Mansfield Town’s U21s slipped to a 4-2 defeat against Chesterfield in their 2016-17 Central League Cup curtain-raiser this afternoon.
Spireites’ skipper Laurence Maguire and forward Gary Taylor-Fletcher each bagged a brace for the visitors, while strikers Zayn Hakeem and Tyler Blake scored a goal apiece for Mansfield.
Mike Whitlow made five changes to the Stags’ side which won the Central League opener against Rotherham United last time out. Midfielders Adriel George and Joe Fitzpatrick and forward trio Blake, Hakeem and Jason Law were included in the young starting line-up for this Wednesday afternoon fixture.
It was a fast-paced start to the game in the opening few exchanges at Rainworth Miners Welfare’s Kirklington Road ground.
However, it was the Stags who threatened first as Blake pressurised the opposition backline to reclaim possession, but Chesterfield skipper and centre-back Maguire mopped up the danger.
Left-back Curtis Morrison carved an opening for the visitors down the left on 14 minutes, but winger Jake Beesley’s spooned his attempt from inside the area.
The Spireites took the lead four minutes later through Maguire, whose glancing header hit the back of the net from a flag-kick by Liam Graham.
The Derbyshire side could have doubled their lead at the end of first quarter, but Stags’ custodian Adam Hassan kept them in the game with a fine stooping save against experienced Chesterfield forward Taylor-Fletcher’s daisy-cutter from inside the 18-yard box.
Whitlow’s sides refused to lose heart and fought with determination in search of an equaliser. They were rewarded on 29 minutes when Hakeem cashed in on a defensive gaffe from the Spireites to poke the ball into an empty net.
A short backpass by goalscorer Maguire was latched on to by Hakeem, who beat 'keeper Dylan Parkin to the ball and rolled it home from six yards out.
The Stags’ frontman was at it again close to the break as he cut in from the right and tested opposition shot-stopper Dylan Parkin with a fine left-footed effort.
But the away side ended the first half on the up with a couple of chances of their own. Beesley was thwarted by Hassan, while Taylor-Fletcher saw his header fly over the crossbar.
The teams began the second period locked at 1-1, looking intent on taking the upper hand.
The Stags forced a couple of corners in close succession, but couldn't make them count.
Chesterfield however netted their second from a counter-attack on 57 minutes, as Ben Cartwright cut in from the left to have a go at the opposition goal. His low shot suffered a deflection and former Blackpool man Taylor-Fletcher poked the ball home at the near post to give the Spireites the lead.
Hassan rescued the Stags soon again, as he pawed away visitors’ striker Riccardo German’s curling attempt from the left of the penalty area with a firm one-handed save.
Maguire completed his brace for the Spireites on 64 minutes when he steered Graham’s free-kick into the back of the net with a solid header past Hassan’s outstretched right arm.
Lewis Collins’ hopeful attempt from 20 yards trickled just wide of the Chesterfield goal as the home side attempted a recovery after conceding two quick goals.
Blake reduced the arrears with 17 minutes remaining, when he fired home a venomous strike as he raced into the Spireites’ box after receiving a forward pass from substitute Tom Marriott.
But Ritchie Humphreys’ boys soon regained their two-goal cushion as the Stags were punished again on 84 minutes after a defensive mix-up led to a corner.
With ‘keeper Adam Hassan coming out to claim a bouncing ball and defender Louis Danquah retreating towards his own goal, the defender headed the ball over the advancing ‘keeper and into the side netting.
Taylor-Fletcher grabbed his second goal of the game from the resulting corner, as the ball fell to the veteran frontman just a few yards from goal.
The late goal was the final action of the match as Mike Whitlow’s side began their cup campaign with a defeat.
Stags' XI: Hassan, Shaw, Danquah, Fitzpatrick, Ricketts (C), Harrison (Wilder 46'), Lewis Collins (Browne 80’), George, T.Blake (N.Blake 76’), Hakeem, Law (Marriott 63’)
Unused subs: S. Wilson
Chesterfield XI: Parkin, Ofoegbu, Daly, Maguire, Graham, Cartwright, Morrison, Brownell, Taylor- Fletcher (J. Rowley 84'), R. German, J. Beesley
Subs: D. Hand, J. Smith