A Mansfield Town XI, including several young professionals and boss Adam Murray, succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Grantham Town, despite a spirited performance.
Simon Heslop cancelled out Grantham’s opener midway through the first half as the two teams were locked at 1-1 at half-time, but the hosts scored again on 72 minutes to seal a win.
Youth team midfielder Drew Gibson, however, did see a thunderous half-volley saved by the home ‘keeper on the stroke of the final whistle.
Possession was pretty even in the early exchanges, though the hosts, who ply their trade in the Evo-Stik Premier League, created the first opportunity on eight minutes when Lee Shaw tried his luck from 20 yards, but his effort cleared the upright.
Mansfield’s first opening came four minutes later when trialists Ayton Bevins showed some neat work to bamboozle two players and threaded a low cross towards Dan Fletcher at the back-post. The striker looked ready to tap home, but a Grantham defender somehow got back and managed to turn the ball behind for a flag-kick.
Stags’ youngster Anthony Dwyer had a low drive comfortably saved on the quarter-hour mark following a spell of pressure by Adam Murray’s men.
Nevertheless, it was Grantham who made the breakthrough on 21 minutes. ‘Keeper Sam Wilson, who just a couple of moments earlier had plucked a teasing cross out the air, took a poor goal-kick which fell kindly for Gio Carchedi, who advanced goalwards and was left with the easiest of finishes – calmly slotting past Wilson from 10 yards.
The Gingerbreads dominated the next few minutes of the game and created a plethora of good opportunities, but lacked the cutting edge to double their advantage.
After a Stags attack broke down, Lee Shaw burst away down the right flank – outpacing both Murray and defender-for-the-night Joe Fitzpatrick, but fired wide of the right-hand post from 15 yards. A minute later, Wilson foiled the same Grantham attacker with a strong right-handed save, before Corbin Shires did just enough to distract a lurking attacker on the follow-up.
Mansfield gradually fought their way back into proceedings, but were still asked questions of defensively – none more so than when Chris Spencer tracked back superbly to thwart an unmarked Michael Hollingsworth inside the area, before his perfectly timed sliding challenge also stopped another player from getting a shot away on goal.
Just five minutes before the break, the visitors got back on level terms. Simon Heslop, on the lookout for a new club, unleashed a low shot from the edge of the area which went through a crowd of bodies and nestled in the bottom-right corner, well-beyond the reach of Grantham ‘keeper Jake Turner.
The hosts sought to quickly restore their advantage and almost did so. Wilson showed good hands to keep out a curling effort from goalscorer Carchedi, whilst Shires did some excellent covering defending a couple of moments later, after Grantham had made inroads down their right flank.
In the last action of the half, home defender Rhys Lewis was left with his head in his hands. The defender did well to meet a corner from the left flank, but couldn’t direct his header goalwards – much to Mansfield’s relief.
The Stags made two changes at the break as second year scholar Adam Bishop replaced Wilson between the sticks, whilst Louis Danquah also came on in place of Dwyer.
Grantham squandered a glorious opening to take the lead eight minutes after the re-start. Just 60 seconds after Shires had made a timely block from a low shot, the Gingerbreads got the ball into the area again, but Liam Read wastefully screwed a shot high and wide from just six yards, when a goal seemed inevitable.
Mansfield made their third change of the game on 63 minutes as youth teamer Drew Gibson replaced Simon Heslop. Minutes later, fellow youngster Tino Chavundura was also introduced to the action.
The Stags were soon indebted to their ‘keeper for keeping them on level terms midway through the second half, as Bishop made a superb one-handed save at his near-post following a thunderous attempt by Shaw.
Nevertheless, the 17-year-old was powerless to prevent the side from Lincolnshire establishing another advantage on 72 minutes. In a piercing move which saw two Grantham substitutes combine, Lee Beeson floated a long right-wing cross towards the back-post area, from where Stefan Bilyk found the back of the net, via the post.
Mansfield applied a bit of pressure in their search to get back into things, not least as they had a couple of corners in the last few minutes and were forced to keep out a thunderous half-volley from Gibson, but the Gingerbreads defended well to record a 2-1 win.