Stags’ youth team extended their unbeaten start to the season with a comprehensive 3-1 win against Grimsby Town on Saturday.
The game got underway at a frantic pace in a biting, diagonal wind which cut across the exposed Cheapside ground. However, the Stags were brewing up a storm of their own and blew their hosts away with a double whammy inside the opening eleven minutes.
The Mariners were penalised for obstruction 25 yards from their own goal and though their defensive wall did its job and blocked midfielder Tom Marriott's free kick, his powerful shot ricocheted into the air and dropped for striker Zayn Hakeem, who instinctively knocked it past Grimsby stopper Oakley Heath-Drury to put the Stags ahead.
Hakeem was also involved in the Stags’ second goal when fellow striker Nyle Blake picked him out with a pinpoint cross after seeing off two challenges on the right flank, which the Stags striker rolled back into the path of forward Ashanti Pryce who drilled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Tom Sawyer was a stand-out player for the home side but when he carved an opening for Lex McMillan and Laurence Burchell, who looked to play the ball inside to Jamie Goddard, defender Kieran Harrison was on hand to clear away to safety.
Midfielder Cameron Healey, who was returning from injury, won a headed challenge and directed the ball into the path of Marriott who advanced forward before shooting, but Jack Keeble blocked his shot.
Grimsby countered down the right flank, where left-back Henri Wilder was exposed with two players to cover as McMillan tore past him and crossed to Burchell, whose first time shot was blocked but Goddard got to the rebound first and pulled a goal back from just outside the area.
The goal lifted Grimsby for a while and they pushed forward again but Harrison dealt with Dec Slater's right wing corner after the Mariners’ midfielder had made good use of the wind to deliver the ball into the danger zone.
The home side looked threatening again when Goddard's free kick was headed down by Adam Lawis into the path of Cameron Howe, but he turned the ball wide of the right-hand post.
Blake attacked on the right, drawing two defenders towards him and planted the ball through the gap they had left to the feet of Hakeem, but Heath-Drury was quickly off his line to narrow the angle and the live-wire front man directed his chance just past the right-hand upright and into the side netting.
However, Hakeem was on target from the Stags’ next attack when Blake ghosted past two tackles and laid a sideways pass into the path of the Mansfield number nine, who restored the visitors’ two-goal cushion as he swept the ball past Heath-Drury from ten yards.
The Cheapside pitch has been widened this season and the Stags were using the wings to good effect, with right-back Teddy Bloor combining well with Blake as Kane Baldwin plugged the gap he left when he frequently got forward in support of the attackers.
The home side cleared Marriott's left wing corner, but only as far as captain Cain Smith who delivered a dipping cross towards Harrison, but Heath-Drury got up well to gather the ball.
Healey picked up possession on the left-hand side of Grimsby's area and chipped the ball towards the back stick, where Blake made a darting run and was desperately unlucky to see his effort go wide of the post.
Right on the stroke of half-time Pryce almost claimed a fourth goal for the visitors, but his thumping shot from Smith's cross, glanced wide of the post after a deflection off a Grimsby defender.
Half-time: Mariners 1-3 Stags
Straight after the break, Pryce laid the ball out wide for Blake and he ran on to take the return pass, before unleashing a blistering shot that Heath-Drury turned around his left-hand post at full stretch.
Marriott, having taken a heavy knock, was replaced by forward Devante Reittie and the home side now had to contend with two central strikers tearing through the middle, supported by Hakeem and Blake on the flanks.
Grimsby’s Mikey Davis, who saw no options to pass in front of him, tore forward forty yards from his left-back berth, before nudging the ball forward to Burchell, but Stags’ ‘keeper Sam Wilson had read the developing situation well and came off his line to smother the ball at the centre forward's feet.
But after that brief interlude, the Stags show of strength resumed, as Wilder won the ball in the Grimsby half before taking three strides forward and trying his luck from thirty yards out, only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Lawis.
More chances went begging as the visitors looked to turn the screw; Heath-Drury pulled off a great close range save from Reittie, who had sprinted through the defence to meet Blake's cross over the home side's left back.
Midfielder Keaton Ward came off the bench and gave the Grimsby defence a different sort of problem to contend with as he chased down and battled for every ball. He almost added an elusive fourth goal when he cleverly chipped the ball over Keeble and homed in on goal, but a crowded Mariners’ defence cleared their lines.
In the closing exchanges, the home side pushed forward to give the scoreline a more respectable look than the 3-1 that scarcely resembled the way that the visitors had dominated, but as Tom Sawyer and Charlie Lofts tried barging their way through towards Wilson's goal, defenders Kane Baldwin and Harrison closed down their attacking options and the young Stags left Lincolnshire with all three points and a very convincing win under their belts.
Full-time: Mariners 1-3 Stags
Grimsby Town: Heath-Drury, McMillan, Davis (Briggs 86), Lawis, Howe, Keeble, Slater (Lawman 60), Goddard, Burchell (Loft 60), Sawyer, Flowerdue (Sesay 65)
Unused sub: Evans
Mansfield Town: Wilson, Bloor, Wilder, Smith (C), Baldwin, Harrison, Blake (Behailu 88), Healey, Hakeem, Pryce (Ward 64), Marriott (Reittie 57)
Unused subs: Bircumshaw, Walker