Mansfield Town’s Under 21s swooped the silverware from the Wrens nest, as a brace for Zayn Hakeem plus strikes from Keaton Ward and Jack Thomas, one of only two Stags senior players – sealed the Green Energy Challenge Trophy in a comfortable 4-1 victory.
The Stags management left it late before deciding to send the clubs Under 21s set-up, not wanting to risk injuries ahead of the League Two opener at Crewe Alexandra on Saturday, however the match was still well supported with 320 in attendance.
Mansfield’s youngsters were managed by Mike Whitlow, however Paul Raynor also watched the game from the dug-out, presumably keeping an eye on Thomas who skippered the side and taking a look at a few of the youngsters who will train with the first team throughout the campaign, no doubt being mentored by Jamie McGuire in the process.
Front man Hakeem proved difficult for Rainworth to handle, whilst left back Louis Danquah and winger Nyle Blake also put in a decent display.
Mansfield registered a half chance on three minutes as Hakeem dragged an effort wide, three minutes later, Lewis Collins drew a good save from Wrens’ keeper Ben Townsend.
Defensively Mansfield’s youngsters looked solid with Brad McDonald commanding the back line well, cutting out a long ball with a strong challenge on eight minutes and showing vocal leadership to see his side stand up against the Wrens and prevent goal scoring opportunities as the half progressed.
The hosts got in behind on 22 minutes but again, solid work off the ball from the young Stags left the Wren’s with no option but to slam the ball heavily across the face of goal and out for a throw, from which the Stags created space for Lewis Collins’, whose 25 yard effort was on target but always rising.
Mansfield did find the net just after the half hour mark, as Hakeem was slipped into the box amidst a crowd of Rainworth bodies – Townsend saved the first shot from the young Stags hit man, but could do nothing about the follow-up as the ball fell to Hakeem’s feet – this time he made no mistake, firing into the roof of the net.
On the stroke of half-time Mansfield were awarded a spot kick, which Jack Thomas coolly dispensed – thrashing the ball hard down the middle to give his side a two-goal advantage.
After the re-start good interchanging football between Hakeem, Jordan Graham and Jason Law saw the latter force a save from the keeper, moments later on 55 minutes, Hakeem lofted the ball into the area from deep and was unlucky not to find Law, who was narrowly beaten to the ball by the onrushing keeper.
Julian Lawrence nodded the Wrens back into the game from a corner on 58 minutes as the Stags failed to deal with a decent drilled set-play, setting the mark for a spell of Rainworth pressure, the only other chance of note, was when with ten minutes to player, an identical corner was headed wide at the far post.
With five minutes to go, Hakeeem grabbed his second of the night, latching onto a through ball before rounding the onrushing substitute keeper, before keeping his composure as defenders raced back – to fire into the net.
Hakeem will have been disappointed to not deal a treble two minutes later as the Stags were awarded a second spot-kick – Keaton Ward tucking home from 12 yards to seal the victory.
STAGS Sam Wilson, Kane Baldwin, Brad McDonald, Kieran Harrison, Louis Danquah, Nyle Blake, Jack Thomas ©, Lewis Collins, Jason Law, Jordan Graham, Zayn Hakeem
SUBS Xavier Sundby, Cam Healey, Alistair Smith, Teddy Bloor, Jurelle Phillips, Keaton Ward
NOTE – The team sheet line-up had Jack Thomas, Lewis Collins, Nyle Balke and Louis Danquah as subs, yet they all started
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