A SOLITARY first half strike from Ben Hutchinson was enough to give Stags Reserves a 1-0 victory over Gateshead last night at the One Call Stadium, moving them joint top of the Group B Standings in the Central League Cup, writes Craig Priest.
Andy Todd’s team put in a dominant attacking performance and controlled the majority of the match against a Gateshead team which featured only four players over the age of 20.
The Stags began in feisty fashion as they registered two chances in the opening two minutes, Louis Briscoe denied by Jordan Nixon before captain Luke Jones hooked into the former Darlington man’s hands from a Chris Clements corner.
Nathan failed to trouble Liam Mitchell in the Stags goal on three minutes as his early shot sailed wide before Matt Green saw a goal ruled out for offside on eight minutes following a fine flowing move.
A slip from Andy Owens on 20 minutes saw James Brown bear down on goal, but the former Hartlepool man curled well wide of Mitchell’s goal from distance.
Mansfield regained control and saw efforts from the impressive Clements, Hutchinson, Green and Briscoe all go astray before finally getting their reward with four to go before the break after reserve team player-boss Todd was tripped on the left hand side.
Chris Clements stepped up to deliver the resulting deep free kick which Nixon could only tamely punch clear into the path of Hutchinson. Through a crowd of players, the striker remained composed to drive into the bottom corner from 10 yards out and put Mansfield ahead.
The 4-4-2 became 4-3-3 in the second half as Todd and Green departed at the break for Matt Rhead and Lee Stevenson.
Despite early efforts from Clements and Briscoe, it was then the visitors who were looking lively.
James Brown saw a shot trickle wide on 55 minutes before Nathan Fisher was denied by Mitchell, who produced a strong low save on the hour mark.
Moments after, trialist Michael Boateng replaced Luke Jones in defence.
The hosts were mightily unlucky not to add a deserved second on 70 minutes after Lee Stevenson had won a corner.
Clements’ initial delivery was headed away, but only as far as Boateng who thundered a shot against the crossbar from 30 yards out.
The visiting defence was static and didn’t react as the ball remained in play, Hutchinson rising but failing to hit the target, nodding agonisingly wide.
Five minutes later the visiting Heed stepped up their efforts for a leveller as a drilled pass through the middle of the pitch caught Mansfield at sea, Briscoe came from nowhere to make a divine last ditch challenge before Mitchell and Tafazolli had to be alert to a further three attacks.
With four minutes to go Briscoe stepped up to take a free kick after Lee Stevenson was tripped, but failed to test Nixon with his driven set piece.
Stags Reserves: Liam Mitchell, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones (C) (Michael Boateng 55), Ryan Tafazolli, Andy Owens, Andy Todd (Lee Stevenson ht), Chris Clements, trialist, Louis Briscoe, Matt Green (Matt Rhead ht), Ben Hutchinson. Subs not used: Scott Rogers, Jobe Shaw, Jake Green.
Stags Man of the Match: Chris Clements.