Mansfield Town’s under 21s picked up their first Central League Cup win after a 2-1 victory over arch rivals Notts County at Kirklington Road this afternoon.
Mansfield were two goals to the good within the first ten minutes thanks to goals from striker Danny Rose and midfielder Kevan Hurst, while Notts pulled one back in the second-half through winger Sam Osborne.
Prior to the Stags under 21s’ fixture today, first team boss Steve Evans had hinted that several senior players would have the opportunity to gain some valuable game time under their belt.
Consequently, a strong Mansfield side under Mike Whitlow included goalkeeper Scott Shearer, midfielders Jamie McGuire, Mitch Rose and Ashley Hemmings, as well as strikers Rose and Pat Hoban and wideman Kevan Hurst.
The Stags were off to a flying start in the game, earning an early corner in the first minute. But attacking midfielder James Baxendale’s delivery from the flag-kick was headed out for a goal-kick by Hoban.
Soon after, midfielder Jack Thomas collected a forward pass down the right and dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Mansfield continued to ask questions of the opposition constantly, and their early pressure was soon transformed into two quick goals in the space of five minutes.
On four minutes, Rose registered his name on the score sheet as he tucked home a low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Then, on nine minutes, the same player earned the Stags a free-kick from 25-yards after being fouled by a late challenge.
Wideman Hurst stepped up to curl home a sumptuous effort from the dead-ball situation for the Stags’ second goal as he saw his strike nestle in the top corner.
The visitors regrouped and launched a counter on 13 minutes, leading to their first shot of the afternoon, but striker Montel Gibson fired his attempt from outside the area high and wide.
Stags’ veteran stopper Shearer was called into action for the first time seven minutes after, as he tipped away a County effort for a corner. Jack McMillan’s delivery from the flag-kick saw McGuire head it out for another corner, but this time the threat was quelled as Mansfield defended in numbers to shepherd the ball safely to Shearer’s gloves.
There was prompt action at the other end, as D.Rose did incredibly to evade his marker and relay a pass for Hurst, whose firm effort was thwarted at his near post by Notts’ goalkeeper Curtis Hall.
The Stags frontman was at it again close to the half-hour mark, as his header from Baxendale’s free-kick down the left touchline was cleanly held by Hall.
Mike Whitlow’s under 21s continued their dominance in possession, and saw out the remainder of the first-half in cruise control with their 2-0 lead intact.
The second-half began with both sides looking to hit their stride early on, and applying similar styles of play in using the wings to their advantage.
The game swung back-and-forth, as the visitors looked intent on staging a comeback, whilst the Stags were keen to maintain their lead.
There was once more end-to-end action near the hour mark, as D.Rose found his inviting cross from the right hacked to safety by a Magpies' defender, while Notts themselves found a corner cleared up-field by Louis Danquah’s outstretched left-boot.
For the Stags, Hurst then rolled a pass for striker D.Rose, whose clipped effort from outside the 18-yard area went wide of the goal by whiskers.
The home side’s incessant pressure continued, as Hurst now unleashed a long-ranger that missed the top-left corner of the goal by centimetres. Moments later, Jack Thomas saw Hall make a smart save against his close-range attempt.
However, the visitors were back into the game on 66 minutes, as a free-kick from near the far touchline enabled Notts’ wideman Sam Osborne to tap in past Shearer and halve the deficit.
Whitlow made a double change with the strike duo of Hoban and D.Rose being replaced by youngsters Zayn Hakeem and Tyler Blake.
The Stags soon regained their attacking groove, and on 75 minutes winger Ashley Hemmings drilled in a powerful effort, which was deflected away from goal.
Sensing an opportunity to grab a late equaliser, the away side maintained their ventures up front, but they failed to affect the scoreline in spite of the growing grip over possession, and Mansfield ran out winners with their one-goal lead unharmed.
Stags' XI: Shearer, M. Rose, Harrison, McGuire, Danquah, Hemmings, Baxendale (Law 82'), Hurst, Thomas, Hoban (T. Blake, 70’), D. Rose (Hakeem, 70’)
Subs unused: Wilson, Slone
Notts County XI: Hall, Wildin, Dunn, Brownhill, Richards, Dearle (Corbain, HT), Osbourne, Howes, Gibson (Campbell, 80’), McMillan, Clayton-Naute
Subs unused: Gibbons, Towers, Ebanks