TEENAGER Ryan Goward made a big impression as a half-time substitute for Mansfield Town tonight after he made one goal and then scored a late winner as Stags came from behind to win 2-1 in the final pre-season friendly at Matlock Town.
The 17-year-old put over a superb left wing cross to set up Lewis Trimmer for the equaliser before drilling home an unstoppable winner three minutes from the end.
It was an energetic display from a young Stags side though captain John Mullins was the best player on the pitch with a dominant performance at centre half.
Danny Sleath was lively in the heart of midfield and diminutive striker Trimmer a constant menace to the UniBond Premier league side. Chris Wood also impressed on the night.
"I thought some of the younger players did well," said manager Billy Dearden.
"But I thought John Mullins was different class all game. His attitude was magnificent and he carried the kids through.
"Ryan Goward is only a kid, just 17, but he came on and did okay, making the first and scoring the second.
"It was bad defending for their goal, but overall I was pleased with them."
Day-long sunshine gave way to black skies and a thunderstorm which soaked the players during the pre-match warm-up at the picturesque Geoquip Stadium.
Spanish trialist, 18-year-old Adrian Torrent played the first half alongside Mullins and showed some powerful heading.
But he was caught out in the fifth minute when Matlock striker Ian Holmes got goalside of him but, with only Carl Muggleton to beat, sidefooted a good chance wide.
The Stags gradually began to look the livelier and Laurence Hall's loose pass saw Warren Burrell get away a powerful shot which Andy Richmond had to turn away at full stretch.
Hall redeemed himself with a tackle that halted a superb Sleath run, then Danny Reet had a shot on the turn from 18 yards saved.
Matlock also had their moments and Paul Riley volleyed wide from 20 yards and Muggleton was behind Dene Cropper's shot from distance.
Both sides had late chances as Jamie McGhee whistled one over the angle while a Holmes run down the right saw his shot deflect against the outside of the post.
Ashley Kitchen got in a good challenge on 50 minutes to deny Riley in front of goal.
But it was Kitchen's error two minutes later that gifted the lead to the Gladiators as his weak header allowed Riley to race clear and blast home with some aplomb off the underside of the bar.
Within a minute Cropper's dipping volley from 30 yards almost made it 2-0, bouncing narrowly wide.
In reply Sleath and Reet both fired wide before the move of the match levelled the scores on 61 minutes.
Sleath sent sub Goward wide on the left and, from almost the corner flag, he sent over a pinpoint left foot cross that Trimmer leapt to head home.
If Cropper had got more purchase on a header from a 68th minute corner, the home side could have regained the lead. And Holmes was too high after spotting Muggleton off his line.
Trimmer was continuing to make a nuisance of himself and had a shot blocked in a 75th minute scramble.
Muggleton made two important stops in an exciting last eight minutes.
First he was there to keep out a Holmes effort after he had cut inside a slipping Mullins. Then he grabbed Holmes' flicked finish from Richard Taylor's ball over the top.
But three minutes from time goalscorer Trimmer repaid the compliment to the team mate who set him up as his pass from a central position put Goward in space on his favourite foot and he made no mistake with a powerful low finish from the edge of the box.
Holmes did pull a shot wide on 88 minutes but Stags deservedly hung on for victory.
MATLOCK: Richmond, Laight, Austin (Lambert 73), Ashley (Webster 57), Hall (Kirkwood 67), Lukic (R. Taylor 73), Warne, Circuit (McNicholas 73), Cropper (Smith 79), Holmes, Riley. Subs not used: S. Taylor, Barraclough, Goff, Loukes.
STAGS: Muggleton (Gibbons 85), Kitchen, Wood, Sleath, Torrent (Grimoldby ht), Mullins, Arnold, Burrell, Reet (Storer 72), Trimmer, McGhee (Goward ht).
REFEREE: Robert Shoebridge of Heage.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: John Mullins.