Full Time Score Mansfield Town 2-1 Rotherham United
Competition Pre-Season Friendly
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Craig Davies (P), Tyler Walker
Attendance 2,083 (466)
Craig Priest writes…
As the heat-wave across the town came to a stormy end, the Stags concluded their pre-season with a fine 2-1 win over Rotherham United at the One Call Stadium to a rumble of thunder – a message for Sky Bet League Two from David Flitcrofts men “We’re ready”.
Every time I’ve spoken to someone this week ahead of the game, they must have thought that I’d lost my mind, as I’d be saying that I wanted to see us lose or at least go down and get a pasting – because I wanted to see a response, I wanted our mentality tested.
Yes we’ve had spells in games where we’ve been under pressure and we had our togetherness tested off the pitch on Tuesday, but we’ve not had a REAL test of being under consistent pressure at the back and not being able to control a game – we’re not going to go through a season without that happening, and I’d rather our character implode during pre-season when they can argue and it not impact the bigger picture, aka cost points.
Out of all the games we’ve played (which I’ve seen having not flown out to Portugal, missed Bradford Park Avenue and chosen Retford over Hednesford) yesterday gave me that feeling that I wanted – the feeling that everyone is together, there’s no anger or dislike in the dressing room, when things aren’t going quite to plan we find another way.
I saw that after Rotherham’s equaliser where we were far to static and conceded cheaply, the boys didn’t get in each others faces, there was very little blame – it was just “we go again and tighten up a notch” and that, personally, I think is down to the style of Flitcroft – there’s not a dressing room expecting to have a bust up after conceding or making an error unlike under Evans.
The change in conditions made us have to work harder on our movement and structure, I felt we coped well with that and I was particularly impressed with Craig Davies’ role in that – he dropped deeper and got us moving and looked a real threat. Calum Butcher too I felt impressed with in the first half, we missed him in that advanced role in the second half, but with Khan, Mellis and MacDonald to contend with playing higher up, he’s going to have to work hard to get a place in the team – I hope he does.
One point of sorrow where the comments of the manager post match about the mentality of skipper Krystian Pearce, who was at the heart of Tuesday’s brawl. Speaking to BBC Radion Nottingham Flitcroft said “The after-spill of Tuesday night has affected him. Mentally he didn’t feel in tune with the game. He felt as though he couldn’t commit to the game and that’s something we have to work on this week”
Whatever really did happen on Tuesday seems to have gone really deep, Pearce has been one of the most committed and focussed defenders I’ve ever seen pull on a Stags shirt and is a leader, to have that focus broken and his head all over the place is far more of a bigger problem than a long term injury – as a team we need to rally around him, us supporters too. If he needs to take time out then so be it, we are talking about someone’s mental wellbeing here, and that comes way before the game.
After the match David Flitcroft confirmed the injury to trialist Nathan Cameron was too serious to warrant pursing a deal with him and that he was looking at a deal through the loan market potentially. We could do with another central defender as cover, although again this could be Paul Digby’s time to shine.
I’ll write more about pre-season on a whole soon in the build up to the season’s opener, but I’m on this – David Flitcroft has transformed the attitude and mentality of Mansfield Town Football Club and must be 100% applauded for that after the way last season played out. This game is full of passion, emotion and expectation – it’s so easy to get lost in the moment and make knee jerk decisions based on atmosphere and animosity, he’s ridden that wave and I honestly feel that whilst it won’t be pretty, there’s a storm coming. Hold onto your hats folks
David Flitcroft was without Otis Khan who was left out due to illness whilst striker Danny Rose also missed out, having played around only twenty minutes behind closed doors against hull in the week, a 3-1 loss. Paul Anderson also missed out again, but was spotted on Friday sporting an Ice Pack – and not just to cope with the heat wave.
The Stags were put under a bit of pressure early doors with Conrad Logan diverting a dangerous cross from Forde, at the other end Calum Butcher was taking his chance to shine winning the Stags a free-kick on seven minutes.
The set play led to a phase of play which, a minute later, would result in a Stags spot-kick as Mal Benning was fouled by Forde – Craig Davies stepped up from the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way, rolling in his first Stags goal.
On twelve minutes a huge flash of warning for the Stags going into the new season as the entire squad played statues in the box as Rotherham swung in a corner, Sean Raggett rose unchallenged, unmarked, to head beyond Logan to level the match.
Rotherham then picked up their game and it took a great tackle from Pearce to stop Jones advancing, before Vassell nodded a cross over Logan’s bar, the Stags stopper then did well to hold onto a forceful twenty-yard drive from Will Vaulks.
On the half hour, another flash – not lighting, but a flash of Mal Benning’s attacking intent – he thundered a volley on his right foot over the bar.
Pearce was withdrawn from the match on 39 minutes for youngster Lewis Gibbens, MacDonald took the armband as Pearce had a long heart to heart with Flitcroft. The pair, along with fans, were celebrating two minutes later as Hayden White sent Tyler Walker free into the box, Walker did well to hold off the defenders and fire home a neat finish to restore the Stags lead.
Jacob Mellis replaced Butcher at the break but it was the visitors who pilled on the pressure first, Logan denying both Forde and Jones, before the Stags made further changes to introduce Sterling-James and Angol, for Bishop and Walker.
Substitute Jamie Proctor tried to chip Logan with seven minutes to go, Alex MacDonald then fizzed one over at the other end with a minute to go as the Stags wrapped up another pre-season victory, three wins and a draw over Championship oppositions leaves a lot to smile about.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-1 Rotherham United
STAGS [3-5-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce © (Lewis Gibbens 39), CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop (Omari Sterling-James 63), Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Calum Butcher (Jacob Mellis HT), Tyler Walker (Lee Angol 63), Craig Davies (Jordan Graham 79)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Will Atkinson Nyle Blake (Although Nyle wasn’t named on the team sheet, he was clearly a sub)
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Competition Pre-Season Friendly
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Mal Benning, Adam Reach (Own Goal)
Attendance 3,599 (1,517)
Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield town continued their positive pre-season with a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in what ended in an ill-tempered brawl involving both sets of players.
A Mal Benning first half goal coupled with an own goal from Wednesday’s Adam Reach following excellent determination from CJ Hamilton was enough to bag the Stags another pre-season win, in a match which will wrongly not be remembered for Mansfield’s continued improvements – but for the mass brawl which, among others, saw Calum Butcher punched and skipper Krystian Pearce frog marched off of the One Call Stadium turf by boss David Flitcroft as tempers soured beyond boiling point.
The brawl will certainly be investigated by the FA and Police, it is not my place to speculate on what sparked the incidents however anyone with social media can easily find out!
I don’t want to sit here and write about who said what to who, or who punched who because at the end of the day none of it is relevant to Mansfield Town FC going into the new season. What is relevant, however, is the actions of Stags boss David Flitcroft who showed tremendous man management and leadership in storming onto the pitch and dragging Krystian Pearce through the melee single-handed and getting him off the pitch.
It’s clear that something was said to Pearce and he completely lost it, in dragging Pearce away from the situation and subbing him for Will Atkinson – Flitcroft has saved his captain, not from suspension which is important ON the pitch, but from something far more serious – sometimes it’s about protecting a human beings welfare, and for that I applaud Flitcroft’s excellent man management.
What should also be applauded is the work that Flitcroft and his back room staff have done since the full time whistle at the end of last season, the dressing room then seemed to lack energy, heart and the ability to manage a game – whereas now it’s a different story entirely and whilst pre-season means absolutely nothing results wise, I can’t help but see small embers of an inferno simmering away, ready to set this season alight.
No doubt I’ll talk about this far more over the coming days, but I wanted to see our mentality tested in terms of either going behind or being put under relentless pressure – alright the scenes at the end answered questions about our emotional mentality and togetherness, but I was certainly pleased to see how resilient we are becoming.
Unlike the Derby and Sheffield United match we didn’t control the game as much and actually (and somewhat ironically) it was quite scrappy in places and yet we still managed to carve out opportunities and take advantage.
Mal Benning’s opener a prime example of pushing high and pressing teams, and whilst CJ Hamilton’s run for the second goal had a bit of luck too it, it’s also pleasing – how many times have we seen a ball put down the channel go un-chased? It’s those extra bits of efforts which will prove the difference when it comes to the crunch.
I said on Sunday that I was unsure with the Bishop-Mellis combination, adding MacDonald into the mix does the trick as he covers the ground, we just need to ensure that players cover and drop in whilst others push on.
At times we did seem isolated going forward with Tyler Walker almost as a loan striker with Khan just behind and a lot of the time we were forced wide and closed off through the middle, our attitude to that is the most pleasing element as we were determined to find a way through and did, that’s the difference between teams who get promoted and teams who throw it away.
At the other end we were tested a little more and saw both Hayden White and Matt Preston taken off through injury as a precaution, there’s a week and a bit left to sign another defender on a permanent deal – I honestly don’t think I would, Lewis Gibbens is an emerging talent and has handled himself very well and wouldn’t look out of place, whilst Paul Digby’s professionalism has continued to show and between the duo – I think we’ve enough cover.
Some may question Hayden White playing right-side centre half, I think he suits it and has shown real improvement since Flitcroft’s arrival – the only area we really need cover is right-wing back as, as much as we love CJ, that’s not the position for him to be effective – perhaps there is a place there for Paul Anderson, who again wasn’t involved last night, presumably to get minutes against Hull in the behind closed doors match later today (Wednesday).
One more pre-season game to go and then the serious stuff begins – I can’t wait!
David Flitcroft made just the one change from the 0-0 draw with Sheffield United, the drought has taken its toll on training pitches and Craig Davies suffered a little knock during training as a result – Alex MacDonald took his place with Tyler Walker playing as the lone front man, with Khan just behind.
The Owls started well but couldn’t trouble the Stags with an early corner, Liam Palmer then tested the water on six minutes but his effort lacked conviction and was collected at ease by Logan.
Jacob Mellis won the Stags a free kick on the ten minute mark, but Otis Khan couldn’t keep his subsequent twenty-two yard effort down, five minutes later Mal Benning intercepted a Wednesday move but the stags couldn’t get forward in support in time before the Owls recovered.
A Neal Bishop volley and CJ Hamilton stretch followed for the Stags but it was the other end where the applause lay, as on 24 minutes Matt Preson made a sublime flying challenge at the feet of Nuhiu preventing a certain goal, the Wednesday man then nearly opened the scoring for the Stags as he tried to head Khan’s cross away – a fine stop from Cameron Dawson sparred his Blushes.
With five minutes to go before the break, the Stags pressed well and opened the scoring – a neat pass from Mellis picked out Khan in the box, his shot cannoned off an Owls defender into the path of CJ Hamilton, who found Benning – the left wing back thundered an effort in off the post to round off an excellent bit of play.
No changes were made at the break by David Flitcroft who perhaps had an eye on giving players more minutes in the friendly behind closed doors with Hull, inside the opening minute Tyler Walker was unlucky to drag an effort wide of the target.
Four minutes later the Owls should have been ahead as the Stags were caught napping down the Wednesday left – a neat cut back fell for Nuhiu who clattered the ball against the bar, much to the Stags relief.
On 67 minutes the Stags had a second, although it carried an element of luck. Alex MacDonald launched a brilliant ball over the top of the Wednesday back line which looked destined to go out for a goal-kick, however the pace and determination of CJ Hamilton saw the rapid winger keep the ball alive on the by-line and cut the ball back into the middle, Wednesday’s Adam Reach the unfortunate man to turn the ball into his own net.
Five minutes later Reach pulled one back venomously for the Owls, however the ball took a deflection off of Hayden White who was floured as a result, he was replaced by Digby as a precaution with the Stags winning 2-1.
With ten to go a triple substation took place before Tyler Walker had two chances to seal the game, first on 86 minutes the Nottingham Forest loanee dragged a shot wide, before being denied two minutes later by Dawson – Benning latched onto the loose ball, but fired wide, concluding the real footballing action before the twenty-man brawl.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
STAGS: Conrad Logan, Hayden White (Paul Digby 76), Matt Preston (Lewis Gibbens 56), Krystain Pearce © (Will Atkinson 90), CJ Hamilton, Alex MacDonald (Omari Sterling-James 80), Neal Bishop, Jacob Mellis (Calum Butcher 80), Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Jordan Graham 80), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Lee Angol, Nyle Blake (Although Nyle wasn’t named on the team sheet)
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,
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 3-1 Derby County
Competition Pre-Season Friendly
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Goal Scorers Jordan Graham, Lee Angol (P), CJ Hamilton
Attendance 4,058 (1,394)
Craig Priest writes…
Throughout the summer the euphoria of the world cup has threatened to bring football home, well for Stags fans – football did come home last night, home to the One Call Stadium where David Flitcroft recorded his first home win, beating Frank Lampard’s Derby County 3-1.
Flitcroft wanted to see his side tested more defensively having dominated a lot with the ball during pre-season so far, a wish he was granted – but I’m sure even he would be surprised at how comfortable his players were and subsequently how well they attacked.
I’m not going to get carried away with the final outcome, although given it’s the first home game it’s easy to let that adrenaline rush take over, I’m pleased with the result don’t get me wrong, but there are three other things I’ve taken from the match against a strong Rams side, which are far more pleasing.
Those things are ‘The Flitcroft Mentality’, ‘The Progression of Youth’ and ‘Adaptability & Application’.
Starting with the Flitcroft mentality, I think the more I look at the situation he came into last season the more respect I have for him. He walked into a dressing room who clearly did not want to play his way and implement things which would either win us games, or save us from late defeats – that’s simply pressing teams higher up, closing play down and paying your way forward.
It would be wrong of me to say that the players who have left during the summer are those who were against the changes, that’s pure speculation which wouldn’t be fair on anyone, but those players who have stayed have listened and brought into the changes and have become better for it – credit has to go to Flitcroft for keeping his head and showing the patience in what was a highly pressured situation, he deserves last night’s victory and will have undoubtedly won over a few more supporters in gaining it.
I have to say I’ve always liked the idea of playing with three central defenders and playing out from the back, that way you control possession and you dictate how the opposition plays, because that system with the right personnel is difficult to defend against.
It’s only downfall and we WILL see this (and I’m sure this is actually what the Stags boss hoped for last night) is when you press to high, a good direct team can get in behind and punish you – a sharper Derby County may well have done and where perhaps a tad unlucky in hitting the post and putting a few efforts wide.
That’s where the ‘Application and Adaptability’ part comes into play, as we saw last night the midfield was flexible enough for Bishop, MacDonald and Khan (Up until the 58th minute when the side was changed) to sit comfortably in deep or high roles and allow others to build around them.
The Stags were dealt a blow on 68 minutes when trailist Nathan Cameron was injured, Derby scoring as a result, and had to change system for 3-4-1-2/ 3-4-3 to a flat 4-4-2 with Will Atkinson (The only player to play the full 90 minutes) playing right back and CJ Hamilton at left back. Despite being miss-matched, Mansfield remained settled and it didn’t disrupt their game at all.
Staying with the Application part, the Stags look a lot fitter – and I do have to question now the standards implemented by the previous management who brought in a highly respected coach in Lee Taylor (he left shortly after Paul and his mate dodgy, he’s now back with them), at the same all seemed well but even as early as late-August, players were struggling to complete 90 minutes, where as in every game I’ve seen (live or highlights) this term, we’ve looked like we could play each match at the same intensity thrice. Being that fit allows us to soak pressure and the counter on it, highlighted in the goals we scored – yes the young derby keeper made mistakes, but how many times have we bemoaned the Stags for not punishing errors?
Finally, I know I’ve rambled on a bit here, the progression of youth continues to blossom – with Lewis Gibbens, Nyle Blake and Jordan Graham all involved last night – the latter opening the scoring by closing play down to punish a goalkeeping error.
There is absolutely no point in having an academy structure in place if you’re not going to use it and David Flitcroft is certainly doing that and implementing it, as he has done wherever he’s been manager. He must be so pleased those youngsters are coming in, not just to make the numbers up, but to be on a par with the more senior players making an impact, credit too, to John Dempster, Richard Cooper and the Academy coaches.
David Flitcroft opted to play two sides; giving both keepers 45 minutes each and changing the entire out-field squad, bar Will Atkinson, around the hour mark. Paul Anderson wasn’t included in the match-day squad having played in the 1-1 draw with Matlock for the U23s the previous evening, presumably to catch-up with game-time, Striker Danny Rose missed out through injury although he’s expected to be back in contention next week – whilst defenders Zander Diamond and David Mirfin remain out for the foreseeable future through injury.
Frank Lampard’s Derby County started brightly and put the stags under pressure early as a shot hit Pearce in the third minute before hitting the bar, three minutes later Cameron Jerome tried his luck from distance but didn’t trouble Logan, who then held onto a Jerome header on nine minutes.
The Rams caused further problems as Tom Lawrence and Luke Thomas both tested the water to no end product, before at the other end Mal Benning’s testing cross after a fine pass out from the back from Preston, was just too heavy for the advancing Tyler Walker.
Neal Bishop tested the hands of Scott Carson on 24 minutes following a nice bit of build up from the Stags but the Rams’ glovesman was behind it well, two minutes later at the other end Logan was out quickly to deny Thomas who had found a way through.
Otis Khan tested Carson from range with ten minutes to go before the break, but couldn’t get enough power on the effort to make it count, the remainder of the first half playing out with Stags comfortably keeping Derby at bay.
Oljenik replaced Logan at the break as both keepers were given 45 minutes each, whilst the Rams made seven changes, the Stags looked the fresher side however and nearly found a way through as Davies played in Khan, prevented by a well timed challenge.
The Rams stuck Oljenik’s post on 55 minutes on the counter attack as David Nugent found space, the Stags were let off and then taken off to rapturous applause – Oljenik and Atkinson the only two who remained on the pitch.
On 65 minutes the Stags were ahead as Derby’s second half keeper Kelle Roos played a poor distribution pass, intercepted and converted confidently by youngster Jordan Graham.
Four minutes later the stags were temporarily down to ten men as Nathan Cameron pulled up injured, during which time the Rams overloaded the Stags box and grabbed the equaliser – Mason Bennett converting after Oljenik saved an initial effort.
Nyle Blake subsequently replaced Nathan Cameron as the stags reverted to 4-4-2 on 70 minutes – seven minutes later a nice bit of counter attacking play saw Angol bundled over in the area, he converted empathically from the penalty spot to put the Stags 2-1 up.
Three minutes later the Stags scored their third and best goal of the night, which all stemmed from a Derby corner.
The Stags headed clear and Omari Sterling-James showed thunderous pace to win the ball on the right hand side right infront of Flitcroft, a shout from the Stags boss to step inside saw the front man do just that and split the Rams back line – Angol raced onto the ball and unselfishly let the on rushing CJ Hamilton, who ran the best part of 80 yards, tap into the empty net.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-1 Derby County
STAGS (Until 58 minutes) [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan (Bobby Olejnik HT), Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Will Atkinson, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Otis Khan, Tyler Walker, Craig Davies
STAGS (58 Minutes onwards): Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Nathan Cameron [Trialist] (Nyle Blake 68), Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson, Jacon Mellis ©, Calum Butcher, CJ Hamilton, Omari Sterling-James, Lee Angol, Jordan Graham
Full Time Score: Retford Utd 0-5 Mansfield Town XI
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Venue Cannon: Park, Retford
Goal Scorers: Lee Angol (P) Omari-Sterling James [2 (1P)] Krystian Pearce, Nyle Blake
Craig Priest writes…
A second half-flurry of goals helped one of two Mansfield Town sides onto victory yesterday (Saturday 14th) as impressive displays from Omari Sterling-James, new signing Neal Bishop and youngster Lewis Gibbens saw the Stags XI beat Retford Utd by five goals to nil.
Manager David Flitcroft cast his eye over this Stags XI with assistant Ben Futcher overseeing the 0-0 draw at Hednesford in the afternoons other senior fixture.
Having missed the trip to Bradford Park Avenue on Thursday due to other commitments, it was the first time I’d seen the new look Stags, and whilst I wanted to see the likes of Otis Khan and Tyler Walker who were playing in the Hednesford match, I was more than satisfied with the players I did see, Neal Bishop and youngster Lewis Gibbens particularly impressing.
Out of the summer signings, Bishop is the one who has gone under the excitement radar a little, but 100% he is the type of player we need in the engine-room of midfielder – putting in a puppeteer-like performance yesterday… pulling all the strings.
The former Scunthorpe man did a lot of work box-to-box off the ball, closing play down and keeping the Stags shape, which in similar fashion to the pre-season matches thus far, was a 3-5-2/ 3-4-3 system – playing out from the back and enjoying long, fluid, spells with the ball.
Bishop, flanked by Will Atkinson and the transfer listed Calum Butcher with sterling-James and Anderson in the wider positions, controlled the middle of the park well and was the buffer between the back three of Pearce, Paul Digby and youngster Lewis Gibbens and the Stags attacking threat of Angol and youngster Jordan Graham.
It will be interesting to see where the 36 year old fits in Flitcroft’s plans going into the season, but his drive across 90 minutes is something we’ve lacked along with the experience of playing at a higher level – he looked comfortable in sitting back at allowing the wide players to push on, but also in lurking on the edge of the opponents box to redistribute moves which break down – he was actually very unlucky to not score with a well saved long-range effort during the second half.
Moving from the experienced head of Bishop to the youthful promise of Lewis Gibbens, who played on the left-side of the back three, Gibbens had a fine game and I believe will be one to watch over the next six-months – if he can’t break the first team, which given the lack of defensive signings so far could actually be a possibility, then a loan as a regular in a conference national side is a must to maintain his development.
The youngster was strong in the air and was a real threat from attacking set-plays, during the first half alone he had three opportunities to score, crashing one header against the bar and nodding two over. At the other end he was very comfortable in playing out from the back and playing with a high-line, he very rarely lost an Ariel battle – marshalled through the game by Bishop and the very vocal Paul Digby.
David Flitcroft included two more youngsters in the Stags XI, with Jordan Graham starting up-front alongside Lee Angol, he had a quieter game than the other too but looked sharp enough.
The other youngster was Nyle Blake came off of the bench to replace Paul Anderson during the second half and capped a fine display with a goal. Playing right side of the midfield five, Blake looked quick and had a few tricks in his locker – creating a number of opportunities, he’s certainly another whose development should be statically planned and monitored, as the Stags face four Championship sides over the next fortnight before their League Two opener, at home to Newport County
The recent heat-wave had done the Retford Utd pitch no favours and it took the Stags a while to get settle, but it was the Stags who enjoyed the best chance early on – Omari sterling-James sent in a pin point corner in the 6th minute which found Lewis Gibbens at the far post – the youngster unlucky not to score as his thunderous header cannoned off the bar and out for a goal-kick.
An error of judgement from Paul Digby moments later at the other end nearly let the hosts in, however Bobby Oljenik was alert and stood firm to deny the hosts an opening.
From then on in it was pretty much one-way traffic with the Stags bossing possession and creating chance after chance after chance without reward, Sterling-James particularly impressing with a number of corners which saw Gibbben twice head wide, along with captain Krystain Pearce and Calum Butcher – who both sent headers off target.
Paul Anderson nearly opened the scoring with an audacious left footed lob which was heading from the top corner after the home keepers poor clearance, fortunately for the home glovesman, he scuttled back and made a fine save to deny the Stags’ adaptable midfielder, playing in a left wing-back role.
Lee Angol and Jordan Graham also saw efforts blocked, but the Stags dominance paid off with three minutes to go before the break as Will Atkinson was comically bundled over inside the area – Lee Angol stepped up to take the spot-kick and converted successfully.
The Stags continued their dominance after the break and didn’t seem to tire, Sterling-James and Atkinson both saw chances denied as Mansfield looked for a second – something they found through Sterling-James on 63 minutes from close range.
Skipper Pearce then made it three on 70 minutes as he tore away from his marker to covert a Sterling-James corner, five minutes later Sterling-James turned goal scorer, converting the Stags second spot-kick of the afternoon, which he won after a crazy left-sided run which left the hoists chasing a blur.
Youngster Jordan Graham saw an effort blocked before Neal Bishop was also denied by a fine save, however Sterling-James grabbed another assist with three minutes to go, his left sided cross finding youngster Nyle Blake, who converted the Stags’ fifth from close range.
FULL TIME: Retford Utd 0-5 Stags XI
STAGS: Bobby Oljenik, Krystian Pearce ©, Paul Digby, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Will Atkinson, Neal Bishop, Calum Butcher, Paul Anderson (Nyle Blake 64), Lee Angol, Jordan Graham.
As Mansfield Town’s first team were split into two for the afternoon, the XI watched by assistant boss Ben Futcher failed to unlock Hednesford at Keys Park, playing out a competitive 0-0 draw.
The score line would have disappointed the Stags fans who opted to make the journey to Keys Park, especially considering the XI playing in the afternoon’s other fixture in Retford won 5-0, however they did get to see a few new faces in action, including Otis Khan, Tyler Walker and Craig Davies.
Arguably the stronger of the two sides, the Stags had their chances to open the scoring during the first half as Walker, Davies and MacDonald all had efforts blocked, whilst at the other end they were tested – Conrad Logan coming to the Stags’ rescue thrice during a competitive first half.
The Stags upped their game during a feisty second half but failed to break a resilient home defence, CJ Hamilton, Mal Benning and Jacob Mellis with the best of the chances – none of which had the conviction to find the back of the net.
Speaking after the full time whistle, assistant boss Ben Futcher told mansfieldtown.net he was pleased, despite the full time score "It was a really good game where the lads got 90 minutes in, Fitness-wise it was perfect and the pitch was lovely.
"First-half I thought it was a bit scrappy, but very competitive. I think second-half, when we settled down, we moved the ball.
"We could've got four or five really in the second-half. But the workout was really good and the fitness is really there for the lads now with their first 90 minutes. Plus there were no injuries so I'm delighted.
"It's early days yet and it's still about fitness really. I think first-half it was really scrappy and there were a lot of stoppages."
FULL TIME: Hednesford 0-0 Stags XI
STAGS XI: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Pretson, Nathan Cameron [Trialist] (Henri Wilder 61), Mal Benning, CJ Hamilton, Alex MacDonald, Jacob Mellis, Otis Khan, Craig Davies, Tyler Walker Unused Sub: Zayn Hakeem
Second half goals from Jacob Mellis and a brace from Lee Angol sealed the Stags first victory of pre-season against Bradford (Park Avenue) as preparations continued for the 2018/19 season.
Originally scheduled as a ‘Mansfield Town XI’ the Stags management decided on Monday they would send a first team, using the match as another opportunity to play a different team in each half, again incorporating four youngsters in the second half XI, which also included the transfer listed Paul Digby who did not travel to Portugal for the training camp.
An intense pre-season training day on Wednesday left the Stags finding it tough to get going in the first half but they did enjoy the better of the chances, Tyler Walker drew an easy save from the home keeper after a fluid bit of play, Mal Benning clipped one over the bar whilst Otis Khan came the closest, hitting the woodwork as the first forty-five minutes faded away.
After the break, the fresh legs stepped things up and Jacob Mellis broke the deadlock four minutes after the re-start following a well worked short corner routine. Lee Angol then doubled the Stags lead on 52 minutes as his right sided cross dropped into the net – Angol added his second with 11 minutes remaining from close range.
The Stags have three scheduled fixtures for Saturday, against Gainsborough Trinity, Hednesford Town and Retford United, boss David Flitcroft confirmed that senior players will be involved in the fixtures, but is yet to confirm where those players will be sent.
FULL TIME: Bradford (Park Avenue) 0-3 Stags
Stags First Half: Bobby Oljenik, Krystain Pearce ©, Matt Preston, Nathan Cameron [Trialist], Hayden White, Mal Benning, Alex MacDonald, Neal Bishop, Otis Khan, Tyler Walker, Craig Davies
Stags Second Half: Conrad Logan, Will Atkinson, Henri Wilder, Paul Digby, Lewis Gibbens, CJ Hamilton, Calum Butcher, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James (Nyle Blake 83), Lee Angol, Jordan Graham.
Mansfield Town began their pre-season with a narrow 1-0 defeat in Portugal against Portuguese Primeira Liga outfit Vitória FC.
David Flitcroft included four youngsters within the squad which was split into two sides, playing a half each, as the integration between the senior side and academy continued.
Playing against Portuguese Primeira Liga outfit Vitória FC, Stags fans who made the journey over to Portugal for the conclusion of the week long training camp, got their first sight of new additions Matt Preston, Neal Bishop, Otis Khan, Craig Davies and Tyler Walker – plus trialist Nathan Cameron.
In a fairly balanced match the Stags were given a huge let off on 28 minutes when Conrad Logan conceded a penalty, which he watched the Vitoria forward blaze over the bar to the taunts of the travelling Mansfield fans.
Craig Davies forced a smart save at the other end from the Vitoria keeper in a fiery first half, but at the break the sides were level.
The strong challenges continued in the second half as Calum Butcher picked up a yellow card as the Stags gave away a number of free-kicks, from which they were punished on 77 minutes -after Jacob Mellis conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box.
The Stags had an opportunity to salvage a draw in the dying embers of the match as Mal Benning swung in a free kick, which the keeper collected to the sound of the full time whistle
FULL TIME: Vitoria FC 1-0 Mansfield Town
Stags [First Half] 3-5-2 | Conrad Logan, Nathan Cameron [Trialist], Matt Preston, Henri Wilder, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald ©, Nyle Blake, Otis Khan, CJ Hamilton, Tyler Walker, Craig Davies.
Stags [Second Half] 3-5-2 | Bobby Oljenik, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Will Atkinson, Jacob Mellis, Calum Butcher, Mal Benning, Jordan Graham, Lee Angol
When the retained list was revealed at the end of last season, there were three names I wasn’t happy to see in the category of ‘players under contact and made available for transfer’.
Anyone whose read my blogs over the last year will know two of those names in Paul Anderson and Paul Digby – the other is a man who has just been taken off the list, and rightly so in my view, Will Atkinson.
Digby and Anderson remain on the transfer list although Anderson IS currently out in Portugal whilst it would appear Digby is not, but that is a discussion for another time.
Removing 29 year old Atkinson from the list is a positive move from David Flitcroft, as Atkinson, in my opinion, provides adaptability across the midfield and fits with the type of play Flitcroft will impose this forthcoming season.
Able to play right, left and centre, Atkinson can really deliver when called upon and does a lot of the “unseen” work closing play down and creating space – I think he’s tenacity will really shine and get the best out of the likes of Tyler Walker and CJ Hamilton.
I’ve written numerous articles over the years about finding a set position for a player who can player in a number, Paul Digby and Alex MacDonald were prime examples – but with Atkinson, I think it’s the opposite, let him roam, allow him space and freedom, let him be the engine and watch us progress.
At the same time of confirming the removal of Atkinson from the transfer list, the club confirmed that former bury skipper Nathan Cameron has joined the club out in Portugal for the training camp.
The long serving Bury man is exactly the type of commanding central defender need and could fill the void left by Rhys Bennett, however much like David Mirfin, Cameron has a recent injury history and in the last two season has appeared for the shakers less than ten times which is a worry.
If however the Stags medical team can get Cameron match fit, it’s certainly worth taking a punt on the 26 year old as we really do lack cover and back up in that area with Zander Diamond, similarly to Paul Digby, being nowhere to been seen in Portugal and transfer listed.
Staying with the transfer listed players, Paul Anderson IS out in Portugal and training with the first team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken off that list in the coming weeks and playing a key part next season.
Anderson’s transfer listing was no shock after he wasn’t fancied by Flitcroft upon his arrival, we know from our Memory lane episode with Bobby Hassell that Flitcroft is prone to targeting the older players in favour of blooding youth.
However that doesn’t mean the versatile former Forest man can’t win over Flitcroft and get the first team football he so desperately wants in order to stay at Mansfield – another fact he’s made clear to anyone whose spoken to him.
The final player listed is Calum Butcher who has also been spotted out in Portugal training with the squad – it’s an interesting one where the 27 year old is concerned as he was only loaned out last season as he couldn’t settle up here without his young family who, according to the world of rumours (I know you should never do this but still) were meant to be moving closer to Mansfield during this summer.
Who knows with that one, but for me, Butcher does has a talent and the ability to play at a much higher by very much falls into the category of performing well in a certain role, set system and style of play.
The excitement is certainly building more and from the signings we’ve made so far – Flitcroft looks to be shaping a good spine of the team, and putting together a squad who be physically fitter and more focussed for the challenge ahead which is still very much promotion.
With constant speculation over an exit to another club coupled with the arrival of three new signings, two being front man and one a very attack minded midfielder, you’d be forgiven for worrying that the rumours of his exit have an element of truth to them – but for me, I think Danny Rose can actually blossom, thanks to arrival of the attacking trio.
The popular 24 year old front man enjoyed his best season for the Stags last term finishing as top scorer, but since being injured early doors at Forest Green Rovers in March – Rose wasn’t quite the same and his goals dried up – some better bloggers than me may even suggest the Rose, wilted.
Personally I am a big believer in players reacting better to some managers than others, almost like a jigsaw puzzle – isolated you’re looking at a funny shaped coloured square, but put together with the others and you end up looking at a beautiful landscape.
Looking at Roses’ Mansfield career you could argue that Peterborough’s finest Steve Evans got the best out of him which statistically thus far is true – but over the course of his career, ask yourself who has developed Rose the most with senior opportunities? The answer, David Flitcroft.
Flitcroft brought Rose through at Barnsley and then secured the young front man’s services again upon joining Bury, where Rose played much more of a part and flourished into the talent which Adam Murray then brought to the Stags.
I think sometimes people forget that mild-mannered Rose is just 24 and towards the tail end of last season, I think the long season of carrying the Stags front line in the Evans system had taken its toll – hence why the injury occurred and the goals dried up, for me he needed help.
Rose really impressed me with his conduct and his game, in cricketing terms I would class him as an all-rounder – he’d not an out and out target man, he’d not a six-yard box poacher – he’d good with both feet and in the air and clever with it, looking at the players David Flitcroft has brought into the squad in the attacking ranks, I can only see Rose starting to flourish.
He’ll be allowed to play his game again and keep defenders guessing learning from the experience of Craig Davies who is practically a more experienced Rose, as well as benefiting from the pace and flair of Tyler Walker and Otis Khan, both players who like to run at defenders, create pockets of space and exploit from ridiculous angles.
Rose, like any young player, is about confidence – you can see how much Mansfield Town means to him and how much the crowd rally him, I can think of countless chances last season he spurned and then let that frustration grow on him as, other than Hemmings there were few around him contributing and that expectation in a side chasing promoting can carry a huge weight.
Another issue was fitness, especially again towards the last part of the season, Rose would visibly tire after 75 minutes when we really needed a 95 plus minute player – I personally think that will improve this term and the return will be extremely valuable.
I almost wrote the return would be goals there, but we should know better – strikers shouldn’t be judged entirely on goals but on contribution and work rate – Rose is certainly up in that bracket of players who would probably play with two broken legs and still positively contribute.
Having Davies and Walker to call upon around him, plus let us not forget Lee Angol and the un-tapped raw ability of Omari Sterling-James, can only be described as a positive and hungry strike force - one which a character such as Rose can really bloom in.
I’m sure I will touch upon this more over the coming weeks, but this is a clean sheet for all involved here – the failure to reach the play-offs is done and gone, it can’t be changed and some of the personnel involved with that have moved on – what we have is a squad who are being worked hard and who create the right environment for us to be successful, and for players like Rose to really shine.
David Flitcroft has to be commended on his approach to pre-season, it hasn’t been a case of “off you go lads, we’ll see you on this date” – there has been continuous work over the summer and this trip to Portugal will not be an easy ride, highlighted by the fact we’re playing Dundee United who will provide a proper work out, rather than having a kick about with a bunch of random fellas, picked for a one-off match.
Flitcroft’s work with the team will pay off, as it will with Rose – speculation is just that and will always be there with your key players, sometimes you’ve got to ignore the hearsay and gossip and somewhere down the line – everything will come up Roses!
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