Determination was key as John Dempster's side recorded an impressive away win against a Rotherham United’s youngsters, as the young Stags’ unbeaten run continued in impressive fashion.
The Stags made a number of changes for this Football League Youth Alliance fixture with several players injured or unavailable, meaning they had to shuffle their pack.
The ever-versatile defender Teddy Bloor started the game in a wide attacking midfield role and he was pivotal to Mansfield's forward play early in the match, as the visitors took the game to their South Yorkshire hosts from the off.
The Millers’ defence was kept busy in the opening exchanges and had to clear their lines from both striker Zayn Hakeem and defender Morgan Ratcliffe, after Bloor's range of passing and dead ball prowess had created various openings. Lawrence Gilboe, the home side's ‘keeper saved well from defender Kieran Harrison's goalbound header, after the Stags centre half had been picked out with another cross into the penalty area from Bloor.
Rotherham had some big, strong players in their ranks and having weathered an early storm, they began to find their feet and pushed the Stags back.
However Mansfield defended well as a unit and they caught the opposition on the back foot, when Harrison broke up an attack, intercepted the ball and played a long pass into the path of Hakeem in the Rotherham half. Hakeem left the last defender for dead and sprinted forward towards goal. The Stags' number 10 thumped the ball past the advancing Millers keeper, only to see it crash agonisingly against the upright and bounce away from danger, much to the relief of the home side.
Rotherham enjoyed a spell of possession, but they were forced to play across the pitch rather than forwards, as the Stags midfield dropped back and absorbed their movement as a first line of defence.
During the first-half, midfielder Cameron Healey put in a really good 'stand up and be counted' performance in the middle of the park, which saw him having to leave the pitch for some repair work on a bloody nose at one point.
Mansfield's attacking duo, Tyler Blake and Zayn Hakeem were relishing a physical battle with the Millers’ centre-half pairing, who seemingly didn't want to wait until after the game to swap shirts, but it was always only ever competitive and never malicious.
As the half wore on, Hakeem outmuscled his marker's attentions and got his shot away from 12 yards, but Gilboe got his hands to it and the Stags’ striker was denied again.
Rotherham countered swiftly and within moments, play had switched from one box to the other and Millers’ forward Trae Adeyemi was clean through on goal, but the Stags’ captain and goalkeeper Sam Wilson dived bravely at his feet to prevent what had looked like a certain goal.
Midfielder Tom Marriott was hacked down by Millers’ midfielder Ross Dickinson as he dribbled past the Rotherham United player. Marriott’s determination makes him difficult to dispossess, so he found himself unceremoniously dumped to the ground several times at Roundwood.
Of course, though the physicality of how the Millers’ dealt with Marriott prevented him feeding the ball through to Blake and Hakeem, it is a risqué way of defending the final third when Mansfield have both Louis Danquah and Teddy Bloor in their ranks who can cause a lot of damage from set pieces. The latter stepped forward and forced a great save from Gilboe, who dived to his left and kept the ball out at full stretch.
Rotherham's imposing striker Kudakwashe Muskwe homed in on goal through the right channel, but Danquah dealt calmly with the situation and played the ball away to safety. Then, having had no luck at all with several gilt-edged goalscoring opportunities, the Stags took the lead through by way of a fluke. Tyler Blake's cross from the left flank dipped beneath the crossbar and appeared to cross the line, but amidst the confusion, Gilboe got his hand to the ball and pushed it into the goal to eliminate any doubt as to whether the away side had taken the lead.
Blake almost doubled his side’s lead when Harrison played him in again but Gilboe wasn't in the mood for anymore favours and he charged off his line to smother the ball.
In a warning to the young Stags of what was to come, Rotherham finished the first half strongly and Wilson thwarted Adeyemi yet again, while Danquah put in a last ditch challenge to block Alaster Redmayne.
Mansfield started the second-half on the front foot, as they had the first, with Hakeem setting up striker Cain Smith, but Gilboe was on hand to keep the Stags at bay.
The home side then began to up the tempo as they worked their way back into the game. Muskwe went to ground in the box under a challenge from Ratcliffe, but despite appeals from the Millers players and a few worried faces among the Mansfield ranks, the referee waved play on.
Darnelle Bailey-King combined with Redmayne to put the visitors defence under pressure but defender Charlie Shaw got the ball away. Rotherham came again and Fabian Bailey's cross from the right-hand side was headed down towards the bottom corner of the Stags’ goal by Muskwe, but Wilson turned the ball around the post at full stretch.
Muskwe was proving to be a thorn in the Mansfield defence's side, but as he tried muscling his way past Ratcliffe, Wilson came off his line to claim the ball.
After piling the pressure on in the minutes that preceded the goal, Rotherham deservedly got back on level terms when Muskwe dribbled across the front of the Stags penalty area and unselfishly knocked the ball sideways to Ross Dickinson who drilled the ball home through a scrum of bodies.
Rotherham began to look stronger as the second half moved on and they had the ball in the net again within a minute of drawing level, but the goal was ruled out for an offside infringement.
The Millers’ goalscorer almost set up Muskwe for a second goal, but Wilson stood tall to prevent the Stags from falling behind and then had to be alert moments later when Bailey-King found himelf in a yard of space and tried his luck from just inside the area.
Having just about survived a Rotherham revival, the Stags got their second wind and Adam Saxton had to clear his lines for the home side as the lively pairing of Hakeem and Blake continued to cut through the Millers’ rearguard.
Hakeem once again, who worked tirelessly for the visitors, held off two challenges and laid the ball off to Charlie Shaw who in turn cued up Cain Smith, but his shot was charged down just inside the Millers’ area.
As the pressure from the away side continued to build, the Millers’ defence finally gave way. The Rotherham defence pushed out in an attempt to spring an offside trap, but Hakeem's lob over their back four was picked up by Smith, who had timed his run to perfection and took the ball around Gilboe before rolling the ball into an empty net from a tight angle to put the Stags back in front.
Hakeem had the opportunity to round off his excellent performance with a third Mansfield goal late on, but Brandon Potts recovered to clear his lines at the second attempt after the lively Mansfield frontman had initially darted past him.
Rotherham's frustration at having been outplayed in the closing stages despite having mounted a comeback was evident, but the Stags kept their discipline and focus and had earned three thoroughly deserved points the hard way.
The young Stags’ next Football League Youth Alliance fixture is this Saturday 12 September (11am) away to Scunthorpe United, who have won three and lost one of their opening four games this season.
Saturday 5th September 2015
Football League Youth Alliance
At Roundwood Sports Pavilion, Parkgate
Rotherham United (0) 1
Ross Dickinson 64
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Tyler Blake 35, Cain Smith 75
Sam Wilson (C), Charlie Shaw (Harry Britijn 72), Louis Danquah, Cain Smith, Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison, Teddy Bloor, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake, Zayn Hakeem, Tom Marriott (Alistar Smith 80)
Unused subs: Luke Bacon, Joe McBreaty, Kieron Lane
Lawrence Gilboe, Fabian Bailey, Dan Smalley, Ross Dickinson (Brandon Potts 75), Adam Saxton, Tom Rose, Darnelle Bailey-King, Trae Adeyemi (Adam Johnson 50), Kudakwashe Muskwe (C), Ben Wilkes, Alaster Redmayne (Imad Ul Haque 62)
Unused subs: Harry Fidler, J-Cee Abraham