Stags’ under-18s battled hard in blustery conditions at The RH Academy, but it was visitors Grimsby who emerged victorious in Saturday’s Youth Alliance League fixture.
The young Stags passed the ball nicely in spells, but were unable to find a breakthrough, with two first-half goals from Grimsby’s Luis Adlard proving the difference.
The visitors started the game with intent and took the lead after just four minutes.
Stags’ defence was unable to deal with a swirling long-ball forward, and striker Adlard nipped in behind the Mansfield back-line and poked the ball past goalkeeper Maison Campbell to make it 1-0.
The conditions made it difficult for both sides, but Mansfield were persistent in trying to pass the ball and it almost led to a spectacular equaliser in the 19th minute.
Max Hurdis found himself in space on the right-hand side after some good interplay from the Stags, and Shamar Lawson was centimetres away from getting on the end of the midfielder’s clipped cross with an acrobatic bicycle kick.
Grimsby continued to press and five minutes later, the towering Kyle Tomlin was required to step in, with the centre-back timing his tackle to perfection to halt a promising attack from the visitors.
But in the 28th minute, it was 2-0 to the Mariners. A sliced clearance fell to Adlard in the penalty area, and he composed himself before slotting into the far corner to double his tally.
And Campbell denied the in-form striker a third five minutes later, saving well with his feet after the goalscorer ghosted through and unleashed a shot from distance.
Despite coming under early pressure, the Stags rallied and finished the half in the ascendancy.
Forward Lawson was inches away from a dangerous shooting opportunity after a mazy run down the right- hand side, before some excellent last-ditch defending from the Mariners to twice deny Nathan Caine.
Another good Hurdis delivery from the right found Caine in penalty area, but the Grimsby defence put their bodies on the line to block the striker’s goal-bound effort and his follow-up as the half ended with a goalmouth scramble.
The Mariners came out strongly again in the second half, but the Stags’ rear-guard action was not to be beaten.
First, Grimsby’s Louis Boyd was twice denied by blocks from right-back Taylor Anderson, before Tomlin stretched to clear a dangerous cross from the winger with the opposition lurking at the back post.
It was Campbell in the Mansfield goal that was the next into action, saving expertly from Edwin Essez after the striker was put through on goal by centre-back Jamie Bramwell.
The Stags’ worked an opportunity of their own in the 53rd minute after a driving run through the middle from Lawson.
The attacker found some space and played a one-two with striker Jack Deakin, but was unable to hit the target as he curled his effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Mansfield’s young guns went close again ten minutes later, but Hurdis saw his low drive roll just wide of the left-hand post.
Another superb save from the fearless Campbell kept out Essez yet again, as he was equal to the Grimsby striker’s close-range effort following a lay-off from diminutive midfielder Jamie Potts.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Anderson and Tomlin were again called upon to keep out the visitors with brave blocks and Hurdis was involved once more at the other end, seeing his powerful strike from distance fly past the post after good hold-up play from Diego Edwards.
Substitute Robbie Kokkinos, aged just 14, sparkled in the closing stages as he made his mark on the game with some neat touches, but the Stags were unable to break down the Grimsby defence and the referee blew for full-time.
STAGS’ XI: Campbell, Anderson, Wauchope, Tomlin, Cooper, Hill, Hurdis, Bouch (Kokkinos 69’), Deakin (Edwards 81’), Caine (Reynolds 61’), Lawson
UNUSED SUBS: Leech, Collins