The Wembley dream is over in terms of a cup competition as following a well-deserved break, the Stags returned to action and crashed out of the Checkatrade Trophy – losing by a goal to nil to Bury.
It’s disappointing to be out at this stage however after a prolonged rest, I did anticipate a slow and sluggish encounter to get back into the match routine, and in the grand scheme of things I’d much rather get that out of our system on a cold Tuesday night where nothing is truly lost, than in a local derby against the struggling neighbours itching to get off to a good start under new management.
Bury are a very good side as we saw at Gigg Lane earlier this season and I still believe they’ll be challenging in the top seven at the end of the season, they took advantage of our prolonged rest early doors and got a cheap goal, and then marked us out of the game – the lack of spark and desire did worry me a little but again, when Saturday comes I know it will be a whole different story.
Players who needed minutes got minutes and players who needed to be protected got protected – we weren’t played off the park and had opportunities to get back into the game, it just simply wasn’t to be.
We now put all focus on the league and give it our everything, we have made great strides over the last six months of so – this set back, as disappointing as it is, is just that – a set back and a chance to try again.
David Flitcroft put out a strong side having not played since the 24th November, he made three changes from the side which faced Lincoln – Conrad Logan replaced Oljenik between the sticks, Hayden White replaced Atkinson, and Otis Khan replacing Hamilton.
Click HERE for a full comprehensive report from the club
STAGS Logan (GK), White, Benning, Preston, Pearce © (Elsnik 46’), Bishop, Mellis, Khan (Hamilton 46’), Sweeney, Walker, Rose (Davies 46’)
Unused Substitutes: Olejnik (GK), Atkinson, Butcher, Graham.
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 3-2 Scunthorpe United
Competition Checkatrade Trophy (North) Group H [Game 3 of 3]
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorers Nyle Blake, Calum Butcher, Timi Elsnik
Attendance 928 (119)
Craig Priest writes…
I’ve often been frustrated by the checkatrade trophy and the subsequent attitude that managers show towards it, however last night I proudly left the One Call Stadium contempt in the knowledge we have a manager who is both looking to develop the future of the club, and bring success to its humble fans.
The 3-2 score line had its positives and negatives and I’m sure other bloggers will happily sit and highlight the negatives of the way in which we surrendered a two goal lead, but I couldn’t care about that – as Mansfield Town did what was required and gave supporters a taste of future prospects.
With the Stags already qualified for the next stage of the competition, it wouldn’t have mattered if we had lost the match – the only difference being an away tie rather than a home tie. The importance of the match was to give youngsters (and I hate using that term in some respects) some game time and give them an introduction to senior, professional, football.
In the build up to the match there where many reports of “putting the kids out” which, whilst we did start young players and have teenagers on the bench, for me is disrespectful to the individuals involved who have trained with first team on a consistent basis, working towards the aim of being selected to play on merit.
That’s exactly what happened last night, David Flitcroft didn’t hand over the reigns to John Dempster and get the kit men to print shirts with 55 and upwards on the back for the sake of playing a fixture – he selected players who had caught his eye to play alongside those more experienced pros needing minutes, based on their work, application and attitude.
It is testament to the work that John Demnpster, Mike Whitlow, Richard Cooper and the rest of the Academy staff have put in over the last three years for the manager to be able to do that and I firmly believe that will continue when the Under 21s and First Team are under the same roof at the RH Academy which can only be a matter of weeks.
We already knew the potential of Lewis Gibbens and Jordan Graham, but it was the first time we got to see the likes of Nyle Blake, Jason Law and Alistar Smith who all started the match and who have been frequently mentioned by David Flitcroft. I felt they all put in a committed shift against what was a strong League One side, who despite eight changes, didn’t really field a youthful side – a fact which, given the nature of the competition, will be wrongly overlooked – make no bones about it, Scunthorpe were not there just to forfill contractual obligations, they were there to try and win and progress.
Frustratingly I was unable to sit in my regular seat in the upper tier due to ticket sale restrictions, so sat in the lower tier behind the home dug-out, and whilst I’m annoyed I didn’t get my regular seat – I have to say it was good to see the way in which Flitcroft managed the game, in particular the way he took time to sit with Nyle Blake after he came off for Mal Benning early in the second half.
Naturally with a sparse crowd you could hear fans more, and I have to 100% back Flitcroft’s reaction after a particular spell where Alistar Smith was berated for being disposed – he kindly reminded this particular supporter that he’s just a kid, and whilst I said at the top of the blog I wanted to avoid that comparison, I was very tempted to stand and applaud, as the young players are exactly that YOUNG! They need time to be nurtured and grow and gain match experience.
I don’t particularly want to single anyone of them out as again they all earned their involvement on merit, however I felt that Jason Law was terrific, playing out of position at left back, later left wing, and despite being a striker, played really well, held his own and really contributed.
All in all a very good night for the Stags, which with Timi Elsnik’s late goal, saw Flitcroft’s men top the group, they’ll play either Stoke City U21s, Bury, Macclesfield or Manchester City U21s at home week commencing 3rd December.
Only Ryan Sweeney kept his place from Sunday’s FA Cup clash with boss David Flitcroft making ten changes, which included debuts for Alistar Smith and Nyle Blake [#33] – whilst on the bench youngsters Harry Bircumshaw [#31], Tom Fielding [#35], Iyrwah Gooden [#36] and Tyrese Sinclair [#37] were brought into the squad from the Academy set-up.
Captained by Conrad Logan in the absence of Pearce, the Stags soaked up early pressure from the League One visitors with Lewis Gibbens’ tackle on 13 minutes preventing the visitors from taking the lead
It was Mansfield who took the lead on 21 minutes despite Scunthorpe’s pressure, youngster Nyle Blake skipped through the middle and let fly towards goal, seeing the ball nestle beyond Flatt thanks to the slightest of deflections.
Skipper Logan then made two smart saves five minutes later to maintain the stags leadm which they held until the half time whistle.
The Stags were looking a little out of sorts and on 52 minutes Mal Benning replaced goalscorer Blake to slot into a back three, as Flitcroft introduced the more familiar 3-4-1-2 with Atkinson going to right midfield, Law pushing to the left with Benning slotting alongside Gibbens and Preston, who replaced Sweeney at the break.
The switch also saw Butcher move into attacking midfield and it was he who doubled the Stags lead just a minute later, sweeping into the bottom corner after neat footwork on the edge of the area.
Scunthorpe found a way back into the game on 73 as they danced through the middle, setting up El-Mhanni to deflect one beyond Logan, a minute prior to the full time whistle the stags allowed Scunthorpe through the middle again – Andy Dales bringing the scores to 2-2, a goal which would have meant Scunthorpe qualification and a penalty shootout….. if straight from the restart, the Stags didn’t score, which they did as Elsnik’s effort looped over Flatt, again via a deflection – a thrilling end to a brilliant night for the club.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 3-2 Scunthorpe United
STAGS [4-3-3]: Conrad Logan ©, Will Atkinson, Ryan Sweeney (Matt Preston HT), Lewis Gibbens, Jason Law, Alistar Smith, Calum Butcher, Timi Elsnik, Nyle Blake (Mal Benning 52), Danny Rose (Tom Fielding 87), Jordan Graham
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Harry Bircumshaw, Tyrese Sinclair, Iyrwah Gooden
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers U21s
Competition Checkatrade Trophy (North) Group H [Game 2 of 3]
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorers Jacob Mellis, Mal Benning
Attendance 1,112 (131)
Craig Priest writes…
Following Saturday’s deflating draw this evening’s match was about one key word – progression. Despite seven changes I’m a firm beliver that we win, lose and draw as a team, and therefore a 2-1 victory is not one for the “reserves” or in a “friendly style match” – it’s a win for Mansfield Town Football Club.
In truth it was a harder win that it should have been but not because of missed chances or a lack of creativity, there was a bit of rustiness from players and a negative mindset which comes from the way we’ve performed coupled with that outside pressure and a wolves academy side who were eager to show they were not there to just make the numbers up.
The victory gives us progression in the competition which is imperative in our mission to be successful, and it also gives us progression in game management and minutes. We had to soak up pressure, we found it tough to break through at times and that’s a progression in not crumbling and imploding which will serve us well going forward.
The international break I’m thankful for as it gives us time to breathe and work on these niggles and errors, this time we must come back a week on Saturday and really kick on as a unit.
Seven changes were made from the side to draw 2-2 at Bury on Saturday with many players getting value minutes, including Omari Sterling-James – one of three players jetting off on international duty over the coming days.
The Stags started with real fire and should have been ahead within the opening minute as excellent work from Sterling-James contributed in the build up, Will Atkinson nodded wide at the far post and after a momentary pause for a potential head injury – play went on.
Mansfield didn’t have to wait much longer as Mellis, one of the seven changes, grabbed the opening goal – Sterling-James instrumental in the build-up sending the midfielder into the box, before he trickled easily beyond the keeper.
Sterling-James, Jordan Graham, Calum Butcher and Mellis came close to adding a second but the young visitors did well to defend, at the other end Conrad Logan made a fine save on 24 minutes to keep out Niall Ennis for the visitors only real sight of goal.
After the break the stags found their second goal early as Mal Benning fired in from a narrow angle on 47 minutes, before Mellis’ stunning free kick was saved by the keeper just after the hour.
The visitors looked just about done but found a glimmer of hope with 15 minutes to go as Goncalves pulls one back for the visitors with a stunning free-kick
A nervy finish was then set up, but Flitcrofts men did enough to see the game out and subsequently qualify for the next stage of the competition – they need just a draw in their final group match against league one Scunthorpe United next month to secure the group win, and therefore a home tie in the knockout stages.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers U21s
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Matt Preston, Will Atkinson, Timi Elsnik, Jacob Mellis, Mal Benning, Calum Butcher (Otis Khan 79), Jordan Graham (Danny Rose 65), Omari Sterling-James (CJ Hamilton 60)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Jason Law, Lewis Gibbens, Tyler Walker
Full Time Score Lincoln City 1-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Checkatrade Trophy (North) Group H [Game 1 of 3]
Venue Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Stags Goal Scorers Calum Butcher, Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,205 (260)
Craig Priest writes…
The best way to start a long journey to Wembley is by beating the current holders of the competition, and that’s exactly what the Stags did as they came from behind they beat Lincoln City 2-1 in the first of this seasons three group matches in the controversial competition.
For many seasons I, like a broken record, have said that we should be taking the checkatrade trophy seriously and feel that previous managers have done a disservice to the board and those of us on the terraces by showing a complete lack of interest in competing – therefore again I commend David Flitcrofts approach to the match – it’s there to be won.
I don’t care that much about the argument over the inclusion of under 23 sides and the whole blooding kids into men’s football – what I care about is what every TRUE football support cares about, and that is my football club being successful.
Yes the attention and dedication should ALWAYS be on league football and moving up the league ladder, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and how that longed for league success can be triggered and influenced by cup football.
The prize money for the checkatrade trophy is actually very good and has risen over the past three seasons; a good run in the competition can garner the income to make those key additions to the squad, which can then be an influencer on the bread and butter of the league and long-term stability of the club. Coventry and Lincoln, the previous two winners of the cup, are prime examples of this.
A manager who shows commitment to the competition is a manger who cares about the development of the club over a longer period – it’s those managers ultimately who deliver the desired success.
I’m therefore glad, as I mentioned above, about the approach Flitcroft took last night and the approach to the game – first half I felt we were poor and the referee’s display hid that in a way, the second half however we were far better and started to compete and I felt we were always going to win the match.
To say we made seven changes, two enforced with Pearce and Sweeney on international duty, we showed that we have strong depth which is going to be vital over the course of the season and I was proud in the spirit within the group to deliver a win – winning is a habit that shouldn’t be paused or broken just because the occasion is different.
Performance wise I felt Calum Butcher was excellent, his tenacity to close Lincoln down and chase opportunity is a joy to watch and he fully deserved his goal, and was unlucky to not have another to his name – playing in the central attacking midfield role he’s showing the promise he arrived with a year ago and proving why he’s been a part of promotion winning sides.
New signing Timi Elsnik was outstanding too, he looks a real handful and I would love to see more of him – especially with Otis Khan and CJ, some real damage could be done to teams there.
Nothing is won or lost, especially with two group games to go – but I look at it as part of the whole and not an isolated competition, and with that we’ve lost once in nine competitive games, which gives us momentum to build upon.
With Pearce and Sweeney on international duty, the Stags were forced into two changes – but made seven in total. Out went Bobby Olejnik, Pearce, Sweeney, Hamilton, Bishop, Khan and Walker – with Logan, Gibbens, Atkinson, Davies, Butcher, Benning and Elsnik brought in – the latter making his Stags debut. Omari Sterling-James is also on international duty, which gave youngster Jason Law the opportunity to be involved, he got a place on the bench.
The Stags struggled early to adapt to the changes and were under pressure early doors as former Stags hit man Matt Rhead caused trouble in the air, Alex MacDonald cleared an early Rhead header but on six minutes Rhead netted against his former club as Benning failed to stop a cross, Rhead peeled off and scored the easiest goal of his career, powerfully heading past Logan, unchallenged.
Mansfield could have been in for a hammering but in true Stags spirit as they have done every time they’ve gone behind, the fought back – on eight minutes Calum Butcher’s tenacious closing down forced a Lincoln error, allowing the attacking midfielder to nip in and fizz the ball beyond Sam Slocombe in the Imps goal.
The Stags then had opportunities to take the lead as Butcher put in a low cross which just evaded the run of Davies and Rose on fourteen minutes, moments later good flowing movement with Elsnik, MacDonald and Bucther saw the latter earn a corner.
The hosts were putting the Stags under pressure playing the Mansfield Town way circa 2012-13 – find Rhead with a long ball, and on 23 minutes similar play saw the Imps through on goal – Shay McCartan denied by Logan who made a strong save.
The referee was handing out yellow cards like they were going out of fashion and booked White, Rose and Benning in quick succession in a period which saw little action – in the moments when the cards stayed in the pocket, Timi Elsnik nearly made it a debut to remember with a twenty-five yard effort, whistling towards goal – Slocombe was behind it well
As the clock ticked towards the break Davies was teed up by Butcher but his effort on the volley was blocked well, at the other end Rhead nodded one wide before on the stroke of half-time Butcher was unfortunate not to have a second, his well hit effort blocked on the line.
Mansfield showed improvement after the break and began to control the game, White, Benning, Butcher and Elsnik all had attempts to unlock the Imps backline cleared whilst Davies headed one wide at the far post on 69 minutes.
Rose and Davies were replaced on 71 minutes as Walker and Hamilton came on up front, meaning the Stags switched from playing long, directional passes in the air, to fluid football on the deck.
Within a minute, the plan worked as fluid football eventually saw Butcher send a deft touch into the path of Walker, who practically with his first touch since coming on, thundered past the keeper to put Stags into a 2-1 lead.
It was nearly a repeat performance on 76 minutes but this time Walker scuffed his effort wide, before CJ Hamilton latched onto White’s pass, turning his marker before having an effort blocked.
The referee’s cards made a comeback as the game faded out, Elsnik into the notebook with a yellow card for the Stags – before as the game entered four additional minutes, Lincoln sub Micheal O’Connor was sent off for a late tackle on Walker.
FULL TIME: Lincoln City 1-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson, Alex MacDonald ©, Timi Elsnik [#20], Mal Benning, Calum Butcher, Craig Davies (Tyler Walker 71), Danny Rose (CJ Hamilton 71)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Otis Khan, Neal Bishop, Jordan Graham, Jason Law [#26]
Referee: Ross Joyce
Craig Priest writes...
When Alfie Potter saw his pivotal penalty saved by the home keeper midway through the shootout, the 1981 japan only release by ABBA never seemed so apt, as Mansfield allowed prize money and distant Wembley dreams slip through their fingers.
Penalty shootouts are always pot luck and given our indifferent relationship with penalties this season, I didn't fancy us much anyway!
As the supporters coach makes it way out of Blackpool, I write this fresh from the match refusing to let the frustration of a loss eat away at me.
I could sit here and question why Olejnik failed to dive to his right, bar once, in the shootout. I could question also why Pearce didn't thunder forward and take one rather than putting the pressure on Jack Thomas, who because he missed, will again see his name linked with a move out of the club.
Instead, in a cold and soulless stadium a stone's throw from the sea, over 90 minutes we drew with a League One side and kept our unbeaten run going.
There were something’s that concerned me in game, the attitude and commitment levels of Lee Angol, the pathetic marking which led to what at that point was an undeserved goal, the poor delivery from both wings in good attacking positions and, the fitness of Mirfin who went off injured during the second half.
Yet besides essentially what are little niggles, we showed spirit to fight back and deserved at the very least the draw over 90 minutes which in fairness we got agaisnt a fairly decent league one side.
A shootout defeat is hard to take as is the exit from the competition, one I felt we could have made further progress in given our squad.
We weren't embarrassed, we weren't particularly poor over 90 minutes and we've shown willing to compete. We can't ask for much more than that, so long as we don't let it affect us on Saturday at Crawley where it must be business as usual.
Steve Evans made numerous changes as promised to the line up with just two players keeping their place from Sunday's 3-0 victory in the FA Cup in the form of Will Atkinson and hat-trick hero Jimmy Spencer
It was a relatively competitive start to a checkatrade encounter with both sides enjoying early spells, Jacob Mellis the creator for Stags early on as he tried to play in Lee Angol, Alfie Potter also fizzed a shot over the bar whilst at the other end, Olejnik watched on as D’Almedia’s 25 yard effort flew wide inside the opening ten minutes.
On 21 minutes half hearted shouts for a Mansfield spot kick were turned down after Mellis made a cantering run and saw his effort brush an arm, captain for the evening Pearce then had to be strong to halt the run of Quigley on 33 minutes – before seconds later at the other end, Mellis saw an effort beaten away by Mafoumbi in the Blackpool goal.
Seven minutes before the break the hosts opened the scoring as lapse marking from a corner allowed Kelvin Mellor space inside the area to glance a free header into the back of the net, Jimmy Spencer nearly levelling things up two minutes later – Mafoumbi on hand to palm the ball away.
Mal Benning then had space inside the Blackpool boss as he volleyed a Potter cross wide of the target – Bobby Olejnik then on hand to keep the score at 1-0 before the half time whistle, getting low to cling on to Gnanduillet’s effort.
After the break Mansfield started to try and find a way back into the game, on 51 minutes the post came to the hosts rescue as the home keeper fumbled a cross into the path of Mirfin – his lofted ball back into the mix found Pearce, who was denied by the woodwork.
Sterling-James replaced Angol upfront on 66 minutes and injected some life into the game, however it took another eight minutes for a shot to trouble Blackpool – as Butcher slipped in the Stags substitute, only for him to tamely drag a shot wide.
Sterling-James then crashed a free-kick against the wall with ten minutes remaining before Mansfield were forced to re-shuffle as Mirfin pulled up injured, substitute Jack Thomas moved to right back whilst youngster Zayn Hakeem moved up to partner Sterling-James.
With a minute to go Mansfield got their reward as Thomas was felled on the far side, Mal Benning delivered a deep free-kick, turned home by Calum Butcher.
Both sides then had chances to win the match, Hakeem closest for the Stags lifting an effort just over the bar before, in the last minuted of added time – Bobby Olejnik beat away D’Almedia’s hopeful effort, sending the game to an ABBA style penalty shootout.
Blackpool went first with Danny Philliskirk scoring to put them 1-0 up however Paul Digby and Mal Benning both scored their spot-kick’s making it 2-1 Mansfield. Callum Cooke then levelled things up before the hosts went again – Andy Taylor squandered the chance to put the hosts ahead as he fired over the bar.
Sterling-James made it 3-2 to Mansfield and as Alfie Potter stepped up, all he needed to do was score to heap the pressure onto the hosts – the winger saw his spot kick pushed onto the post and agonisingly bounce away from goal.
Nathan Delouneso made it 3-3 before Kelvin Mellor put the pressure on Stags by dispatching Blackpool’s 5th spot kick of the shootout – Jimmy Spencer however made it two penalties from two – 4-4 and sudden death with Mansfield up first.
Jack Thomas then saw a very weak kick saved, but cudos to him for having the bottle to take one. At 4-4 Scott Quigley had the simple job of putting past Oljenik – which he did, winning the game for Blackpool
FULL TIME Blackpool 1-1 Stags - Blackpool win 5-4 on penalties
Paul Digby - David Mirfin (Zayn Hakeem 82) - Krystain Pearce ©
Alfie Potter - Jacob Mellis - Will Atkinson (Jack Thomas 70) - Mal Benning
Jimmy Spencer - Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 66)
Unused substitutes Conrad Logan - CJ Hamilton
Attendance 587 (60)
Referee Seb Stocksbridghe
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…. But not in early December on a Wednesday night! But that’s the magic of the Checkatrade Trophy for you – a competition fancied by few, but one in which I [like a parrot] keep saying we’re good enough to win.
Tomorrow night’s trip to Blackpool (7pm) see’s the Stags face League One opposition who are in a poor run of form with one win in their last seven and despite wholesale changes from Evans, Mansfield as a squad are in rich form – meaning those who come in will play like it’s an FA Cup final to stake a claim for a start at Crawley on Saturday.
If you look at the players likely to play too, your Mirfins, your Angols, your Butchers and Potters – a lot of them have league one experience and above so the divisional gap, will count for very little and make for a very competitive game indeed.
Blackpool are a vulnerable side at the back and if we play like we did on Saturday, quickly from back to front, then we’ll cause some damage.
Aside from the players making a claim for a starting place in the bread and butter of league two, financially progression is worth it too as I’ve said before, the competition may be heavily overlooked, but as a cash booster – well I’m sure John & Carolyn wouldn’t complain as there’s another £20K up for grabs for the winner tomorrow night – which would add to the £40K already earned (£20K for participating and £10K per victory in the group stages).
That money could be pivotal not just in January but over the course of the next season or two as we continue to develop things off the pitch – success costs investment and like every football fan up and down the land – I want to see my club be successful and win trophies, I’m not going to turn my nose up at it just because it’s the checkatrade trophy.
We’ve a big squad, some competitive competition only bodes well to keep everyone hungry and driving us on - and if all else fails, it’s a trip to blackpool and if we’re lucky, we might get to see the illuminations!
Craig Priest writes….
On an evening where frights were common, the Stags avoided a scare against Everton Under 23s in their final group game of this season’s Checkatrade Trophy – Zander Diamond’s goal giving the Stags a 1-0 win, £10,000 and a chance of qualification to round two, depending on the outcome of next Tuesday’s game between Lincoln City & Notts County.
Mansfield will go through if Lincoln beat Notts County, or it is a draw. If Notts County win by 1 goal or 2 goals, then Mansfield will go out. If Notts County win by 3 goals, then Lincoln and Mansfield would have the same goal difference, and it would depend on who had scored more goals. If Notts County win by 4 or more goals, then Mansfield would go through. Who designed this competition again?
Back to the pitch and moving away from the maths, naturally changes were made with Evans able to name a completely different starting 11 from Saturday, including the return of captain Zander Diamond whose leadership has been sorely missed. I was disappointed by Everton, who for a Premier League academy side, lacked any real flare or zip that you’d expect at that level, Bobby Oljenik was rarely put under any significant pressure in what was a bang average ‘going through the motions game’.
Between the sticks for Everton they had Louis Gray who made three or four top level saves, he’ll go far in the game – had it not been for him, Mansfield would have won more comfortably in a game they controlled.
I felt a few (very few to be fair you could just hear them more with a sparse crowd) of the frustrated boo’s were uncalled for – this was practically a pre-season friendly which neither side really wanted, Mansfield were professional in their approach and did what they needed to do – keep the ball, take a chance, win the game. They did just that – this one was never going to be a classic.
It was however the opportunity for one or two players to step up and prove doubters wrong, Paul Digby alongside Diamond was solid and won everything at his more natural centre half position, Will Atkinson did a lot off the ball in the middle, whilst upfront – I felt Jimmy Spencer’s hold up play was excellent, I think I’d put him in Saturday against a Shaw Lane side that’ll be tired but running on adrenaline, he’ll frustrate defenders and cause Shaw Lane errors – with Rose running off him causing mischief!
There were a few players who I felt couldn’t be bothered, it’s these types of games where they have to step up and make a claim, positive attitudes in negative situations are what make the difference – however the Stags were professional enough to see the game out, collecting a vital clean sheet too.
If we go through, great, if we don’t then fair enough – We’ve done as much as we can do and that is all I’ve ever asked and will ask.
As predicted by everyone, it was a full eleven changes from Saturday – the key addition to the line-up was skipper Zander Diamond who returned for his first start since mid-august.
Mansfield started well and Jimmy Spencer flicked on a Hayden White throw within the opening two minutes, keeper Louis Gray out quickly ahead of Sterling-James – his opposite number Oljenik was called into action at the other end on six minutes, the Stags glovesman turning the ball away for a corner from the effort of Anthony Evans after a cleaver splitting pass from Nathan Broadhead.
Two minutes later it was back at the other end and Butcher who provided the pass with neat control, Lee Angol turned away from his marker and fired over the bar, much to his own frustration.
Angol was then fouled on ten minutes and from the resulting set play, Potter stepped up only to be denied by the fists of Gray, who then recovered well to beat away Will Atkinson’s fizzing half volley on the follow up.
Alfie Potter headed over from a Sterling-James cross on 22 minutes, but chances few and far between, the Stags saw out the first half controlling the play – Spencer did have the ball in the net on 36 minutes but the referee had already blown the whistle for handball – Sterling-James also tested the water on 43, but Gray was behind it firmly.
After the break, more of the same followed – Sterling-James the first to really test Everton on 51 minutes following a good turn inside the box, his shot dragged wide of the target. On the hour, terrific control from Spencer then brought Angol into play inside the box – Toffee’s skipper Luke Garbutt getting back to block.
A minute later, Gray made a fine save as Butcher connected with a White cross – before a well wprked Potter corner saw Digby draw out three players allowing Spencer to nip in at the far post – his thunderous volley turned behind on the line as Mansfield applied the pressure.
Skipper Zander Diamond then headed a golden chance over on 65 minutes before Gray again produced the goods for Everton, palming away Alfie Potter’s curling effort as the wing man cut in from the left hand side.
With 15 minutes to go, Spencer played in Sterling-James who placed a shot under Gray, only to see Grabutt again clear off the line, seconds later Lee Angol thought he’d broken the deadlock – Butcher in an offside position as Angol fired home.
Angol then set up Butcher on 79 minutes but Gray again was on hand to deny the Stags – but an arror from the youngster just two minutes later, saw Zander Diamond head home from a corner to give Mansfield the breakthrough they thoroughly deserved.
At the other end, the skipper led by example with three minutes to go, recovering well to prevent Evans from getting a shot away inside the box, substitute CJ Hamilton nearly sealed the win in the final minute of four added on, his curling shot out for a throw.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 Everton U23s
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Paul Digby – Johnny Hunt
Omari Sterling-James (CJ Hamilton 80) – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alfie Potter (Paul Anderson 90+2)
Jimmy Spencer – Lee Angol (Jack Thomas 90)
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Loganm Rhys Bennett, Kane Hemmings, Zayn Hakeem
Attendance: 964 (36)
Referee: Michael Salisbury Assistants Peter Gooch, Stephen Wade Fourth Official Mark Heywood
The final group game of this season’s checkatrade trophy campaign is upon us already – and having beaten Notts County with an excellent dosplay last Tuesday, the ball is now back in our court in terms of qualification as we welcome Everton Under 23s to the One Call Stadium tomorrow night.
It’s a game that will again feel like a reserve team fixture with Evans promising once more to make ‘wholesale changes’ – but as with a week ago, I hope those who come in step up and give the scot, who celebrates his birthday today, a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Shaw Lane.
Above all else, tomorrow I want to see a clean sheet and Mansfield, continuing to play the fluid football that they have done in recent games, holding out from start to finish against a young, but pacey and physical side who are going strong in the Premier League Two Division One, sitting second in the table.
Under the caretaker stewardship of Francis Jeffers whilst usual youth boss David Unsworth flirts with become a premier league manager, the youngsters will be hungry and eager to show any potential eyes in the stand what they are made of – and after two defeats in the competition, will want to do put a win on the board – qualification for the Toffee’s youngsters still faintly possible, should they beat us and Lincoln beat Notts County.
This would put Lincoln on nine points and then all three clubs (us, Notts and Everton) on three points meaning second placed qualification would be down to goal difference.
Anyway, Martin Shaw has done all the working out on Stagsnet – click here to see the full permutations, but the upshot is, if Stags win by three clear goals – they are through regardless of the Lincoln V Notts County result (played next Tuesday at Sincil Bank). Anything less than a win by three clear goals, and it’ll be in the hands of County.
As I’ve said in various articles, the Stags are vastly improving and in truth have been since Barnet away – it’s only the niggling conceding of goals late in games that’s killing us really, but if Stags – regardless of the team they put out – can produce the same style of quick, fluid, hungry football – a win will not be a problem.
Evans constantly plays the competitions importance down and of course he is right to do so, however I think in January to boost our league ambitions, we have to make two big, if not three big, signings to fuel to fire, and whilst John Radford I’ve no doubt would back that with his own funds, we are already running the risk of over spending which could kill us two or three years down the line – so why not use a competition such as the checkatrade, as an extra earner?
The prize pot has been increased this year and without kicking a ball clubs get £20,000 and then per group stage win it’s £10,000 – so already the Stags have netted £30,000, which would become £40,000 if they see off Everton’s youngsters.
£40,000 isn’t a bad amount to chuck into the transfer pot really and could make a difference, and with another £20,000 up for grabs for winning at round two – well, it wouldn’t hurt would it. We’ve a big enough squad to achieve that end goal afterall.
With skipper Zander Diamond back in the fold tomorrow, I predict a full 11 changes – which of course is well within the rules as the names Evans is likely to name, will be “first team players” – I predict it’ll be Oljenik, White, Digby, Diamond, Hunt, Sterling-James, Butcher, Thomas/Potter, Atkinson, Spencer and Angol.
This is a big week for Mansfield Town, we are trying to find our way again and we really need to cut out this late goals thing. This is a big week for characters to show they want to be a Mansfield Town player – who wants to turn up in front of a sparse crowd on a cold October night to play Everton’s kids? Who wants to go to a non-league ground and ensure what will be very different facilities to what they’re used to? Who wants to be a winner?
I said it before Notts County and I’ll say it again – Football is a game, regardless of the competition, that is there to be won. Winning breads confidence and confidence breads success. Let’s stand up, be counted, be winners and above all else – be the Mansfield Town we know we can be.
Craig Priest Writes…
Steve Evans made no secret that he wasn’t fussed about winning this evening’s game at Meadow Lane, and in fairness in the grand scheme of things we can understand that – however the one thing we wanted for the players who came in, to stand up, be counted and get a win under their belts.
And that they did, running out 2-1 winners at Meadow Lane in what was actually one of the, if not THE, best display of the season thus far.
From the off, the players looked up for the game, they wanted to play for the shirt and given recent weeks that was my big worry tonight, that we wouldn’t want it and get pummelled into the ground.
But we played with confidence and hunger and even when Notts County grabbed a goal back to level the game, I felt we had more in us and that we could go on and win it.
The competition may not matter to many, although again I’ll highlight the fact the additional money wouldn’t go a miss, and whilst tonight’s result puts the ball in our court – above all else it breeds confidence back into the dressing room and makes us unbeaten in three games on the road, perfect for Saturday against Exeter at the One Call Stadium.
Evans will no doubt have some questions to answer too over some players and positions, Joel Byrom I fear would be a risk to start him again in such a short space of time, but it was evident how much we’d missed his flare in the middle of the park. Paul Digby was excellent at centre back alongside Bennett whilst Paul Anderson was solid at right back and led the side well.
Mellis and Angol obviously deserve mentions but the player who gives Evans the biggest headache for me is CJ Hamilton, who showed his quality and pace throughout and capped the display with a wonderfully taken, and well deserved goal, if anyone deserves a run in the league it’s him.
Overall that was the Mansfield Town I’ve wanted to see for a long time, a team who moves the ball with fluidity, a team who defends well from start to finish and a team above all else who want to play regardless of the competition and who want to bring home success. The important thing now is just too go on, manage it within the squad and keep the momentum flowing.
Steve Evans said ‘significant changes’ would be made and stuck to his word, Rhys Bennett the only made who kept his place following Saturday’s rain swept draw at Newport. Bobby Oljenik, Paul Anderson, Paul Digby, Mal Benning, Omari Sterling-James, Joel Byrom, Jacob Melliss, CJ Hamilton, Lee Angol and Jimmy Spencer all came in – Jack Thomas was also named on the bench, having been recalled from Boston earlier in the day.
Mansfield got off to a flyer with Lee Angol staking his claim for a league start within the opening minute, the hungry front man capitalised on Haydn Hollis’ mistake on the edge of the county box, opening up his body and driving low into the bottom corner, being Branislav Pindroch in the county goal.
Four minutes later it should have been two-nil to rampant Mansfield as Joel Byrom’s deep cross was turned behind for a corner, Byrom himself delivered into the middle and Paul Digby met the inviting ball with a forceful header – Pindroch somehow clinging onto the ball on the line.
Jimmy Spencer then saw an effort blocked by Dan Jones, and it was he who tested the water for the hosts on 14 minutes, dragging an effort wide of Olejnik’s goal from 20 yards.
Spencer again then nearly doubled the Stags tally on 27 minutes as he was played into the area, Omari Sterling-James with the assist with a soft lob over the top, Spencer spun his marker well and fired a fierce effort against the woodwork – the loose ball fell to Angol who was robbed of an open goal as Shaun Brisley put in a brave challenge.
The Stags had a spot kick turned down on the half hour, before five minutes later were pegged level as the experienced Alan Smith converted from a corner with a well timed run, Mansfield however claimed a foul on Digby as Smith appeared to throw him to the ground, but as always – play to the whistle!
From the restart the Stags looked to regain their advantage as Sterling-James came close with a low effort, Mellis and Spencer also saw efforts fail to find the net before the referee drew a close to a first half which the Stags pretty much controlled.
CJ Hamilton was causing Notts County all sorts of problems and sent in a testing cross which Sterling-James connected with, turned behind for a corner by Jones from which Byroms’ delivery nearly caught Pindoch out.
Liam Walker dragged one towards goal on 55 minutes which Oljenik turned behind, the Stags survived the set-play as County failed to find a way back into the game.
At the other end Hamilton saw a header held by Pindoch on 68 minutes as the ball zipped about in the area, the home keeper nay have won that battle but it was a role reversal just five minutes later, as Anderson’s cross was punched out into the path of Hamilton, who controlled with his chest, span his marked and blazed into the top corner with his right foot from 14 yards – a thunderous strike to put the Stags back in front.
Mal Benning nearly added the Stags third with 11 minutes to go as a free kick zipped up off the surface, Pindroch quick to push the ball up and away – the home keeper was on hand again a minute later, this time Hamilton curling one from 25 yards towards the top corner.
The Stags saw out the final moments of the match with solid defending, Evans men now can still qualify for the knockout stages – if they beat Everton U23s next Tuesday, it’ll then all depend on the outcome of the Lincoln V Notts County match the following week.
Full Time: Notts County 1-2 Stags
Paul Anderson © - Paul Digby – Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Omari Sterling-James (Alfie Potter 89) – Jacob Mellis – Joel Byrom (Jack Thomas 58) – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Kane Hemmings 90) – Jimmy Spencer
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Logan, Krystian Pearce, Danny Rose, Will Atkinson
Referee: Graham Horwood Assistants Duncan Street, Joe Simpson Fourth Official John Brooks
Attendance 2,290 (405)
‘Neque deditionem’ is latin for ‘No Surrender’ however I can’t help but feel that even before kick-off, Steve Evans has thrown in the towel and his team talk will be geared more towards getting fitness up than actually going out to win the game. But hey, what do you expect when the match is in a competition which very few actually care about.
Evans is open with his opinion on the Checkatrade Trophy, he doesn’t care about it and insists the league takes priority.
Whilst of course he is right, it’s disheartening to think that tomorrow night the Mansfield Town management will be putting out a team not in the mind-set to win a game against a fierce local rival – a win which after a slight up turn in form, would have possibly helped to reignite our fire.
‘Significant Changes’ will be made by Evans as he rests legs for Saturday, fair enough – however I was hoping for a more impassioned Steve Evans whose body language screamed that he wanted anything other than this game – in fact he might as well have said “I’m leaving Paul Raynor in charge tomorrow, I’m washing my hair whilst watching repeats of The Bill” – yes be open in the fact you’re making changes, but at least play the media a little by urging the fringe players to come in, get a win and steak a claim for three points.
There are three things that worry me about this situation, the first is what message to his body language send to the players – surely they’ll be like ‘well if the gaffer doesn’t care why should we?’ That’s not an attitude I would want, it certainly wouldn’t motivate me to go out and steak a claim for a shirt on Saturday.
The second is, if the game we’re a dead rubber I’d be 100% behind resting as many legs as possible – but it’s not, not only is it a local derby, but we also have a chance of qualification and the opportunity to bank some extra money by getting through which could buy us a striker in January and impact us in our bid for promotion. Given the depth we have, that shouldn’t be an issue and I’m sure that John Radford would welcome an extra source of income having paid out what he has thus far, for little return!
People have criticised the Trophy and the continued low turnouts don’t help, but financially the prize money for a club of our stature can’t be ignored, looked at what winning the competition did for Coventry last season, the money they earned has been invested and the rewards are bound to come.
That leads me nicely onto my third worry – if we lose tomorrow we are pretty much out, as will Everton U23s should they lose to Lincoln tomorrow – meaning our game next Tuesday at the One Call is dead and our lowest ever attendance may be recorded – no footballer wants to play in somewhere soulless and play a game that means nothing.
Regardless of the competitions stature or reputation, I look at tomorrow like this – it’s a competitive match against our local rivals who will want to get one over on us following our recent league game. It is an opportunity for players to get out there and claim a shirt and for the entirety of the group, it’s a chance to get a few goals and a win – bringing some more confidence back into the dressing room.
Not for a second am I saying going and play the strongest side available, I’m saying at least give it a go and start sending the right messages out to supporters and to our competitors – a game of football is a game of football, and victory is victory.
‘Per Angusta Ad Augusta’ means ‘through trial to triumph’ – a football season is just that a trial, a test of ability, desire and courage – triumph is the end goal we all seek, so why not go away, game by game and find some?
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