Mansfield Town’s under 21s side could consider themselves unlucky to be defeated 1-0 in the Central League Cup by a more experienced Shrewsbury Town at Greenhous Meadow.
Veteran striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake proved to be the difference between the two sides early in the second half, firing past goalkeeper Adam Hassan after Ebanks-Blake was played in between Town’s two centre backs by experienced striker Andy Mangan.
The goal came against the run of play and although Shrewsbury had more of the ball, Mansfield had the greater chances to go ahead in the opening 45 minutes.
The first half began with the Stags having to show defensive resilience against the Ebanks-Blake and Mangan pairing, with centre-halves Kane Baldwin and Kieran Harrison making early blocks and clearances to deny any shots at goal.
The Stags then grew into the game going forward. A free-kick from winger Tom Marriott was floated to the far post with the ball just evading the outstretched foot of captain Lewis Collins.
The first goal almost arrived in the 20th minute after a clever ball down the wing found Mangan in space and he lifted the ball over Hassan, requiring the away side to clear the ball off the line.
Just ten minutes later and forward Jason Law almost had the goal his hard work had warranted. A slack back pass to Shrews’ goalkeeper Mark Halstead allowed Law to nip in and he came just short of poking it into the goal.
The game’s chances continued to swing back and forth between the two teams, a high cross over the head of Hassan fell dangerously to the feet of winger Ryan Barnett, only for him to miscontrol it at the crucial moment.
Stags’ forward Nyle Blake fashioned the best chance of the first half in the final minutes, outmuscling Shrewsbury’s centre halves to spray a ball wide for Marriott to latch onto, drawing a smart save from Halstead at the near post.
Halstead was then tested once again in the final minute of the first half, having to stretch to deny Collins a sensational 30-yard strike.
Collins would then open the second half with yet another long distance strike, with Halstead equal to it.
Those missed chances were then punished early in the second half when Ebanks-Blake opened the scoring, finally breaking down the Stags’ resilient back four.
The former Wolves striker found himself in space on the edge of the box and he took a touch before coolly slotting the ball past Hassan.
To Mansfield’s credit their heads didn’t drop, and an incisive bit of play between Law and right-back Teddy Bloor allowed Collins to steal into the box and fire a low cross across goal that somehow wasn’t scored.
Their crisp passing continued to find holes in the home side’s defence and a cross-field ball from Bloor freed left-back Louis Danquah down the left-hand side with the resulting ball in narrowly headed over by Bloor.
Hassan was soon called into action once again, making a superb reflex save from Callum Roberts’ bullet header from Jacob Rammell’s corner.
Rammell quickly recycled the ball and fired it hard and low to the feet of Mangan who drew another smart stop from Hassan.
There was relief for the Stags when Shrewsbury withdrew their strike duo in the 70th minute but it was short-lived when substitute Tyrone Orfori’s shot was deflected for a corner.
In the final minutes, substitute Tyler Johal almost grabbed a deserved leveller from Danquah’s cross, but was denied at the crucial moment by the home side’s back four.
The last meaningful action of the game was to be another smart save from Hassan, denying Matt Jones a goal.
The Stags continued to harry Shrewsbury, but couldn’t find the equaliser in stoppage time.
Mansfield Town XI: Hassan, Bloor, Wilder, Collins (Fitzpatrick 77), Harrison, Baldwin, Marriott (Smith 46), George (Healey 77), Blake (Johal 66), Law (Ratcliffe 75’), Danquah.
Shrewsbury Town XI: Halstead, Sears, Roberts, Hughes (Kerins 65), Bonner, Rammell, Barnett, McAtee, Mangan (Ofori ‘70), Ebanks-Blake (Jones ’70), O’Brien (Gilpin ’70).
Subs not used: Burton.