Craig Priest reports....
Fixture: Hucknall Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly (#5)
Venue: Watnall Road
Date & Time: Monday 23rd July – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Liam Jones
With the weather scorching hot once again I sit here half blinded by the sun and half asleep because of the sweltering heat, I can’t decide if it’s a mixture of these elements or just sheer bafflement as to why I’m confused. After Friday’s trip to Gainsborough I thought I knew our “first eleven” but after last night’s trip to Hucknall’s Watnall Road I’m not so sure as, despite fielding an entirely different side, the Stags we’re still strong with quality bursting at the seams, in fact the side on show last night would most certainly be a promotion challenging BSBP team, something Paul Cox agrees with and something that, no matter who you put out and when, demonstrates the phenomenal strength in depth we have at the club – don’t you just love guessing games.
It’s not just the “first eleven” that are currently a guess to us either as last night at Watnall Road it as a guessing game with the ground staffs keys to open the press box and give us power, much to our discomfort as kick off approached the key could still not be found and once again it was long cable time as we searched for an alternative! Power was found in the director’s lounge and a long cable was run to get us back on track, only for our minds to be blown by the arrival of the team sheet which was all wrong!
James Williamson had grabbed the team off Paul Cox whilst we sorted the power problem, Cox revealed a side consisting of Shane Redmond in goal and Gary Roberts in the midfield rather than the team sheet which named Alan Marriott and strangely Adam Murray – as the teams came out onto the pitch, Emily’s face spotting skills came in handy as we confirmed the side Cox had told James was the right one rather than the team sheet, which looking at it now only got three of the starting players correct.
The Stags made eleven changes from Friday’s trip to Gainsborough, the new away shirt made its debut without names or numbers despite the squad numbers being revealed earlier in the day.
The Stags had opted for an initial 4-3-3 formation with Louis Briscoe as a front man, however as time ticked on it was clear for all to see that Cox’s boys dropped into a 4-4-2 with Briscoe and Wright on the flanks with Anthony Howell going up as a front man alongside Hutchinson. In terms of substitutes it was everyone who was warming up, which again didn’t match those named on the team sheet – the guessing games in the second half was fun! The Stags also had three ‘trialists’ in the evenings squad, former Derby County and Crawley Town man Pablo Mills started alongside Dempster at the back, with Jake Green (brother of Matt) and Newcastle man Ryan McGorrigan being used as substitutes in the second half. The latter the only real trialist as Jake Green’s been at the club since January training and Mills only “training and keeping fit whilst talking to other clubs” according to Paul Cox.
Line Up: Shane Redmond – John Thompson (C) – Pablo Mills (Trialist, well sort of!) – John Dempster – Ritchie Sutton – Louis Briscoe – Godfrey Poku – Gary Roberts – Nick Wright – Anthony Howell – Ben Hutchinson
Used Substitutes: Andy Todd – Jobe Shaw – Jake Green – Scott Rogers – Adam Somes – Ryan McGorrigan (Trialist)
A hot and bright evening may have been the backing for a dull testimonial type affair but credit to Mansfield’s who came out fighting to shake off the reserve team tag which had begun to be used prior to the match. With four minutes gone the Stags had their first real foray into the area as John Thompson and Louis Briscoe combined from the latter’s right sided throw. It was Thompson that showed good composure to turn inside his marker well get the pass to feet from Briscoe who proceeded to make a forward run, Thompson after turning onto his left, chipped a ball into the box for Briscoe to chase however the home keeper Jason Fisher did well to collect.
A minute later Fisher was nearly caught out from distance as Ben Hutchinson let fly from 25 yards. Gary Roberts made the move with a good pass from the half way line before Hutchinson aimed for the bottom corner, the ball cannoning away off the legs of the keeper who was unsighted by the sun before the hosts scrambled clear at the expense of a corner under pressure from Nick Wright.
The Stags showed no sign of easing off as the registered a further three efforts within the opening ten minutes. Louis Briscoe took advantage of Hucknall’s hesitance on six minutes as he stole the ball from Rob Austin before cantering into the area and seeing his tame effort collected by the keeper. Seconds later Ben Hutchinson caused troubled down the left after picking up a directional pass, he found Briscoe inside on the edge of the box who weaved forward before chipping a pass into the mix, Anthony Howell headed narrowly over from six yards under pressure before Briscoe again tested the water. Nick Wright was fouled some 25 yards from goal, Briscoe opted for the quick option nearly catching the keeper at ay, after spilling the ball he was rescued by Danny Hayes.
Ben Hutchinson thought he’d broken free to put Mansfield ahead on 21 minutes after rounding the keeper following a beautiful ball from Roberts, however before pulling the trigger play was stopped for offside. At the other end Hucknall began to test with Scott Welby the main threat, Pablo Mills conceded a corner on 26 minutes which Redmond collected with ease.
Louis Briscoe then stretched the game on 32 minutes with a wonderful cross park ball to the right hand side for Nick Wright. The former Kidderminster front man controlled well before sending the advancing John Thompson on his way into the area, the Stags skipper for the night was put under pressure and was forced all the way back to Roberts who, on the half way line, delivered over the top. Thompson stayed forward and latched onto the pass, delivering strongly into the middle for the hosts to again scramble away.
As the clock ticked near the half time whistle the hosts then enjoyed a spell of chances, a missed header from Pablo Mills allowed Karl Slack into the box with 38 on the clock, however the Hucknall front man failed to keep his shot down and fired over from close range, moments later it took a good save from Redmond to keep the scores level as Scott Welby drove inside and fired goal wards.
Ben Hutchinson then curled an effort narrowly wide from 30 yards with a minute of the first half to go, however Hutchinson’s shot not the final piece of goalmouth action as Anthony Howell opened the scoring on the stroke of half time. Louis Briscoe set the goal with a well weighted pass over the top, Anthony Howell timed his run well and dinked over the on rushing keeper with his left boot – a wonderfully worked and well taken goal.
Hucknall 0-1 Stags
There was little time for Hucknall to respond as, as soon as they restarted the match, the referee blew for the half time interval.
HALF TIME: Hucknall 0-1 Stags
Anthony Howell was withdrawn at the break and replaced by former Newcastle United academy man Ryan McGorrigan, whose name we found out after the match going the entire second half with no idea who he was, awkward considering the impact he made!
Less than a minute in it was McGorrigan who made the best introduction possible, netting the Stags second goal of the night totally out of the blue. Receiving a pass from the right the former Magpie flicked the ball up into the air before swivelling and hitting a thunderous volley into the bottom right hand corner.
Hucknall 0-2 Stags
The hosts looked for a response and nearly found the answer five minutes later, the impressive Scott Welby drove forward following Chris Baugh’s right sided pass, however Pablo Mills and John Dempser, who we’re both released by Crawley in the close season, combined well to block Welby’s path to goal.
A succession of corners and possession followed for the hosts however chances we’re few and far between, we had to wait for the hour mark to arrive before there was another threatening chance, it once again falling in the Stags favour. Ben Hutchinson dropped deep to pick up play before playing a neat give and go with Nick Wright, Hutchinson curled a ferocious effort towards the top corner which Jason Fisher uncomfortably palmed behind for a corner.
Moments later it was substitution time as Ritchie Sutton picked up a knock, Jake Green brother of hit man Matt came onto replaced Sutton following a lengthy break in play. There was then time for a Gary Roberts corner to cause trouble with the hosts getting a free kick for a foul on the keeper, Roberts was then one of three to make way as Paul Cox gave a taste of senior football to two youth team graduates. Adam Somes, who finished top goal scorer in the Football conference youth alliance last term, replaced Ben Hutchinson with Gary Roberts heading off for Scott Rogers who won the youth team player of the season gong last term. Andy Todd took over the captaincy as he replaced John Thompson at right back.
Louis Briscoe’s forceful drive down the right hand side earned a corner with 11 minutes left to play, Briscoe played a short one with Nick Wright who again found Briscoe, his clipped cross skimmed off the head of Mills and agonisingly out for a goal kick. John Dempster was then replaced by Jobe Shaw who skippered the youth team last season, this Mansfield’s final change of the night.
The Stags still kept possession well and there was very little threat from Hucknall after they withdrew Scott Welby late on. Substitute Liam Garner had a few opportunity’s down the left hand side for Hucknall, Scott Rogers demonstrated good strength and composure to help clear the potential danger, the youth team star graduate also doing well further up the pitch linking up with Poku who sent Adam Somes on his way into the box, Somes’ final shot cannoning off a Hucknall leg to safety.
With the game coming to an end the Stags rounded a positive evening off in good fashion, Nick Wright delivered a deep cross from the right hand side towards an unmarked Somes inside the box. The dangerous young hit man was unselfish and rolled the ball back across goal for Trialist Ryan McGorrigan who slotted in from three yards out with a minute remaining.
Hucknall 0-3 Stags
From the restart the hosts looked to drive through the middle however the Stags remained Strong and watched the clock hit full time, the referee’s whistle signalling not just the end of the game but also the end of a fourth pre-season outing without conceding, that’s 360 minutes without conceding, Alan Marriott and the progressively impressing Shane Redmond playing 180 apiece.
FULL TIME: Hucknall 0-3 Stags
Again it was a tough run out and the score line reflects not an easy game as some would imagine, but a credit to the players professionalism, desire, work rate and commitment. Next up its Derby County tomorrow night at the One Call Stadium, look out for the match preview late tonight, please also note that Saturday’s trip to Boston has been postponed until Friday 3rd August, 7.45pm.
Photos: Dan & Henry Westwell!
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