Mansfield Town’s under 18s began their EFL Youth Alliance Cup campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Burton Albion on Saturday.
Goals from midfielder Tom Marriott and striker Ashanti Pryce were enough to triumph over the resolute Brewers, who scored a late consolation through Tristan Matthews.
The late goal from Matthews was the first time the Stags’ youth team had conceded in a phenomenal 544 minutes, dating back to April 16 when Jack McMenemy scored for Lincoln City in Stags’ 3-1 victory last season.
With centre-half Morgan Ratcliffe unavailable and right-back Teddy Bloor not fit enough to complete 90 minutes, head coach John Dempster decided to hand starts to Kane Baldwin and Max Hunt in place of the second-year duo.
Burton took the initiative to push forward from the start and midfielder Alistair Smith was required to hook the ball away for a corner from Charlie Dowd's right wing cross as the Brewers looked to get an early goal under their belts. Winger Joe Sbarra found Joe Hunt from the corner kick, but the diminutive midfielder headed over from close range.
From the Stags’ first attack, full-back Aiden Walker chipped the ball over the crossbar as Burton ‘keeper Callum Hawkins came charging out in an attempt to cut out Tom Marriott's defence-splitting forward pass.
Marriott was involved again moments later, but Hawkins plucked his cross away from midfielder Henri Wilder before he had chance to divert it towards the goal.
Forward Nyle Blake then flicked the ball over the Burton defence, turned quickly and chased after it, but Hawkins was quickly down to make a save.
Mansfield strung together a neat passing move when midfielder Cain Smith played the ball out wide to Walker, who nudged the ball forward for big frontman Ashanti Pryce. The former Birmingham City striker held off a challenge before finding Alistair Smith with a sideways pass, but his cross fell inches away from Blake’s toe and Albion breathed a sigh of relief.
From Burton's clearance, centre-half Kieran Harrison picked up the ball and advanced 20 yards before shooting, but Hawkins got his body behind the ball and kept the scores level.
Burton did threaten shortly afterwards and looked odds on to score when Steele crossed to Joe Hunt, but Wilson pulled off a fantastic save to turn his close-range header over.
The ever lively Marriott and Blake were still plugging away looking for an opening in the Burton defence but when Wilder joined in on the flank, his delivery into the area was cleared and Albion countered, but when Dowd almost found the decisive touch to break the deadlock, Hunt was on hand to make a timely clearance at Wilson's right-hand post.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Alistair Smith won the ball inside the final third and switched play to the right with a good pass to Walker, but Pryce couldn't quite get on the end of the right-back's first time cross and had to run to the left of the goal, where the angle of the shot was a fraction too acute for him.
Half-time: Brewers 0-0 Stags
At the interval, John Dempster made a tactical switch and started the second half with four at the back, as Walker and Hunt made way for Teddy Bloor and midfielder Surafel Behailu.
Behailu was immediately involved and he picked up the ball thirty yards out, ghosted past a challenge and laid the ball out wide to Bloor on the right flank, the Stags’ substitute switched it back inside to Blake, who could only drill the ball into the side netting.
Stags then took the lead with their next attack. Striker Nyle Blake advanced into the goal area and left the Brewers’ defence flat footed as he rolled the ball back to Bloor when everyone was expecting a shot.
The ball evaded the reach of Bloor and midfielder Marriott timed his run to perfection as he thumped the ball into the back of the net on 51 minutes.
Stags almost doubled their lead immediately when Pryce dragged the ball past Jayden Cotterill and squared up to shoot, but Hawkins dashed out and saved bravely at his feet.
But the powerhouse striker didn't have to wait long for another chance and when Marriott threaded the ball through to him from just outside the home side’s goal area, Pryce dropped a shoulder, committed Hawkins to make a challenge and took the ball around the Brewers’ ‘keeper before rolling the ball into an empty net.
The former Birmingham City man was then replaced by fellow frontman Devante Reittie as Dempster opted to introduce fresh legs for the final third of the match.
Jake Davies, a second half substitute for the home side, looked useful and used his pace to get into the Stags’ area, but Harrison blocked his run and was tripped as Burton conceded a free-kick.
Back came Burton and the speedy wide man Hunt broke through the right channel with the goal in his sights, but Wilson turned the ball away with another quality reflex save.
Behailu was looking determined since he came on and he beat Hammerton for pace on the wing before planting a teasing free-kick to Blake at head height, but Hawkins climbed high to claim the ball above everybody.
As the match was a cup tie, both sides were permitted to use five substitutes and midfielder Keaton Ward and forward Harry Bircumshaw were given a run out for the final eight minutes in place of Marriott and Wilder.
The home side conceded possession from Hawkins’ goal kick and Ward was unlucky to see his close range effort cleared off of the line after Behailu had provided another quality cross into the Burton area.
To their credit, although they had been under threat of getting overrun by the Stags, Burton were unwilling to throw the towel in just yet and Harrison had to execute a firm, but fair, challenge on Davies, right on the penalty spot, as Sbarra played a through ball into the heart of the visitors’ defence.
Burton did get a goal back inside the final two minutes, however. Initially Wilson had cleared Garnett's left wing cross away, but a momentary lapse of concentration in the Stags’ defence saw Garnett play the ball back into the box to Matthews who drilled it past Wilson from an acute angle.
But it was too late for the Brewers to salvage a draw and Mansfield claimed a hard fought victory in the first match of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup group, which also contains Shrewsbury and Walsall.
Full-time: Brewers 1-2 Stags
Brewers’ lineup: Hawkins, Hammerton, Steel (Smith 85), Hallahan, Cotterill, Savage (Davies 63), Hunt, Sbarra, Shaw, Dowd (Matthews 63), Garnett
Unused subs: Walker, Harrison
Stags’ lineup: Wilson, Walker (Bloor 46), Baldwin, C. Smith (C), Hunt (Behailu 46), Harrison, Wilder (Ward 81), A. Smith, Blake, Marriott (Bircumshaw 82), Pryce (Reittie 65)