Mansfield Town’s under 18s opened up a seven-point gap over nearest challengers Oldham Athletic with a 1-0 win over Scunthorpe United on Saturday.
Stags had defender Kieran Harrison to thank for Saturday’s three points after his second half header was the only difference between the sides.
Almost from the off, the Stags went on the attack, with left-back Henri Winter playing a weighted lob into the path of striker Devante Reittie to the left-hand side of the Iron area, but in response, the Scunthorpe right-back made no attempt to clear the ball away, but opted to shove Reittie in the back instead.
As the home side cleared their lines and countered, there was almost a calamity at the back for Mansfield, as the ball sat up awkwardly as Wilder attempted to clear it and he almost scooped the ball over Sam Wilson and into his own goal, but thankfully the ‘keeper managed to adjust his footing and make a catch.
Two of the Stags’ best openings in the first half came in quick succession. The first came from a good knock out wide by midfielder Keaton Ward to striker Zayn Hakeem, who crossed with his first touch towards midfielder Ali Smith, who did well to turn on the spot but clipped the ball fractionally over the bar.
Soon afterwards, Scunthorpe ‘keeper Adam Kelsey pulled of a great save to keep Hakeem's 10-yard strike out, after right-back Teddy Bloor had picked out Reittie with a long pass forward and he held off two defenders before slipping the ball sideways to Ward, who in turn played a precision pass through the home side's central defenders to set up Hakeem.
Defender Kieran Harrison, out on the right flank, hooked the ball to Hakeem at the back stick, who nudged it across the face of the goal, but Sam Lilley got a touch and managed to nudge the ball out of Smith's reach as he was about to shoot.
Lewis Butroid crossed to George Barmby who headed wide of the Stags’ goal in a Scunthorpe attack. From then on in, Kane Baldwin marshalled any threat that Barmby posed well, whilst Harrison did the same to James Dean-Atkinson.
Alistair Smith was proving to be a handful for the home defence and having dribbled past two challenges after collecting Cameron Healey's pass forward, he was unlucky to see his shot deflected wide.
Hakeem won a corner off McMichael and Bloor spotted the run of Harrison and picked him out with the resulting kick with a great delivery at head height, but the ball hit the Stags’ centre-half in the face and crashed into the ground and over the bar.
Lilley was having a solid game at the back for Scunthorpe and made two timely interceptions as the Stags looked to force a goal before the break. He cleared Smith's close-range effort from Hakeem's left-wing cross virtually off the line, before racing across, less than a minute later, to break up a good passing move between Wilder, Ward and Smith.
Jason Law, who was playing just behind the forwards, pushed a measured ball through the right channel to Reittie, who got his shot away under pressure, but was thwarted by Kelsey, who got down behind the ball and held onto it.
Right on half-time, Ward delivered the ball to Smith just inside the Iron penalty area, but his shot on the turn flew wide.
Half-time: Scunthorpe 0-0 Stags
The Stags came back onto the pitch from their half-time team talk and went straight on the attack, with Kelsey being forced into action to prevent Reittie opening the scoring from Healey's through ball, while Lilley blocked Ward's shot from the edge of the area, after the visitors’ number four had already skipped past three attempted tackles.
Healey was immense in the middle of the pitch, winning the ball in the air time after time, as both sides tried adopting a direct approach, to overcome the problems that the surface was creating when they tried to keep the ball on the deck and pass.
Wilder stopped Barmby in his tracks as Scunthorpe pushed forward, but when the ball was played forward into the path of Hakeem, it picked up pace and got away from him down the gradient.
Reittie swept the ball across the Scunthorpe goalmouth towards Hakeem, but David Allasan got across quickly to head the ball behind at the expense of a corner.
And that corner turned out to be the game’s most pivotal moment. Bloor picked out Harrison, who met the ball head on and powered it past Kelsey for what proved to be the only goal of the game in the 61st minute.
The home side began to show their frustration and Barmby was cautioned for going in late and unnecessarily on Wilson, after the Stags’ ‘keeper had his hands on the ball. Three minutes later, James Dean-Atkinson was also booked, for fouling Ward off the ball.
Stags’ midfielder Keaton Ward was also booked for standing up to his opponent after being kicked.
Reittie and winger Nyle Blake combined well, but the final ball accelerated away from Hakeem again as it picked up pace down the slope.
Harrison put Blake through on goal with a probing knock forward, but Butroid arrived at the last second to block the Mansfield substitute’s close-range shot.
Ward had a chance to put the Stags two goals in front, but he couldn't keep his 25-yard free kick on target.
With just four minutes remaining, Dean-Atkinson was red carded for a second bookable offence for the Iron.
But despite their numerical disadvantage, Scunthorpe, to their credit, pushed forward looking for a late goal. Wilson stood strong when he was called into action, Wilder made a last-ditch clearance and kept the home side’s wide men at bay out on their right flank and the Stags had a moment of good fortune to be grateful for when Leslie Sackey's shot from the edge of the area deflected wide.
With Barmby continuing to walk the tightrope with the referee, the home side decided to substitute him as a precaution.
James Kalu, on in place of Joe Busby for the home side, looked to make an immediate impact, but Baldwin calmly stepped up to the mark and timed his tackle superbly to halt the Iron substitute in his tracks.
The Stags dug in deep and saw out the last few frantic minutes and once again claimed another victory on the road which was built on a solid defensive foundation.
Full-time: Scunthorpe 0-1 Stags
Scunthorpe XI: Kelsey, McMichael, Butroid (C), Porter (Bartholemew 48), Lilley, Sackey, Allasan, Busby (Kalu 75), Barmby (Train 87), Dean-Atkinson, Sitole
Unused subs: Parker, Moorfoot
Stags’ XI: Wilson, Bloor, Wilder, Ward, Baldwin, Harrison, Law (Blake 55), Healey (C), Reittie (Dumbleton 73), Smith (Behailu 88), Hakeem
Unused subs: Sundby, Walker