Despite a strong second-half performance after conceding early in the game, Stags’ under-18s were beaten 1-0 by Rotherham United under-18s on Saturday at Roundwood Sports Complex.
After going behind in the sixth minute of the affair, the Stags responded well after the break and were unlucky to lose after a positive second-half performance.
Rotherham had the better of things in the first period, but the second certainly belonged to the Stags who were left ruing several missed chances to claim a deserved point.
The best of them fell to Jimmy Knowles, who saw his 79th-minute penalty well saved by Charlie Farrar as the Millers held on for the victory.
The Stags started slowly and found themselves a goal down after just six minutes. The Mansfield defence struggled to deal with a short corner routine from Rotherham and after pinball in the box, striker Jerome Greaves diverted the ball past Maison Campbell to give the hosts the lead.
The Stags struggled to get to grips with their direct opponents and only poor finishing from the Millers prevented them from extending their lead.
Greaves was a constant threat throughout the opening period with his hold-up play and clever touches. The frontman created chances for both Jacob Gratton and Luke Hodgkinson, but the pair could only fire straight at the ‘keeper from good positions.
Mansfield’s best chance of the game so far came midway through the half. A mix-up at the back from Rotherham saw Shamar Lawson head over from Kyle Tomlin’s punt upfield.
That, however, was all the amber and blue could muster. Despite getting into good positions out wide, the final ball was lacking throughout the half.
It was the Millers who looked the most likely to add to their lead. Hodgkinson was a real thorn in the Mansfield’s side and he should have extended Rotherham’s lead on 26 minutes. The midfielder danced through two defenders before firing a weak shot down Campbell’s throat from just inside the box.
On the stroke of half-time, Rotherham should have had a second. Joel Spence flicked on George Scott’s corner into the path of Greaves who could only shoot wide from inside the six-yard box.
After a disappointing half, Mansfield rallied and started the second-half brightly. Jimmy Knowles was lively as ever, and he had two successive chances to equalise.
Firstly, he burst through the middle on the counter-attack but opted to fire straight at the ‘keeper. He then cut inside and fired just wide from the left on 49 minutes.
The Stags then saw chances for Ryan Ingram, Joshua Scott and Knowles go begging as they went searching for the equaliser.
On 60 minutes, Scott flashed an inviting cross across the box but Ingram could not get anything on it as it whistled past the amber shirts in the area. Scott then beat the offside trap but could only fire wide with just Farrar to beat.
It was now one-way traffic and Knowles must have thought he’d levelled on 73 minutes. Great hold-up play again from Scott saw him slip in the frontman who saw his shot tipped onto the bar.
The Stags were then gifted an opportunity to equalise on 79 minutes. Substitute Rio Molyneaux powered into the box and was clipped by Charlie Smith, the linesman saw enough in the challenge to award Mansfield a penalty.
Knowles stepped up and fired a powerful effort to the ‘keeper’s left, but Farrar was alert to the strike and saved it with his trailing leg.
Despite the setback, Mansfield continued to press for the equaliser as they committed men forward. This left them open to the counter-attack and the Millers could have wrapped up the points on 85 minutes.
Greaves held off two defenders before feeding the ball to Jacob Gratton, who could only fire over from outside the box.
The Stags had one more chance to force an equaliser in the dying embers of the game. Lawson swung a cross in from the left and Knowles rose highest in the box, but could only direct his header onto the roof of the net.
The referee blew for full-time shortly after and despite a second half that saw many a chance for the amber and blue, Rotherham held on to condemn them to their first defeat of the season.
Next up for the under-18s is a home clash with Lincoln City at the RH Academy on Saturday 17 August (11:00am kick-off).
STAGS’ XI: Campbell, King (Molyneaux 75’), Sketchley, Tomlin, Chisholm, Saunders, Ingram (Cooper 72’), Lawson, Knowles, Scott, Hill (Bayliss 45’).
UNUSED SUBS: Doherty, Adams.
ROTHERHAM XI: Farrar, Hanley, Smith, Spence, Beeden, Hill, Scott, Hodgkinson, Greaves, Gratton, Peel-Evans.
SUBS: Ellis, Gateshill, Wenham, Millen, Makwedza.