Academy manager John Dempster says that his side ‘stood up to the test’ of recording a 2-0 win over Chesterfield in the EFL Youth Alliance on Saturday, despite playing with a man less in the second-half.
Strikes from Riley O’Sullivan and Rio Molyneaux secured maximum points for Stags’ title-chasing under-18s, who saw Tyrese Sinclair receive a red card in the second period.
Dempster praised the ‘effort’ and ‘endeavour’ displayed by his charges.
“We were pleased with the players’ effort and endeavour on Saturday,” he said. “But we were a little disappointed with the quality in the first-half.
“We were playing at The RH Academy, so we were really looking forward to the game. The boys battled and it was a real local derby.
“It wasn’t a great spectacle [in the first-half] but that certainly improved in the second-half. We changed our shape and brought Rio Molyneaux on, who went on to score a good goal.
“We did well to see the result out because we went down to ten men after a silly challenge from Tyrese Sinclair, who had a frustrating afternoon.
“We were 1-0 up and we hit Chesterfield on the counter when we had ten men, to make it 2-0. Then we were resolute, resilient and up for the challenge.
“It’s not always going to be fluffy and nice, and I’m glad that the lads stood up to the test.
“It was brilliant to see the boys with a man less, dealing with the overload and working together to try and see the result through.
"We were 1-0 up and we hit Chesterfield on the counter when we had ten men, to make it 2-0. Then we were resolute, resilient and up for the challenge."
“As an exercise, it was brilliant to see the players being stretched in a different scenario. Like I say, they certainly came through with shining colours.”
The Stags were made to face the Spireites without academy top scorer Jimmy Knowles, who was called up to travel with the first team down to Exeter following his four goals against Port Vale in the Central League.
Dempster says that first team manager David Flitcroft’s decision to select Knowles for first team action ‘sent a wave of positivity’ throughout the academy.
“We’ve got some really good attacking players in the under-18s. Without being disrespectful to Jimmy, we do have players that can come into the team and do a similar job.
“It sent a wave of positivity through the academy that Jimmy travelled with the first team [to Exeter]. It was well deserved that he was on the bench.
“Since he came in, his work ethic on a day-to-day basis is a leading example of what’s required, on and off the pitch. His work ethic is second-to-none and he sends the right message throughout the academy.
“It’s a real pat on the back for all of the academy staff, including the medical staff.”
Next up for Stags’ under-18s is a trip to face Notts County under-18s at Highfield Sports Complex on Saturday 06 April (10.30am).