Craig Priest writes
With the season’s opener against Newport now two weeks away, Mansfield Town stepped up their preparations by showing their resilience – twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 against a very strong Championship outfit in Hull City.
Whilst the Stags’ part in both Hull goals against left a number of questions, you really couldn’t fault the application and determination of Dempster’s men in working on, and effecting, their counter attacking game – with and without the ball.
Mansfield, naturally against a strong Championship side, had to endure long spells without the ball and had their patience tested – but to not crumble and accept defeat is very pleasing, as it’s those characteristics which could prove the difference between play-off heartbreak… and winning pivotal matches in the latter end of the season to go up automatically!
Pre-Season gives a little leeway to errors, and whilst I won’t dwell on them too much, the defensive mistakes which have gifted teams goals so far will need addressing sooner rather than later, and Dempster will need to be comfortable going into Newport with the system which best suits our defence and keeps us tight.
That said we need to find the balance which also gets the most out of our attack and yesterday as we worked on counter-attacking play, 4-2-3-1 allowed us to soak up pressure but left us exposed in the middle far too often for my liking, where as 4-4-2 (after around 15/20 minutes) really got the most out of Otis Khan, who’s had a good pre-season so far, and CJ Hamilton who really troubled defenders and took his goal well.
Knocks and illness’ aside, Dempster opted to go like-for-like with a League match in naming just seven substitutes, which didn’t include any trialists – Omari Sterling-James had an OK out on the right wing, I’d like to see on Tuesday against Forest Under 23s another 4-4-2 with Rose and Maynard up top, CJ on the left hand side and Khan on the right – seeing if we can go and dominate the game.
Finally with Mellis ill, Tomlinson injured following Wednesday’s game and new signing Dion Donohue still side-lined it was a fantastic opportunity for Alistair Smith to step up and get in 90 minutes. I felt he handled the match really well and controlled the midfield with some well-timed challenges and some good distribution – hopefully he can continue his develop and be a part of the season to come.
Onto Nottingham Forest U23s on Tuesday, some maybe frustrated that Forest aren’t sending a first team – but a test against the U23s will be far more beneficial to us in terms of stepping up the pace and working on shape and game management, a game is a game – so bring on Tuesday!
-- MATCH RECAp --
Fielding a strong side, the Championship side were first to test the water on two minutes as Eaves’ half-volley nestled into the side netting of skipper for the day Conrad Logan’s net, five minutes later front man Andy Cook was unfortunate not to have reward for the Stags’ excellent build up play, seeing an effort well blocked by the visiting defence.
The visitors struck the woodwork on 14 minutes and were then denied by a Sweeney block two minutes later. At the other end Mal Benning and Alistair Smith both had efforts fly over and eventually it was the visitors who opened the scoring on 27 minutes, Bowen left with a tap in following poor defending.
Two minutes later Logan made a fine save to keep the score 1-0 before Otis Khan’s looping cross forced a corner on 32 minutes, the Stags however couldn’t capitalise.
Khan was again involved on 39 minutes when he was denied by Long in the City goal, Four minutes later Khan beat Long with an expert free-kick which hit the bar – Neal Bishop was first to the follow up and thumped resoundingly into the inviting net to level things up, just before the half-time whistle.
James Clarke replaced White at the break as Stags set about trying to get ahead but made a mess of it, Matt Preston’s poor clearance allowed Hull to pounce and then given the chance to push the ball back to Logan, was outmuscled by Dicko, who tucked beyond Logan.
CJ Hamilton finished off a brilliant counter attack in 54 minutes to draw the Stags back on track following a fine pass from Otis Khan, Andy Cook nearly put the Stags ahead on the hour, but it wasn’t to be as the visitors recovered to defend strongly.
The match then fizzled out with few more chances of note for either side, the full time whistle signalling a solid draw for the Stags.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-2 Hull City
Conrad Logan © | Hayden White (James Clarke 45), Matt Preston (Krystian Pearce 63), Ryan Sweeney (Lewis Gibbens 80), Mal Benning | Neal Bishop (Alex MacDonald 63), Alistair Smith | Omari Sterling-James, Otis Khan, CJ Hamilton | Andy Cook
Unused Substitutes: Aidan Stone, Danny Rose, Nicky Maynard
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