Mansfield Town began their pre-season in encouraging fashion, with a 9-1 win away at Retford United this evening.
Goals from new strikers Ollie Hawkins and Danny Johnson - along with an effort from Stephen Quinn - gave Stags a 3-0 advantage inside the opening half-hour, before Retford pulled a goal back prior to the break.
The second period saw the young guns complete Mansfield’s goal glut, with Tyrese Sinclair and Nathan Caine scoring a brace, while Jimmy Knowles also got on the scoresheet.
A crowd of 651 saw the fixture; the first time Stags’ fans had witnessed a match live since a 2-1 win at Northampton in March 2020.
Stags’ squad was depleted prior to the friendly, following news that several first team players had to self-isolate.
It meant that under-18s’ goalkeeper Owen Mason started in goal, instead of Forest loanee George Shelvey, who is in isolation as well as third choice ‘keeper Marek Stech.
Stags started brightly and almost went ahead inside the opening ten minutes, but Stephen McLaughlin’s left-sided cross was headed off-target by midfielder Harry Charsley.
Kellan Gordon, the right-back, crossed from the goal line a minute later, though it was a routine claim for the Retford United goalkeeper at his near post.
Retford came close to breaking the deadlock after four minutes.
Following a Stags corner, the hosts launched a counter-surge which saw Liam Frost shoot wide from the edge of the box.
In the 12th minute, Gordon showed neat footwork to release Hawkins on the right. And after the giant frontman sent an inviting cross into the box from the right touchline, strike-partner Johnson was a stride away from converting.
Stags began to dominate possession and found the eventual breakthrough on 20 minutes through a tremendous strike from Hawkins.
McLaughlin acted provider with a short pass and after two right-footed touches, Hawkins swivelled to rifle the ball into the top corner from 25 yards to send the fans into rapturous applause.
Charsley again went close a minute later before Stephen Quinn made it 2-0 in the 24th minute.
McLaughlin’s inswinging corner was only partially cleared and as Stephen Quinn fired goalwards from the left of the box, a deflection helped its way into the net.
Johnson then scored on the half-hour mark, with the aid of McLaughlin.
After a surging run, the left-back slipped it to Johnson, who did the rest with a left-footed, first time finish.
Retford pulled a goal back with five minutes to play after the referee awarded the home side a free-kick from 25 yards. Up stepped Brandon Kane to bend it around the defensive wall and beyond Mason into the bottom right-hand corner.
A minute before the break, Keaton Ward replaced Stephen Quinn in midfield.
Nigel Clough made one change at the break, as George Lapslie made way for Tyrese Sinclair.
And it took the attacking midfielder only three minutes to get in on the shooting act, when he bent a 28-yard free kick narrowly over the bar.
Then Johnson scored his second and Stags’ fourth goal in the 53rd minute.
Sinclair dispossessed the hosts ten yards outside their box and after a wall-pass with Hawkins, the youngster found Johnson. The striker made no mistake with a cool-left footed finish into the bottom right-hand corner.
Stags made a flurry of changes on the hour-mark.
James Clarke, George Cooper, Jaden Charles, Jimmy Knowles, Nathan Caine, Ethan Hill, Corey O'Keeffe and trialist George Scott replaced Kellan Gordon, Elliott Hewitt, Stephen McLaughlin, Oli Hawkins, Danny Johnson, Ollie Clarke, Harry Charsley and Rollin Menayese.
And it was Knowles, on loan at Notts County last season, who made it 5-1 on 65.
Hill found Knowles inside the box with a precise pass and the Ashfield-born frontman lofted his finish over the ‘keeper to add to the goalscoring tally.
Knowles saw an effort blocked on 68, before Sinclair audaciously struck the woodwork from 25 yards with an unexpected thunderbolt.
Sinclair then slid it down the line for Knowles who caused problems with a dangerous low cross into the box. And despite the home goalie attempting to push clear, Caine was on hand to apply a close-range finish.
Stags almost found the net through Sinclair’s free-kick, which floated just over, before the same man converted a spot-kick on 77.
After Knowles was upended in the box, Sinclair smashed home his penality into the bottom left hand corner to give Stags a 7-1 lead.
Hill turned provider again on 80 minutes, with a short pass, for Sinclair to fire home from the edge of the box.
Knowles almost had another when he latched on to Hill’s defence-splitting past but was unable to finish.
Caine completed Stags’ goalscoring exploits in the 89th minute after reacting quickest to Knowles’ saved shot as Mansfield completed their first 90 minutes of pre-season with a comprehensive win.
STAGS XI: Mason, Gordon (J. Clarke 60'), Menayese (G. Scott 60'), Hewitt (Cooper 60'), McLaughlin (Charles 60'), O. Clarke (Hill 60'), Quinn (Ward 44'), Charsley (O'Keeffe 60'), Lapslie (Sinclair 45'), Hawkins (Knowles 60'), Johnson (Caine 60').