Craig Priest writes….
On an evening where frights were common, the Stags avoided a scare against Everton Under 23s in their final group game of this season’s Checkatrade Trophy – Zander Diamond’s goal giving the Stags a 1-0 win, £10,000 and a chance of qualification to round two, depending on the outcome of next Tuesday’s game between Lincoln City & Notts County.
Mansfield will go through if Lincoln beat Notts County, or it is a draw. If Notts County win by 1 goal or 2 goals, then Mansfield will go out. If Notts County win by 3 goals, then Lincoln and Mansfield would have the same goal difference, and it would depend on who had scored more goals. If Notts County win by 4 or more goals, then Mansfield would go through. Who designed this competition again?
Back to the pitch and moving away from the maths, naturally changes were made with Evans able to name a completely different starting 11 from Saturday, including the return of captain Zander Diamond whose leadership has been sorely missed. I was disappointed by Everton, who for a Premier League academy side, lacked any real flare or zip that you’d expect at that level, Bobby Oljenik was rarely put under any significant pressure in what was a bang average ‘going through the motions game’.
Between the sticks for Everton they had Louis Gray who made three or four top level saves, he’ll go far in the game – had it not been for him, Mansfield would have won more comfortably in a game they controlled.
I felt a few (very few to be fair you could just hear them more with a sparse crowd) of the frustrated boo’s were uncalled for – this was practically a pre-season friendly which neither side really wanted, Mansfield were professional in their approach and did what they needed to do – keep the ball, take a chance, win the game. They did just that – this one was never going to be a classic.
It was however the opportunity for one or two players to step up and prove doubters wrong, Paul Digby alongside Diamond was solid and won everything at his more natural centre half position, Will Atkinson did a lot off the ball in the middle, whilst upfront – I felt Jimmy Spencer’s hold up play was excellent, I think I’d put him in Saturday against a Shaw Lane side that’ll be tired but running on adrenaline, he’ll frustrate defenders and cause Shaw Lane errors – with Rose running off him causing mischief!
There were a few players who I felt couldn’t be bothered, it’s these types of games where they have to step up and make a claim, positive attitudes in negative situations are what make the difference – however the Stags were professional enough to see the game out, collecting a vital clean sheet too.
If we go through, great, if we don’t then fair enough – We’ve done as much as we can do and that is all I’ve ever asked and will ask.
As predicted by everyone, it was a full eleven changes from Saturday – the key addition to the line-up was skipper Zander Diamond who returned for his first start since mid-august.
Mansfield started well and Jimmy Spencer flicked on a Hayden White throw within the opening two minutes, keeper Louis Gray out quickly ahead of Sterling-James – his opposite number Oljenik was called into action at the other end on six minutes, the Stags glovesman turning the ball away for a corner from the effort of Anthony Evans after a cleaver splitting pass from Nathan Broadhead.
Two minutes later it was back at the other end and Butcher who provided the pass with neat control, Lee Angol turned away from his marker and fired over the bar, much to his own frustration.
Angol was then fouled on ten minutes and from the resulting set play, Potter stepped up only to be denied by the fists of Gray, who then recovered well to beat away Will Atkinson’s fizzing half volley on the follow up.
Alfie Potter headed over from a Sterling-James cross on 22 minutes, but chances few and far between, the Stags saw out the first half controlling the play – Spencer did have the ball in the net on 36 minutes but the referee had already blown the whistle for handball – Sterling-James also tested the water on 43, but Gray was behind it firmly.
After the break, more of the same followed – Sterling-James the first to really test Everton on 51 minutes following a good turn inside the box, his shot dragged wide of the target. On the hour, terrific control from Spencer then brought Angol into play inside the box – Toffee’s skipper Luke Garbutt getting back to block.
A minute later, Gray made a fine save as Butcher connected with a White cross – before a well wprked Potter corner saw Digby draw out three players allowing Spencer to nip in at the far post – his thunderous volley turned behind on the line as Mansfield applied the pressure.
Skipper Zander Diamond then headed a golden chance over on 65 minutes before Gray again produced the goods for Everton, palming away Alfie Potter’s curling effort as the wing man cut in from the left hand side.
With 15 minutes to go, Spencer played in Sterling-James who placed a shot under Gray, only to see Grabutt again clear off the line, seconds later Lee Angol thought he’d broken the deadlock – Butcher in an offside position as Angol fired home.
Angol then set up Butcher on 79 minutes but Gray again was on hand to deny the Stags – but an arror from the youngster just two minutes later, saw Zander Diamond head home from a corner to give Mansfield the breakthrough they thoroughly deserved.
At the other end, the skipper led by example with three minutes to go, recovering well to prevent Evans from getting a shot away inside the box, substitute CJ Hamilton nearly sealed the win in the final minute of four added on, his curling shot out for a throw.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 Everton U23s
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Paul Digby – Johnny Hunt
Omari Sterling-James (CJ Hamilton 80) – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alfie Potter (Paul Anderson 90+2)
Jimmy Spencer – Lee Angol (Jack Thomas 90)
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Loganm Rhys Bennett, Kane Hemmings, Zayn Hakeem
Attendance: 964 (36)
Referee: Michael Salisbury Assistants Peter Gooch, Stephen Wade Fourth Official Mark Heywood
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