A youthful Mansfield Town under-18s’ squad, featuring a mixture of first and second-year scholars, lost 3-0 to an experienced Rotherham side at RH Academy.
The amber and blue’s matchday 18 included numerous under-16s.
The contest began with a brisk tempo. The first ten minutes of the affair were end to end with both teams creating chances in an attempt to carve an opening in the game.
In the 11th minute, Mansfield attacked down the right-hand side. Neat combination play from Jakub Kruszynski, Tyler Whyle and Curtis Davies created an opening for the young guns. Davies fired the ball into Ronnie Kokkinos on the edge of the box but the forward’s strike from distance flashed over the bar.
Minutes later, Rotherham took the lead from a set play. An in-swinging corner from the right was met by a Rotherham attacker to head home on the 16th minute.
The Stags looked to get back into the game on 20 minutes. Kruszynski placed the ball down 25-yards out after the Stags were awarded a free-kick. The Mansfield number seven executed a near-perfect attempt as he dipped the ball up and over United’s giant wall but narrowly missed the target.
On the stroke of half time, Rotherham looked to make use of their direct game plan with a long throw deep inside the Stags’ half. A Millers’ defender stepped onto the launchpad and swung a ball into the six-yard box.
Superb defending from two of Mansfield’s defenders followed. 14-year-old and the youth team’s youngest ever goalscorer, Cormac Maher, rose highest and met the long throw with a dominant headed clearance. The defender’s cut-out was picked up just outside the 18-yard box by a Rotherham player who volleyed at goal, but left-back Darrien Wauchope produced a goal-saving block to keep the score line at 1-0.
In the opening exchanges of the second half, the Stags looked to get on the front foot. However, in the 47th minute Rotherham extended their advantage from a short throw down the left side. The ball was subsequently drilled low into the box in the path of an attacker to fire into the back of the Mansfield goal.
In the 63rd minute, midfielder and captain on the day, Finn Flanagan won the ball in the middle of the park and slid a delightful ball into the feet of Kokkinos in the attacking third. Kokkinos darted towards goals dribbling and weaving through the Rotherham defence and fired a driven shot towards the bottom left corner of the goal but the Millers’ ‘keeper made a smart save.
In the 70th minute, with the young Stags pressing for a way back into the contest, the away side made the scoreline 3-0. A delivery into the box was met by Maher who made a good connection to head the ball away again, but Rotherham’s striker volleyed the ball home from outside the box.
Mansfield continued to play between the lines and beat Rotherham’s press throughout the duration of the match but were unlucky in their attempts to find a way back into the clash.
The Stags’ next fixture is against Burton Albion away from home on Friday 11 February.
STAGS' XI: Avery, Anderson (Whyle, 3’), Wauchope, Maher, Collins, Flanagan, Kruszynski, Davies, Deakin, Kokkinos & Bouser (Wilson, 69’)
Unuse Subs: Leech, Whelan, Abduallah.