Craig Priest writes…
Conference Champions Mansfield Town continued their preparations for league two with a resounding 4-2 victory over League One Peterborough United, who were relegated from the Championship at the end of last season.
The departure of Matt Green has left Stags short of goals however last night at the One Call Stadium all four goals contained a touch of class, new recruit Sam Clucas netted a second half brace adding to goals in the first from John Dempster and Junior Daniel.
For the second night running, Cox’s men completely dominated the match and demonstrated a professional work ethic, pleasing to see as the Football League season creeps ever closer. At Chester it was the likes of Chris Clements & George Pilkington who stood out whilst last night, against League One Peterborough, we saw an excellent display from Sam Clucas, John Dempster and for me, Junior Daniel who looked hungry on the right hand side.
Nathan Arnold came off the bench late on as his trial continued, at 2-2 he completely changed the game with his energetic running and his desire to fight for every loose ball – I had my reservations at first but now I’d be happy to him put pen to paper and return to the club – he’s developed into a cracking player and his signing, in my opinion, would give Stags the strongest group of wingers in the division.
After the match it was revealed that Cox had missed out on bagging a league one striker, rumoured to be Stevenage’s Lukas Atkins – whatever your thoughts on this it doesn’t matter, Cox doesn’t have too much of a time constraint on him. Personally now I’d like to see Amari Morgan-Smith given 90 minutes alongside Jake Speight, who enjoyed another solid 45 minutes last night. Morgan-Smith was amongst the substitutes last night but presumably wasn’t used having played pretty much the whole match at Chester.
Mansfield were extremely hungry and began with venom, coming close to an opener within the opening 13 seconds, James Jennings’ left wing clip found Lee Stevenson inside the box however the attacking midfielder saw his effort saved by Posh keeper Joe Day.
Three minutes later Stags came close again as Junior Daniel’s effort was deflected behind for a corner, Matt Rhead drew an excellent save from Day from the resulting corner with an acrobatic over head kick.
The visitors then grabbed the lead with practically their first opportunity of the game, against the run of play on 14 minutes. Nathanial Mendez-Laing’s driving run down the left had Jenning’s in a spin, the United wide man cut inside and drove home beyond a despairing Marriott.
Mansfield were determined to level and did two minutes later in style, Jennings set the goal with another perfect delivery from a right sided free kick however it was Dempster taking the applause, curling home a sweet effort from the edge of the area.
Seconds after the restart Stags were came agonisingly close to a second as Clucas and Stevenson combined to find Anthony Howell, the central midfielder couldn’t keep his effort down.
Lee Beevers, captain for the evening, kept Mansfield in the match with a solid block on Lee Tomlin, from then on in it was all Stags, Joe Day keeping Peterborough in the match with a smart save to deny Dempster on 22 minutes whilst defender John McCombe volleyed over and Matt Rhead glanced several headers wide.
On the half hour mark Junior Daniel set tongues wagging as he netted Mansfield’s second to put them ahead after John Dempster was fouled 35 yards from goal. The former Macclesfield and Crewe midfielder took responsibility for the free kick and gave Day no chance, curling into the top corner.
Minutes later, Dempster drew a save from Day with header before Howell thrashed an effort into the side netting. Dempster also had a looping header scrambled off the line before the break as Stags relentlessly knocked on the door of the visiting defence.
Darren Ferguson changed the entire Peterborough side at the break bar Nat Knight-Percival who was introduced midway through the first half, it was the visitors who enjoyed the best early chances of the second half, Danny Swanson struck the post on the hour before ex-stag Emile Sinclair rattled the bar a minute later.
Peterborough were pushing for an equaliser and deservedly got it on 67 minutes following a quick counter attack which began when Matt Rhead’s appeal for what looked a stone wall penalty was turned down. Sinclair was the man to latch onto the through ball, rounding Marriott and tucking into the empty net.
Three minutes later Nathan Arnold, who netted the only goal in Tuesday’s win at Chester, entered the fray for Junior Daniel and completely swung the pendulum back in the Stags favour. A minute after his introduction a weaving run drew a foul from Michael Richins, the only other first half survivor for Posh. Jennings curled the resulting free kick narrowly over from 18 yards.
Stags then grabbed the lead once more in empathic style with nine minutes remaining, Arnold’s determined run to rob Craig Alcock of the ball saw him bring Clucas into play to the right of the box – his first time left footed curler drew a standing ovation from the 763 strong crowd.
Clucas and Mansfield weren’t finished and on 87 minutes grabbed another, this time it was substitute Speight with the cut back for the former Hereford wide man, who made no mistake in drilling home again at the first time of asking.
STAGS: 1 Alan Marriott, 2 Lee Beevers (C), 4 John Dempster, 5 John McCombe, 3 James Jennings, 7 Junior Daniel (19 Nathan Arnold TRIALIST 70), 8 Jamie McGuire (16 Adam Murray 66), 11 Sam Clucas, 10 Lee Stevenson (19 Jake Speight HT), 22 Matt Rhead
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Ross Dyer, Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley, Keiran Murtagh, George Pilkington, Paul Black, Amari Morgan-Smith (TRIALIST)
Referee: David Coote (Manchester)
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