Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has said that tonight’s 3-2 win over Scunthorpe United in the Checkatrade Trophy stems from the hard work of the academy, after four young players made their senior debuts.
Nyle Blake (18), Alistair Smith (19) and Jason Law (19) all started the match, with forward Tom Fielding (19) being introduced to proceedings late on.
Blake opened the scoring in the first half of a match in which the Stags scored a late winner through Timi Elsnik.
The manager says that the win was important for Mansfield’s debutants.
“We rode our luck at times certainly in the first half,” he said. “Conrad had to be positioned well and made some good saves.
“They [Scunthorpe] are a good team but we matched them. What I enjoyed watching, from our perspective, was a club coming together.
“There were fractions here quite a while ago and no one was talking to the youth [teams]. We now communicate on a daily basis and six or seven under-21s train with us daily.
“I wanted a winning debut for the young players, as every player remembers their debut. It’s something that lives with you and stays with you.
“It’s important that the younger players feel belonging. Watching Alistair Smith in the midfield, I remember telling him in Portugal in the summer what he needed to do to improve and he’s gone away and done that.
“This is result is for the hard work that the club have put in, from Demps [John Dempster, academy manager] and Coops [Richard Cooper, senior development coach], Mike Whitlow [under-21s coach], and all the support staff.
“It’s astonishing the strides that the club are making. I’m delighted that I can stand here and put so many youngsters in the competition.
“I wanted to see a composure when they [younger players] got the ball. You get no fear from the young kids.
“You could argue that Blakey [Nyle Blake] got lucky with the deflection, but he had the shot and had no fear.
“Young Jason Law stood toe-to-toe and never gave the ball up. He was always available. That’s what I want from the young players.
“A group of young players could have given up at 2-2 but they pressed for the winner which impressed more than anything.
"It’s astonishing the strides that the club are making. I’m delighted that I can stand here and put so many youngsters in the competition."
“I’ve just been in the dressing room and it’s full of players that have not been involved tonight; Macca [Alex MacDonald], Bish [Neal Bishop], Otis [Khan], Craig Davies, CJ [Hamilton], KP [Krystian Pearce], all celebrating those younger players.”
Looking ahead to this Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two clash against Port Vale at One Call Stadium, the Stags’ boss says that his players will concentrate on what they do best in the match.
“They [Port Vale] have consolidated their work and look resilient. They’ve really solidified and become functional.
“They have Tom Pope, who I have worked with, and he’s deadly. We have to nullify that threat for sure.
“We have to impose ourselves as we have been brilliant at home this season. They’re coming onto our patch and we’ll concentrate on what Mansfield Town do.
“We’ve done well in the league and in the cups. We’ve missed some key players but the lads that have come in have done fantastic.”
The manager also gave an update on the injuries to midfielders Alex MacDonald and Otis Khan.
“Macca won’t be [fit for Saturday]. He’s building up in the gym and he’s in that rhythm now. We’ll get him out on the field.
“Otis has probably pushed it a bit too much. He did a session on Saturday and just took it a little too far.
“He’s had two days of downtime so Saturday may be too soon. We’ll look towards the Charlton game for him. I want Otis back in the squad as he’s a game-changer. It will be important to get both players back in the squad.”
iFollow Stags subscribers can watch the manager’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.