Craig Priest reports....
Fixture: Leamington FC V Stags
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly (#1)
Venue: The New Windmill Ground, Leamington
Date & Time: Saturday 14th July – 3pm
Match Referee: Guy Stretton
Well after those endless weeks of nothingness the first pre-season friendly is over and done with, the Stags getting off to a winning start curtsey of Matt Green’s 80th minute spot kick. Pre-Season is famously used for managers to cast their eye over different players and formations, Paul Cox did exactly that playing two different sides – we’ll move onto that shortly but first I must start by issuing a massive apology to you all.
We have pledged to bring commentary online for all pre-season friendly’s and yesterday for the majority failed to do so. The reason is our 3G stick which has been so reliable over the past two seasons failed to register and left us with no internet to log on and go live – it’s partly our fault and partly one of those things, I should have checked it was working before setting off – rest assured that things will be fixed for Hednesford on Tuesday, details of coverage below. We did manage to bring coverage via phone and some other kit and were hopeful that the studio would be able to provide the USTREAM broadcast however we had no way of knowing if it worked r not, for some it did for some it didn’t. Those who were at Leamington would have seen myself and Wayne roaming round everywhere searching for Wi-Fi and a way to get on air, in the end the phone was our only option – again we are sorry you had trouble and can stress it will be fixed for Tuesday night.
Back to the important stuff and being handed a team sheet it was confirmed that there would be two sides playing, new additions John Dempster and Jamie Hand we’re named on a team sheet which featured 11 old faces and 11 new faces, one of which a trialist left back, 21 year old Sam Benjamin whose previous clubs include Nottingham Forest and Eastwood. Other members of the squad we’re in attendance but not named as substitutes and as again in pre-season the numbers didn’t match up to the actual players so once more it was a guessing game for us all!
Line Up [4-4-2] Shane Redmond – Lee Beevers – John Dempster (C) – Ritchie Sutton – Sam Benjamin [Trialist] – Louis Briscoe – Godfrey Poku – Gary Roberts – Nick Wright – Lindon Meikle – Ben Hutchinson.
It was a timid start for both sides at the New Windmill Ground with neither really taking control of the early exchanges. On four minutes an attempted switch of play from James Mace was intercepted by Lindon Meikle who was playing in a more central role with new boy Nick Wright taking up residence on the left hand side. Meikle did well to run at Mace, who hastily back tracked, however he did well to find Briscoe who failed to get a clean shot away. Lee Beevers brushed in to pick up play on the half way line however his forward pass was too strong and easy for home shot stopper Nathan Vaughn to collect.
Two minutes later it was the hosts turn to come forward, doing so at a canter as former Chasetown man Dean Perrow picking up the second ball following Ritchie Sutton’s strong clearance. Perrow’s surging run forward went unchallenged until the last when trialist left back Benjamin recovered to block and divert play away for a throw in.
It was then Ritchie Sutton who impressed again at the back moments later as a fine Stags flowing move fizzled out, Lindon Meikle was creating havoc against Mace following Nick Wrights flick however Ben Hutchinson found himself with little room to work with as the home defence boxed him in well. James Mace made the clearance up towards Lee Chilton who turned well past Beevers to set up team mate Alex Taylor with a low pass to the edge of the box, Taylor’s shot deflecting away of Sutton who threw himself in the path of the goal bound effort.
As the game hit the 18 minutes Stags had their best chance of the first half, Shane Redmond’s goal kick was the original spark as he aimed for Ben Hutchinson who flicked onto Meikle. The creative wide man held up well and despite losing his footing squeezed a pass back to Sam Benjamin, the youngster then sent Meikle on his way down the left channel despite Roberts’ orders to play short inside. The decision to ignore Roberts nearly paid off as Meikle cut past Mace to deliver a teasing cross towards the back post, the ball skimming the top of the arriving Hutchinson’s head before agonisingly going out for a goal kick.
Five minutes later the Stags came close again as Redmond’s route one ball found its way into the area for Meikle thanks to a precision pass from Gary Roberts. Meikle did well up against Brakes skipper Jamie Hood to pick out strike partner Hutchinson who scrapped his effort narrowly wide of the target from ten yards.
Despite Mansfield’s two chances it was very much the hosts on top as they played some wonderful one touch football to open up space down the left hand side, Ritchie Sutton and Shane Redmond we’re both alert to keep out numerous efforts before the Breaks finally broke the deadlock on 27 minutes. A deep free kick from Stephan Morely wasn’t dealt with allowing a Leamington man a free header at the far post, however as the ball went into the back on the net the linesman had flagged for a foul on the on rushing Redmond and as such the goal ruled out.
Moments later Redmond was on his toes once more as he kept out a ferocious long distance drive from Sam Adkins, the hosts ended the half the stronger having also seen a header from Liam Daly sail narrowly over the cross bar.
HALF TIME: Leamington 0-0 Stags
Second Half Line Up [4-3-1-2] Alan Marriott – Andy Todd – Luke Jones – George Pilkington – Andy Owens – Jamie Hand – Chris Clements – Jamie Tolley – Lee Stevenson – Matt Rhead – Matt Green
A different side for the second half ensured the Stags upped the tempo of the game as Paul Cox employed a 4-3-1-2 system with Clements and Tolley rotating between central playing making and central holding roles as Lee Stevenson took up his familiar role behind the front two.
With three players in the side with full season captain experience the Stags took control early on and we’re unlucky not to be ahead just minutes into the second half or, from our point of view, the second game of the afternoon! Jamie Hand provided the assist for Green who took a moment too long on the edge of the box allowing James Mace to nip in and clear.
Three minutes later it was the triangular work of Stevenson, Rhead and Green which set Jamie Tolley up, the former Wrexham mans effort was palmed away by the home keeper into the path of Green who failed to keep his effort down. At the other end, Alan Marriott was alert to keep out a 40 yard punt from Sam Adkins.
Both sides we’re reduced to long range efforts for a short while however the Stags impressed by keeping possession well and exploiting the wide areas of the pitch, predominantly through Andy Owens who was sent on his way down the left by Hand who was very much the creator of every Stags move.
Hand was involved again just past the hour mark as he received possession from Todd before cantering forward. Sensing opportunity for a pass he slipped the ball quick and low through the middle for Green who dropped off his marker in superb fashion before dragging the final shot agonisingly wide of the target.
As time ticked on Mansfield looked more and more dangerous and on 77 minutes Leamington had their goalkeeper to thank as he kept out a thunderous effort from Chris Clements, who hit a 28 yard belter after Jamie Tolley’s corner had put the hosts under the strain.
The Stags had just three more minutes to wait before taking the lead, Jamie Hand was the creator with a lofted pass over the top of the Leamington defence, Matt Green upended inside the box by Jamie Hood. Green dusted himself off and stepped up to powerfully convert the resulting penalty beyond Vaughn who guessed incorrectly.
Leamington 0-1 Stags
Two minutes later the Stags surged forwards once more and earned another corner, Jamie Tolley’s right footed in swinger found Luke Jones at the back stick who headed back across the box before the hosts scrambled clear. Lurking on the edge of the box was Andy Owens who hit a thunderous left footed volley into the top right hand corner only to see the beautiful strike ruled out for offside, a very harsh decision when you consider the pure technique and accuracy of the strike.
In the final few minutes Luke Jones, Matt Green and the tremendous Matt Rhead all saw effort scrambled away as the hosts began to crumble at the back, however as the full time whistle blew the winning margin was only a slight one, the hosts proving more than a handful throughout the match.
Full Time: Leamington 0-1 Stags
The players that stood out in my opinion in both ‘Games’ we’re Lindon Meikle, who played as a front man with relative ease and comfort, Ritchie Sutton, who put himself in front if every goal bound shot, Matt Rhead, who looks very sharp and like the transformation from part time to full time football has worked wonders and finally, Jamie Hand who commanded the midfield very well. Yes there are lots of things to be worked on, and I’m not talking our 3G dongle! But hey, isn’t that what pre-season is for?
Next stop: Hednesford Town – join myself and Wayne Briggs on 106.9FM and on mm-live from 7pm for full match commentary!
Photos: Dan Westwell
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