Craig Priest reports....
Fixture: Gainsborough Trinity V Mansfield Town
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly (#4)
Venue: The Northolme
Date & Time: Friday 19th July – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Craig Grundy
We all knew last night’s match would be a tough encounter so it’s no real surprise that I’m sat here writing about a goalless draw. Whilst goalless draws are usually boring and stale, I think it would be fair to say that for 50-60 minutes at least it was a fiery game in places – it’s just a shame that the back drop of a very cold, dark, dank and rain filled evening was the lasting memory in the last half hour when the game fizzled out into nothingness.
Hats off to Gainsborough who played some strong, quick football on the floor with former Stags trio Paul Connor, Ryan Williams and Jon D’Layrea linking up very well, the latter two involved in pretty much every phase of Trinity play. Steve Housham’s boys worrying looked a little fitter than us in those final ten minutes and will certainly push for promotion again having lost out in the play-off final last term – as I say it was a tough run out and a goalless draw is just about the right result with both sides having a fairly equal share of the chances.
Trinity’s Northolme was a new ground for me and I genuinely found it a nice set up, although I do feel a little sorry for the club as during the close season vandals had broken in and trashed the main stand, ripping down over head lights, stripping cables and leaving them hanging dangerously low and very much live once we’d switched the power to the stand on. I was reminded of the story of Ebbsfleet last season when someone stole the floodlight cabling – some people seriously need to get hobbies and stop damaging a clubs lively hood, what would be some 5minutes worth of “fun” would have set the clubs back a lot of money and, having seen the state of Trinity’s main stand last night, could have serious repercussions somewhere down the line if the damage isn’t fixed. Walking around the stand when entering the ground last night was like playing Jenga with those final few blocks!!
Paul Cox had said prior to the game that he would give players more minutes rather than field two entirely different sides, he stuck to his word and revealed a line up very similar to the team which played the second half at Leamington and the first at Hednesford, the elevens which supports who had watched the game had subbed as the strongest of the two.
Again the Stags donned last season’s dark blue away strip with no squad numbers given, it was grab a shirt and get out there! However as there was less players used, we did manage to write down the majority of the numbers worn so I’ll add the ones I’m certain of in brackets next to the relevant players name, for those of you that we’re there and unsure on who was who!
Line Up [4-3-1-2]  Alan Marriott –  Lee Beevers –  Luke Jones –  George Pilkington (c) –  Sam Benjamin – [6?] Jamie Hand –  Chris Clements –  Jamie Tolley –  Chris Clements –  Matt Rhead –  Matt Green
Every player bar the four youth team graduates and Andy Owens, John Thompson & Jake Speight (injured) we’re on the bench although not named on the team sheet, those used were...  Lindon Meikle (Stevenson) –  Ross Dyer (Rhead) –  Anthony Howell (Hand) –  Ritchie Sutton (Beevers) –  Nick Wright (Green) –  Gary Roberts (Clements)
Both sides enjoy spells early on however it was the Stags who enjoyed the better pressuring the Trinity goal three times of note in the opening six minutes, Lee Stevenson screwed a shot harmlessly wide following Matt Green’s flick on from Trialist Sam Benjamin’s clearance on three minutes. A minute later Jamie Hand delivered the Stags first corner of the game to no avail before Matt Green was unable to keep the ball alive, attempting to round the keeper following Luke Jones’ strong clearance on the half way line down the right channel.
Jamie Yates then looked to create an opportunity for the hosts with 11 minutes played. A forceful run down he left hand side saw him beat Lee Beevers and whip a dangerous cross into the middle, Luke Jones was on hand to divert the ball away for a corner. Ryan Williams’ right footed in swinger caused trouble with the ball finding its way to D’Laryea on the edge of the box, the former Stags skipper found Michael Leary whose shot deflected up into the air and was eventually cleared by Matt Rhead.
Mansfield we’re then a whisker away from taking the lead on 25minutes following a prolonged spell in possession. Lee Beevers was the creator clipping a ball through the middle from just inside his own half. Matt Rhead won the flick and headed into the mix where Lee Stevenson hooked a shot towards goal, the wet ball splashed off the cross bar and into the grateful hands of Jans Budtz in the Trinity goal.
Stevenson was involved again seconds later as he intercepted a pass on the half way line, teetering into space before slipping Matt Green through to the left of the box. Stags’ dangerous hit man turned inside Dom Roma well but was halted by former Alfreton defender Greg Young who slid into clear at the expense of a corner. Jamie Hand’s right footed in swinger was dominant towards the back post, however Luke Jones’ header into the middle was scrambled clear by the hosts.
Two minutes later the Stags threatened to break the deadlock again as Jamie Hand disposed D’Laryea in the middle. Lee Stevenson then sprayed the ball wide for Green whose return pass for the onrushing Stevenson was collected by the keeper in the nick of time.
Matt Rhead then demonstrated his quality with the ball to feet, receiving a crisp pass from Matt Green on the half hour mark following Sam Benjamin’s shot left sided throw. Front man Rhead stepped inside the challenge of Michael Leary on the edge of the box before curling a beautiful effort narrowly wide of the top right hand corner from 20 yards out.
A minute later the hosts enjoyed a rare first half sight of goal as Michael Leary delivered a deep 40 yard free kick. Shane Clarke’s header on was nodded away but only as far as Ryan Williams on the edge of the box, the former Stags man struck on the volley but saw his effort spin horribly wide of Alan Marriott’s goal as the wet conditions again spoilt what would have been a strong Trinity attack.
Jamie Tolley then had opportunity to test the water with a free kick with ten minutes of the first half remaining after Sam Benjamin had showed good strength to cut inside from the left and earn the set piece. Tolley opted for the quick release rather than a whipped ball into the box and did well to find Green who would have been in had Greg Young not been wise to the situation, coming across to again hoof clear.
Chances from then onto the break were then rare and the first half came to a close without real incident, Lee Stevenson did pick up a knock and was spitting blood following a collision in the middle, feeling his ribs and shoulder along with the blood spit he did well to battle on however assessment at the break saw him head off to hospital.
HALF TIME: Gainsborough 0-0 Stags
Lindon Meikle replaced the injured Stevenson as the second half got underway, Meikle’s introduction saw the Stags move into more of a 4-3-3 with Meikle alongside Green and Rhead however the 4-3-1-2 shape did remain at times with Meikle and Rhead alternating in the role behind the front two.
Meikle was involved early on as he tried a ball through to Matt Rhead, the latter caught offside. Jamie Hand also saw a corner cause little problems before Jamie Tolley riffled Hand’s free kick lay-off into the delicate area of a Trinity player following a foul on Matt Rhead some 25 yards from goal.
Tolley again was involved in the 52nd minute as the Stags we’re again close to breaking the deadlock. Lee Ridley’s throw for the hosts was clipped clear by the dominant Luke Jones finding Matt Rhead. Again the hit man showed cleaver play on the floor bringing the ball under control before flicking inside to the advancing Tolley. The former Wrexham man controlled well before curling an effort around the keeper and, unfortunately, into the side netting.
The hosts had found more momentum as the second half way and Alan Marriott was forced to pluck a Ryan Williams corner out of the air after tipping behind a dipping free kick from Dom Roma from deep.
Marriott was then called into action again on the hour mark as Trinity we’re looking the more likely to open the scoring. Trinity looked strong down the left hand side with Dom Roma cantering play with a low ball to former Stags front man Paul Connor. The striker who departed for Trinity in December last year lined up well with two former Stags, the first pass was out to Williams who squared to the edge of the area for D’Laryea – his rasping effort was heading for the bottom corner however Marriott got down low to palm behind for a corner.
The Stages responded immediately as Lindon Meikle won possession on the half way line a minute later. The creative wide man stepped inside and chipped over the top towards Green who, from the left of the area, struck a left footed shot narrowly wide after getting goal side of Luke Waterfall.
Anthony Howell was then introduced for Jamie Hand and was involved almost immediately. A Lee Beevers throw on the right hand side dead on the half way line started the flowing move, Chris Clements played a good dummy to get a left footed pass to Sam Benjamin. The trialist left back then completed the final pass into the feet of Howell whose forceful shot deflected up and away for a corner, Jamie Tolley’s delivery being well claimed by Jans Budtz.
Paul Cox then made a handful of changes, Ritchie Sutton for Lee Beevers, Ross Dyer and Nick Wright for Green and Rhead respectively and finally Gary Roberts for Chris Clements for the final 18 minutes.
The game went a little time and lacked life from Stags who had gone from controlling the game to chasing it as Gainsborough upped their tempo and stretched play with prolonged spells in possession. With four minutes remaining Trinity had a golden chance as substitutes Terry Hawkridge and Josh Wilde combined down the left, the latter’s cross found Jonathan Williams who blasted over from six yards.
Lindon Meikle and Gary Roberts both had late effort to win it for the Stags but neither could keep their shots on target and the game fizzled out and ended goalless, the Stags keeping a third consecutive clean sheet, some 270minutes of pre-season football without conceding, however a third consecutive win couldn’t be picked up.
A very tough run out for Cox’s boys who next week face a trip to Hucknall (Monday 7.45pm) a home encounter with Derby County (Wednesday 7.30pm) before a Saturday trip to Boston United (3pm).
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