Full Time Score Tranmere Rovers 0-0 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Prenton Park, Tranmere
Stags Goal Scorers /
Craig Priest writes…
It’s funny how a week can totally change your mood – seven days prior we were reflecting on an astonishing victory over Accrington Stanley, whereas now, a week later – we’re wondering if we’ve used up all our goals – following a goalless draw at Tranmere which saw a number of opportunities wasted by David Flitcrofts men.
The Stags were below par against newly promoted Tranmere and again were left frustrated, collecting yet another draw.
For me personally whilst I’m disappointed and frustrated that we couldn’t get all three points, I’m happy that we’ve managed to stay tight enough at the back to build a clean sheet and not taste the bitter blow of disappointment which comes from a late goal against us like on Saturday.
That said it’s clear for me now that we need to use the loan window to boost our ranks – especially in the full back/ wing back area as, as resolute as CJ Hamilton is, he’s not a right sided player and any attack we mount down that side, see’s us come back inside and forced backwards – it’s negative and easy to defend against.
On the other side, the usually steady Mal Benning had a shocker last night and moving CJ across to the left really opened the game is, the problem then is – you’re asking a central midfielder in Will Atkinson to play right wing back and it’s a gamble we can’t afford to be taking, especially in situations such as last night where the game was there for the taking.
I believe the Stags do have the answer in house – Paul Anderson. His experience is vast and he showed last season, prior to the arrival of Flitcroft, that he can play anywhere well, with that right side certainly suiting his game – if whatever the situation is with Flitcroft can be sorted out, then it would be like getting a new signing.
We are missing that experienced pro which would not only help us to close games out – but also to go on and win them. A prime example, defensively on Saturday a more experienced player than Walker shows the Colchester man down the line, sees the ball out of play and its game over rather than giving away a soft free kick which results in added time and then a goal. In attack, that experience just pushes us forward a little bit more and see’s the run of Davies, who doesn’t like to attack on the front foot – he likes to hold off for cut backs – an experienced head see’s that, and we score.
The main talking point is the change of guard in goal – Oljenik played very well and, whilst I’m not a boo boy or pick people out for criticism, I felt that change was needed and that Olejnik played very well and can now go onto enjoy a run in the team which extends beyond a cup match here and a friendly there.
It’s frustrating to not have reward for our efforts, but we didn’t lose. One thing that does annoy me, is the comparison between this season and last season and that in his whole competitive tenure, we’ve only won three under Flitcroft – it’s an utterly pointless debate, different players, different pressures, different circumstances. A draw is not a loss, a cleansheet is important – if we can’t break teams down, then let’s get out there and make it hard for teams to beat us and break us down – starting with Macclesfield on Saturday.
Bobby Oljenik replaced Conrad Logan between the sticks with Craig Davies and Neal Bishop also back in the side – Calum Butcher and Jacob Mellis missed out as Flitcroft made three changes.
The pendulum was in full swing for both sides during the first half, Otis Khan picked out Craig Davies who saw a long range effort held by Scott Davies in the Tranmere goal, Neal Bishop also put one over the bar from range – moments after Oljenik was called into action – denying Ollie Banks within the opening ten minutes.
Oljenik was then on hand again to deny the dangerous James Norwood with his feet, after the Tranmere front man had skipped his way through – at the other end, Otis Khan forced a smart save from Davies in the home goal.
Pearce and Hamilton came to the Stags aid at the back as the hosts put on the pressue, on half an hour Khan tried to relieve that by scoring the opener – the tricky attack midfielder, denied by the home keeper.
Neal Bishop and Tyler Walker caused problems before the break, but on the referee’s whistle, it remainded goalless.
After the break the Stags struggled to get going and Flitcroft withdrew Mal Benning on the hour – Will Atkinson his replacement went across to right wing back, Hamilton to the left.
Otis Khan then wasted an opportunity to break the deadlock as he found himself clean through – rather than drill low into the corners, Khan hit straight at Davies.
With Twelve minutes to go Butcher & Rose replaced Khan and Craig Davies respectively as the Stags looked for the key to open up the hosts, however it was the hosts who came closest – Oljenik on hand to tip away an 80th minute goal bound header.
Tyler Walker then dragged one wide after being played into the box, he also couldn’t connect with a MacDonald cross – after tenacious work from the Stags number seven.
In the final seconds of the match, the hosts had two chances – Oljenik making a smart save to stop the fires, before the hosts were awarded a free kick, which fortunately was wasted to the sound of the full time whistle
FULL TIME: Tranmere Roves 0-0 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Bobby Olejnik, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning (Will Atkinson 59), Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 78), Craig Davies (Danny Rose 78), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Jacob Mellis
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-1 Colchester United
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Craig Davies
Attendance 3,909 (190)
Craig Priest writes…
After the six-one slaughtering of Accrington Stanley in midweek there was always danger of coming back down to earth with a bang, and whilst most thought the sucker punch was the frustration of not being able to break Colchester down, the reality was far more sickening – a 95th minute equalizer for the visitors who hadn’t really troubled Conrad Logan.
Arguments and debates will be had over Logan’s involvement in the goal which robbed the Stags a victory and the chance to go top of League Two, and whilst I’m tempted to weigh in on those debates – it’s pointless, as, as David Flitcroft said post match, it’s a collective problem – win together, lose together, draw together – accept errors, together.
You could see the joy within the dressing room when substitute Craig Davies scored the opening goal, but as Flitcroft hinted, there wasn’t the same pride in protecting the clean sheet and subsequently, the three points – we thought the game was dead and buried and we can’t allow that until AFTER the referee blows the full time whistle.
I firmly believe however that we WILL learn to close games out and see them through by becoming more switched on and game savvy. Other managers would come out after that and berate the referee for “playing more than the official put up” but if one of your players makes a needless foul, the referee will allow time for it and that’s exactly how, and why, Colchester nicked a point.
There’s no point dwelling on negatives though, that’s how bad form starts – yes we should have had three points, but on the other hand – if Walker makes that foul at 0-0 and Colchester go onto score from the resulting phase of play, we lose the game – there’s a fine line between positive and negative.
We’ve scored a wonder goal and not given up against one of the most stubborn and resilient teams in the division and we’ve shown that we can adapt our system to take pressure off ourselves and make the opposition panic.
In the build up to Davies’ fine strike we had a five/ten minute spell of 4-4-2 when we had the ball, with Benning dropping back, white pushing to right back, CJ to the right wing and Otis Khan to the left – those banks for four tightened our barriers for a bit and allowed us to get bodies forward and press, which is pleasing for me to see that Flitcroft won’t just stick with one way of playing – game management is key to locking the door on failure and shortcomings.
It’s how we respond now and fortunately the next match isn’t a week away, it’s Tuesday, so no time to sit and dwell, time only to work.
Trying to end on a positive or two, I thought Ryan Sweeney had another solid game – obviously losing Preston again is a blow but Sweeney had another fine game and in my opinion was deserving of the man of the match award over MacDonald, who just did what Macca does really.
We talk about the attacking signings made by the Stags boss, but the Sweeney move could be just as pivotal – he fits how we play, good in the air, composed on the floor and looks a threat going forward, I hope his form continues to develop.
After the six-one thrashing of Accrington in midweek, boss Flitcroft had a tough selection on his hands and in the end – opted to make just once change, Oljenik back to the bench for first choice Logan.
Up against a side who were yet to concede in the league, the Stags found it hard to break through and get efforts on target – CJ Hamilton the first to try on five minutes as he cut in from the right to let an effort fly.
Otis Khan delivered a corner five minutes later, the impressive Ryan Sweeney pealed away from his marker to try and connect, but was unfortunate to just miss Khans’ teasing set play.
Mal Benning then hit the wall with a free kick before, at the other end, conceding a corner – which visiting skipper Luke Prosser connected with at the far post – Logan on hand to palm the ball away.
The first half saw no more real chances of note as both sides enjoyed spells with the ball to no end product, after the break it was a similar story with the visitors enjoying the early pressure.
Craig Davies then replaced Calum Butcher on 58 minutes as Flitcroft went for two up front rather than two in attacking midfield. The tactical tweak seemed to work as the pendulum of play swung back in the Stags favour, but the hosts still couldn’t break the Colchester barrier.
Danny Rose and Neal Bishop then replaced Khan and Mellis with 13 minutes to play, Rose made an instant impact once more winning his battles and forcing Colchester deeper than they’d like, he was heavily involved with the phase of play on 81 minutes, which eventually saw the ball fall for Davies on the edge of the box – his initial effort was blocked but it fell straight back to him, and on the left foot, he unleashed a venomous volley into the top corner to put the Stags in front.
Rose then came close to adding a second with a curling effort but was denied by the keeper with the angle against him, Tyler Walker also flagged offside as he looked to pounce on Sweeney’s lofted pass.
Into four minutes of added time and the Stags thought they’d done enough, however youngster Tyler Walker lost his cool slightly after an altercation with the visiting staff and was then booked for kicking the ball away as the visitors got a free kick.
The Stags did deal with that but not the second phase of play, as they allowed a long throw to be hurled into the area – Conrad Logan came to claim it but dropped the ball under pressure, allowing Sammie Szmodics to get the final touch to take the ball over the line, as rescue a point from the jaws of defeat.
Neal Bishop tried his luck from the restart, but no sooner had the midfielders boot connected with the ball, the referee brought the action to a close.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 Colchester United
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis (Neal Bishop 77), Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Danny Rose 77), Calum Butcher (Craig Davies 58), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Will Atkinson
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Full Time Score Yeovil Town 2-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue Huish Park, Yeovil
Stags Goal Scorers Craig Davies, Matt Preston
Attendance 2,795 (315)
Craig Priest writes…
After the home comforts of four pre-season friendlies and the opening day win over Newport County, the Stags finally hit the road yesterday for one of the longest away trips of the campaign as they faced Yeovil Town – an afternoon where the word ‘congestion’ sums the day up in its entirety.
The near four hour journey took about five and a half for supporters hitting the road, some luckier than others to get through the congestion with time to spare before kick-off, others not so much – I imagine there would have been a few nervous fans wondering if they’d actually make kick-off!
The stop-start nature of the motorway seemed to transfer onto the pitch as the Stags couldn’t really find enough rhythm to settle and endured there most frustrating test so far.
It was a matter of time before the 3-4-1-2 (3-5-2 depending on your preference!) system was properly tested and picked at, and whilst Newport showed glimpses of this last weekend, Yeovil were more effective in enticing the Stags high up the pitch and then penetrating over the top, both centrally and in wide areas, to effect – as highlighted in Yeovil’s two goals, although the second could, and should have, been avoided.
If you’re going to play high you have to be quick off the mark and none of the three central defenders were, often beaten in direct races and in Ariel battles – a better team would have, and will, punish us if we don’t tight then screw.
Defensively the midfield let us down as Yeovil were allowed time and space to find a way through, which this system is designed to stop – I felt watched that the boys seemed a bit shell-shocked by the conditions, sweeping wind and rain and weren’t quite sure how to manage that.
However despite a worrying afternoon on that front, I am delighted in the Stags attitude and application in twice fighting back – I’ve said for weeks that I wanted to see the lads come up against it and have to respond, on that performance I’ve no qualms about that going forward, as a collective they aren’t contempt to sit back and take a hiding – which could well have happened.
Attacking wise we didn’t look at our most dangerous, as David Flitcroft said in his post match interview we’ve done a lot of work going through the middle of the pitch but haven’t exploited the wide areas yet – when we did get the ball on the deck and play, centrally or wide, we looked dangerous and like Yeovil at the other end, on another day could have really profited.
Things weren’t dropping for us in that respect and it’s here where the bench need to step in and change things up – bringing Butcher on for Davies with seven minutes to go screamed shutting up shop and playing for the point, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with that in the grand scheme of things, an early attack minded change, perhaps bringing Butcher on for the booked Bishop, or Atkinson on in a wider role, might have turned a point into three.
That’s my only critique really, I’m certainly not moaning, I’m certainly not disheartened and I’m certainly not writing off our chances – this is a good squad which, with the turn of the screw at the back and a bolstered attack, can set this league on fire.
On that subject, here comes the topic of the week – Danny Rose. Listening to David Flitcroft post match, I’m again convinced that the FA are going to have to do some really digging into the way Peterborough United have conducted themselves in relation to “tapping up” Danny.
He was rightly left out of the squad for the trip to Yeovil and his inclusion would have only done more damage than good with Danny, in the words of the Stags boss, spending the entirety of the last week believing he was a Peterborough United player. As Flitcroft said, psychologically now Danny’s head will be all over the place having been promised the earth and delivered nothing.
I completely believe Rose can have a future at Mansfield Town Football Club and play a part in our success. All of this talk of a fall out with Flitcroft is, in my view, created hype to orchestrate a move and disrupt a club – I hope when the two (Rose and Flitcroft) sit down on Monday morning that the two reach the conclusion that, no matter the interested outside party, Danny Rose is best served for all concerned as a Stags player who between now and at least January, can contribute with goals and the fire power to put us on the verge of being a League One club.
All this talk on social media of isolating Rose for wanting a move elsewhere needs to stop – IF on Monday (or whenever) the club come out and say Danny Rose will continue to play for Mansfield Town FC then no matter what, we back him and watch him bloom.
I don’t think there is one single person out there in any walk of life who wouldn’t want to better themselves and their future should the opportunity come. Show me someone who wouldn’t (especially at Rose’s age) and I’ll show you a liar or a madman.
Yesterday we needed that extra attacking threat from the bench (I’m not saying for a second Rose should be benched) to bring on and turn a point into three, we’d be better served in future with that than without it. Looking at the players Flitcroft has brought In in that particular area, Davies, Walker, Khan – I’m even more convinced they were brought in to create a better Danny Rose, not to isolate him.
David Flitcroft named an unchanged starting line-up from the side which beat Newport County, Will Atkinson replaced Omari Sterling-James on the bench.
The surface at Huish Park was very zippy and both sides struggled the get going, the Stags had the first opportunity on five minutes as Khan, on his return to Yeovil, laid-off MacDonald but he saw his effort blocked – Yeovil zipped down the other end and as the Stags got caught too high, Diallang Jaiyesimi brought the ball down and slotted beyond Logan to open the scoring.
Mansfield rallied and began their fight back, Otis Khan tried an over head kick which didn’t pay off on eight minutes but a minute later, Khan was involved as the Stags put a ball across the home box for Craig Davies to react too, lashing home a thunderous effort for his first goal of the campaign to level proceedings.
Khan created two further opportunities for the Stags but it was a Mansfield old face who would cause problems next as Yoann Arquin reacted first, after the Stags were again caight napping too high, to a Logan palm away – tucking home from close range to put Yeovil back in the driving seat.
The Stags weren’t playing Yeovil’s game and again began their fight back – Davies tried to grab his second with a curling effort on 21 minutes, this time denied by Nathan Baxter in the home goal – Baxter left with no chance four minutes later as Khan delivered from the left hand side for Matt Preston to bravely rise at the far post to nod the Stags back into the game.
Tyler Walker, Hayden White, Mal Benning and Otis Khan all had attempts to unlock the home defence denied before the break, at which the sides firmly locked at 2-2.
Walker then met a Benning delivery after the re-start but he couldn’t beat Baxter for his second Stags goal in as many games, Walker was then denied by Yeovil sub Gary Warren again after good work from Benning.
Conrad Logan then kept the Stags in the game on 67 minutes as he denied Arquin a second, at the other end Logan’s opposite number again denied Walker, Khan this time the tormentor.
The Stags should have had a third on 73 minutes minutes as Davies’ far post header saw Sowumni head the ball against his own bar, in the final two minutes – Matt Preston and substitute Jacob Mellis both came close to grabbing a winner, but it just wasn’t meant to be as the Stags settled for a point of the road.
FULL TIME: Yeovil Town 2-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-5-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald (Jacob Mellis 87), Mal Benning, Otis Khan, Craig Davies (Calum Butcher 83), Tyler Walker
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Ryan Sweeney, Lewis Gibbens, Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson
Referee: Neil Hair
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 3-0 Newport County
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue The One Call Stadium, Mansfield
Stags Goal Scorers Tyler Walker, Otis Khan (2)
Attendance 4,423 (320)
Craig Priest writes…
They say that you should always start as you mean to go on, and if that’s the case for Mansfield Town – then a good season could lay in wait, following a slick, composed and professional 3-0 victory over Newport County at the One Call Stadium.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Stags who had Conrad Logan to thank for a string of solid saves coupled with some suspect Newport County finishing, but after a testing few days for supporters, it certainly was a relief to walk into the evening sunshine with three points successfully secured.
During the build up to the game there was little talk of if the Stags could match their marvellous pre-season form, instead talk focussed heavily on star striker Danny Rose, who this week handed in a transfer request amid rumours of interest from League One Peterborough United, a side full of former Stags connections.
The Stags had also been active in the transfer market in the build up to the League Two opener, selling Paul Digby to Forest Green Rovers and brining in Stoke City youngster Ryan Sweeney on a season long loan, it was also confirmed after the match that the Stags had accepted a bid from Grimsby Town for striker Lee Angol – should that move go ahead, I seriously doubt Rose would be allowed to leave so easily – we can afford to lose one front man, not two.
Onto the match itself and the most pleasing element for me was the support shown for boss David Flitcroft who, prior to the match, hadn’t won a league fixture at home since taking over in March – a win for him is huge in the support stakes, considering the rumours surrounding fall-outs with a few of the Transfer Listed, fan favourite, players.
The Stags were tested more severally than they were during pre-season against the quartet of championship sides and from the off looked shaky, a better team would have punished us but fortunately, we rode the waves to survive undamaged.
The problem seemed to be in the back three with Hayden White slipping and making early errors, after the first goal David Flitcroft called him over and had a word, after which his game improved significantly and he was fully deserving of being the man to protect the clean sheet late on in the second half with the goal line clearance.
Matt Preston looked sharp and dominant once again and seemed to very much be settling with captain Pearce, whose mentality issues thankfully seem to be gone – this is a big season for Pearce, full deserving the honour of captain.
The three goals we scored highlighted how dangerous the new system can be and the importance of playing the width of the pitch, Otis Khan rightfully will take the plaudits for two fine goals, but as a team – over movement troubled Newport and showed glimpses of real quality.
It will be a long season and it will not be plain sailing all the way through, there will be games we don’t have our own way and have to watch our discipline, but overall – it’s a very pleasing start to the new campaign, I for one can’t wait to see this journey continue.
The questions over the team sheet prior to kick-off weren’t about who would start, more who would miss out as David Flitcroft had moulded his side over the previous fortnight – new signing Ryan Sweeney arrived from Stoke City on Friday on loan, he settled for a place on the bench, with Flitcroft sticking with White at right side centre-back, and CJ Hamilton at right wing back.
Transfer listed Calum Butcher made the bench alogn with younsgeters Lewis Gibbens and Jordan Graham, want away striker Rose missed out along with Lee Angol – who appears to be Grimsby bound.
Otis Khan kicked off the new campaign where the opening ten minutes so a timid start from both, on 11 minutes however Mal Benning had to be alert and make a critical intervention to prevent Jamille Matt from opening the scoring for the visitors.
A minute later at the other end CJ Hamilton saw an effort blocked straight to the feet of a hungry Tyler Walker, he drew a save from Joe Day earning the stags a corner – from which Bishop & Pearce combined to feed Walker, who this time made no mistake in firing beyond Joe Day to officially open his Stags account.
On 15 minutes Conrad Logan made a fine save to deny Padraig Amond at the far post from a deep cross, two mibutes later The stags came close again – Craig Davies’ long range curler crashed against the post.
The Stags endured a spell of unpunished pressure from Newport as the visitors thrice wasted efforts, Tyler Walker then nearly grabbed a second on 38 minutes from MacDonald’s cross, Walker’s effort narrowly wide.
Otis Khan and Craig Davies had further efforts but couldn’t add a second – the Stags 1-0 up at half-time.
The Stags emerged from the dressing room and stepped things up a notch, Khan curled an effort wide from 20 yards on 54 minutes, but soon found the target two minutes later, latching onto Walkers’ cross to head home, after a neat lofted pass from Bishop to send the forest loanee racing to the bye-line.
Khan the grabbed his second and Mansfield’s third on 65 minutes with a sublime effort, curling home from outside the box as Stags’ fluid movement, proved too much for Newport to handle.
Newport nearly hand one back with 12 minutes to go as Amond beat the offside trap to round an advancing Logan, Hayden White recovered well and scopped the ball away from danger a yard from the line.
A long injury to the linesman delayed the ending, but it was set in stone – a comfortable and well earned victory for the Stags, their firs three points putting them third in the League Two table – nwxt stop Yeovil, who were beaten 1-0 at Bury, but did have two players sent-off.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-0 Newport County
STAGS [3-5-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, CJ Hamilton, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning, Otis Khan (Calum Butcher 75), Craig Davies (Jordan Graham 90), Tyler Walker (Jacob Mellis 90+4)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Ryan Sweeney [#17 New signing on loan from Stoke City], Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Paul Marsden
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.
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.
On this page you will find a range of articles written by the Mansfield Matters team, including our popular Match Preview's and our in depth Match Reports.
As with our open forum for fans, we encourage you to share your views by posting on our Terrace Talk blog – to submit an article please email it in Microsoft Word format.
Please read the disclaimer on the home page.