Mansfield’s under-19s were made to rue missed chances as a first-half strike from winger Ollie Nicholson sealed a 1-0 win for Harrogate Town in the Youth Alliance League on Saturday afternoon.
Cody Collins started at centre-back following his work experience loan with Gainsborough Trinity in a fixture which also saw the return of central-midfielder Curtis Davies following a long spell on the sidelines due to injury.
Right-back Elliot Hartmann and centre-back Cormac Maher also featured in the amber and blue's starting lineup. Both players are part of the club's under-16 setup and made the step up for the Stags' trip to North Yorkshire.
The opening exchanges of this encounter saw few opportunities for either side, with the first half-chance coming on 11 minutes. Harrogate winger Tom Liddle drove down the right-hand side attempting to latch onto the end of a through ball but Stags’ shot-stopper Theo Avery was alert to the danger and came out to clear the ball to safety.
Versatile attacker Ronnie Kokkinos had the opportunity to break the deadlock on 17 minutes but his ferocious effort from the edge of the area was deflected wide for a corner.
The hosts’ right-back Brad Williams came close to grabbing the opening goal on 23 minutes. After driving through Mansfield’s defence, Williams struck a powerful effort towards the bottom corner but Avery got down low and tipped the ball round his right-hand post.
The Sulphurites broke the deadlock on 27 minutes. After the ball was played back to Stags’ ‘keeper Avery, an interception allowed Ollie Nicholson to tap into an empty net to give his side the lead.
The amber and blue went in behind at the break and made two substitutions at the start of the second-half. Left-back Darien Wauchope and Curtis Davies were replaced by forward Louis Bonser and attacking midfielder Jakub Kruszynski.
Kokkinos had a brilliant opportunity to draw his side level seven minutes into the second-half. After receiving the ball in space on the edge of the box, his shot was fired straight at Harrogate’s goalkeeper Harvey Giles.
And just two minutes later, the Stags once again came close to scoring the equaliser when a free-kick was floated into the area by Jakub Kruszynski and a trialist guided his header over the bar from close range.
Stags made their third change of the game on the hour mark as attacker Noah Aynsley-Johnson replaced the trialist.
Substitute Kruszynski continued to create opportunities for his team mates but came close to grabbing a goal for himself on 65 minutes when a free-kick from range had to be saved from Giles in the Harrogate net.
The amber and blue made their final change of the game on 66 minutes as versatile midfielder Lewis Warnaby replaced box-to-box midfielder Finn Flanagan.
The hosts pushed to extend their advantage with 13 minutes remaining as a dangerous low cross from attacker Finn O’Boyle looked to pick out the arriving Nicholson but Stags' defender Maher made a vital interception to turn the ball behind for a corner.
As the Stags continued to work towards getting an equaliser, they received a throw-in just right of the hosts’ penalty area. Cody Collins made his way over to take a long throw which was met in the air by substitute Warnaby who ultimately headed the ball over the bar.
The Stags fought until the final whistle in an attempt to score the equalising goal but it wasn't meant to be for Sam Collins’ young guns. They will look to get back to winning ways on Tuesday afternoon as they take on Salford City in the Youth Alliance Cup at RH Academy (2pm kick-off).
HARROGATE TOWN: Giles, Williams, Birmingham, Wilson, Attree, Taylor, Nicholson (Brodella 86), Tweed, Ilesanmi (Smalley 90), O’Boyle, Liddle
UNUSED SUBS: Mooney, Samuels
MANSFIELD TOWN: Avery, Hartmann, Maher, Collins, Wauchope (Bonser 46), Carter, Flanagan (Warnaby 66), Davies (Kruszynski 46), Kokkinos, Abdullah, Trialist (Aynsley-Johnson 60)
UNUSED SUB: Leech
REFEREE: Conor Ledgeway