Our youngsters showed fantastic professionalism and character to overcome a very physical Handsworth Parramore side and record a deserved 3-1 victory in the H-K-L North Midlands League.
In bitterly cold conditions in South Yorkshire, strong winds and a poor pitch made conditions difficult for both teams, but the Stags adapted by far the better and played some great football to completely frustrate their opponents and pick up the three well-earned points.
David Jones rounded off a superb individual performance – one of his best in Stags’ colours – with a goal in each half, whilst Anthony Dwyer found the target with a sensational solo strike midway through the second half.
The only downside of a night otherwise filled with positives was an ankle injury sustained by Charlie Brownlie in the closing stages.
In windy conditions, Mansfield got proceedings underway and looked very composed in the early stages as they asked plenty of questions of the Handsworth defence and dominated possession.
Despite the Stags’ early dominance, however, the hosts would have opened the scoring on 10 minutes, had goalkeeper Sam Wilson not pulled off a superb one-handed save – diving full-stretch to his left to keep out a long-range attempt which looked destined to find the back of the net.
There was a real verve and style about Mansfield’s play and they reaped the rewards on the quarter-hour mark when Jones latched onto a through ball by Chris Spencer and sandwiched a low shot into the bottom-left corner to make it 1-0.
Handsworth upped the ante in search of a quick equaliser and Wilson was forced into a couple more saves, but as the first half progressed Mansfield always looked capable of adding a second goal.
That’s what so nearly happened on the half-hour mark when Ollie Roome leapt high inside the area to latch onto a fabulous teasing set-piece cross by Conor Green, but his header ricocheted back off the post – much to his frustration.
The Stags continued to play so well and had a thoroughly deserved one-goal lead to show for their efforts at the half-time interval.
Handsworth, who are in with a good chance of winning the league, came out fired up after the re-start and immediately upped things with a number of strong challenges as they looked to try and dominate the midfield battle.
Their pressure paid off in the 53rd minute when Will Eades crept in unmarked at the near-post to head home from a corner and make it 1-1, with questions being asked of the Stags’ defence on this occasion.
Nevertheless, despite enduring a few shaky minutes in the aftermath of the equaliser, the Stags soon regrouped and showed a fantastic team-spirit to take the game to their opponents and bag victory.
And midway through the second half, Mansfield got the goal that they craved.
Tricky winger Dwyer, who had been brought on as a substitute at half-time, picked up the ball from a throw-in and embarked on a dazzling run inside which bamboozled Handsworth’s back-line.
After weaving his way past four players and retaining the ball with some clever footwork, he looked up and unleashed a thunderous 30-yard strike with pure venom into the bottom corner, via a deflection off the post, which gave the ‘keeper absolutely no chance.
It was a goal of the highest quality and one which the Stags thoroughly deserved for their efforts, desire and commitment.
Handsworth, behind for the second time, now sought a route back into the game and again took a physical approach in order to try and find it.
With a quarter-of-an-hour left, Brownlie, who had thwarted the hosts all night long with his excellent defensive skills, was on the end of a very poor challenge. Unable to continue, he was replaced by Tyler Blake.
Five minutes later, the Stags wrapped matters up and extinguished any hopes of a comeback from the hosts as Jones let fly with an effort from the edge of the area, which evaded the dive of the home ‘keeper and nestled nicely in the bottom corner to make it 3-1.
Overall, this was a resilient and very impressive showing from our youngsters, with some good individual displays throughout the team.