Mansfield Town gave 181 travelling supporters and those watching from afar last night the right impression as they breezed to a 3-1 victory over Skrill Premier Side Lincoln City in their penultimate pre-season friendly.
Fergus Bell netted an absolute wonder strike before hit-man Liam Hearn came from the bench to net his second brace in three pre-season games to lead Mansfield to victory, rounding off what was a 99% positive showing from Paul Cox’s men in a game they largely dominated.
The Stags again set out in a 3-4-1-2 formation and looked comfortable with both the ball on the deck and in the air, players such as Fergus Bell, Alex Fisher and Simon Heslop all key to this during the first half whilst the addition of Hearn after the hour added fuel to the fire.
Heslop in particular impressed and is looking like a quality addition from when we first saw him against Leeds United. The central midfielder made up a lot of ground always looking to feed on the scraps and stretch play, doing so on a number of occasions with precision passes.
Hit-man Hearn again impressed coming from the bench, his movement for his two goals was fluid whilst his finishing was clinical and crisp, if Alex Fisher can put a few more of his chances away then Mansfield could have one hot attack.
In general though, Cox will be pleased with his teams character, Lincoln are a side that like to get in your face and constantly test, something they did rather well until they were blown away by hurricane Hearn. At the back, Mansfield were troubled on occasion but dealt well with the majority of Lincoln attacks, the only blot on the otherwise perfect canvas was the Imps goal – the Stags allowed the hosts far too much space to get a cross in and got nowhere near Hamza Bencherif who nodded passed Sascha Studer.
Cox again cast his eye over two Trialists and did give permission to name them, however both Rob Taylor and Anthony Griffith had to settle for a seat on the bench.
It was the hosts that looked to test the water early on as in the opening minute, former Notts County man and ex-Stags Trialist Hamza Bencherif found space to get a shot in from distance, however Studer was well positioned to keep the effort at bay.
The Stags then registered their first few efforts in quick succession, Alex Fisher glanced a header wide from Fergus Bell’s well hit corner before the roles reversed, Fisher teeing up Bell for a twenty yard drive which whizzed narrowly wide of Paul Farman’s goal.
The two sides then went toe to toe but did little with the ball, Fisher looked to change that on 23 minutes, with his back to goal he picked up Amari’i Bell’s low pass before spinning towards goal and firing at Farman – the former Gateshead glovesman fortunate to get down low to his left to keep out Fisher’s effort.
Fergus Bell then wasted a counter attack on 29minutes as he drove forward from the half way line after a Lincoln move broke down, the lively midfielder took the ball a stride to far and was unable to get his shot away. However Bell atoned for this a minute letter in style, a long ball forward saw Fisher provide the assist with a cushioned chest-down to Bell, who thumped home on the half volley with his left boot from some thirty yards to give Mansfield the lead.
With ten minutes to go before the break, the hosts nearly levelled and perhaps would have done had it not been for the strength of John Dempster to hold off a hungry Karl Ledsham and for the confidence of the advancing Studer to race out of his area and clear left footed under pressure from Ben Tomlinson.
Back at the other end, Fergus Bell looked to turn from goal scorer to provider on 37 minutes, driving forward following a well-timed interception from Heslop, Bell unselfishly played a reverse pass into the feet of Ollie Palmer who wasted the opportunity, failing to get the ball out of his feet and subsequently allowing Nat Brown to get back and clear.
The miss then proved costly as a minute later, poor defending allowing the imps to draw level. Mansfield gave the hosts far too much space around the edge of the box, especially in the channels with Ledsham picking out Benchierif with a well weighted cross – the Stags players got nowhere near him as he headed beyond a stranded Studer.
At the break, Ollie Palmer was replaced in attack by Liam Hearn but it was Lincoln’s half time substitute than caused troubled first, two minutes into the second half Connor Robinson rose at the far post above Studer but couldn’t turn Sean Newton’s left sided deep cross home.
From then on, it was all Mansfield – Hearn made his first impact on the game on 51 minutes, holding up well to the left of the area before pulling back into a pocket of space for the advancing Heslop who dragged wide of Farman’s goal when he should have tucked home.
Seven minutes later it was Hearn testing the water, firing over from just inside the area after arcing off the defenders shoulder to latch on Adam Murray’s reverse pass.
Hearn waited just eleven more minutes before finally putting Mansfield back infront. It all stemmed from inside the Stags own half as Heslop broke up Lincoln’s play and took one look up before playing a sublime directional pass to Hearn – the hit-man still had the work to do and showed great composure to control the ball, take on his marker before calmly slotting underneath the advancing Farman who was made to look a fool by Hearn’s first clinical finish of the evening.
On 74 minutes Hearn should have had his second but was denied by the legs of Farman from Helsop’s pass – two minutes later though and Hearn beat Farman once more. This time it was substitute Chris Clements that created the goal, playing a pass through the eye of the needle to completely unpick the City defence from the left of the box. Hearn found a pocket of space that only he knew existed and controlled well before drilling beyond a stunned Farman who must have found it hard not to applaud the quality execution of both Hearn’s finish and Mansfield’s movement.
Clements himself could have added a fourth moments later from Hearn’s tee up, his rasping half volley from 18yards blocked by Nat Brown who also denied Hearn a deserved treble late on with a brave sliding tackle.
STAGS: 1.Sascha Studer, 14.Ritchie Sutton, 4.John Dempster, 5.Ryan Tafazolli (13.Martin Riley 77), 20.Lee Beevers (15.Liam Marsden 61), 8.Adam Murray © (12.Jamie McGuire 77), 18.Simon Heslop (21.Anthony Griffith 77), 11.Amari’i Bell (19.Rob Taylor 61), 7.Fergus Bell (2.Chris Clements 66), 17.Alex Fisher (22.Matt Rhead 61), 10.Ollie Palmer (9.Liam Hearn HT)
Unused Subs: Jack Thomas
Meanwhile, in Rainworth - Mansfield Town's youth team couldn't keep hold of the annual Green Energy Challenge Trophy. Despite a spirited display from the Stags youngsters, they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Kirklington Road.
Matt Rhead’s 43rd minute strike proved the difference last night as Mansfield came away from Grimsby’s Blundell Park with a 1-0 pre-season victory having faced their toughest test so far.
The Mariners proved stern opposition to Paul Cox’s men and on reflection, will be disappointed to have been beaten after seeing numerous chances go astray – perhaps highlighting to Paul Cox that some final tweaks need to be made ahead of the season’s opener at Northampton.
Cox again used the match to cast his eye over two trailists, one again rumoured to be former Port Vale man Rob Taylor whilst the other is also rumoured to have had a long spell at Port Vale in the form of midfielder Anthony Griffith. The unnamed central midfielder on trial [Griffith] didn’t have the greatest of games and played just the first half whilst the unnamed wing-back [Taylor] put in another reasonable game having appeared in all of Mansfield’s pre-season friendlies’ so far, his addition should be a formality now providing the budget allows it.
On a cold evening at Blundell Park, it was an even opening to the match as Grimsby looked to keep possession, it was Mansfield though that had two chances to test James McKeown in the Mariners goal, Trialist wing-back [Taylor] hit a third minute free-kick high over the bar before sending in a teasing cross two minutes later which Ollie Palmer was inches away from.
Sascha Studer was then called into action on nine minutes to deny Grimsby’s A.Trialist from distance after Jack Mackreth played a low pass from the right hand side to stretch the Stags back line.
The swiss keeper was called into action again four minutes later as Grimsby’s John Paul Pitman and Paddy McLaughlan looked to caused trouble, Mansfield’s latest addition showed great agility to block the hosts’ effort before Ryan Tafazolli mopped up the danger.
At the other end Mansfield had their best chance of the game so far through Ollie Palmer on 18 minutes, latching on to Matt Rhead’s flick on, Palmer to the right of the box looked to loft the ball over McKeown but couldn’t beat the town shot stopper who, despite fumbling, kept the Stags front man at bay. Moments later Fergus Bell looked to show his attacking ability driving forward linking up with Rhead and Palmer, but saw his driven effort go wide of the Town goal.
With five minutes to go before the break, Grimsby saw a golden chance to open the scoring fall by the way side. The lively Mackreth played a pivotal role down the right hand side, evading Riley before whipping into the area – his cross found Paddy McLaughlan whose header cannoned back of the cross bar with Shuder rooted to his line.
At the other end a Lee Beevers corner was headed wide by Rhead at the far post however the front man made no mistake seconds later on 43 minutes as he gave Mansfield the lead. It was Ollie Palmer that helped set the move as he took the initial shot, with the ball squirming off the underneath of McKeown’s body, Rhead had the simple task of blasting into the empty net.
Paul Cox rang the chances at the break making all but two of his available substitutions, the hosts also made changes with former Mansfield man Craig Disley entering the fray along with the much sought after Ross Hannah – it was the duo that caused trouble on 53 minutes with a neat passing move, Hannah’s eventual cross punched firmly away by Studer.
Just after the hour Grimsby had another opening, this time it was left back Azwald Thomas who got forward to play a cross, unpicking the Mansfield defence. The drilled ball flashed all the way across the six yard box but fortunately for Paul Cox’s men, couldn’t be turned home.
Former Mariners favourite Liam Hearn then replaced Rhead in the Stags attack to a rapturous round of applause from his former employees, however Hearn was kept quiet and it was his former team mates that teased the most – John Dempster, Amari’i Bell and Sascha Studer all on hand to keep the hosts at bay as the game moved into the closing stages.
Liam Hearn and Amari’i Bell both had chances to double Mansfield’s lead in the final five minutes, Bell seeing a right footed drive held by McKeown before Hearn stung the legs of the home defence.
Right at the death, Craig Disley was unlucky not to change the outcome of the match – heading wide unmarked at the far post from an excellent reverse chipped pass from fellow substitute Scott Neilson.
Stags: 1.Sascha Studer, 17.Ritchie Sutton, 6.Martin Riley, 5.Ryan Tafazolli (4.John Dempster 45), 10.Lee Beevers (11. Liam Marsden 45), 4.A.Trialist [Anthony Griffith] (7.Simon Heslop 45), 2.Jamie McGuire © (12.Adam Murray 45), 15.A.Trialist [Rob Taylor] (3.Amari’i Bell 45), 18.Fergus Bell (8.Chris Clements 45), 9.Ollie Palmer (19.Alex Fisher 45), 20.Matt Rhead (16.Liam Hearn 63)
Unused Subs: Jack Thomas
With a goal scoring record and reputations like Liam Hearn’s, one of two things could have happened last night as the deadly hitman made his first bow in a Stags shirt, he’d either disappoint on a grand scale by picking up an injury, or he’s be an instant hit. Fortunately it was the latter as a crowd of 3,493 watched on as it took Hearn just eight minutes on the pitch to make an impact.
The former Grimsby striker changed what was a flat encounter into something full of fizz as he successfully drew a foul from substitute Leeds United keeper Marco Silvestri on 71 minutes before dusting himself down and emphatically converting to open the scoring.
Earlier in the day Paul Cox revelled his latest signing, midfielder Simon Heslop – he featured alongside two Trialist, another goalkeeper rumoured to be Sasha Shuder and a familiar face in full Rob Taylor. Heslop took time to settle but eventually came into the game with some strong challenges, whilst Shuder had little to do but what he did, he did well, making a firm save during the second half with his legs at 0-0 and he also seemed confident coming to claim crosses and set plays. What also impressed me was the fact he liked to play a high line, he often encouraged his back line to push which gave us a few more options going forward.
Taylor, again playing left wing back, looked competent – not perfect but firm in challenges and eager to get forward and distribute, he also put in some testing set-plays which added another edge to an eager Mansfield attack.
Mansfield came up against a Leeds side that, for all their pace and fancy football, delivered little and wowed even less – Paul Cox’s men soaked up what Dave Hockaday’s had to offer with relative ease, Martin Riley in particular impressive in a back three with a series of well-timed challenges.
Leeds inability to do anything with the ball and the early evening humidity made it a rather drab affair to watch, there was no real chance of note until the 40th minute when Fergus Bell came close to opening the scoring. Newby Simon Heslop started the move with a well-placed pass to Alex Fisher, it’s he that kept the move alive – holding up well before spraying a pass wide to the advancing A.Trialist [Taylor] – his cross was headed away straight into the path of Bell who riffled narrowly wide from the edge of the Leeds box.
Moments later Fisher nearly broke the deadlock following a mix-up in the Leeds defence, however the front man couldn’t quite get his effort on target as the angle was against him.
The visitors had an opportunity themselves three minutes before the break as a short corner was whipped in to the feet of Italian Tommaso Bianchi who, unmarked, couldn’t turn past A.Trialist [Shuder].
Matt Rhead replaced Alex Fisher at the break and threatened to break the deadlock from a number of corners from A.Trialist [Taylor] however it wasn’t until the introduction of Liam Hearn on 63 minutes, which drew a big round of applause, that the pendulum began to swing in Mansfield’s favour.
It took the former Grimsby and Alfreton man eight minutes from first gracing the One Call Stadium turf to hitting the back of the net, doing so from the penalty spot after he was pulled down by the United keeper.
It was an emphatic strike from Hearn who then hit again seven minutes from full time. John Dempster provided the spark with a directional pass which was flick on between the visiting defence by Rhead, Hearn did the rest with a well-timed angled run – finishing by coolly lofting the ball over the advancing keeper and into the empty net to widen the smile on supporters’ faces ahead of Friday evenings trip to Hearn’s former employers, Grimsby Town.
Stags: 1. A.Trialist GK [Shasha Studer], 14. Ritchie Sutton, 4. John Dempster, 9. Martin Riley, 5. Lee Beevers (16. Liam Marsden 70), 8. Adam Murray © (15. A.Trialist [Unknown] 78), 20. Simon Heslop (18. Chris Clements 65), 2. A.Trialist [Rob Taylor] (3. Amari’i Bell 70), 7. Fergus Bell (12. Jack Thomas 78), 17. Alex Fisher (6. Matt Rhead 45), 10. Ollie Palmer (13. Liam Hearn 63)
Unused Subs: Jamie McGuire, A.Trialist [Unknown]
Premier League Aston Villa ran out 3-1 winners at the One Call Stadium last night as a brace for Darren Bent, either side of a Gary Gardener strike, cancelled out Alex Fisher’s first half opener for the Stags.
It was a positive performance from Paul Cox’s Mansfield against two Aston Villa line-ups which both featured big name stars such as Joe Cole and Daren Bent. The Stags managent cast their eye over a number of trialists, two of which had a run out against Notts County at the weekend, who we believe to be wing back Rob Taylor, who was released from Port Vale in the close season, and Shaun Harrad, who has been with Alfreton since his contract was terminated with Bury in Januray.
Paul Cox and his team also cast their eyes over another shot stopper who we believe to be Birmingham City’s 19 year old Nick Townsend who spent a short loan spell with Lincoln earlier this year. The teenager glovesman had a solid game between the sticks and would be worth another trail, he looked confident and commanding, he certainly wasn’t afraid to come off his line and, in fairness especially as the game went on, kept the score-line respectable as Villa’s experience became more dominant over the Stags.
Mansfield began brightly and registered two chances in the opening ten minutes, A.Trialist (yes him again!) wearing number 20 tested Shay Given from 30 yards and despite being narrowly off target, had the former Newcastle United keeper back peddling. Liam Marsden also had the visitors panicking as he unleashed the first of several long throws into the box which led to a corner which despite a good delivery from A.Trialist (Taylor), was cleared well.
Villa registered their first effort on seven minutes as Joe Bennet weaved his way around A.Trialist (Townsend) who did well to recover before Martin Riley blocked the effort on the line, at the other end a dominant run from Ollie Palmer saw the front man drag wide.
Alex Fisher continued to impress and tested Shay Given on a number of occasions before Fergus Bell was replaced by Sam Clucas as a precaution. The highly rated winger delivered a number of dangerous set-plays but it was Liam Marsden that helped deliver the killer blow four minutes before half-time with a long throw.
Fellow defender John Dempster, who captained the side, provided the pivitol front post flick on over the head of the villa back line – Alex Fisher did the rest, nodding forcefully over the line for his second goal in as many games to put Mansfield ahead.
Joe Cole had the chance to level prior to the break but a combination of good positioning from A.Trialist (Townsend) and a narrow angle, saw the former England international clip his cross well over the bar.
Cole, along with the rest of Villa’s first half line up, were replaced at the break whilst Paul Cox made three further changes, A.Trialist (Taylor) and A.Trialist (Unknown) were replaced by Anthony Howell and Amari’i Bell whilst Matt Rhead replaced Ollie Palmer in attack.
Rhead caused problems for the villa back line and on 52 minutes nearly set Mansfield’s second goal of the game, cutting back across the box for Sam Clucas who couldn’t quite get to the ball before Villa’s Jed Steer.
There was then sad news for Mansfield as Sam Clucas hobbled off through injury, youngster Jack Thomas replaced him but attention shifted from the pitch to Clucas’ movement, eventually heading down the tunnel sporting a support cast on his leg and using crutches.
Mansfield were then pegged level on 61 minutes as an expert ball across the Stags box from Alan Hutton saw Darren Bent pull the trigger and convert beneath A.Trialist (Townsend) who stood little chance of keeping the effort at bay.
Paul Cox kept the changes coming and five minutes from time, saw his side surrender the game as Gary Gardener put Aston Villa in front, Darren Bent then wrapped things up right at the death as Amari’i Bell lost possession on the half way line to a villa player, a quick cross saw Bent loop a header into the back of the net to make it 3-1 to the visitors.
Stags:  Trialist GK (Nick Townsend, Birmingham City),  Ritchie Sutton,  John Dempster (C),  Martin Riley,  Liam Marsden ( A.Trialist 75),  Jamie McGuire ( Chris Spencer (Youth Team) 75),  Fergus Bell ( Sam Clucas 29 /  Jack Thomas 55),  A.Trialist ( Anthony Howell 45),  A.Trialist (Robert Taylor) ( Amari’i Bell 45)  Ollie Palmer ( Matt Rhead 45),  Alex Fisher ( A.Trialist (Shaun Harrad) 67)
Goals from Alex Fisher, Martin Riley and substitute Ollie Palmer saw Mansfield Town complete a three goal come back against League One Neighbours Notts County at the One Call Stadium this afternoon in the clubs first real pre-season friendly of 2014.
Paul Cox’s men had seen some match action a few days prior with a victory over a very youthful Huddersfield Town side behind closed doors, today’s encounter however was the first chance for us supporters to catch a glimpse of the new additions and names battling out for a contract.
Without a goalkeeper following the departure of the much loved Alan Marriott and second choice Ian Deakin during close season, fans were eager to see who would be in line to takeover goalkeeping duty’s. Whilst the club refused to name any of the four trialists on show, rumours were circulating that the mystery man between the sticks this afternoon was Nottingham Forest’s Bulgarian youngster Dimitar Evtimov – a quick photo / memory comparison seems to all but confirm this, as for the other three trialists, frankly your guess is as good as ours!
The Stags fielded only three of their new additions in the starting eleven with two trailists involved, one of which was (Evtimov) in goal. Despite Paul Cox’s promise to try something new it was an extremely similar formation to the one which featured heavily last term, a 3-4-1-2 with Sam Clucas playing just off of the front two and Amari'i Bell and trailist (wearing 12) employed as wingers/ wing-backs.
Both sides began brightly and despite an early fumble of a cross for Stags’ on trial keeper, it was Cox’s men that got the first effort in, Jamie McGuire firing over from twenty yards after John Dempster’s deep cross was headed into his path.
Despite Mansfield coming close, it was the visitors that drew first blood as they opened the scoring from close range as Brad McGowan squeezed in a loose ball following a counter corner.
Ten minutes later Mansfield had a golden opportunity to pull level as supporters eyes widened as Alex Fisher brought himself to the spotlight. Evtimov launched a long ball forward which found the head of Matt Rhead, his angled flick landed with precision between the Notts back line, of which Fisher evaded to latch onto the inviting ball and clip narrowly over the bar under pressure from the advancing County keeper Fabian Spiess.
It took Fisher just two more minutes before he had the beating of Spiess to grab his first goal in Stags colours and level the match. In a similar situation, the former AC Monza front man pounced on a defensive error to canter into the area and attempt to round Spiess who brought the six foot three front man crashing to the ground. Referee Andy Haines showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot, Fisher dusted himself down to calmly convert beyond the visiting shot stopper.
From then on Mansfield looked the more in control and soon found a second goal with their first corner of the game on twenty-two minutes. It was captain Adam Murray that delivered a right footed in-swinger to the back post to find the head of Matt Rhead, the front man who will miss the first two games of the season through suspension, nodded back across the face of the goal to find Martin Riley, the defender was left with the simple task of nodding the ball down and across the line.
Further chances came and went for both sides with Mansfield’s Bulgarian trialist having little to do between the sticks, the sides headed into the dressing rooms with Mansfield in a 2-1 lead.
The second half saw the fun bit, substitutions a plenty. With a broken tannoy system no help it was guess work but the end results saw John Dempster, Adam Murray, Jamie McGuire, Amari’i Bell, Matt Rhead, Alex Fisher and Sam Clucas replaced by Liam Marsden, Chris Clements, Ritchie Sutton, Ollie Palmer, Anthony Howell (technically on trial as he’s not in contract) and another unnamed trialist, who wore number 15, and Fergus Bell who wore 19.
Mansfield moved into a more traditional 4-4-2 for the second half which truly was a drab affair compared to the first half. Fergus Bell looked impressive with a series of dominant runs from midfield and did draw Spiess, the only player to play the full 90 minutes for the visitors, into a smart save in 65 minutes.
Trialist 15 did see a bit of the action as he was teed up by his Fergus Bell, however the centre forward failed to keep his shot down. The fourth trailist named on the team sheet as ‘Trialist 4’ made an appearance on 75 minutes, he wore number 20 but featured little, John Dempster also returned to the pitch to precautionary replace Tafazolli after he picked up a knock.
There was late drama as Mansfield sealed a comfortable victory on 88 minutes, youngster Liam Marsden provided an expert trademark long throw straight to the head of substitute Ollie Palmer who guided the ball into the top corner.
Full Time: Mansfield Town 3-1 Notts County
Stags: 1.Trialist GK (Dimitar Evtimov), 4.John Dempster (2 Liam Marsden HT), 9.Martin Riley, 5.Ryan Tafazolli (4.John Dempster 75), 12.Trailist (20.Trialist 75), 8.Adam Murray © (17.Chris Clements HT), 18.Jamie McGurie (7.Anthony Howell HT), 3. Amari’i Bell (14.Ritchie Sutton HT), 11.Sam Clucas (10.Ollie Palmer HT), 6.Matt Rhead (19.Fergus Bell HT), 16.Alex Fisher (15.Trialist HT).
Unused Substitutes: Jack Thomas
It doesn’t seem like five minutes since Mansfield Town became the first team to relegate a club wearing their own colours following the kit mishap at Bristol Rovers on the final day of last season. And yet we’ve (briefly) cheered at our national heroes at the World Cup, egged on Andy Murray to win Wimbledon and filled our time with other bits and bobs.
On Saturday though these half-hearted tasks can be binned as preparations begin for another rollercoaster ride watching our beloved Mansfield Town as the One Call Stadium gates open to welcome League One neighbours Notts County for the first pre-season friendly.
Although there are obvious fears at the lack of a goalkeeper signing and although the grape vine whispers suggest Stags could well be in financial trouble this term, I can’t help but look forward to match day returning – secretly we all love the drama.
In previous pre-seasons I’ve been privileged enough to be sat with a headset on providing match commentary from the back and beyond. This has granted me access to certain whispers and names which we as press are instructed to reveal to the public as ‘A.Trialist’ – it’s also given me access to hearing names of potential signings who, 75% of the time actually materialise.
I loved that part of the job as it kind of helped to picture the next step and in a roundabout way second guess how the side was going to look on opening day – I always went into the friendly’s and treated them as a league match and reported accordingly. For example left back Paul Black had a mare against Boston United in a pre-season match last year, something I addressed rather than cover up with the old fashioned “it’s just a friendly” line – why, because, as I realise now after a season away from that world and facing an almost certain future away from it, no game is ever a friendly when it involves the club you love.
My point is not to say ‘someone pitty me’ it’s to say that despite the hurdles of a lack of players and budget that’s a lot more resilient than the Brazilian back four in a world cup semi-final, the excitement and eagerness to see the whole thing unfold in real time is too hard to resist.
We want to win for bragging rights, we want to win to cap off a hard week at work earning the ticket money, we want to win for an excuse to go back again!
I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what Paul Cox has up his sleeve; this without doubt will be his toughest test as a manager. Looking back through his career, at some point he’s had restrictions but never has he had his hands tied so tight. Looking back through his record of signing players, some have come with good pedigree which naturally is accompanied by a higher wages fee , others have come to prevent rival teams from having them (unethical but ultimately it worked) and others have come from suggestions of Cox’s trusted back room team.
Ritchie Sutton came unproven but highly recommended by Paul Odgen (Chief Scout) who’d previously managed the versatile defender, Adam Murray also has an eye for a player and will be key in recommending short term loan players he’s either played with or against (ala Adam Chapman) whilst Micky Moore has the knack of suggesting young players he’s managed or coached in the past, despite new loan signing Amari’i Bell being 20 and having little football league experience, he’ll fit right in with the way the club operates. As for Cox’s final two members of the backroom team Richard Cooper and John Ramshaw, both have done well in coaching and progressing the clubs own young players such as Liam Marsden and Jack Thomas and both have a working relationship with Cox that goes back a long way. For once, I can actually just about justify such a big backroom set-up in this current situation.
Notts County will prove a strong test for Stags on Saturday, it will no doubt be a highly competitive game with Notts looking to build on their 4-0 victory over Arnold Town in their opening pre-season fixture. Stags may be without a recognised glovesman with plenty of names in the running to take over the number one slot from Alan Marriott, that shouldn’t halt our excitement though as football returns – every game is a new adventure.
The clock is ticking down to kick-off, the fresh green grass of home becomes more and more inviting as we prepare for another action packed ride! All we and Cox’s men need remember is this “If your only fear is falling, you should jump without a warning”
Before I sign off this blog, I’d like to dedicate it to an old friend of mine and a friend of many a Stags fan, Kevin ‘Dodgy Kev’ Vernon who sadly lost his battle with illness this week. Kev was a passionate supporter that, no matter the nature of the fixture, followed the boys come rain or shine across the country for years. I’ve no doubt he’ll be watching down on Saturday cheering the boys on. RIP Kev, sleep well old friend.
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