Two early second-half goals condemned Stags’ under-18s to defeat against Bradford City at the RH Academy on Saturday.
Shamar Lawson’s penalty had the Stags on level terms at the break, after the visitors had taken the lead through Charlie Wood.
After a strong first-half, the young guns were below par in the second and the Bantams took full advantage to claim maximum points.
The first chance of the game fell to Jamie Chisholm, who headed over from Lawson’s corner in the fourth minute.
Opportunities were at a premium in the opening period, as both midfields battled to get a foothold of the match.
On 20 minutes, Harvey Rowe almost turned Lawson’s inviting cross into his own net and Bradford had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them on terms moments later.
Ryan Ingram supplied Ethan Hill on the edge of the box and the midfielder drilled an effort at goal which was turned away by Bantams’ stopper Darryl Ombang.
Minutes later, Kyle Tomlin and Larell King combined to great effect and King’s cross found Oseretin Otote. The winger cut inside and fired low but could only find the side netting.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring against the run of play. Cole Roberts broke free of Kian Sketchley before his low cross was fumbled by Maison Campbell into the path of Wood.
The striker gleefully accepted the gift, tapping the ball into an empty net to give Bradford a 33rd minute lead.
The visitors weren’t ahead for long though as the amber and blue equalised swiftly. Straight from the kick-off, Rio Molyneaux got on the end of a long pass and was brought down by Ombang in the box.
Lawson placed the ball on the spot and kept his nerve to calmly send the ‘keeper the wrong way.
Mansfield finished the half strongly and thought they’d taken the lead on 44 minutes. From Lawson’s corner, the ball fell to Nathan Saunders in the box and the defender tapped home, but the assistant referee had raised his flag for a foul.
After a strong opening period, the Stags were caught cold at the start of the second as Bradford retook the lead.
Connor Morris beat the offside trap to race onto Wood’s through ball and slide the ball under the advancing Campbell.
The visitors now had their tails up and had two opportunities to double their lead through Oliver Sukiennicki.
The midfielder saw his first effort well saved by Campbell and from the resulting corner, he fired over from 20 yards.
The Bantams didn’t have to wait too long for the decisive third goal though, as they wrapped up the points on 58 minutes through Dan Francis.
Hayden Smethurst found himself with time and space to put in a cross and Francis turned the ball in through a crowd of bodies.
Stags almost worked their way back into the contest on 71 minutes, when Sketchley found Lawson on the edge of the box.
Having already scored, he unleashed a venomous drive towards goal, but Rowe put in a timely block to deny him.
Stags’ standout performer Kyle Tomlin tried to take matters into his own hands as he fired over from Lawson’s cutback.
The midfielder’s dogged pressing was almost rewarded when he won the ball back and fed Hill, who slipped in Sketchley. Despite finding himself with time and space, the full-back sliced his shot over.
With 10 minutes remaining, Chisholm couldn’t find a yellow shirt with his cushioned header back across the box.
The Bantams half-cleared and substitute Arun Jones exquisitely took the ball down and teed up Tomlin, but he blazed his effort over.
The final opportunity of the contest fell to Bradford as George Cooper nipped in to block Kian Scales’ low drive to keep his side’s hopes alive.
There would be no late comeback though, as Mansfield fell to their first league defeat in five matches.
The under-18s will be looking to bounce back from this defeat when they host Scunthorpe United at the One Call Stadium next Saturday (11am kick-off).
STAGS XI: Campbell, King, Sketchley, Tomlin, Saunders, Chisholm, Molyneaux (Cooper 67’), Hill, Ingram, Lawson, Otote (Jones 59’).
UNUSED SUBS: Phillips, Scott, Dean.
BRADFORD XI: Ombang, Smethurst, Rowe, Cousin-Dawson, Francis, Scales, Sukiennicki, Shanks, Roberts, Morris, Wood.
SUBS: Norman, White, Sinfield.