Craig Priest reports on Mansfield Town Reserves midweek friendly with Quorn FC...
Last season saw Mansfield have to cram in games by the bucket load in the final month of the season, whilst it may have been tiring to watch with stretched resources, it was still good to be at football midweek! This season our run in is like a calm stream rather than a rough ocean, the downside though is the epically slow week with no midweek fixture – so, putting yourself in my shoes, what would you do if a midweek, open to the public reserve team friendly, suddenly popped up onto the horizon – that’s right, grab the commentary kit, a notepad, pen and jump in Wayne’s car to the game!
With the final five games vital to the cause, Paul Cox fielded a strong side to face Quorn FC, now under the management of former Stags defender Craig Armstrong. Long term injury John Thompson donned the captain’s armband to play in the heart of defence whilst Jon Worthington, Lee Stevenson and Shane Redmond also got a run out.
Stags XI: Shane Redmond, Andy Todd, John Thompson (C), Sam Craven, Danny Andrew, Louis Briscoe, Jon Worthington, Lee Stevenson, Adam Smith, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson
Substitutes: Jake Green (Long Term Trialist), Adam Somes (Youth), Matt Harris (Youth)
The Stags started brightly and ahead 24 seconds in, Adam Smith weaved his way down the left hand side to earn a throw in; Danny Andrew replicated the technique of Exodus Geohaghon and launched one into the area. Matt Rhead and Lee Stevenson both leaped high with the final touch coming from Rhead, whose header nestled in the bottom corner.
Adam Smith then came close to adding a second on three minutes following a surging run down the left hand side; however the hosts scrambled clear and after soaking up another spell of Stags pressure, created their first chance of eight minutes. A lofted ball from the left hand side caught Danny Andrew and Sam Craven in a tizz, Quorn nipped into the area but failed to find the net, blasting wide beyond Redmond who did well to narrow the angle. On 11 minutes a corner from the right hand side fell on the edge of the area for the hosts, however the follow up shot was ballooned way wide and over into the tree’s behind the goal.
Two minutes later it was act one of ‘comedy of errors’ as the Stags doubled their lead. A long ball over the top from the Stags defence should have been easy for their opposite numbers to deal with; however as the centre half nodded back to the keeper for safety, the keeper had in fact stormed out to belt down field and as such, missed the ball. Ben Hutchinson skipped the final hurdle of the keeper’s grounded body before smashing into the empty net from six yards.
On the quarter hour mark it was almost act two as the hosts took far too long on the ball on the edge of their own box, Adam Smith nipped in but saw his shot palmed away for a corner by the keeper, who proceeded to collect Danny Andrews powerful delivery.
Quorn then broke following a sustained period of Stags pressure however failed to get on the score sheet, firing a free shot straight at shot stopper Redmond on 23 minutes, however it was the Irish gloves-man who was involved in the next goal a moment later. Rushing off his line to clear, Redmond failed to get to the ball first and was closed down by Quorn’s burley number nine, who after nipping past Redmond, converted coolly into the empty to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Louis Briscoe and Matt Rhead then combined to no avail on 32 in attempt to regain the Stags’ two goal cushion, despite being blocked off the duo were involved two minutes later as Rhead grabbed his second of the night. Rhead started the move heading forward to Briscoe who headed back inside to Ben Hutchinson; the former Kilmarnock hit man provided the final header to send Matt Rhead through on goal. Tight control with the burley front mans thigh saw the ball drop perfectly for a venomous volley which went straight through the keeper and into the net for 3-1.
Shane Redmond was then called into action with 11 minutes to go before the break, tipping over a Quorn free kick after Sam Craven had upended his man 24 yards from goal. Adam Smith then created for the visitors on 37 with a delightful cross park ball from the right hand side; Ben Hutchinson collected in the middle but failed to find the target a second time, blazing over from just inside the box.
Smith and Hutchinson were involved again four minutes later, moving the ball on the right hand side; Hutchinson moved play inside for Lee Stevenson who, after turning his marker, failed to stop his shot from rising over the crossbar.
Half Time: Quorn 1-3 Stags
After the break it was the hosts who struck early to make it 3-2. Starting almost like a different team, Craig Armstrong’s men played tight football and really stretched the Stags at the back, knocking the ball from left to right. It was a cross from the right hand side which undid the Stags for the hosts second of the night, less than a minute into the second period, Shane Redmond was mightily unlucky not to keep out the driven shot from the right sided drilled cross.
Matt Rhead then registered the Stags first effort of the second half on 48 minutes, shooting narrowly wide from 30 yards out, however it would be the hosts with the next best chance on 55 minutes. A switch from left to right again saw a cross whipped in, an unmarked Quorn man got in at the far post and sent a thunderous volley towards goal, Shane Redmond pulled off a fantastic save to keep the Stags ahead.
Two minutes later Andy Todd tried to be a world beater as he charged forward from right back, cutting off the flank and bursting into the area before pulling the trigger, the ball sailed well wide and in the end, only a bobbled proved the difference between a throw in and goal kick, the latter was awarded.
Danny Andrew then sparked another Stags chance on the hour mark with a beautifully weighted chipped pass from the left hand side; Matt Rhead provided the headed assist for Hutchinson whose shot was palmed away for a corner. Danny Andrew again delivered a delightful ball which John Thompson headed wide.
Adam Smith then created on the left hand side as Stags registered two chances in as many minutes. First it was Smiths cross from the by-line which was headed straight at the keeper by Hutchinson, who fired a tame effort at the home shot stopper a minute later after Matt Rhead flicked on skipper Thompson’s delightful long ball.
Mansfield then grabbed a fourth of 70 minutes, John Thompson started the initial move with another launched ball over the top, flicked on by Rhead this time it was Stevenson who stuck, seeing his fine chip tipped away for a corner. Danny Andrew delivered a left footed in swinger towards the back stick for Rhead who headed back into the middle – John Thompson rose unmarked to head home and make it 4-2 in his sides favour.
A tame shot from the restart and a wasted free kick from the hosts crept in before the Stags added a 5th – Matt Rhead’s low crisp pass 30 yards from goal sent Lee Stevenson through, after turning past the on rushing keeper, the former Eastwood man tucked home.
Five minutes later it was Six, Youth team forward Matt Harris held up play on the left before moving the play to the on rushing Danny Andrew. Despite having to slide in to keep Stags in possession, the ball crept through to leading youth team goal scorer Adam Somes, who blasted forcefully into the bottom corner.
The game was put beyond doubt seven minutes from time as Lee Stevenson grabbed his second of the night with a forceful drive from the edge of the box after good hold up play from Adam Somes.
Full Time: Quorn 2-7 Stags Reserves
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