MATCH REPORT: Mansfield Town see off Wolves' cubs to qualify for next round
Early goals in both halves proved enough to see Mansfield Town beat Wolves U21s 2-1 and qualify Stags for the knock-out stages of the Checkatrade Trophy with a game still to play.
But the gutsy Wolves youngsters made a fight of it as the game wore on and brilliant free kick by Pedro Goncalves on 73 minutes had the home side and supporters sweating.
Jacob Mellis slotted Stags ahead on four minutes as the home side dominated first half possession, though Wolves did have their moments.
Once Mal Benning had made it 2-0 on 47 minutes the floodgates could have opened.
But Wolves dug deep and clawed their way back into the contest, making Mansfield work hard for their success.
Mellis and Timi Elsnick were excellent in midfield and Hayden White and Krystian Pearce impressive at the back with Benning full of running to the end.
Mansfield made seven changes on the night, including a full debut for 20-year-old striker Jordan Graham and a surprise return from an ankle injury for White.
Also into the side come Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Mellis, Calum Butcher and Omari Sterling-James.
Sterling-James and Pearce were both playing ahead of leaving for international duty this weekend, which has seen the visit of Grimsby Town postponed.
Out of the side from Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Bury went Bobby Olejnik, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Otis Khan, Neal Bishop, Tyler Walker and Danny Rose.
Stags could have made the perfect start as, in the very first minute, Butcher’s perfect cross from the left picked out Atkinson at the far post. But, from close range, the wing back’s header his the bar and he then painfully clattered into the upright himself.
Three minutes later Benning’s cross to the far post again picked out Atkinson and this time his header was hooked off the line by John.
But Stags were ahead on four minutes. Sterling-James sent Mellis racing into the box and he slotted coolly to the right of the goalkeeper.
After a long spell of home pressure, Logan ran out his box to safely clear at the first hint of trouble from the visitors as Ashley-Seal chased a through ball.
The visitors were beginning to see more of the ball now and on 15 minutes Giles wasn’t too far over with a powerful rising shot after Wolves had worked the ball from right to left.
A great burst by Butcher saw him roll an inviting pass towards Graham, but keeper Norris was down quickly to smother before he could connect.
On 21 minutes John nodded the visitors’ first corner wide.
Logan had to make a smart save on 24 minutes, though it was his poor kick out to Benning that sparked the danger, Benning losing possession to Goncalves, whose low square cross was met with a well-struck on-target effort from Ennis.
On 38 minutes, in trying to cut out a low ball into the box, Pearce diverted the ball at his own goal and forced Logan to stretch out a hand and block.
Then Diallo earned warm applause from the home fans as he controlled a clearance and volleyed it back over the goal from almost 30 yards.
However, Stags doubled their lead two minutes into the second half.
Atkinson floated over a teasing far post cross from the right which Norris stretched to punch away. But he could only find Benning in space and the wing back smashed a low finish past him into the net.
Hamilton replaced Sterling-James on the hour in the first change of the night.
Five minutes later Graham’s debut was over as Rose took over up front.
A minute later Rose was tripped almost 25 yards from goal to to earn Goncalves a booking and win a free kick that saw Norris save superbly from Benning’s kick, curling towards the top right corner.
Ashley-Seal was booked on 73 minutes after kicking Mellis and then hacking down Atkinson in succession.
But then White conceded a free kick 20 yards out which Portuguese youngster Goncalves curled brilliantly under the left angle with Logan helpless to reduce the arrears.
Diallo was booked for arguing over a foul on White with 12 minutes to go.
The free kick won was 30 yards out but Benning curled it well and it rattled the sidenetting with some fans thinking it had gone in.
Before play restarted Khan took over from Butcher in midfield.
A quick free kick from Khan then caught Wolves napping and Atkinson forced Norris to block with his shins at his near post.
Wolves began to push hard late on and with five minutes to go Logan got a crucial touch on a dipping long range blast by Diallo.
The tension was rising and a minute into three added at the end John was booked for shoving over Mellis while two minutes later Kilman’s foul on Khan saw him cautioned too.
But Stags hung on to see the job through.
STAGS: Logan; White, Pearce, Preston; Atkinson, Elsnik, Mellis, Butcher (Khan 79), Benning; Sterling-James (Hamilton 60), Graham (Rose 65). Subs not used: Olejnik, Gibbens, Walker, Law.
WOLVES U21s: Norris, Johns, Kilman, Iorfa, Buur, Diallo, Alves (Samuels 79), Giles, Goncalves, Ashley-Seal, Ennis. Subs not used: Sondergaard, Crabtree, Perry, Thompson, Richards, Cundle.
REFEREE: Tom Nield of West Yorkshire.
ATTENDANCE: 1,112 (131 away)
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Jacob Mellis.