Mansfield Town’s under-19s were defeated 2-1 by Rotherham in the Youth Alliance Cup Northern Section Final on Saturday at The Graham Solley Sports Development Centre in Sheffield.
Sam Collins’ side entered the fixture after emerging as 1-0 winners in the previous round against Bolton Wanderers.
Under-16s’ right-back Elliot Hartmann, who was utilised at right-wing-back in the clash with the Millers, and centre-back Cormac Maher earned a place in the starting lineup.
Forward McKeal Adbullah managed to feature from the start following injury doubts throughout the week after sustaining a hamstring problem.
Rotherham found themselves with a two goal cushion with ten minutes to play and despite Abdullah finding the back of the net and the Stags having an opportunity from the spot only one minute later, Mansfield were defeated.
An electric start to the encounter saw Millers’ attacker Ben Hatton have a shot on goal inside the opening 60 seconds but Stags’ ‘keeper Louie Turner was alert to the danger and managed to get down low to make a strong stop.
In-form Abdullah had his first chance of the game on three minutes when he looked to spin the opposition's defence on the edge of the area but centre-back Archie Day fouled the Stags’ attacker which prevented an effort on goal.
Mansfield’s next half chance came on 11 minutes when attack-minded midfielder Jakub Kruszynski took aim at goal from the edge of the box and saw his effort fly into the arms of Rotherham shot-stopper Nat Ford.
The Millers broke the deadlock on 18 minutes when Ben Hatton hammered the ball into the roof of the net beyond a helpless Turner at his near post.
The Stags' goalkeeper prevented Rotherham extending their lead on 37 minutes when he made a smart stop to deny attacker Kanye Nisbett as the ball dropped to the forward following a corner who stabbed an effort towards goal.
Mansfield trailed at the break after a half which yeilded few chances for Sam Collins’ side.
The Millers made two changes at the break as attackers Joel Holvey and Nisbett replaced Zack Bond and Josh Ayres, respectively.
Mansfield’s ‘keeper was called into early action in the second-half when defender Will Jenkinson fired at goal but Turner managed to make the stop to deny Rotherham doubling their lead.
Eight minutes into the second-half, Sam Collins made a double change which also included a tactical switch - moving from five at the back to four. Wing-backs Louis Bonser and Hartmann were replaced by box-to-box midfielder Finn Flanagan and versatile attacker Ronnie Kokkinos.
Meanwhile, Adam Clarke replaced attacker Hatton for the opponents in the same stoppage of play.
Rotherham scored their second on 56 minutes when Leiwi Abraham managed to rise highest and powerfully head the ball into the back of Louie Turner’s net.
In an attempt to fight back, Sam Collins made his third alteration on 63 minutes when attacker Noah Aynlsey-Johnson replaced Alfie King.
The young Stags started to grow into the game as the second-half progressed and looked likely to find the back of the net on a number of occasions.
Abdullah came closest on 71 minutes following a scramble in the penalty area when he attempted to fire at goal from point blank range but defender Jenkinson put his body on the line to prevent an almost certain goal.
Mansfield’s hard work and determination was rewarded on 80 minutes when Abdullah found himself through on goal and the forward expertly finished beyond the Millers’ goalkeeper to halve the deficit.
Following the restart of play, Rotherham lost possession and a direct ball forward found Abdullah in the opposition's box once again and with the attacker looking almost certain to score a brace within two minutes Archie Day dragged his man to the floor and the centre-back was shown a red card as he prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity whilst simultaneously giving away a penalty.
Right-back and captain Taylor Anderson stepped up for the important spot kick which would’ve found the young Stags level after being 2-0 down just two minutes prior.
The defender hammered the ball towards the bottom right-corner but Millers’ shot-stopper Ford managed to make a top save to tip the ball wide of his post.
Anderson was provided with another chance on goal just one minute later when a ball was curled into the area but the right-back’s header sailed over the bar.
Despite giving it everything until the final whistle, Rotherham were crowned Youth Alliance Cup Northern Section champions.
ROTHERHAM UNITED: Ford, Jenkinson, Day, Seisay, Hatton (Clark 53), Abraham (Roddis 71), Grove, Champion, Shepherd, Holvey (Bond 46), Nisbett (Ayres 46)
UNUSED SUB: Hamilton
MANSFIELD TOWN: Turner, Hartmann (Kokkinos 53), Anderson, Maher, Wauchope, Bonser (Flanagan 53), Whyle, Carter, Kruszynski, King (Aynsley-Johnson 63), Abdullah
UNUSED SUBS: Avery, Hamilton