As the new season approaches at rapid speed, excitement is building over whether all of the hype from the bookmakers can see the Stags in, or if the talk will just be the words of torn up hopes and dreams.
I will NEVER slate Adam Murray, the guy is a hero of mine as a player and I believe will go onto have a good managerial career, but starting out here, wasn’t quite ready for the challenge of delivering Promotion – in fact I think there’s only person the Radford family would trust enough to give the financial backing required to deliver promotion.
That man was found in Waitrose (or on his way to Waitrose depending on which version of the story he tells!) in the form of Steve Evans, and now in his first full season as Stags boss – I think the fiery scot, faces the toughest challenge of his career.
Having delivered Promotion and good times to Stamford, Boston [twice], Crawley and Rotherham – Evans rightly earned the chance to work higher up the league pyramid and did so with Leeds United – however his stay lasted seven months before he was axed by Leeds Owner Massimo Cellino, becoming the 6th Manager sacked by Cellino in two years.
The fact he delivered no promotions or real success to Leeds in his 38 game tenure was [wrongly] questioned by some, could Evans manage at a higher level – had he lost the magic touch?
Personally that’s rubbish, his record speaks volumes and if you look at how he transformed us last season in a short spell, those whisperings of doubt should have been well and truly extinguished – however I do think this is the biggest challenge of his career as I say, perhaps a little because they’ll be a voice in his head wanting to prove the niggling voices wrong [we all get them, let’s not deny that] – but also because the way in which football is managed now over a longer period, has changed.
That change came into effect at the start of last season – as the transfer window said, with the expectation of unregistered players, you could only sign a player during the window, meaning that vital short term loan option to cover injury or just freshen things up, was gone.
To clubs like our beloved Mansfield, that rule could have ruined us – how many times have we been in a position where a one/two month loan was needed? Too many to count. Every club was in the same boat in fairness, some managed it better than others and if you look at how Evans has gone about his business this window so far, you have to ask – actually, has he been very coy here and given the club the depth needed for those sticky patches late in September through to December when a fresh pair of legs with quality is needed.
I think he has, I think I could name four, maybe even five different combinations of shapes and sides Evans can utilise to get us through those periods where others clubs might be struggling.
The challenge comes in managing this in the right way, let’s take for instance we had a squad of 20 [Including the younger players Jack Thomas and Lewis Collins] rather than 24 [the current number] – the four others would have been brought in on the loan market to support the 18 senior players at pivotal points in previous seasons, they’d come in from other clubs hungry to show what they can do etc, now they come within – but will those four (whoever they may be) be happy to be sitting on the side lines just waiting for their chance to come?
How often do you rotate things to keep players happy, to keep players fresh, and to keep them competitive and fit? Its all well and good playing pre-season friendlies in banks of 60/30 or 45 a piece when you can make unlimited substitutions, but over the course of a season – it’s not as easy.
I guess the Under 21s Set-Up will be used, or to give it the proper title ‘The Reserves’ – but Steve Evans has previously commented that whilst he’s happy for senior players needing game time to play the home fixtures, he doesn’t like them travelling when the same benefits [of fitness and match minutes] can be arranged in house.
Will this be the case this season, no matter which combination you put out as your first eleven, those left [used as subs or just missing out] still makes up a VERY strong side! I think it’s great to have that depth to call upon, but we’ve been here once before – and on that occastion, splits in the group were rife, ladies and gentleman, this blog is dedicated to remembering ‘The Quarry Club – Circa 2013’
Paul Cox was the man at the helm and signed a number of high profile players who were highly thought of and wanted by other conference clubs – aka the clubs who were our nearest promotion rivals.
George Pilkington, Jamie Hand, Jamie Tolley, Andy Owens, Godfrey Poku, Nick Wright to name just a few – all top class players who didn’t get in the side early doors, ended up in the ‘Quarry Club’ and never made it back, tossed onto the Stags scrap heap, hating the club and causing ruptures within.
Luke Jones was the only one who made it out of the Quarry Club and into the team of heroes, I just hope that – with another big squad, with another load of ambitious hopes from the top – the whole thing is managed positively and firmly, imagine if we get to January and end up selling six players [therefore needing to recruit six] because players aren’t playing and they’re unsettled – that would set us back no end.
Mansfield Town do not need one step forward, two steps back.
I have no doubt that Steve Evans will be subject to speculation about his future throughout the campaign, it’s natural given his reputation – it’s clear listening to him that he feels like he had more to give at Leeds United and very much wants to be in that division again in the future, as he deserves to be – but let’s not forget, he turned other clubs down to be here, and for this season at the very least – he’ll fight to the end, to find the answer to the bookmakers questions ‘Can Mansfield Town win Promotion to League One’.
We all have a hope we can’t surrender as we head into the new season, the hope of success and celebration, let’s not get drawn into speculation and the rumour mill – let’s sit back, sing loud and close the door on Mansfield Town being a league two club, or being that side who won the conference a few years ago. That starts at Crewe on Saturday!
For more topics like this, make sure to download and listen to the BRAND NEW Mansfield Matters Podcast which will launch this coming Friday [4th August] at around 6pm – we’ll have lost of Stags topics, mixed in with fun/daft features which we welcome you to get involved with on Social Media. PLEASE tell your friends and spread the word, let’s follow the journey together
Craig Priest writes…
With a week to go before the big kick-off at Crewe, The stags took a full squad to Alfreton’s Impact Arena as the players tried to cement their name on Steve Evans’ first team sheet of the season – in the penultimate scheduled pre-season friendly.
The Stags are due to send a side to Rainworth MW on Tuesday evening to compete in the annual friendly and ‘Green Energy Challenge Trophy’ [I presume that’s still a thing?!] – However speaking after yesterday’s match at Alfreton, boss Evans said he’ll let supporters know on Monday what side will travel.
Personally I think it’ll be relatively strong with five or six told to “make me change my mind” from Evans, plus 45 minutes each for Olejnik and Logan, who I still can’t separate.
Anyway, at the time of writing – it’s not been confirmed, so I’m going to treat Alfreton as the FINAL chance for the players to get their name on the team sheet, some did – some didn’t in what for 63 minutes was a scrappy and below par performance [although we still created chances and kept the hosts at bay], if ever you want the definition of ‘Impact Substitutions’ then take a look at what Evans did yesterday on 63 minutes, changing all bar one player [David Murfin, who played the full 90] and in turn, changed the game.
Having split the squads in midweek [At Matlock and Gainsborough respectively] Evans arguably complied an XI of the stand-out players from both games to see if certain partnerships would work, Pearce/Diamond, Digby/Byrom, Sterling-James/Angol – again some did, some didn’t [as I’ll come onto in a later blog when I pick what would be my side for Crewe].
Alfreton, now under new manager following long standing Nicky Law’s departure mid-way through last season, had also made a high number of new signings [I believe it is 16] which included former Stags hero Craig Disley, who skippered the Reds side. The reds were fired up and there were a number of incidents throughout which wound a few players up the wrong way, particularly Lee Angol, however for all the hosts aggression, the game offered little spice and on the terraces, most were left reminiscent of previous clashes with the Reds’ during our Conference Days, in particular the FA Trophy Replay and the game which finished 6-3 during the play-off season.
Back to the present day and I was particularly keen to watch the performances of David Murfin and Jacob Mellis, who I had seen little of in pre-season compared to others in those positions. As I say, and as Evans, have said – the game was below par and patchy in players – perhaps understandable with a week to go, no player wants to go OTT and pick up a silly niggle which may keep him out for a month, especially with competition for places so high and intense, understandable with slightly disappointing as I wanted to see a little bit more competitiveness – yet we did enough to win the game so it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other I guess.
Alex MacDonald wasn’t involved again following his recent operation, perhaps he’ll get 45-60 minutes on Tuesday, whilst Rhys Bennett also missed out having picked up some bruising to his foot, better safe than sorry. Trialist Jordan Slew also wasn’t involved and Evans confirmed post match the club wouldn’t be taking up that option at the moment, with them looking to secure both a permanent deal and a loan this week.
Lining up in a flat 4-4-2, the Stags playing up the slight Alfreton slope had an early opportunity as Hayden White and Omari Sterling-James linked up down the right hand side, the formers’ cross turned behind for a corner by the home defence who dealt with Byrom’s delivery with relative ease inside the opening minute.
Mal Benning put the Stags in danger eight minutes in, the left-back judged to have fouled Chris Sharp whilst jumping for a high ball – from the resulting free-kick, former Stag Craig Westcarr struck the wall as the ball deflected away for a corner. Three minutes later Westcarr had a nother opportunity following Byrom’s foul on the ex-stag, this time Westcarr blazed over, after the initial free kick cannoned back into his path from the sturdy wall.
Mansfield had their first real effort on 14 minutes as Alfie Potter cut in from the right hand side and weaved his way into a central position before driving an effort wide from the edge of the box – a solid run but the ball was always going away from goal, a neat reverse to the looming Sterling-James would have been the better option.
Seconds later at the other End, Conrad Logan pulled off a magnificent save away to his right hand side as the advancing Tom Allen was allowed room to fire a shot through the crowd.
Sterling-James volleyed narrowly wide on 22 minutes after a nice piece of interchanging play from the Stags involving Potter and White with the right-back delivering for Sterling-James – four minutes later, Alfreton gloves-man Chris Elliott did well to deny captain Paul Anderson, who made a smart run to connect with Paul Digby’s well weighted lofted pass.
Joel Byrom then turned provider on 37 minutes as David Murfin connected with his driven corner, the centre back nodded wide of the post as Steve Evans’ men looked to break the deadlock – three minutes before half time Byrom again delivered – Pearce this time heading narrowly wide as the Stags searched for an opener in front of 431 travelling supporters.
On the stroke of half-time, Mansfield dominated midfield play across park, Potter picked up wide and sprayed the ball across to Digby, his acute turn inside wrong footed the tracking defender and opened a pocket of space for Benning, Digby picked him out and Benning pulled the trigger – but the shot, sadly, was always rising.
After the break, Mansfield had cries for a spot-kick turned away as Sterling-James was fouled, but after deliberating – the referee gave a corner, from which Byrom delivered for Pearce to steam in and again connect with, this time finding the keepers grateful hands.
Paul Anderson looked to create for Angol on 55 minutes, the former Forest mans headed flick put Angol in a race with the keeper, Elliott quick out of the blocks to stop Angol adding another goal to his impressive pre-season tally.
Omari Sterling-James has shown he has a decent set-piece in his locker and came close on 62 minutes following a foul on Pearce, Sterling-James curled one from 25 yards up and over the wall, drawing a smart save from Elliott to keep the scores level.
That was the last lot of action for all bar David Murfin, as Evans made ten changes – there were some mismatched positions, Jack Thomas in a right wing back position being one – Bennett’s absence explaining that one.
From behind the goal, it looked like a system change too, with Diamond [who took the captaincy], Murfin and Taft [who was celebrating his 24th birthday] in a back three, with Thomas [Right] and Hamilton [Left] as wing-backs leaving Hunt & Atkinson in deeper central midfield roles and Mellis off the shoulder of Rose and Spencer, let’s say a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Jacob Mellis started brightly in the freedom of central attacking midfield, teeing up Hamilton on 68 minutes before from a corner, setting up Diamond a minute later – the centre back nodding over.
Jimmy Spencer stung the hand of the keeper on 72 minutes, dropping into space to collect Danny Rose’s pass, Rose then nodded wide following Hamilton’s testing cross five minutes later as Mansfield pushed for an opener.
With 11 minutes to go, Rose managed just that, David Murfin stared the move as he cleared a hopeful Alfreton through ball – after a bit of pin-ball on the left touch line, Hamilton cushioned the ball into the path of Mellis who sent Rose on his way down the channel with an outstanding weighted pass. Rose raced through, cutting his way inside onto his favoured right foot and slotting underneath the keeper.
On 85 minutes the Reds had a half chance to left as Andre Johnson set Tom Platt with a hanging cross, Platt heading wide of Olejnik’s post – a pivotal miss as two minutes later, Mellis produced a moment of magic to seal the win.
Olejnik sent the ball long over the half way line which was pumped back forwards by Atkinson towards the left hand side for Hamilton to latch onto. The wide man delivered first time with a cushioned side footed cross which was hoofed away by Tom Allan, the ball landed on the edge of the box for Mellis who, rather than drill one into the top corner as his body position suggested, did something even more magical.
He killed the ball dead with one touch, and then proceeded to dance through four defenders and wrong foot the keeper, slotting cooly into the bottom corner – a truly magnificent goal, and a huge therapy bill for Alfreton, whose defenders will be having nightmares for a very long time.
There was just time left for Hamilton to set Spencer, but the ball ran away from him and out for a throw to the sound of the full time whistle.
Stags: Conrad Logan [Bobby Olejnik 63], Hayden White [Jack Thomas 63], David Murfin, Kyrstian Pearce [Zander Diamond © 63], Mal Benning [George Taft 63], Alfie Potter [Johnny Hunt 63], Paul Digby [Will Atkinson 63], Joel Byrom [Jacob Mellis 63], Paul Anderson © [CJ Hamilton 63], Lee Angol [Jimmy Spencer 63], Omari Sterling-James [Danny Rose 63]
Gaining The Advantage & The Gladiators Fall – Gainsborough Trinity 0-4 Stags / Matlock Town 0-4 Stags
Craig Priest writes…
Weeks ago I wrote how much of a fan I was about pre-season – but last night I finally hated it, as Steve Evans split the first team in two and sent sides to Matlock and Gainsborough respectively – I imaging it’s like having two twins as a parent and asking which is best?
We weighed up the dilemma of which game to go to over the course of the weekend and eventually settled on Gainsborough – mainly so I had an “easier” drive ahead of my driving test the following morning [Today, Wednesday – I passed for those interested!], but also because after exhaustive discussion, we thought those at Gainsborough would be the ones who Evans wasn’t so sure on, meaning the players we also had seen less of so far. [More on Matlock shortly]
I wrote on Monday about how Evans and Raynor should split and go to a game each – but I knew deep down that wasn’t going to happen, feelings confirmed walking into the Trinity ground and seeing Richard Cooper and Mike Whitlow take the warm-up.
Personally I thought that all bar two, maybe three, would be in with a shot at a start at Crewe in the line-up to face Trinity – by the end of the game, Alfie Potter, Joel Byrom, CJ Hamilton, Rhys Bennett, Omari Sterling-James and Jimmy Spencer had all given a good account of themselves – certainly Potter who, after that display, will be very disappointed if he doesn’t start at Crewe.
I purposely excluded Logan from that list – mainly because he and Olejnik are going to play rock, paper, scissors to decide who starts – it’s the ONLY fair way!
Sterling-James grabbed two goals, both well taken [although I did tweet it was Hamilton with two, apologies! You try reading my handwriting and craning your neck around that big pole that restricted my view!], whilst I felt Spencer’s hold up play was perfect, I had visions of Rose/ Angol making runs off him. Byrom controlled the midfield whilst Bennett had a steady game at right back, but by far – Potter was different class, I’ve no concerns about wide play with him on the pitch.
Whitlow and Cooper have lots to report back on, I’ve no idea how Evans will decide – it’s just going to break down to how best to break Crewe down, the system we use to do that and fitness – I think across the two squads, there are 16, if not 18/19 players fighting for a start – including the two keepers…. How about the flip of a coin or an arm wrestle?
REPORT – GAINSBOROUGH
Also on Stagsnet, where you can view Martin Shaw’s full report on Matlock
Lining up in a flat, traditional 4-4-2 formation, both sides started with the pace and intensity of a league encounter, just a minute in good movement from Potter on the right hand side of midfielder picked out Omari Sterling-James, only for the hosts to clear and counter – captain Pearce sweeping in well to snuff out the danger.
Conrad Logan then produced a fine stop two minutes later, Johnny Hunt was beaten by his marker at left back and as the hosts drilled in a low testing cross, none of the Stags players picked out the on rushing Trinity front man, who was denied by a fine save from Logan.
On six minutes though the Stags found the opening goal, Joel Byrom’s quick thinking from a dead ball, saw Mansfield play a quick free kick – Byrom’s crisp pass picked out Sterling-James to the right of the area who stopped, turned his man and curled beyond the home keeper.
It should have been two on fourteen minutes after some fluid cross-park football, Potter’s driving run towards the edge of the Trinity area created space for and advancing Rhys Bennett – a neat 1-2 saw a testing Potter cross scrambled clear.
Gainsborough enjoyed a successful period with the ball and should have pulled themselves level on twenty minutes as Mansfield’s defence switched off from a corner, fortunately for the visitors, the unmarked Trinity man at the far post could only fire up and over the bar.
Rhys Bennett pulled the strings on 29 minutes, intercepting well on the half way line and driving his side forward, he found Potter on the overlap who in turn picked out CJ Hamilton with a nice cut back – Hamilton’s lofted cross found its way to Jimmy Spencer who was unfortunate to see his left footed effort fly up and over the bar.
Joel Byrom tested the water with a tasty delivery on 33 minutes which the home keeper had to push away as the Stags looked for a second, they waited just five more minutes before Jimmy Spencer controlled a directional ball from the back. The former Plymouth man picked out CJ Hamilton who did the rest with a little help from the near post.
Bryom came close to adding a third on the stroke of half-time but his thirty yard effort was always rising.
Mansfield didn’t rest with a two-goal lead, Jimmy Spencer saw two early efforts go astray before Jack Thomas pulled the trigger in a rush of blood following strong work again from Potter on the right touch-line – Spencer had made a fine run to find space and lose his marker.
It was then cometh the hour cometh the third goal, Alfie Potter the creator as he weaved a way forwards before slotting in Sterling-James, his shot from a narrowing angle as his movement took him away from goal, snook beyond the keeper and nestled into the net.
Six minutes later the Gainsborough keeper pulled off two fine saves in quick succession as a hungry Mansfield looked for a fourth – the Trinity glovesman first palmed away a swerving bullet from Sterling-James, before Potter danced through from the second phase of play, his effort from the left hand side of the box stinging the keepers hands before the hosts cleared.
A momentary lapse allowed Gainsborough in on 70 minutes but the home striker couldn’t keep his shot down, whilst two minutes later, a perfectly weighted deep clipped central pass from Thomas put Sterling-James free into the box – he curled wide after cutting back onto his right footed, an opportunity he really should have buried.
Five minutes later Alfie Potter got the goal he deserved, picking the ball up on the bye-line – Potter showed quick feet and fluid movement to take the ball beyond three players and get into a shooting position to the right of the box, he took one look up before stroking the ball firmly underneath the keeper – a fitting goal in a fine display from Potter.
Hamilton came close to sealing his second of the night with two minutes to go following good work from Potter and Sterling-James but at the death it was Logan taking the plaudits – rushing off his line to deny the on rushing Trinity player, who had caught the Stags flat footed.
All in all a good run out from a strong Mansfield side – in particular Conrad Logan, Joel Byrom, Alfie Potter and CJ Hamilton staking a claim for a starting place at Crewe.
Stags [4-4-2] Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett Kyrstian Pearce © George Taft Johnny Hunt, Alfie Potter Joel Byrom Jack Thomas CJ Hamilton, Jimmy Spencer Omari Sterling James
Unused Subs Hakeem, Collins, Harrison
REPORT – MATLOCK
View Martin Shaw’s full report on Stagsnet here
Also in a flat 4-4-2, watched by Raynor and Evans – the Stags senior players also got a full 90 minutes, meaning Alex MacDonald was the only player not to get a game (discounting youngster Lewis Collins), as he continues to recover from injury.
The Stags broke the deadlock on 15 minutes through Lee Angol, the former Peterborough front man tapping into an empty Gladiators net after a sharp cut back from Paul Anderson.
After the break former Stag Callum Lloyd was shown a straight red-card for a tackle on Mellis, and with a man more – The Stags soon added a second, Will Atkinson’s 72nd minute strike from inside the six yard box – completed a slick move been Benning and Rose – the latter teeing up Atkinson.
The third came through Mellis as Atkinson turned provider, before Lee Angol finished what he started – the last two goals coming in the games final two minutes as Matlock struggled with a man less.
Stags [4-4-2] Bobby Olejnik, Hayden White Zander Diamond David Murfin Mal Benning, Will Atkinson Paul Digby Jacob Mellis Paul Anderson, Lee Angol Danny Rose
Unused Subs Sam Wilson [GK] Tyler Blake, Cam Healey, Brad Peace-McDonald
Craig Priest writes…
During his weekly press-call earlier today, Steve Evans joked about one bus turning left and one turning right – as the Stags head for Matlock and Gainsborough respectively tomorrow evening.
The first team will be equally split on each coach, first thing Wednesday morning though I believe all this squad splitting has to stop, and the nine-time promotion winner – need’s to put his players on a central path and say “right this is my side, the rest of you prove me to me why I should change it”.
The worse thing when you’re managing a group of people is the smaller groups that form within the whole, it’s human nature really to pair up with someone but when this happens and you form bonds with the minority, when the majority comes together – the pieces of the jigsaw won’t fit properly and in football that can have a huge effect within the dressing room.
Remember the school trip when you’d try and room up with your best mate, but then be split from them in group tasks – there was an awkwardness about the whole situation because from the off, you’ve stayed within your comfort zone rather than be open to include the whole group.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if there was a split dressing room already, not everybody will get along and that may be down to certain pairings and smaller groups isolating themselves from the rest. It’s the age old water cooler syndrome, where you’re reluctant to go and get water because you can’t engage in conversation about certain topics or feel part of stories – that happens a lot when players join from the same club.
In fairness Evans has tried to address this issue as much as possible and reshuffle the deck in every match, but the problem there is, with only x-amount of games to find partnerships – I’m feeling that as time goes on, certain players aren’t gelling and that leads to mistakes on the pitch which could be costly.
I can see why Evans has arranged the Matlock game tomorrow night to be played at the same time as the Gainsborough match – it’s one last chance for people to get a full 90 minutes in the tank and be match ready, but how he splits things will be interesting, does he go for partnerships, does he go for systems or does he get Hogwarts on the phone and ask to borrow the sorting hat which the players put on before learning which game they’ll play in? Potter’s in Griffindor [Sorry, had to be done]!
Actually that wouldn’t be a bad idea to build some trust – get every player sat in the dressing room and blindfold them and one by one - they’re led onto a bus. The blindfolds remain on until the arrival at said ground where on the bus during the journey, the players must communicate to know there team mates for the night and ultimately TRUST each-other.
Or maybe it’ll be “all those born in the first half of the month on bus one, all born in the second half of the month – bus two” – but a similar tactic didn’t end well for Mike Bassett.
Joking aside, I don’t for a second think Evans is going to do a U-Turn and send more players to one location, therefore one thing that is a must – Evans and Raynor must do the unthinkable and take a conscious uncoupling, another good reason actually for saying “sort who plays where out between yourselves, we’re just here to watch – not babysit”.
Imagine for a second being a Stags player (no, not doing a full lap of the pitch when you smash the winner from 40 yards against Chesterfield) – imagine being in “group B” and neither Raynor nor Evans being at your game – straight away the mind-set says “well they’re not interested in me, so why bother” Raynor is like a housewife really, on the outside it looks like Evans wears the trousers, but behind closed doors – Raynor, just like your Mrs, is the boss! By which I mean his opinions and views are equal and whole heartedly trusted by Evans.
If they want to make this split side scenario work, it has to be one side watched by Evans, the other by Raynor, both at the same game would be a huge mistake on a whole number of levels.
Naturally the other staff will chip in with their opinions, using Richard Cooper, John Dempster and Mike Whitlow from the U21s set-up gives more independent view-points, whilst you’ve also got Lee Taylor and Ian Pledger [and no doubt a team of scouts we don’t know about] to watch.
Wednesday morning comes, and the staff get locked in a room - nobody leaves until a starting XI for Crewe is ironed out, with Evans saying to the squad “this is it, those who haven’t made it – don’t spit your dummies out, prove to me why you should be involved –in training, when you appear against Alfreton and [dare I say] Rainworth”.
Then the group knows where everybody stands, and the squad as a whole moves on with one thing in mind – winning football matches and getting Mansfield Town out of League Two.
There comes a point when you have to stop experimenting and flirting around the edges, you can break down the walls in your own mind a million times, but you have to put one foot in front of the other at some point and take the first step – you’re never going to live, if you’re too scared to die.
I believe this is Steve Evans biggest test as a manager [a talking point I’ll address in another blog maybe this week, but certainly before the start of the season] and I don’t think that’s been helped by the changes to the transfer market which came into force last season [again another point for another day] – but with League Two so competitive, the room for error is little.
Tomorrow afternoon one group of players become two, two buses will leave the ground travelling to two matches. They’ll be two sets of games to analyse and two results to reflect on – two groups will arrive back at the One Call Stadium following an intentional divide, it’s going to take one hell of a mathematician to make two become one again, but it has to be done – otherwise, it’ll be a long way home for the countless dreams of the Mansfield Town dreamers.
Craig Priest writes…
A four-nil defeat in a local derby is never one you want to remember, but hang on a minute – this is pre-season, against a rejuvenating side from two divisions higher and Steve Evans again played pretty much two sides, so to those who have torn up their betting slips for us getting promotion, to those awash in negativity, to those walking in the doom and gloom within the Forest of nightmares…. SNAP OUT OF IT!
NOTHING is lost after yesterday; in fact nothing has even started yet! Instead lessons have been learned to ensure that result never happens again, and that those defensive school-boy catastrophic errors don’t happen again either.
In truth I actually think we needed to get beat heavily yesterday because defeat in such manner hurts, and pain is the best inspiration to go on and succeed. The players will be hurting (pre-season or not), Steve Evans and his staff will be hurting – BUT have time to make little tweaks and get it right before the serious stuff starts.
I personally believe that Evans has the toughest job of his managerial career to date here, I’ll go into depth in another blog on another day, but he has to have one more look at his players which he’ll do Tuesday (with trips to Matlock and Gainsborough) and then at Alfreton say “Right, this is my starting XI for Crewe – you’re having 75/80 minutes this afternoon and 60 on Tuesday [Rainworth], the rest of you, when you get your chance, show me why I should change my team” [And yes, I did say that out loud in the Scottish accent as I wrote it] – we can’t afford to keep making new partnerships and cliques now.
The four-nil score line flattered Forest slightly but take nothing away from Warburton’s side who for each goal, played excellent counter-attacking football straight from the training ground and were ruthless with it – good on them!
Each goal that we’ve conceded in pre-season so far [that I’ve seen] have been defensive errors and I think that’s more down to the constant change in partnerships and pairings than anything else – it has to stop though, as does this deep style attack – yesterday Rose and Angol dropped deep to (try and) create opportunities but had nobody running through.
There’s a reluctance about our attack, we need someone standing on the toes of the last defender like that clingy friend you had at school [If you can’t remember who that was, it was probably you…. Oh great!] – Someone hungry to be involved and who won’t give a moments peace to the opposition back line. I still believe Rose will get 25+ goals though.
I still have reservations about both goalkeepers, not that they’re poor by any stretch of the imagination – but neither comes to claim set-plays or crosses, opting to lounge in the six yard box, if I was a defender, I’d want to go home with a headache from my keeper after consistently bellowing for me to get out of the way or be clattered. From what I’ve seen, Logan is the more vocal of the two but Olejnik edges it with shot stopping and positioning – I’d like to see the goals from yesterday again, for a different view on Logan’s positioning for the third and fourth.
This isn’t the blame game and it’s not a pool of negative water to swim in, yes it’s frustration at defeat but also its realisation that this is something brand new and just like I said last week, you have to leave time for the paint to dry rather than judge straight away.
Having only played shot-stopper Bobby Oljenik, Midfielder’s Jack Thomas and Lewis Collins along with trialist Jordan Slew the previous night at Stamford, Evans pretty much had a full roster to pick from – with the exception of winger Alex MacDonald who is still injured.
I saw Alex on my walk to the ground, his right leg was heavily strapped and he was walking very gingerly – this time around I do think it’s just the injury keeping him out rather than interest from elsewhere, I mean just because he hasn’t travelled to some of the games and instead spent the night tweeting about Love Island, doesn’t mean we need to get rid!
Forest offered a little more spice in the early exchanges and pounced inside the opening minute from Byrom’s lose control – Jack Hobbs picked up a Reds pass on the left and lashed an effort across Logan but wide of the target, Alfie Potter then produced a fine tackle moments later to deny Armand Traore.
Danny Rose had half-hearted cries for a spot-kick turned down on ten minutes as Stags created openings but got little by the way of shots in on goal, Rhys Bennetts cross a minute later did test but was cleared by Forest, and on the counter – Mustapha Carayol left Zander Diamond chasing his cartoon-blur [Think road runner] before firing over Logan’s bar.
Paul Anderson was pulling the strings well in midfield, relishing the role of captain against his former club linking up well with Potter, Mellis and a deep dropping Rose and Angol – but for all their creativity with the ball, they couldn’t carve out shooting opportunities.
Forest on the other hand could and took the lead on 21 minutes, Johnny Hunt’s missed-control on the left touch-line near the half way line was picked up by David Vaughn who drilled a sublime pass into the feet of Forest new addition Jason Cummings, who skipped beyond his marked and unleashed a shot into the top corner, leaving Logan with nothing to do bar pick the ball from the bulging net.
The goal deflated Stags who saw Danny Rose denied by a strong challenge from Joe Worrall on the half hour mark, whilst Forest had a handful of opportunities before the break to double their lead – but fortunately failed to do so.
Steve Evans made eight changes at the break, with only Logan, Mellis and Bennett staying on, the latter moving to centre-back for the second half. The introduction of Paul Digby gave Mansfield some more energy box to box, which after the opening goal was zapped – and a minute into the second half, Jacob Mellis fired wide after Jimmy Spencer had cut the ball back into his path.
Logan made a strong save on 51 minutes as Ben Brereton skipped past Mal Benning to play a neat 1-2 with Ben Osborn, Brereton’s shot tipped wide by the Stags shot stopper.
One former Stags keeper was introduced on the hour mark as Forest made nine changes, in Dimitar Evtimov who made ten appearances during the 2012-15 season. He had little to do during the first ten minutes of his return to the One Call Stadium – watching on as his fresh-legged team mates pounced on a truly woeful bit of defending from Hayden White on 70 minutes.
White had Tyler Walker on his shoulder but had enough time to smash the ball into the retail park, but instead with Logan coming out, opted to cushion the ball back to his keeper – the header was tame and Walker nipped in, rounded a static Logan and put into the empty net. Did White get a call from the keeper to nod it back?
Paul Digby tried to get Mansfield back into the game three minutes later with a forceful run, Digby played a nice give and go with Spencer whose return was perfect for Digby – unfortunately Evtimov was on hand to deny his former club a way back into the match.
The former Stag did the same again with ten minutes to go, Digby played in Spencer who was tripped on the edge of the area – Omari Sterling-James’ resulting free-kick was heading for the top corner, only for the Reds keeper to tip the ball behind – from the resulting corner, Spencer headed Mellis’ delivery behind.
With seven minutes to go, Forest netted a third with an excellent display of quick football – Jamie Ward the provider from the Right hand side with a low cross, after leaving Benning and Hamilton for dust – Vellios did the rest, occupying a pocket of space between the two Stags’ runners to convert beyond Logan.
With a minute to go, Vellios did it again – The Stags were flat footed and allowed Forest to play training ground football, Ward again the provider with a crisp pass to split the defence, and as Logan came rushing out, Vellios had the simple task of tucking the ball underneath his to make it 4-0 Forest.
Stags: Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Krystian Pearce (Hayden White HT), Zander Diamond (George Taft HT), Johnny Hunt (Mal Benning HT), Joel Byrom (Paul Digby HT), Alfie Potter (Will Atkinson HT), Paul Anderson © (CJ Hamilton HT), Jacob Mellis (Jack Thomas 85), Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer HT), Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James HT)
Unused Subs: Bobby Olejnik, David Murfin
A youthful Mansfield Town side were beaten 3-1 by non-league Stamford AFC this evening, with boss Steve Evans opting to keep his squad together for the visit of Nottingham Forest tomorrow [Saturday 22nd].
Only shot-stopper Bobby Olejnik, midfielders Jack Thomas and Lewis Collins and trialist front man Jordan Slew represented the senior side, with Steve Evans and his backroom staff watching from the stands.
The Stags went behind after 11 minutes, Jack Thomas conceding a free kick in a dangerous position which Jack Jeys curled beyond Olejnik.
A youthful Stags side levelled on 25 minutes through Tyler Blake but the hosts were back in front with 11 minutes to go before the half-time whistle as John King put beyond the former Exeter glovesman.
The hosts wrapped up the victory with ten minutes to go through Danny Draper, who left Olejnik with little chance to put the game beyond doubt.
Line Up: Bobby Olejnik, Kane Baldwin, Henry Wilder, Jack Thomas, Brad McDonald, Keiran Harrison, Adrial George (Jason Law 70), Lewis Collins (Cameron Healey 61), Tyler Blake (Jordan Smith 74), Jordan Slew, Zane Hakeem (Nyle Blake 56)
Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town welcomed Premier League hopefuls Middlesbrough at One Call Stadium, as part of their preseason preparations ahead of the new season.
It was another good test for the Stags with tougher opposition but mostly importantly getting minutes on their belts. Their was no Assomlabonga in the team for Middlesbrough though, much to the disappointment for anyone wanting to see the £15m man.
The Stags got off to a good start by pressing the championship side high up the pitch forcing Konstantopolous into saves early on from Sterling James and Lee Angol. The backline of Taft and Diamond in coped well under pressure, not to mention White and Benning who rose well to the challenge.
It paid off when the Stags was awarded a free kick,when Byrom whipped in a ball out to Benning, who whipped a good ball into the box and the unfortunate Johnny Howson scuffed his clearance into his own net to make it a deserved 1-0 lead to the home side. Shortly afterwards the Stags doubled their lead with a defence splitting pass in from Paul Digby who found Lee Angol with a cool finish to make it 2-0 to Steve Evans men.
The deficit got pulled back with a ball over to the top to Mikael Sisako whos persistence got his just rewards as he ran into the box, whose shot was an absolute net buster, no chance for any keeper to save to make the score 2-1.
The goal gave Gary Monks men confidence and tested Bobby Ojenik, which drew some impressive stops from the former Exeter City man, who did himself no harm in impressing Steve Evans. He could do nothing from the equaliser from a corner quick where Daniel Feoy rose well to bring the score level 2-2, much to some questionable defending.
The second half Boro enjoyed a lion share of possession throughout the half but the Stags showed they could compete and was great at hitting them on the counter with Paul Digby who was the interceptor of their attacks and had played well alongside Paul Anderson in midfield.
Sterling James caused problems for them all game, running at them and putting in some good balls into the box, along with Angol who tracked back well and brought others into play working hard for the team. Jack Thomas also got run out for the last part of the game, hoping to be apart of Steve Evans plans going forward with a point to prove.
Jordan Slew also got a chance to impress with Evans, who played the night before against Stocksbridge the night before showing why he should be given a contract with the Stags. Overall another good workout for Mansfield against another tougher opposition, hoping to mount a promotion challenge of their own.
Their was a number of good displays out their, that will no doubt give manager Steve Evans a good headache to have ahead of the new season. Another big test will be against Nottingham Forest, that will give the former Leeds man a fair idea of who will start against Crewe. Up The Stags !!
Craig Priest writes…
With two games in as many days and the squad split for each, some may worry that splitting the game may not be healthy as the season’s opener approaches – however following the 2-2 draw with Championship Middlesbrough last night, I think the experienced heads of Steve Evans & Paul Raynor will be building a broader picture over how this squad will pan out over the season.
In previous pre-seasons when a manager has split the squads for games in quick succession, a pattern has emerged very quickly as it’s been (bar the odd one or two changes) pretty much obvious which were the starters and the reserves.
With Steve Evans and Paul Raynor though, there’s been no pattern – the XIs [when it’s been 45 minutes each] and Squads have been rotated thoroughly each time, in my opinion making it hard to form smaller groups and therefore a split in the dressing room.
I’ve no doubt it’ll be the same again for AFC Stamford [Friday 7.30pm] and Nottingham Forest [Saturday 3pm] and that by Gainsborough [Tuesday 7.30] the duo will have a much broader idea of who will start at Crewe.
From what I’ve seen so far, I certainly couldn’t fill out the team sheet for Crewe, well aside from two names anyway – George Taft, who again impressed at the back, and Paul Digby – who was excellent.
The system we played last night was criticised by a few for a lack of wide-outlet, though I thought White and Benning did enough from full back to offer us that – however in my view, the system last night lent itself to how we control possession box to box and mount counter-attacking moves – Digby was instrumental in that.
The former Barnsley and Ipswich man read the game well and the freedom he was given allowed the Stags to enjoy spells with three at the back [thus getting White and Benning forward] and caught the visitors on the back foot creating a number of chances – I honestly believe in a system which includes Danny Rose and Alex MacDonald, Digby is going to be key to our success.
Joel Byrom also played the interceptor role and again did an excellent job, he and Digby seemed to have an understanding from the first whistle which took a while to come on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday with both midfield pairings.
Questions will of course be raised over the way in which we gave away a two-goal advantage but you would expected a championship team to punish you in the manner which Borough did – but other than the goals, we gave Gary Monk’s side very little opportunity to get inside the box, which again highlights the way the system worked – of the two managers, I would say that Monk will have been the more disappointed.
The team selection wasn’t hard to guess – those who didn’t play at Stocksbridge Park Steels in the 4-0, started – with the majority playing the full 90minutes, they started brightly too with some strong tackles in midfield catching the visitors unaware and putting them on the back foot in the early exhanges, Omari Sterling-James unfortunate not have opened the scoring two minutes in, collecting a loose ball from Mikael Soisalo before seeing his 25 yard effort blocked by former Stag Alex Baptiste who, when substituted midway through the second half – received a rousing reception from the home faithful.
Mansfield saw creative openings through Will Atkinson and Paul Digby but couldn’t break the deadlock – shot stopper Bobby Olejnik keeping the scores level at the other end, as the highly rated Patrick Bamford got ahead of Taft to get a shot away on 12 minutes – the former Exeter glovesman palming the shot into the air before collecting the loose ball to kill any danger.
A minute later, Borough did have the ball in the net – their own, as an own goal from Johnny Howson put Mansfield ahead. Joel Byrom’s free kick the catalyst from the right hand side, as he picked out Mal Benning on the opposite side, his cut back across the face of goal turned in by Howson.
Paul Anderson came to the Stags rescue on 17 minutes as a dangerous corner from Gaston Ramirez was nodded forcefully towards goal by Dael Fry, Anderson in the right place to keep the Stags ahead.
Sterling-James was unlucky to get the ball caught beneath his feet on 18 minutes following strong work from Hayden White, but from the visitors clearance, the Stags doubled their advantage – Paul Digby intercepting play to feed Lee Angol, who calmly slotted beyond the keeper in a superb display of football.
Straight from the restart, Borough found a way back into the game as Stags failed to regroup in time, Patrick Bamford slotted in Soisalo who fired into the roof of the net from a tight angle to wake the visitors up.
It worked too as on 23 minutes, a fine save from Olejnik kept the Stags ahead – as he palmed away Howson’s low driven effort – although five minutes later, questions were asked of the Stags keeper as he didn’t put claim on another Ramirez corner – Fry again connecting but this time, finding the back of the net to level the game.
With the game level both sides enjoyed spells with the ball but with no real outcome, a long throw from George Taft was volleyed wide by Anderson with two minutes to go before the break, before on the stroke of half time – a good challenge from Benning prevented Soisalo from advancing – the teams tied at 2-2 at half time.
That’s how it stayed throughout the second half in what was a more controlled affair, though that’s not to say their weren’t chances – Mal Benning continued to try and re-find the Benning belters collection on 49 minutes, a right footed effort from distance narrowly wide.
Minutes later the visitors opened the Stags up but wasted a golden chance as Ramirez fired into the evening sky, before on 63 minutes – Sterling-James hit one wide on the half volley, as Joel Byrom’s dangerous free-kick was nodded into the front man’s path.
Trialist Jordan Slew again was given a run out and with seven minutes remaining curled a shot wide after some good movement, the games final real chance as the match fizzled out into a 2-2 draw.
Line Up: Bobby Olejnik, Hayden White, Zander Diamond ©, George Taft, Mal Benning, Joel Byrom (Lewis Collins 87), Paul Digby (Jack Thomas 85), Will Atkinson, Paul Anderson, Omari Sterling-James (Jordan Slew 71), Lee Angol
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Krystian Pearce, Jacob Mellis, Jimmy Spencer, Alfie Potter, Johnny Hunt, CJ Hamilton, Danny Rose
Mansfield Town recorded a resounding 4-0 victory over non-league Stocksbridge Park Steels, as a brace in each half for Danny Rose and CJ Hamilton saw a very strong Stags side get some vital minutes in the tank as pre-season continued.
Despite a fixture against Championship Middlesbrough being just 24 hours away, the Stags sheer strength in depth was highlighted as Steve Evans named an entire starting XI full of senior players which, on paper, would be a very tough test in League Two.
The Starting XI included a run out for Jack Thomas, who may fear his future at Mansfield Town is bleak – a perfect opportunity for him to stake a claim in Evans’ plans.
The Stags started well with Danny Rose rattling the post from an early corner on seven minutes, making no mistake three minutes later as he headed beyond the home keeper.
Having been backed by Evans to lead the line this season in numerous interviews, Rose was keen to add more goals to his collection, getting both his and Mansfield’s second of the night on fourteen minutes, Jimmy Spencer this time with the assist.
After the break Mansfield, and Rose, went in search of goal number three – the offside flag denied rose a treble on 50 minutes before six minutes later, a hungry Rose latched onto a through ball from strike partner Spencer only to be denied by a challenge from the home defence – CJ Hamilton was first to the loose ball to make it 3-0.
Mansfield added a fourth on 67 minutes with CJ Hamilton getting his second of the night from Jimmy Spencer’s through ball.
Trailist front man Jordan Slew got 30 minutes, replacing Spencer and came close to adding a fifth, drawing a save from the home keeper, who also kept out Jacob Mellis and Johnny Hunt – Mellis also struck the woodwork as Stags pushed to the end in search of a fifth goal but in the end, Stags settled for a 4-0 victory.
Line-Up Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Johnny Hunt, David Mirfin, Krystan Pearce, Jack Thomas (Lewis Collins 73), Alfie Potter, Jacob Mellis, CJ Hamilton, Danny Rose, Jimmy Spencer (Jordan Slew [Trailist] 69)
Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town continued their pre season preparations with Sheffield Wednesday being the visitors to One Call Stadium, which saw the Owls run out 3-2 winners.
It was a great chance for stags fans see the new players, who didn't travel to Malta and for the new signings making their home debuts. Even though it was only a friendly and the results mean nothing it was hard not to look forward to seeing the quality of players we have signed and testing themselves against some top players who have played premiership football.
For the first time in years I can never remember seeing a Mansfield team with so many good options in all positions. Their was a number of good displays from the likes of Mellis, Hamilton, Benning, Digby to name a few who looked sharp as they grown into the game.
The first half started with Wednesday having the lion share of possession and took the lead through Jordan Rhodes with a header that the defence should have dealt with but will no doubt learn from.
The stags equalised through George Taft from a resulting free kick that was scrambled in the area and he was first on hand to blast into the roof of the net.
The owls came knocking on the door by testing Conrad Logan between the sticks in the first half, who commanded his area well and impressed with his kicking up to Lee Angol.
The second half saw many changes to give everyone much needed minutes on their belts, apart from Macdonald who felt a strain so was not risked but was nothing serious and would expect him to feature against another good test in Middlesbrough on Wednesday night at Field Mill.
The second half saw the stags up the tempo and played some good football in spells of the game, which caused the Yorkshire side some problems down the wing. Against the run of play the Owls went back in front courtesy of Tom Lees who rose well to head the ball past Oljenik that was unstoppable.
As the second half progressed Sterling James caused problems going forward and looked a threat every time he was on the ball, along with Rose who gives it his all every time he plays. He was unlucky not to get on the score sheet himself with some last ditched defending by the Owls.
Their was also a trilaist, who was introduced for the final 20 minutes of the game that should have converted his effort at goal with a great ball through only to see the Wednesday keeper pull of a great save. He is the former Plymouth Argyle man in Jordan Slew who many stag fans will have known scoring against us last season. Me personally think we have enough fire power for our promotion push.
The quality between the two sides shown with Lucas Joao converting to make it 3-2 to finish the game off. Overall I think it was good for the players to be tested against top players and is another giant step towards the opening game against Crewe come August 5th. Also a credit to both set of fans for turning out with a crowd over 4000 in attendance and expect it to be much of the same against Nottingham Forest next Saturday. Up The Stags!!
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