Dan Fletcher’s penalty kept our youngsters on course for their first silverware of the season, as they recorded a vital 1-0 victory over Blidworth Welfare.
Watch Dan Fletcher's winning penalty from this match by clicking here.
Fletcher calmly tucked away his 65th minute spot-kick after Ross Lamb was brought down inside the area, to keep our title destiny firmly in our own hands.
Only a point is needed from our final match of the campaign at bottom-of-the-table Bilborough Town next week, to claim the H-K-L North Midlands League crown.
John Ramshaw’s side produced a gritty display full of endeavour to emerge victorious against their physical local neighbours, who were left to rue Nathan Holmes’ penalty miss.
Holmes rattled the upright on the half-hour mark in Blidworth’s best opportunity, as they were kept quiet by a Stags back-line marshalled by the excellent Jack Koczalski.
Koczalski taught Grant Tobin a lesson in man-marking, whilst Charlie Brownlie, Kyle Hempshall and Levi Walker also provided a steel wall of resistance.
Blidworth’s title hopes have been all but extinguished with this result and the visitors can have little complaints, given our youngsters’ spirited showing after the re-start.
Lamb and Brownlie both went close to an opener, before Fletcher, who so often has been the architect of trouble for opponents this term, finally made the breakthrough.
Once the delight from this victory subsides, our youngsters must re-focus and ensure there are no mistakes next week when they chase the point that will secure silverware.
With so much at stake, the opening stages were predictably tentative as both teams tried to establish a foothold without making any mistakes.
Blidworth shaded the early possession, but lacked any meaningful zest, as they were kept quiet by Koczalski and his defensive team-mates.
Chances were at a premium and there wasn’t any goalmouth incident until the 33rd minute as Holmes tumbled to the floor under a challenge inside the area.
The visitors’ chance to stake the first blow in this gripping title tussle had arrived, but the Blidworth man stepped up and hit a wild subsequent spot-kick against the crossbar.
Relief was evident on the faces of our side, whilst Blidworth’s hierarchy looked on stone-faced in the knowledge they had let slip their big chance.
The Stags’ threat was sporadic, but the visiting keeper was still made to work and he saved a point-blank header from Hemagou, following Walker’s deep cross into the area.
Ramshaw’s team had one more step in their spring prior to half-time, when Fletcher raced into a one-on-one, but was unable to make the net ripple.
After the re-start, our youngsters assumed full control and began to pepper balls across the Blidworth goalmouth with regular frequency.
Conor Green caused constant trouble with his devastating left-foot deliveries and when Brownlie rose highest at the back-post on one occasion, the Stags centre-back headed just over.
The Stags continued to press forward with purpose and finally reaped the rewards for their attacking endeavour shortly after the hour mark.
Ross Lamb jinked his way past two markers and drew an untidy challenge upon entering the area, which left the referee with little option but to award a penalty.
Responsibilities were left to Fletcher and the Stags talisman coolly tucked his spot-kick into the bottom corner, with the visiting keeper diving the opposite way.
The visitors attempted to find a way back, but our young guns, to their immense credit, soaked up pressure and looked comfortable at protecting their slender lead.
There was the occasional anxious moment, not least when a Blidworth player threw himself to the ground under a Jordan Fell challenge, in an attempt to win a penalty in injury-time.
But Ramshaw’s team showed enough verve and style to deservedly record three points, which makes them firm favourites to claim the title.
Team: Fell, Walker, Hempshall (Coupe), Koczalski, Brownlie, Green, Lamb, Spencer, M.Jones, Hemagou, Fletcher.