Stags’ reserves were sentenced to their first Central League defeat of the season this afternoon as Grimsby Town ran out 2-0 winners at The RH Academy.
Both teams fielded strong sides for the match, but it was the Mariners who emerged on top following goals from Harry Clifton and Brandon McPherson in either half.
Duo Matt Preston and Alex MacDonald returned from injury to gain valuable minutes in the game, alongside other first team names Hayden White and Mal Benning.
In strong winds at The RH Academy, it was the visitors who registered the first shot at goal. Clifton looked to test 16-year-old Maison Campbell early on but right-back James Clarke threw his body in front of the effort.
There was a half-chance for MacDonald who fired over the bar from range, before Jimmy Knowles stabbed an effort wide from inside the area after seeing his initial strike blocked.
The dangerous Jordan Cook looked to race through on goal but was denied by Campbell after the youngster adopted an excellent starting position before darting off his line.
Attacking-midfielder Tyrese Sinclair got himself into a crossing position on the right-hand side, and may well have registered an assist had Knowles’ effort not been diverted behind by the leg of Ludvig Ohman.
Mansfield were then forced into an early change as striker Jordan Graham made way for under-18s’ midfielder Ethan Hill.
The wind was having a huge impact on the game and there were no real chances of note until Grimsby took the lead ten minutes before the break.
The ball broke to Clifton just outside the area, and the forward kept his cool as he advanced into the box to fire over the onrushing Campbell.
Mansfield inadvertently went close to an equaliser just before half-time, as Knowles’ cross-cum-shot cannoned off the leg of a Grimsby man and onto Sam Russell’s near post.
The Stags were much improved at the start of the second-half and almost immediately crafted an opportunity to equalise.
Knowles latched onto a loose ball inside the Grimsby box and after a few neat touches, produced a fine save from Russell with a left-footed drive.
The 18-year-old had another chance moments later, but headed wide after rising highest to meet MacDonald’s cross.
Sinclair was causing problems down the wing and saw his cross cleared onto the shin of midfielder Jack Evans, with the ball subsequently going just past the post.
Despite the Stags’ dominance in the opening stages of the second period, it was the Mariners who found the game’s next goal.
Against the run of play, substitute McPherson met a low cross from the left and finished confidently with a first-time effort.
The wind once again took a grip on proceedings and the clash became a midfield battle, with chances few and far between for either side.
Clarke looked to pull his side back into the game with a solo run but the left-footed strike that followed was well-blocked at the edge of the area.
Grimsby still posed a threat at the other end and it took a fine double-handed save from Campbell to keep out substitute Cameron Painter’s effort.
Frontman Craig Davies sought to halve the deficit with the final kick of the contest, but goalkeeper Russell was equal to the strike and held well.
Stags’ reserves are next scheduled to be back in Central League action at home against Doncaster on Tuesday 24 March (1pm).
STAGS’ XI: Campbell, Clarke, White, Preston, Benning, MacDonald, Evans, Sinclair, Graham (Hill 28’), Davies, Knowles.
UNUSED SUBS: Mason, Cooper, Sketchley, Tomlin.
GRIMSBY XI: Russell, Starbuck, Hope, Ohman, Idehen, Goundry, Buckley, Hessenthaler (Painter 63’), Adlard, Cook (McPherson 46’), Clifton.
UNUSED SUBS: Davies, Banks, Khouri.