Our youthful second-string put up a spirited fight in the Final Third Development League Cup Final, but eventually succumbed to a 7-1 defeat against a much-more experienced Wigan Athletic.
Wigan, whose starting xi contained players such as Scotland youth international Fraser Fyvie, ex-Villarreal playmaker Guillermo Andres, and Danny Redmond, who has just returned to the DW Stadium from a loan spell at Carlisle United, ran out as worthy winners, but were nevertheless made to work hard.
Dan Fletcher grabbed our consolation goal – heading home from Elliot Hodgett-Young’s cross to equalise midway through the first half, after Jennings had put Wigan ahead moments earlier.
The Latics only led 2-1 at the interval, but their experience and showed after the re-start as they bagged five further goals to earn their second trophy of the campaign, having already won the FTD League (West Division).
The Stags acquitted themselves very well in the early exchanges, giving their more experienced counterparts little time on the ball, and doing their utmost to seize an advantage.
However, it was Wigan that wasted the first chance on eight minutes when an unmarked Andres headed wide of the left-hand post, following an excellent in-swinging corner by Fyvie.
The Latics soon squandered another good opening as Redmond and Leigh combined well, before Leigh’s right-wing cross was flicked into the side-netting by Andres at the near-post.
Andres posed a constant threat for Wigan and wasted another golden chance with a venomous first-time strike from 15 yards, which flew narrowly over the upright.
With Mansfield starting to be pushed back deeper and deeper, the Latics eventually made a breakthrough on the quarter-hour mark.
Leigh was released down the right flank and kept the ball in play with a superb stretching volley-cross, which was planted home by the head of Jennings.
The Latics may have believed the contest would be plain-sailing from this point onwards, but the Robin Park Arena was stunned into silence when Mansfield equalised two minutes later.
Fletcher, so often impressive at youth level, escaped the attention of the home defence and guided a superb left-wing cross by Hodgett-Young into the net, with a delicate close-range header.
Wigan had been left shell-shocked by the Stags’ leveller, and immediately upped the ante as they quickly sought to re-establish an advantage.
Wilson rattled the woodwork with a swerving left-foot volley from approximately 20 yards, after Johnson did exceptionally well to bring a left-wing cross by Jennings under control.
Koczalski then produced two goal-line clearances in as many minutes to keep the Stags’ on level terms.
The 17-year-old blocked a well-driven shot by Fyvie in one attack, before he was in the right place at the right time to clear an awkward bouncing volley by Jennings in the next move.
Wigan’s intense pressure paid dividends nine minutes before the interval as Andres evaded the offside to go into a one-on-one and slot home, despite the best efforts of Waldram who blocked the Spaniard’s initial shot.
Mansfield kept things tight after the re-start and frustrated Wigan until just before the hour mark, when Redmond converted a spot-kick after Koczalski was penalised for a foul on Jennings.
The Latics’ experience over their youthful opponents then started to tell in the closing half-hour, as they spread the ball around well and created many chances.
Jennings made it 4-1 with a deft header following Meadows’ neat flick on from a Redmond set-piece, before Johnson found the target from close-range after Waldram could only get his fingertips to a low pull-back by Antelmi.
Chow turned in a low cross by Johnson to make it 6-1 with less than a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, and found the target again with a clever left-foot strike deep into added time.
Team: Waldram, Brownlie, Hodgett-Young, Hempshall, Koczalski, Hutchinson (Thomson), Hemagou, Fitzpatrick, Fletcher, Carver, Thompson.