Full Time Score Mansfield Town 0-0 Sheffield United
Competition Pre-Season Friendly
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Goal Scorers /
Attendance 3,271 (1,433)
Craig Priest writes…
Pre-season means absolutely nothing when it comes to the big kick-off, but that doesn’t stop Mansfield Town supporters walking around with a confident smile after yet another pleasing display – holding Championship Sheffield United to a goalless draw yesterday.
Blades boss Chris Wilder after the match dubbed the Stags ‘outstanding’ and said that David Flitcroft’s men ‘Deserved to win’ and ‘were better than us [Sheffield United] on and off the ball’.
Wilder, who won promotion with Northampton from League Two in 2015-16, was very honest in his assessment of the match and his comments re-affirm our belief, or my belief anyway, as supporters that whilst the pre-season results count for nothing – we are building a side capable of winning promotion.
I wanted to see us tested out defensively more than we were against Frank Lampard’s Derby, and to be fair we were early on with Conrad Logan showing why he’s one of the (if not the) best keeper in the league with three smart saves, but after that either the Blades weren’t sharp enough or we, as a unit, became far too resilient and controlled the game.
One critique, and I am being nit-picky here, is that we didn’t do enough in front of goal to win the game – if that were a league match, I think we’d actually be disappointed that we only came away with a point. We didn’t really test the visiting keeper enough and for our own confidence as a group, we need to jump that hurdle before the competition really starts.
On the flip side to that, we kept going for the full 90 minutes, even though it was clear after an hour that Sheffield United were blunt that they weren’t going to trouble us. You could see the hunger to move the ball, keep possession and find an opening which, considering it was a pre-season game against a higher level opponent, you’d have forgiven if it didn’t happen. Our attitude is to win matches, and winning matches wins promotion.
David Flitcroft tried a few different things out although it’s clear now that he has the base of his team, CJ Hamilton at right wing back was a risk but I can see why that would work – however I don’t think it would be something which paid off on a consistent enough basis to warrant that becoming his place in the team.
I felt Mellis and Bishop didn’t work as well as Bishop and MacDonald as Mellis seems to want to play higher up which leaves big gap in the middle of the park which better teams will exploit, but it’s better to try these pairings out now than in a game where any damage would be lasting.
Next week’s matches against Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United will be interesting, where will Danny Rose fit in? Will Nathan Cameron get another shot if he can shake off his injury and does that open the door for Paul Digby? And will Paul Anderson be involved, or will he forever be put with the Under 23s.
One thing I would like to see next week is us going a goal down, I know that’s a strange thing to say – but I want to see us go behind and have a sustained period where we are not in control, I want to see how we as a unit respond to that because whilst it’s been pretty much plain sailing so far – the longevity of the season will bring chopping waters, and if we are to be a success, we need to be able to get through those spells.
David Flitcroft opted to go against mass substitutions and start giving players longer on the pitch together, although he did tweak his starting eleven to look at different pairings and styles, most notably playing CJ Hamilton at right wing back and Jacob Mellis alongside Neal Bishop in Midfield.
The Championship opponents started well and forced a good bit of defensive work from Pearce and Benning in the opening two minutes, the Blades then forced a smart save from Conrad Logan on six minutes, as McGoldrick weaved his way into the area before hitting an effort which looked destined to open the scoring.
Craig Davies headed over from a Mal Benning corner on 13 minutes as the Stags applied some pressure on the Blades, Otis Khan also testing the water on 24 minutes with his long range effort whistling wide of the post.
Conrad Logan then made a near fatal error on the half hour mark as he misplaced a pass straight to the feet of Billy Sharp, the highly rated forward made a meal of what looked an easy goal – firing way over the bar.
Five minutes later it was the Stags who came close as Mellis played Craig Davies through on goal, the former Oldham marksman beat two defenders, before having his effort which deserved a goal, well blocked.
At the other end with three minutes to go before the break, Conrad Logan atoned for his error earlier on with a phenomenal diving save, to keep out Mark Duffy’s 22 yard effort.
David Flitcroft withdrew Tyler Walker and Neal Bishop at the break, bringing on Alex MacDonald and Lee Angol, Billy Sharp put the ball in the net for the visitors but was denied by the offside flag.
Alex MacDonald saw a venomous effort blocked on 58minutes winning the Stags another corner, but they failed to make anything of it as the game moved past the hour mark, still locked at 0-0.
Chris Basham and Ricky Holmes both had chances to beat Conrad Logan but failed to make them pay, Logan received a standing ovation on 73 minutes when he was replaced by Oljenik – Mal Benning also went off with Will Atkinson coming on and CJ Hamilton moving across to the left.
The Stags made further changes which included youngster Jordan Graham who scored the opening goal against Derby in the week, his 84th minute effort looked goal bound before hitting strike partner Angol and going out for a goal kick.
Late on the Stags won a corner, swung in by substitute Omari sterling-James, youngster Lewis Gibbems, who had replaced Pearce, was lurking but couldn’t connect as the match came to an end, a credible goalless draw against Championship opposition.
FULL TIME: Stags 0-0 Sheffield United
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan (Bobby Olejnik 73), Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce © (Lewis Gibbens 82), CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis (Calum Butcher 61), Neal Bishop (Alex MacDonald HT), Mal Benning (Will Atkinson), Otis Khan (Omari Sterling-James 61), Craig Davies (Jordan Graham 79), Tyler Walker (Lee Angol HT)
Unused Subs: Paul Digby,
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