Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write…(C) Chris Holloway http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluewheelofficial/sets/72157634716497833/
Mansfield Town failed to make it three wins from as many games yesterday as they were beaten by Febien Brandy’s third minute strike at the One Call Stadium. The match itself saw Cox’s men take a massive step back in their progress, with a performance that lacked any real commitment, desire or energy from the same group of players that saw off Chester and Peterborough days prior.
Things slightly improved in the second half as the visiting keeper was tested, however the amount of space given to their opponents and apparent lack of enthusiasm to chase the game late on would not be accepted in a league or cup fixture, so why should we accept it in a friendly?
Craig wrote before the match about Speight and Morgan-Smith being given chances to shine, both played 45 each and sadly, neither quite took the opportunity which came there way. Morgan-Smith looked powerful with his movement again and did come close to grabbing a goal, however it perhaps wasn’t close enough. Will he get another chance as the striker search goes on – only time will tell.
Typically Stags began well and registered their first chance with the game only 18 seconds old, Lee Beevers’ long ball picked out Matt Rhead on the edge of the box – the big man fired wide after turning well.
Frustration soon followed excitement as with pretty much their first attack of the match, Sheffield United grabbed the opener. Right back Daryl Westlake pushed forwards and turned Paul Black on the bye-line to deliver a low cross into the centre, ex Notts County forward Febian Brandy did the rest, spinning Dempster before firing underneath Alan Marriott.
It could have been two for United seven minutes later as Black slid in on Brandy just outside the Stags penalty area following a dominant, unmarked stroll from Blades midfielder Jamie Murphy. Daryl Westlake stepped up to curl towards the top corner however he was deied by the well positioned Marriott.
At the other end Stags failed to make the best of a Junior Daniel corner before Cox withdrew John McCombe on 21 minutes after he picked up a knock, his replacement Ryan Tafazolli soon stamped his authority on the match and kept Chris Porter tightly marked.
Marriott had to be alert on the half hour mark as a rare slip from skipper Dempster allowed Porter to latch onto a long ball, the Stags custodian got down low to palm the ball away for a corner – Seconds later Marriott again denied the same player after Anthony Howell was caught napping in the centre by Murphy.
Three minutes before the break Junior Daniel was booked for a late challenge on Marcus Williams and promptly substituted for Lindon Meikle, on the stroke of half time Matt Rhead flicked the ball into the path of Speight however the front man failed to pounce as Williams swept into make a fine intervention – the Stags faithful remained deadly quiet as the players trooped off at the break, silence though spoke a million words.
Paul Cox then made five changes at the break as Rhead, Black, Speight, Clucas and Murtagh made way for Lee Stevenson, George Pilkington, Adam Murray and Trialists Nathan Arnold and Amari Morgan-Smith entered the fray.
The second half saw a rather tame start and had it not been for an excellent challenge from Tafazolli on 50 minutes, Brandy would have undoubtedly grabbed his and the visitors second of the game. Three minutes later at the other end, the young defender nodded Lee Beevers’ long throw wide of the target as Stags saw a brief flash of the Blades goal.
Jamie McGuire and Ritchie Sutton were then introduced on 63 minutes, three minutes into his match McGuire drew George Long into action, forcing the Blades keeper into an excellent save with an 18 yard drive after Nathan Arnold’s tee up.
Amari Morgan-Smith nearly made a name for himself a minute later, curling a free kick over from the edge of the box after he was fouled, however it was Lee Stevenson who came close on 68 minutes, firing at the keepers legs from Lindon Meikle’s cut back on the right hand side.
Mansfield had started to bloom and saw Nathan Arnold come close with a fantastic volley from the left of the box on 76, Morgan-Smith was then put through on goal by Meikle but saw Long get down low to deny him. Time simply ran out for Stags who, if we’re honest, never teetered above average against a very strong Sheffield United side.
FULL TIME: Stags 0-1 Sheffield United
STAGS: 1 Alan Marriott, 2 Lee Beevers (12 Ritchie Sutton 63), 4 John Dempster ©, 5 John McCombe (20 Ryan Tafazolli 21), 3 Paul Black (18 George Pilkington HT), 12 Junior Daniel (14 Lindon Meikle 42), 6 Keiran Murtagh (9 Amari Morgan-Smith HT), 13 Anthony Howell (8 Jamie McGuire 63), 11 Sam Clucas (19 Adam Murray HT), 10 Jake Speight (21 Nathan Arnold HT), 22 Matt Rhead (16 Lee Stevenson HT)
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Martin Riley, Ross Dyer, Ben Hutchinson, Chris Clements.
Referee: Michael Naylor (South Yorkshire)
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