Goals by Fletcher, Thomas and Spencer see off Ilkeston.
Our youth team finished the season in style as they produced a ruthless performance to beat Ilkeston, 3-0, and leapfrog their local rivals in the FCYA (Midland Division) table.
The Stags, who finish the season in third position, were comfortably the better team and dominated throughout to end the campaign on a high.
Dan Fletcher scored a penalty on the stroke of half-time, before a Luke Thomas header and a curling late drive from Chris Spencer completed the scoring.
After a quiet opening half-hour on a sunny afternoon, our young guns were indebted to goalkeeper Adam Bishop, who showed good reactions to make a smart save in what proved to be Ilkeston’s only real clear-cut chance of the game.
The hosts did rattle the woodwork on 35 minutes, but so did the Stags a few minutes later when Fletcher unleashed a dipping half-volley from the edge of the area which had the ‘keeper well-beaten but came back off the post.
Although the first half was quite tight and tactical – with both teams playing some good football, Mansfield got their noses in front on the stroke of half-time. Midfielder Cameron Dear was floored by the Ilkeston ‘keeper when inside the area and Fletcher stepped up to convert the resulting spot-kick.
In the second half, the Stags showed tremendous desire at both ends of the pitch to score two more goals and keep a well-earned clean-sheet. Big defender Kyle Hempshall was also introduced at the break, replacing Luca Gregory who had picked up a knock.
On 56 minutes, it was 2-0. Louis Danquah burst down the left flank and delivered a teasing ball beyond the far post which was headed back across goal by Dear – thus allowing Thomas probably the simplest finish in his two years at the club.
Our youngsters were determined to play on the front foot and after Danquah smashed an effort into the side-netting from close-range, right-sided star Rory Thomson went agonisingly close as he whistled a drive narrowly over the upright.
With a quarter-of-an-hour to go, Jack Koczalski replaced Dear, and it wasn’t long before the Stags struck again to extend their advantage – this time as midfield dynamo Spencer curled a 25-yard strike past a full-stretch home ‘keeper.
Koczalski could have added his name to the score-sheet too only a couple of minutes later after the hosts failed to effectively clear a corner and the ball dropped to the centre-back, whose dipping effort went just a whisker over the woodwork.
Overall, this was a fully professional display, full of heart, effort and energy, and our youngsters can be proud of their richly deserved win over a decent side.
Team: Bishop, Brownlie (Punter), Spencer, Green, Gregory (Hempshall), Danquah, Thomson, Hutchinson, Dear (Koczalski), Fletcher, Thomas.