Despite showing his clear disappointment with the manner of this afternoon's 6-0 Central League defeat to Port Vale, academy manager John Dempster believes experiences such as today's match will help 'bridge the gap' between youth team and first team football
Stags named a youthful side for the contest, with only striker Zayn Hakeem having made a senior appearance for the club.
The Valiants named a side full of EFL experience and were helped to a comfortable victory thanks to a first-half hat-trick from striker Anton Forrester, along with goals from Callum Howe, Cristiano Montano and Dior Angus.
And speaking after a difficult afternoon at Vale Park, Dempster hopes the opportunity for his young players to compete against a strong side with EFL experience will teach them more than playing against players their own age.
"They had a lot of Football League experience. They were mainly under-23s with a couple of older pros," Dempster said.
"It's a brilliant experience for our boys but the physical test was a difficult one and when you go a goal or two down, you're looking for people to step up to the plate and show a bit of mental strength and character and I think we lacked a little bit of that today.
"There's a lot of heads down in the dressing room but these boys are craving men's football. They want to try and step up to the next level and this has been a rude awakening for them.
"The gap between first team football and under-18s football is a big one. It's a gap we're trying to bridge. It won't happen overnight.
"I think if we're being honest, the likes of Kyle Howkins, Tyrone Barnett and Anton Forrester were too much for our under-18s today."
Dempster was left frustrated with the manner of the goals conceded but hopes his squad will be able to learn from the defeat.
"A lot of the goals were poor defending that I'd expect players to do better. Simple things like not covering or clearing your lines are unacceptable at any level of football and the players know that.
"The players in the dressing room, although they are disappointed, the returns they'll get from this game will be a lot bigger than they would winning three or four nil at under-18 level.
"It was a real challenge. A real physical test and hopefully if they learn from the experience they'll be better players."
The academy boss did draw positives from the defeat, and highlighted the performances of strikers Iyrwah Gooden and Rhys Sarson, who both came off the bench late in the second-half.
"The positives out of the game are that a few of our first year scholars came on and did well. Iyrwah Gooden could've had two goals towards the end. Rhys Sarson did well; he held the ball up in the last 15 minutes."
Supporters will be able to watch John Dempster's full post-match interview on iFollow Stags on Wednesday.