A youthful Pools Reserve Team were beaten 3-1 by Mansfield Town in their last of their Final Third Development League fixtures on Wednesday evening.
John Hewitson selected a young line-up which included two trialists and a substitutes’ bench made up almost entirely of Under 16s but the boys gave a good account of themselves against The Stags despite suffering defeat in the end.
Pools made a positive start to the game and won a dangerous free-kick inside the first minute but Dan Jones hit the keeper with his effort.
Greg Rutherford was involved in a lot of the early action and he did well to win possession and set trialist Luke Armstrong away down the right but when the cross came back in to the box, Rutherford couldn’t connect cleanly and the opportunity passed.
James Jennings sent Mansfield’s first effort towards goal but put it too high before moments later bursting to the byline only to drill his cross across goal and wide.
Luke Armstrong saw his goalbound shot blocked on the line as Pools continued to look the more likely to open the scoring.
And the goal finally arrived when Rutherford turned skilfully on the left to feed Luke Armstrong and his determined run saw him find space to drill a low cross in to Callam Wood who finished neatly first time.
Lindon Meikle had a wonderful chance to level things when he got on the end of a left-wing cross but he couldn’t get a telling connection and the ball ricocheted to safety.
Connor Smith saw a well-struck effort from the edge of the box parried by keeper Ian Deakin before Josh Rowbotham had to be brave to head the ball off the line at the other end to preserve Pools’ lead.
Lewis Hawkins could even have extended the advantage before half time when he produced a determined run in to the penalty area but his shot at the end of it was straight at Deakin.
Right on half time the visitors pulled it back level when Meikle’s header was brilliantly clawed away by trialist keeper Jonathan Barber only for Kyle Hempshall to forced home the rebound from close range.
After the restart Rutherford had a glorious chance to restore Pools’ lead when he ran on to a ball at the back post but the Mansfield defender did just enough to put him off and his shot fell wide of the target.
Town were almost their own worst enemies when they dallied on the ball inside their own box; Rutherford applied the pressure and when the ball fell loose Luke Armstrong was unlucky to see his drive cannon off both posts and out to safety.
A sweeping counter-attack from the visitors almost saw them go in front for the first time but when the ball fell invitingly at the back post, Louis Briscoe couldn’t keep his effort down.
With seventeen minutes left, The Stags did find the net though; a ball across from the left found Jack Thomas whose shot was brilliantly blocked on the line by Jonny Carr, only for Briscoe to ram in the rebound to make it 2-1.
Six minutes from time, Town made their victory safe though it was harsh on young keeper Barber who made a wonderful save to prevent Meikle finding the net only for Briscoe to once again be in the right place to rifle in the loose ball.
Smith showed tricky feet to work in to space twenty-five yards out before curling an effort at goal which was held by Deakin but Pools could not find a route back in to the game and the visitors took the points.
Full Time: Pools 1 Mansfield Town 3
Pools: Barber, Carr, Jones, Hawkins, Rowbotham, Green, Smith, D Armstrong (Blackford 81), Wood, Rutherford, L Armstrong.
Provett, Male, Skidmore, Turnbull.Subs not used: