Goals from Danquah and Holloway ensure opening day win at Steel Park.A sublime free-kick by Louis Danquah and an injury-time strike from George Holloway (pictured) helped out youth team to a morale-boosting 2-0 victory at FootballCV Reds in the opening match of the FCYA (Midland Division).
The Stags dominated for long periods and opened up an early lead when Danquah curled a delightful 25-yard free-kick into the top-left corner.
Luke Thomas and Ollie Roome both had shots saved, whilst substitute Holloway twice hit the woodwork and had an effort cleared off the line, before he struck in added time to seal the points.
Goalkeeper Frazer Hampson also enjoyed a solid afternoon as he commanded his area with great authority and pulled off some great saves to keep a well-deserved clean-sheet.
On a glorious sun-drenched afternoon in Northamptonshire, the Stags were forced to make a late change to their starting xi as Rory Thomson aggravated an injury during the pre-match warm up, which meant a start for Tino Chavundura at right-back.
Mansfield got proceedings underway and dominated possession early on, with midfielder/skipper Joe Fitzpatrick helping to move the ball around particularly well.
Only eight minutes had elapsed when the Stags created their first chance. Fitzpatrick’s defence-splitting through ball released an advancing Roome, who had the goal at his mercy, but was foiled by an onrushing ‘keeper.
However, there was nothing that CV Reds ‘keeper Luke Reay could do just a few minutes later, as Danquah opened the scoring in spectacular style.
Fitzpatrick was again involved as he drew an untidy challenge from a Reds defender, which resulted in a free-kick being awarded, approximately 25 yards out.
Danquah subsequently stepped up and unleashed a sumptuous drive with pace, power and precision over the four-man wall and into the top-left corner, giving the ‘keeper absolutely no chance.
Having established an advantage, the Stags continued to pressurise their opponents back and nearly doubled their advantage on the quarter-hour mark.
This time it was Roome who was creator – slipping a clever low pass into the path of strike-partner Thomas, who advanced into a one-on-one but had his effort saved by the trailing leg of the home ‘keeper.
Mansfield continued to work the ball around well and created their next opportunity on 24 minutes, when Thomas worked his way inside and saw a thunderous drive tipped away by Reay at his near-post.
FootballCV Reds, managed by ex-Northampton Town chief Ian Sampson, then squandered a golden chance to grab an equaliser just before the half-hour mark.
Arbion Kopliku’s inswinging free-kick towards the far-post was met by Aaron Van Niekerk, whose bullet downwards drew an instinctive parried save from Stags’ keeper Hampson.
Nevertheless, the ball fell fortuitously inside the six-yard box for an unmarked Sheldon Lindesay, who somehow scuffed his free shot at goal from point-blank range over the target.
Up at the other end, Roome continued to be a nuisance and just moments after his deft header from a Cameron Dear ball was comfortably saved, his trickery brought about a free-kick, which Fitzpatrick struck low and narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Hampson then showed a solid pair of hands to protect Mansfield’s lead going into the half-time interval – keeping his eyes firmly on the ball to stop a 20-yard snap-shot by Shaun Caughlan.
The Stags’ shot-stopper commanded his area with good authority throughout, and shortly after claiming a cross just minutes after the re-start, he delivered an accurate long ball downfield to pierce the CV Reds backline and release Thomas.
Thomas did superbly to work his way into the penalty area and played a low ball across the goalmouth, which looked destined to find Roome, until a home defender slid in to intervene.
Diminutive left-back Tom Slone was off-target with a speculative shot on 55 minutes, but the Stags went even closer to adding a second goal before the hour mark following a great one-touch passing move on the edge of the hosts’ own area.
Roome received a pass and played a low ball towards Danquah, who was charging towards goal down the inside-left channel, and, in turn, Danquah threaded a pass through to Hutchinson, whose toe-poked goalbound effort drew a splendid full-stretch save from the impressive CV Reds ‘keeper.
Mansfield continued to dominate almost all aspects of the game, but with just a one-goal cushion to show for their endeavours, the game was far from over.
There was always a possibility that FootballCV Reds may find an equaliser and those fears almost became a reality on 61 minutes, when Kopliku lifted a 20-yard free-kick over the wall and towards goal, which drew a splendid diving save from Hampson.
Mansfield soon altered their attacking options with the introduction of powerful and direct forward George Holloway, who wasted little time in making his presence felt.
Within seconds of his introduction, Holloway sneaked between two defenders to reach Dear’s headed through ball and get into a goalscoring position.
The 16-year-old beat the ‘keeper with a powerful left-foot drive, but agonisingly his ball ricocheted back off the post and CV Reds managed to scramble away the danger.
Holloway went even closer just two minutes later when he ghosted in unmarked to get on the end of a brilliant right-sided corner by Fitzpatrick, but his goalbound header was hooked off the line.
Incredibly, it took Holloway just two more minutes to complete a hat-trick of near misses. This time, Slone provided a sublime cross for the substitute, who saw a header from the edge of the six-yard box rattle the crossbar with the ‘keeper completely beaten.
Somehow still trailing by just the one goal, the hosts gradually began to put some pressure of Mansfield’s defence as the match entered its closing stages.
The Stags were forced into making a tactical change with just a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, when Slone, who had a faultless afternoon, was unable to continue after a kick to the ankle in an off-the-ball incident.
However, his replacement, Denham Saxton, was just as composed and slotted perfectly into a back-line marshalled by the central-defensive duo of Elliot Holmes and Cameron Gray.
Amidst a tense finale, Mansfield finally pounced to make the game safe and seal a well-deserved three points.
Dear played a pass into the feet of Holloway and the burly frontman superbly shrugged off his marker to carve out a shooting angle and emphatically fired home from six yards to make it 2-0.
Fitzpatrick had the chance to enhance the scoreline further deep into injury-time, but the technically-gifted midfielder lacked accuracy with a free-kick, which he managed to curl up and over the stand.
Team: Hampson, Thomson (Chavundura), Slone (Saxton), Hutchinson, Gray, Holmes, Thomas (Holloway), Fitzpatrick, Roome, Dear, Danquah.