Guest.
The visitors emerged as the stronger of the two teams as the encounter ticked towards the interval and could have gone ahead when James Randall’s powerful six-yard header was tipped round the post in superb fashion by Fell.
Notts winger Levelle-Moore slid the ball across the face of goal from an acute angle as County again heaped pressure on the Mansfield goal, before Jordan Jones was called into action at both ends in the moments immediately prior to the break.
The Stags left-back crashed a rasping 35-yard shot straight into the arms of Harry Andrews at one end, whilst a timely challenge prevented Levelle-Moore from breaking into a one-on-one with Fell at the other.
Mansfield started in sluggish fashion after the interval and shot-stopper Fell was twice called into action within the space of a few minutes of the re-start.
The youngster turned a ferocious 25-yard drive from Matthew Crust over the woodwork, before rushing from his goal-line moments later to prevent the impressive Randall from slotting home.
Dixon saw a low far-post drive comfortably saved by Fell on 56 minutes and County were again denied on the hour-mark as Simpson cleared from the line, after Clarke had latched on to a speculative long punt over the top and rounded the keeper.
Clarke and Jones saw separate efforts fall wide of the woodwork at opposite ends, and as the half progressed the young Stags began to look more menacing.
Hawkins, Barke and Flint combined wide on the right flank on 66 minutes, with the latter of the trio delivering a low cross towards the edge of the box, from where Ross Lamb powered a low shot goalwards which forced Andrews to scurry across his line and make a save.
Robinson fired over after a left-wing corner had reached him on the back-post on 71 minutes, and the centre-back again came close when he nearly slotted home from a similar position after an intelligent pull-back from the talismanic Flint.
However, just as it looked as though Mansfield may have been able to craft out a goal, they were dealt a killer blow when Campbell found the net to fire County ahead.
The Notts full-back, high up the pitch following a separate attack only moments earlier, latched on to a low through ball from Dixon on the cusp of the area and took a touch to set his body, before confidently slotting past an advancing keeper.
Ultimately, Mark Hemingray’s side were unable to find an equaliser, despite the entire team showing plenty of spirit and determination in abundance during the closing stages.
Speaking shortly after the final whistle, Hemingray said: “We started off really well, but after a while we stopped playing our fluent, passing game. We showed Notts County a bit too much respect.”
“Our keeper had a fantastic game and pulled off some fine saves. I think we would have done much better though, if we hadn’t switched off so early on.”