Mansfield Town’s Under-21s suffered a 6-1 friendly defeat to a strong Nike Academy side at St. George’s Park this afternoon.
The game was made up of three periods of 30 minutes to allow each side to rotate their squads.
The Jon Goodman-tutored Academy side saw Jae Heon Kim and Maksim Boichuck grabbing their respective doubles, with Benis Belesi and Joe Kouadio adding the other two. Meanhile for the Stags, skipper Adriel George pulled one back in the second period from the penalty spot.
The game started at a good pace from the first minute on an immaculate St George’s Park pitch, as both sides refused to treat this as a friendly.
Mansfield’s under 21s had the first chance from a corner moments after the opening whistle, as George found his delivery cleared off the line by the Academy defence.
Stags’ forwards Sam Grouse and Nathan Weekes followed with shots from outside the box but could not change the scoreline.
After the first quarter of an hour, the home side began to impose their supremacy over the midfield, spraying the ball down the flanks and trying to stretch the Stags’ rearguard.
Midfielder Heon Kim was thwarted from scoring by left-back Louis Danquah’s timely challenge inside the 18-yard box, while full-back Tim Michael saw his dipping effort from a free-kick parried away to safety by Stags’ custodian Adam Hassan.
But the Academy were in front on 25 minutes as Belesi was tripped by Hassan inside the area, and the Belgian midfielder converted from the resulting penalty.
Korean youngster Heon Kim then displayed some impeccable control and deception a minute before the first break to evade his marker and squeeze in his side’s second goal from outside the six-yard box.
The second 30-minute period began with Mike Whitlow’s Mansfield side making three changes, as winger Tyler Johal and forwards Harry Bircumshaw and Aiden Weekes were pressed into action.
The Stags began piecing together some promising passes around the opposition area, but lacked a cutting edge in the final pass.
It was still a keenly-contested duel but the home side extended their lead on 32 minutes as centre-forward Kouadio emerged with an opportunistic finish at the end of a Christopher Redenstrand run down the left.
Hassan successfully scampered away Redenstrand’s first shot, but the Brit was on hand to tuck away the rebound.
The Stags refused to lie down although the opposition were three goals to the good. Whitlow’s side continued to create chances, but George and Bircumshaw both found the opposition goalkeeper Tim Brown on the way to glory.
Whitlow’s boys saw their pressure pay off on 50 minutes as Johal was bundled over in the Academy penalty box when he looked to barge through on goal.
Midfield maestro George stepped up to slot home the Stags’ first, and what proved to be the only, goal of the match.
The final 30 minutes began with the Goodman’s men leading 3-1. The game opened up like never before and there were chances at either end soon after the restart.
Stags’ full-back Ollie Humphreys and forward Haydn Havard forced two saves from Academy substitute stopper Alexis Andre Jr.
Boichuck then finally found a way past the Stags’ replacement goalkeeper Alex Roughton on 67 minutes when he headed home from a corner.
The Russian frontman then doubled his tally six minutes later, scoring from another spot-kick which resulted from an ill-timed tackle by Phil Bilson.
Heon Kim completed the rout with 16 minutes remaining by curling one into the lower-left corner of the Stags’ goal as the referee called time on this friendly.
Speaking to mansfieldtown.net after the fixture, Stags’ under 21s head coach Mike Whitlow said this defeat was an important lesson for his young side, and the exposure will stand them in good stead in the coming days.
Whitlow said: “We took a lot from the first two 30s (minutes). I think we competed very well. As soon as you make a lot of changes, which happened in the last 30 [minutes], it becomes difficult and a bit disjointed.
“There was a lot of pleasing points. Young Aiden Walker came on at right-back. Ollie Humphreys got 90 minutes today after being out for a long time [and] I thought the two centre-halves dealt very well at times of the play.
“It is an eye-opener, a learning curve for these players, because some of these are international players. They are two, three, four years older than some of the 16-17-year-olds, and a little bit stronger.
“Today was an opportunity for all the lads who have not been playing. The idea of the friendlies is to make sure that the lads are in the under-21s, and get some game time.”
Praising the facilities at England’s national football epicentre, the Stags’ boss added: “It is great for us to come and play [here]. The facilities, the pitch and everything about it; I wish I was 19 again!”
Stags XI: Hassan, Hamill, Humphreys, Carza, Bilson, Danquah, Browne, George, Grouse, Ward, Weekes
Subs: Johal, Tasmass, Morgan, Arobeto, Havard, Bircumshaw, Walker, Roughton (GK)
Nike Academy XI: Brown, Redenstrand, Kim, Blumberg, Belesi, Dembele, Dongmo, Danderyseedorf, Barrow, Trani, Michael
Subs: Andre Jr., Tridubsky, Hatano, M. Boichuck, Kouadio