Mansfield Town under-18s produced a stunning away performance against Doncaster Rovers in the Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday, in what was a frantic game at Cantley Park.
A brace each for Jimmy Knowles and Ryan Ingram, along with strikes from Kyle Tomlin and Nathan Caine, saw the amber and blue come from behind to secure an emphatic 6-3 victory on the road.
The Stags wrapped up the points during a bizarre finish to the game which saw four goals in the final five minutes.
Doncaster started brightly and were almost ahead after just three minutes. A mix up between Kian Sketchley and Nathan Saunders gave Elliot Walker time to plant a dangerous cross onto the head of Junior Smith, but the striker could only head over.
Smith thought he had opened the scoring shortly after as he headed home from a free kick, but the visitors were saved by the linesman, who had spotted he was offside.
On six minutes, Stags’ ‘keeper Leon Philips was called into action as he made a smart save to deny Josh Clemiston.
The home side were rewarded for their early pressure from the resulting corner, as they took the lead through Charlie Bell.
The midfielder saw his first effort blocked by Sketchley, but he made no mistake from the rebound as his low drive deflected past Philips.
The amber and blue responded strongly and were almost level through top-scorer Jimmy Knowles.
The striker did brilliantly to evade the challenge of the Rovers’ defenders and forced Ben Bottomley into a smart save from a tight angle.
On 13 minutes, the Stags were level. Isaac Fisher floated in a free kick and Knowles rose highest to guide his header into the net.
In an open game, both teams went close to finding the crucial third goal. Knowles saw his ferocious drive tipped over by Bottomley after 16 minutes.
At the other end, Clemiston missed a gilt-edged opportunity to put Rovers back ahead on the half hour mark.
An inviting cross from fellow full-back Elliot Walker found Clemiston on his own in the six-yard box but the defender lacked composure as he fired over.
George Cooper then rescued his side with a heroic goal-line clearance shortly after. Rovers midfielder Lirak Hasani found himself with time and space on the edge of the area and fired a low shot towards the Stags’ goal.
His effort beat Philips but not Cooper as the defender stretched on the goal line to divert the ball past the post for a corner.
It was the amber and blue who took the lead on the stroke of half-time through Caine’s second goal in as many matches.
A searching ball upfield from Philips was controlled wonderfully just outside the area from Knowles. The striker saw his effort saved but the ball fell to Caine who still had plenty to do before rifling into an empty net.
Just like the first period, Rovers started on the front foot and were rewarded on 52 minutes with the equaliser.
Phillips hacked down Jack Watson in the box and Hasani made no mistake from the penalty spot to equalise.
Mansfield’s response was emphatic as they regained the lead with the best goal of the game. Great work from substitute Joshua Scott created an opening for Tomlin and the midfielder thundered home from 18 yards.
Both teams went after the crucial sixth goal. Dimou headed straight at the ‘keeper and Smith fired wide for Doncaster.
At the other end, Tomlin shot wide after a great passing move and Scott saw his low effort saved.
The Stags wrapped up the points five minutes from time. Scott, who’d made a real impact from the bench; crossed for Knowles who helped himself to his second headed goal of the game.
Mansfield weren’t finished and added two more goals through substitute Ryan Ingram. His first came on 88 minutes as he steered in Knowles’ low cut-back. He then doubled his tally after a defensive mix up allowed him time and space to fire into the net.
Rovers did have the last word of the contest, as McGowan caught the Stags napping. The forward saw his original effort saved by Maison Campbell, but he managed to score from the rebound.
It was a resounding victory for the amber and blue as they continued their fine form in league and cup.
The Stags will travel back to Cantley Park next week to take on Rovers again, in a top of the table Youth Alliance League clash.
DONCASTER ROVERS XI: Bottomley, Walker, Clemiston, Jemson, Dimou, Blythe, Hasani, Bell, Watson, McGowan, Smith.
SUBS: Ravenhill, Johnson, Cunningham, Derrett.
STAGS XI: Phillips (Campbell 58’), King, Sketchley, Tomlin, Saunders, Cooper, Molyneaux (Adams 70’), Bayliss (Lathall 78’), Caine (Ingram 83’), Knowles, Fisher (Scott 45’).