Craig Priest Reports....
Fixture: Mansfield Town Vs Rotherham United
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly (Game #12)
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 4th August
Match Referee: Russell Booth
Attendance: 1300 (253)
Following Friday night’s trip to Boston there was little time for rest as Stags played host to league two Rotherham United yesterday afternoon as preparations for the new season continued at pace. League Two side Rotherham perhaps gave us not only the most entertaining game of pre-season but the most physical and beneficial work out so far, as the league side ran out 3-2 winners in a game they shaded.
Stags fan didn’t have too fonder memory of Rotherham as the Millers last visit to Field Mill as was, proved a dark day in the clubs history as due to a freak goal our relegation fate was all but sealed and off pitch issues went way beyond boiling point.
The difference between the two days in history was refreshing however as yesterday proved a quite pleasant afternoon for those involved, the sun shining over the One Call Stadium turf prior to kick off. Despite a 3-2 defeat, the Stags first loss of pre-season, boss Paul Cox would have undoubtedly been pleased with the fight his side showed to keep the game close and will understand how unlucky they were on reflection not to take at least a draw. It wasn’t perfect but pre-season and these dress rehearsals are not meant to be, Cox and his team will be working on those last few issues this week and go into the season’s opener with Newport County as ready as they can be to mount a title winning challenge.
As predicted the Stags boss named an entirely different eleven from the previous night with a handful of those names getting on the bench. Andy Owens missed out through injury which saw Lee Beevers slot in at left back with Thompson at right back, the Stags other two full backs Sutton & Todd having played the full 90 minutes the previous night.
LINE UP: Marriott, Thompson, Jones, Pilkington (C), Beevers, Tolley, Howell, Stevenson, Dyer, Green, Meikle
SUBS: Redmond, Dempster, Briscoe, Rhead, Hand, Poku, Roberts, Clements, Speight, Wright.
Following the previous evenings win, those players starting against Rotherham we’re keen to show what they could offer and came close to grabbing a 38second lead when Ross Dyer’s right sided cross narrowly missed Stevenson much to the delight of the visiting defence. The Stags troubled again five minutes later as Jamie Tolley’s right sided corner picked out Pilkington, the Mansfield captain’s hook back into the danger area floating behind for a goal kick.
The Millers took heed from the early scars and began to stamp their authority on the game; Daniel Nardiello saw his ferocious effort well saved by Marriott in the Mansfield goal before Kieran Agard headed wide from the resulting corner as the Stags failed to track his run.
Marriott was again the Stags saviour on 15 minutes as Agard latched onto Jason Taylor’s crisp pass, the Stags shot stopper clung onto the final shot but could do little ten minutes later as the visitors grabbed the lead in emphatic fashion. Steve Evans’ Millers side played good quick football down the left hand side with Laurie Wilson advancing from full back, it was his pass inside which set the goal, midfielder Kari Arnason drilling into the top corner from 25 yards as the Stags failed to close him down.
Stags 0-1 Rotherham
Matt Green then looked to break the Rotherham barrier on the half hour mark as he latched onto Ross Dyer’s flick on, the pacey front man halted by a well timed sliding intervention by the onrushing Andy Warrington in the Rotherham goal.
Six minutes later Green again looked to trouble from a left sided Lee Beevers’ throw. The leading marksman proved to be the Stags undoing however as he lost possession on the edge of the Rotherham box and allowed the visitors to break and ultimately add a second of the afternoon. With the long clearance made Kari Arnason turned goal scorer into goal provider, holding the ball up long before sending Daniel Nardiello into the box. The former Barnsley and Exeter hit man made no mistake, firing beyond Marriott into the roof of the net.
Stags 0-2 Rotherham
Lee Stevenson nearly pulled one back with five minutes of the first half remaining as George Pilkington started a fine Mansfield move, clipping a ball down the left for Lee Beevers. After laying a give and go with Meikle, Beevers delivered towards the far post where Stevenson nodded narrowly wide from six yards, the half time whistle seeing Stags in a total reverse of the previous evening at Boston, trailing by two goals to nil as opposed to leading.
HALF TIME: Stags 0-2 Rotherham
Two minutes into the second half it was again Stevenson in the thick of the action as he restored some hope after what was a frustrating first half against tough opposition. Matt Green was the creator as he weaved down the left hand side, cutting in before feeding Stevenson just inside the box. The lively attacking midfielder took one touch to set himself before blasting into the back of the net from 16 yards leaving half time substitute keeper Scott Sheerer with no chance, Stevenson netting his third goal of pre-season.
Stags 1-2 Rotherham
Matt Green then saw his path blocked from a Beevers throw a minute after the restart and was inches away from levelling proceedings on 57 minutes, Scott Sheerer pulled off a strong save as Green headed John Thompson’s deep free kick towards goal moments after Chris Clements had replaced Lee Stevenson.
Gary Roberts then replaced Anthony Howell in midfield as the Stags looked for fresh legs, Roberts then won the Stags a free kick on the edge of the box following good interchanging play between him and Clements. Jamie Tolley stepped up and riffled Chris Clements lay off against the wall with the visitors mopping up the second danger as Beevers looked to hook one back in from the half way line.
The visitors felt the pressure again but continuously searched for a third of the afternoon, Alan Marriott denied substitute Gareth Evans from close range on 65 minutes but could do nothing five minutes later as a long throw from the right saw the Stags undone, Mark Bradley tapping home from four yards at the back post in acres of space.
Stags 1-3 Rotherham
Immediately from the restart the Stags grabbed another back, Lindon Meikle winning back possession on the half way line before making a wonderful solo run to tear the visitors apart. The creative wide man unselfish played Green through on goal, the deadly front man making no mistake tucking beyond the onrushing keeper.
Stags 2-3 Rotherham
No sooner had Green netted both he and Meikle we’re heading for the substitutes bench for Nick Wright and Jake Speight respectively. The duo then combined on the edge of the box to send Ross Dyer down the right with fifteen to go, the front man earning a Stags free kick from which Luke Jones headed narrowly wide from Tolley’s delightful delivery.
The Stags kept pushing for a later leveller and saw Gary Roberts fire wide with a minute f normal time remaining, Chris Clements setting Roberts for a 25 yard belter after a neat run and cut in from the left hand side. As the keeper retrieved the ball for a goal kick three minutes of injury time we’re added on, the Stags using them to pressure once again.
Nick Wright was again outstanding as he took control of things inside the Rotherham half. Making a dominant run down the right hand side he beat his marker before sending in a delightful cross, Jake Speight arrived to connect at the far post but fired agonisingly wide.
Seconds later the ball was being kept by the Stags at the back but a sloppy Thompson back pass saw Alex Revell break free. The Stags regrouped and did enough to force Revell wide, however the danger didn’t go as he picked out Gareth Evans on the edge of the box, his curling shot cannon back off the bar and allowed Mansfield to scramble clear.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-3 Rotherham << Click here for the audio page
Despite the defeat it was still a good competitive run out, the late fight and near misses on Stags part an encouraging sight as the curtain raiser with Newport approaches. Despite being billed as the last pre-season friendly Paul Cox confirmed in his post match interview that there is one more game on Tuesday with Sheffield FC, a match which will be used to give players needing minutes a run out, in my opinion the likes of Speight whose just back from injury, Hutchinson Briscoe and the youth team graduates will be given game time along with the others Cox is still unsure on, possibly the likes of Pablo Mills and Matt Thornhill et all.
Join us on Tuesday from 7pm on Takeover Radio 106.9FM and our MM-LIVE page for full match commentary of the fixture, kick off is 7.30pm.
Photos: Dan Westwell
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