A Mansfield Town under-18s’ squad featuring six under-16 players for the first time in the academy’s history fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Bradford City on Saturday afternoon.
Goals in each half sentenced the young Stags to defeat, but the youthful squad could be proud of their efforts, with the second Bradford goal coming just two minutes from time.
The Stags made a strong start to the affair, as Jack Deakin headed home from an Ethan Hill free-kick, only for the goal to be ruled out following a foul in the build-up.
Mansfield continued to pursue an early goal in the contest, but their hosts defended several waves of attacks in the opening exchanges.
Bradford were soon rewarded for their valiant defending, opening the scoring on 18 minutes.
A long throw into the Mansfield penalty area was flicked on at the near post, leaving a tap-in for a Bradford man who was positioned well in the box.
The Bantams sought to extend their advantage with a free-kick from a central area, which flashed just wide of Owen Mason’s post.
Mansfield battled well for the remainder of the opening period, but chances for either side were at a premium and the Bantams held the upper hand at the break.
The early passages in the second-half were similar to that towards the end of the first, as the sides matched one another throughout the pitch.
The Stags made attacking changes soon after the restart in an attempt to find an equaliser, and these alterations seemed to have some influence on the game’s rhythm.
A corner from the right-hand side was taken quickly by Hill to Finn Flannagan, who curled in a dangerous delivery. This cross resulted in a shot for Mansfield, which was subsequently blocked.
As the amber and blue continued to commit bodies forward, Bradford executed a counter-attack which would put the game beyond any reasonable doubt.
Moving the ball from right to left, the Bantams were able to create space for a shot. Although Mason did well to save the initial effort, it was the hosts who managed to pounce on the rebound, extending their margin to two goals in the dying embers.
The Stags are back on home soil this weekend as they welcome Huddersfield Town under-18s for an 11am kick-off at The RH Academy (behind-closed-doors).
STAGS' XI: Mason, Hurdis (Flannagan 58’), Hill-Smith, Pitts, Wauchope, Bouch, Carter (Kruszynski 77’), Hill, Davies, Edwards (Wilson 58’) Deakin.
UNUSED SUBS: Turner, Whelan.