Craig Priest reports....
Fixture: Eastwood Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly (#8)
Venue: Coronation Park
Date & Time: Tuesday 31st July – 7.30pm
Match Referee: Unknown
As the season’s curtain raiser with Newport County creeps around the corner, the Stags continued their preparations in fine fashion last night as they ran out 3-0 winners at Coronation Park against Eastwood.
Paul Cox was supposedly sending a side to Stourbridge too, but numerous injuries and illnesses within the squad saw that match fall by the wayside. In a way it was disappointing for Cox as he and his management team would have used the double header as the perfect platform for assessing the squad, however I feel that again we’ve learned something more about our squad for the forthcoming campaign – we can cope with injuries and illness.
When you look at the strength of the squad last night it was still a very good one and one full of players capable of playing at a higher level, another credit to the depth of the squad we have assembled.
Eastwood, despite their relegation last term and numerous off field problems, are still a good side, drilled by a man with a close working relationship and similar philosophy to Paul Cox. They play some good football and trouble for sustained periods of the game, the Stags we’re made to work for their victory.
As mentioned numerous injuries and illness’ in the camp saw the Stourbridge game cancelled, however weather the squad Cox fielded at Eastwood was the one he was going to field anyway, remains to be seen. The majority of the side was made up from those who didn’t fully feature in the games against Derby County and Nottingham Forest; George Pilkington again donned the skippers armband as the Stags lined up with a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Line Up: Shane Redmond – Lee Beevers – George Pilkington (C) – John Dempster – Ritchie Sutton – Nick Wright – Jamie Hand – Jamie Tolley – Louis Briscoe – Lee Stevenson – Ben Hutchinson
Substitutes: Alan Marriott – Andy Todd – John Thompson – Godfrey Poku – Chris Clements – Gary Roberts – Anthony Howell.
Despite a cross thirty seconds in from Lee Beevers being held by home shot stopper Ian Deakin, it wasn’t the Stags who enjoyed the better start as Eastwood troubled the Stags goal twice in the opening five minutes. A third minute corner saw Cameron Fearon register a shot wide of Redmond’s goal before ex Stag Grant Ryan failed to really test Redmond, his shot seconds after the corner collected comfortably.
The Stags then stepped things up a notch as they looked for an opening goal, nearly finding one on five minutes as Lee Stevenson’s excellent pass from the centre circle played Nick Wright through. The former Kidderminster front man dropped off the right flank to cut inside the area, his touch was a little heavy and just gave Ian Deakin that extra second to narrow the angle and allow his team mates to get back and smother the ball to safety. The Stags again picked up possession and earned a corner, skipper George Pilkington heading wide from Jamie Tolley’s testing set piece.
A second Stags corner was won on seven minutes however failure to complete the job allowed Eastwood to break as ex Stags youth teamer Grant Ryan skipped the challenge of both Jamie Tolley and Louis Briscoe. Running into space the former Stag saw a shooting opportunity open up; however damage to his former club could not be done as he blazed over the bar.
On 15 minutes it was again the Stags who tested the water from a free kick after a foul on John Dempster. Jamie Hand and Jamie Tolley worked the quick short and it was the former who chipped into the box from 40 yards, Ian Deakin fumbled the ball away but only to Stevenson on the edge of the box. The former Badgers star saw his effort cannon away into the path of Tolley; he then drilled a shot through the crowd from 25 yards, earning Mansfield yet another corner.
Two minutes later the game got feisty, first a strong challenge by Dempster on Ryan was let go by the referee before Lee Stevenson was hacked down by Danny Elliott as the pair went for the loose ball. The duo we’re pulled apart as all players bar Shane Redmond exchanged handbag type bows – Jamie Hand the Mansfield enforcer the one who brought a stop to it all... eventually. As play restated the Stags free kick was cleared and Eastwood allowed to attack, they wasted a golden opportunity with a free kick from 22 yards out, Mitch Hanson’s kick wouldn’t stop rising over the bar after Paolo Piliero was chopped down by enforcer Hand who escaped a booking.
Despite Eastwood’s opportunity it was still Deakin the most worked keeper, he produced a fine save on twenty minutes, denying Nick Wright a volleyed goal after Pilkington had headed Tolley’s corner back across the box.
The game then saw half chances for both sides but it would prove to be the Stags who grabbed the first goal of the night with yet another excellent move. A right sided throw was moved quickly between Lee Beevers and Jamie Tolley, the former flicking the ball down the right where nick Wright sold Paul Riley a dummy to let the ball run into space. The former Kidderminster man then delivered a wonderful cross for Lee Stevenson who nodded in at the near post to grab his second goal of pre-season.
Eastwood 0-1 Stags
Two minutes later it was nearly a case of lightening striking twice as Hand’s ball from central found Nick Wright wide. The hit man again stepped past Riley a delivered a pacey cross, Ben Hutchinson arrived at the near post missing the ball by a whisker with goal scorer Stevenson suffering the same fate at the back post as he flung himself trough the air to try and get on the end of the cross.
Eastwood then came a whisker away from levelling after a strong pass through the middle from TJ Nightingale saw Mitch Hanson chip the ball up and volley narrowly over Redmond’s bar. The hosts would soon make themselves pay for missed opportunity as an own goal doubled Mansfield’s advantage. Shane Redmond’s long ball towards Wright was headed away but picked up by Briscoe; it was he who sprayed play to the right flank with a neat pass – Nick Wright again beating Paul Riley before drilling into the middle. Ben Hutchinson arrived to connect but saw his shot blocked, Cameron Fearon was the unlucky man diverting the clearance onto his own keeper and into the back of the net, a comedy of errors and either could have got the final tough – the one face that remains is that, with three to go before the break, the Stags had a two goal advantage.
Eastwood 0-2 Stags
There was little time for anything to alter as the remaining minutes of the first period passed without real incident, well not unless you count Jamie Hands awful tackle on Hanson as he broke free following another Stags corner. Paul Cox received word from the referee along the lines of, either you take him off or I’ll send him off.
HALF TIME: Eastwood 0-2 Stags
As expected Jamie Hand was replaced at the break, Godfrey Poku came into the midfield with John Thompson also replacing George Pilkington at the back, Thompson also taking over the skipper’s armband.
Two minutes into the second half it was surprisingly Lee Beevers who registered the first chance. Ritchie Sutton picked up play on the half way line before finding Tolley central; it was the former Wrexham man who completed the switch picking out Beevers’ run with a well weighted cross park ball. The attacking full back had Nick Wright in support but cut inside himself, the final left footed shot always rising over Deakin’s bar.
Eight minutes later Nick Wright was again creator on the right hand side of midfield, his testing cross being headed away by Lindon Meikle’s brother Deon but only as far as Jamie Tolley. The ball sat nicely for a volley; however Tolley couldn’t direct his shot towards goal and blazed over.
As the hour mark approached it was substitution time as Paul Cox withdrew Ben Hutchinson, Lee Stevenson and Jamie Tolley in favour of Anthony Howell, Gary Roberts and Chris Clements respectively.
Roberts was involved immediately as on 62 minutes it was he who played a wonderful reverse pass to put Briscoe one on one with the keeper. The Stags wing man failed to be prolific as he slotted wide with his left foot, such a shame after a great driving run and a wonderful pass from Roberts.
Andy Todd then replaced Lee Beevers as the right back picked up a knock, Todd slotted in at left back with Sutton moving to right back allowing Thompson to get minutes under his belt as a centre half rather than a full back. A defence resembling the back four we had in December when Thompson first returned from injury. Moments after Todd’s introduction he was forced to scramble away an Eastwood chance after the hosts made numerous substitutions, another Ex-Stag Curtis Shaw caused trouble linking up with Alex Troke.
Two corners from Louis Briscoe were then wasted with six remaining, however the Stags we’re not finished and added a third and final goal of the night two minutes from time. Chris Clements started the move disposing Curtis Shaw inside the centre circle, the former Hednesford man sprayed the ball wide for Wright who cut inside from the left hand side, dropped his shoulder and drilled beautifully beyond substitute keeper Sam Andrews to round off an excellent personal display and a good team workout.
Eastwood 0-3 Stags
In the last minute Eastwood we’re forced to substitute one of their substitutes after one too many harsh words to the referee, it made little difference to the game as Stags had already completed the job and collected yet another pre-season victory.
FULL TIME: Eastwood 0-3 Stags
The football continues tonight however due to injuries, illness and an influx of games – it will be a youth team side which takes on Rainworth MW tonight. We’ll still be there and you can join us from 7pm via MM-LIVE with a match preview on the way shortly.
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