Craig Priest writes…
Players on the fringe of the Starting Line-Up were put in the shop window last night in a friendly with Rainworth MW. Eight first teamers were included as the Stags made up for sending a youth team during pre-season, a run out they won 2-0.
Paul Raynor took charge of the sides with Steve Evans watching from the stands with chairman John Radford, earlier in the day of course Evans had again hit the sporting headlines, as Gillingham made an approach for his services – an approach which was rebuffed.
On the pitch, the Stags put in a shift fitting of the occasion – friendly but professional, ensuring those who were watching in the biting evening cold, we’re entertained enough – perhaps if Joel Byrom and Zander Diamond had been closer to fitness they would have had at least 45 minutes, whilst Paul Digby nor Hayden White weren’t involved either despite missing Saturday’s derby day win over Notts County.
The youngsters who stepped in did themselves no harm, in particular Lewis Collins who has been excellent on loan at Gainsborough –he played out of position at right back but did so comfortably. Cameron Healey in the centre of the park too had a solid game – it’s great to see the club developing young talent and partnerships with the likes of Rainworth, only help to make them stronger.
In terms of the senior players, CJ Hamilton had a solid game on the left hand side of midfield showing his pace, Mal Benning also at left back for me HAD to perform with Johnny Hunt in form ahead of him and did so, although I think it’s about time to give up the idea of another Benning-Belter!
A special mention too for Rhys Bennett who captained the side, he was vocal and helped get the younger players through the game in which Rainworth were certainly up for.
The Stags started brightly and within the opening two minutes, a neat cross park ball from Jacob Mellis picked out Hamilton – his cross flashed across the face of goal and picked out Kane Hemmings, who failed to get his shot on target.
Rainworth then pumped one over the top and got a low cross into the box, Kieran Harrison smashed the ball away before on the 7 minute mark, the hosts had a golden opening with a central free-kick conceded by Harrison. Joshua Ross stepped up and saw his effort deflected behind for a corner, from which Brad Wilson volleyed high into the evening sky.
Ben Townsend in the Rainworth goal palmed away an effort from Hemmings on 17 minutes before Lee Angol had a half hearted appeal for a spot kick turned away – two minutes later, another free-kick for Rainworth, this time hit by the left boot of Jordan Claxton saw Olejnik called into action, who did well to hold.
Jacob Mellis tested the water on 22 minutes from distance on the volley but just three minutes later, Lee Angol headed Mansfield in front as Lewis Collins bombed down the right hand side to cut a cross in from the bye-line – straight from the re-start Mansfield were on the attack once more and grabbed a second with venom, thundering an effort into the bottom corner following a mazey run.
Zayn Hakeem, Jacob Mellis and Lee Angol all saw efforts go astray as Mansfield looked for a third, but couldn’t quite find a way through as referee Declan Bourne drew a close to the first half.
Kane Hemmings was withdrawn at the break and replaced by Jordan Graham, two corners in quick succession for the Stags then followed as Jacob Mellis teased the hosts with a neat cross park ball. Mellis swung in the resulting corner and picked out Mal Benning on the edge of the box for a volley, it’s safe to say his effort is still in the night sky.
As the hour struck, the Stags withdrew Angol and Mellis as youngsters Nyle Blake and Keaton Ward took their place. Blake was involved from the off and was soon fouled, Mal Benning whipped a shot over the wall from the resulting set play but it flew over the bar.
Benning and Blake were both involved in Mansfield’s next chance as the left back’s ball from the left fell kindly for Blake at the back post but he was unable to keep his shot down as Mansfield looked for a third to wrap the game up.
As the match entered the final ten minutes, Bobby Oljenik was called into action as Rainworth sprung an otherwise tight defence – the stags keeper of his line quickly to mop things up before Zayn Hakeem, who scored in the previous fixture back in early August, nearly did so again in the games dying embers. Mal Benning providing the cross which Hakeem nodded wide.
FULL TIME: Rainworth MW 0-2 Stags
Lewis Collins – Kieran Harrison (Henry Wilder 79) – Rhys Bennett © - Mal Benning
Zayn Hakeem – Jacob Mellis (Keaton Ward 60) – Cameron Healy – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Nyle Blake 60) – Kane Hemmings (Jordan Graham HT)
Unused Substitute: Sam Wilson
Referee: Declan Bourne
Mansfield Town’s Under 21s swooped the silverware from the Wrens nest, as a brace for Zayn Hakeem plus strikes from Keaton Ward and Jack Thomas, one of only two Stags senior players – sealed the Green Energy Challenge Trophy in a comfortable 4-1 victory.
The Stags management left it late before deciding to send the clubs Under 21s set-up, not wanting to risk injuries ahead of the League Two opener at Crewe Alexandra on Saturday, however the match was still well supported with 320 in attendance.
Mansfield’s youngsters were managed by Mike Whitlow, however Paul Raynor also watched the game from the dug-out, presumably keeping an eye on Thomas who skippered the side and taking a look at a few of the youngsters who will train with the first team throughout the campaign, no doubt being mentored by Jamie McGuire in the process.
Front man Hakeem proved difficult for Rainworth to handle, whilst left back Louis Danquah and winger Nyle Blake also put in a decent display.
Mansfield registered a half chance on three minutes as Hakeem dragged an effort wide, three minutes later, Lewis Collins drew a good save from Wrens’ keeper Ben Townsend.
Defensively Mansfield’s youngsters looked solid with Brad McDonald commanding the back line well, cutting out a long ball with a strong challenge on eight minutes and showing vocal leadership to see his side stand up against the Wrens and prevent goal scoring opportunities as the half progressed.
The hosts got in behind on 22 minutes but again, solid work off the ball from the young Stags left the Wren’s with no option but to slam the ball heavily across the face of goal and out for a throw, from which the Stags created space for Lewis Collins’, whose 25 yard effort was on target but always rising.
Mansfield did find the net just after the half hour mark, as Hakeem was slipped into the box amidst a crowd of Rainworth bodies – Townsend saved the first shot from the young Stags hit man, but could do nothing about the follow-up as the ball fell to Hakeem’s feet – this time he made no mistake, firing into the roof of the net.
On the stroke of half-time Mansfield were awarded a spot kick, which Jack Thomas coolly dispensed – thrashing the ball hard down the middle to give his side a two-goal advantage.
After the re-start good interchanging football between Hakeem, Jordan Graham and Jason Law saw the latter force a save from the keeper, moments later on 55 minutes, Hakeem lofted the ball into the area from deep and was unlucky not to find Law, who was narrowly beaten to the ball by the onrushing keeper.
Julian Lawrence nodded the Wrens back into the game from a corner on 58 minutes as the Stags failed to deal with a decent drilled set-play, setting the mark for a spell of Rainworth pressure, the only other chance of note, was when with ten minutes to player, an identical corner was headed wide at the far post.
With five minutes to go, Hakeeem grabbed his second of the night, latching onto a through ball before rounding the onrushing substitute keeper, before keeping his composure as defenders raced back – to fire into the net.
Hakeem will have been disappointed to not deal a treble two minutes later as the Stags were awarded a second spot-kick – Keaton Ward tucking home from 12 yards to seal the victory.
STAGS Sam Wilson, Kane Baldwin, Brad McDonald, Kieran Harrison, Louis Danquah, Nyle Blake, Jack Thomas ©, Lewis Collins, Jason Law, Jordan Graham, Zayn Hakeem
SUBS Xavier Sundby, Cam Healey, Alistair Smith, Teddy Bloor, Jurelle Phillips, Keaton Ward
NOTE – The team sheet line-up had Jack Thomas, Lewis Collins, Nyle Balke and Louis Danquah as subs, yet they all started
Mansfield Town gave 181 travelling supporters and those watching from afar last night the right impression as they breezed to a 3-1 victory over Skrill Premier Side Lincoln City in their penultimate pre-season friendly.
Fergus Bell netted an absolute wonder strike before hit-man Liam Hearn came from the bench to net his second brace in three pre-season games to lead Mansfield to victory, rounding off what was a 99% positive showing from Paul Cox’s men in a game they largely dominated.
The Stags again set out in a 3-4-1-2 formation and looked comfortable with both the ball on the deck and in the air, players such as Fergus Bell, Alex Fisher and Simon Heslop all key to this during the first half whilst the addition of Hearn after the hour added fuel to the fire.
Heslop in particular impressed and is looking like a quality addition from when we first saw him against Leeds United. The central midfielder made up a lot of ground always looking to feed on the scraps and stretch play, doing so on a number of occasions with precision passes.
Hit-man Hearn again impressed coming from the bench, his movement for his two goals was fluid whilst his finishing was clinical and crisp, if Alex Fisher can put a few more of his chances away then Mansfield could have one hot attack.
In general though, Cox will be pleased with his teams character, Lincoln are a side that like to get in your face and constantly test, something they did rather well until they were blown away by hurricane Hearn. At the back, Mansfield were troubled on occasion but dealt well with the majority of Lincoln attacks, the only blot on the otherwise perfect canvas was the Imps goal – the Stags allowed the hosts far too much space to get a cross in and got nowhere near Hamza Bencherif who nodded passed Sascha Studer.
Cox again cast his eye over two Trialists and did give permission to name them, however both Rob Taylor and Anthony Griffith had to settle for a seat on the bench.
It was the hosts that looked to test the water early on as in the opening minute, former Notts County man and ex-Stags Trialist Hamza Bencherif found space to get a shot in from distance, however Studer was well positioned to keep the effort at bay.
The Stags then registered their first few efforts in quick succession, Alex Fisher glanced a header wide from Fergus Bell’s well hit corner before the roles reversed, Fisher teeing up Bell for a twenty yard drive which whizzed narrowly wide of Paul Farman’s goal.
The two sides then went toe to toe but did little with the ball, Fisher looked to change that on 23 minutes, with his back to goal he picked up Amari’i Bell’s low pass before spinning towards goal and firing at Farman – the former Gateshead glovesman fortunate to get down low to his left to keep out Fisher’s effort.
Fergus Bell then wasted a counter attack on 29minutes as he drove forward from the half way line after a Lincoln move broke down, the lively midfielder took the ball a stride to far and was unable to get his shot away. However Bell atoned for this a minute letter in style, a long ball forward saw Fisher provide the assist with a cushioned chest-down to Bell, who thumped home on the half volley with his left boot from some thirty yards to give Mansfield the lead.
With ten minutes to go before the break, the hosts nearly levelled and perhaps would have done had it not been for the strength of John Dempster to hold off a hungry Karl Ledsham and for the confidence of the advancing Studer to race out of his area and clear left footed under pressure from Ben Tomlinson.
Back at the other end, Fergus Bell looked to turn from goal scorer to provider on 37 minutes, driving forward following a well-timed interception from Heslop, Bell unselfishly played a reverse pass into the feet of Ollie Palmer who wasted the opportunity, failing to get the ball out of his feet and subsequently allowing Nat Brown to get back and clear.
The miss then proved costly as a minute later, poor defending allowing the imps to draw level. Mansfield gave the hosts far too much space around the edge of the box, especially in the channels with Ledsham picking out Benchierif with a well weighted cross – the Stags players got nowhere near him as he headed beyond a stranded Studer.
At the break, Ollie Palmer was replaced in attack by Liam Hearn but it was Lincoln’s half time substitute than caused troubled first, two minutes into the second half Connor Robinson rose at the far post above Studer but couldn’t turn Sean Newton’s left sided deep cross home.
From then on, it was all Mansfield – Hearn made his first impact on the game on 51 minutes, holding up well to the left of the area before pulling back into a pocket of space for the advancing Heslop who dragged wide of Farman’s goal when he should have tucked home.
Seven minutes later it was Hearn testing the water, firing over from just inside the area after arcing off the defenders shoulder to latch on Adam Murray’s reverse pass.
Hearn waited just eleven more minutes before finally putting Mansfield back infront. It all stemmed from inside the Stags own half as Heslop broke up Lincoln’s play and took one look up before playing a sublime directional pass to Hearn – the hit-man still had the work to do and showed great composure to control the ball, take on his marker before calmly slotting underneath the advancing Farman who was made to look a fool by Hearn’s first clinical finish of the evening.
On 74 minutes Hearn should have had his second but was denied by the legs of Farman from Helsop’s pass – two minutes later though and Hearn beat Farman once more. This time it was substitute Chris Clements that created the goal, playing a pass through the eye of the needle to completely unpick the City defence from the left of the box. Hearn found a pocket of space that only he knew existed and controlled well before drilling beyond a stunned Farman who must have found it hard not to applaud the quality execution of both Hearn’s finish and Mansfield’s movement.
Clements himself could have added a fourth moments later from Hearn’s tee up, his rasping half volley from 18yards blocked by Nat Brown who also denied Hearn a deserved treble late on with a brave sliding tackle.
STAGS: 1.Sascha Studer, 14.Ritchie Sutton, 4.John Dempster, 5.Ryan Tafazolli (13.Martin Riley 77), 20.Lee Beevers (15.Liam Marsden 61), 8.Adam Murray © (12.Jamie McGuire 77), 18.Simon Heslop (21.Anthony Griffith 77), 11.Amari’i Bell (19.Rob Taylor 61), 7.Fergus Bell (2.Chris Clements 66), 17.Alex Fisher (22.Matt Rhead 61), 10.Ollie Palmer (9.Liam Hearn HT)
Unused Subs: Jack Thomas
Meanwhile, in Rainworth - Mansfield Town's youth team couldn't keep hold of the annual Green Energy Challenge Trophy. Despite a spirited display from the Stags youngsters, they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Kirklington Road.
Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town won their first piece of silverware of the season last night as a brace from Ben Hutchinson, plus solitary strikes from Ross Dyer and trailist Jordan Ball saw Stags crowned Champions of the Green Energy Challenge Trophy, a new competition expected to be competed annually between the Stags and Rainworth MW.
It was a commanding performance from Stags, managed by first team coach Richard Cooper as boss Paul Cox and assistant Adam Murray went elsewhere continuing the hunt for a new striker. Seemingly Outcasts George Pilkington and Godfrey Poku both put in excellent displays whilst Chris Clements enjoyed another decent game in the centre of the park, however it was young defender Jason Gregory and hit man Ben Hutchinson that caught my eye the most, Hutchinson netting twice and setting another to earn man of the match whilst Gregory looked comfortable and assured at the heart of the Stags back four, causing problems for the visitors in both boxes.
Stags fielded three trailists in the starting eleven with at least two on the bench, right back Julian Kelly again played but only to get fit whilst Cooper, on behalf of Cox, cast his eye over 19 year old former Doncaster Rovers striker Jordan Ball and 26 year old attacking midfielder/ striker Calvin Andrew, whose career has included spells with Luton Town and Crystal Palace.
On the bench were a number of youth team players along with the seemingly unknown Lamar Powell and Chris Smith. Some research this morning shows that Powell, a 19 year old left sided forward, was formerly on the books of Bristol Rovers and Bath City, suffering an asthma attack on his Bath debut whilst its rumoured Chris Smith is over from Australia on trial. Stags also introduced a young goalkeeper late on, reports after the game also suggest his name was Smith, but at the time of writing I’m no clearer to knowing his first name or if he was a trialist etc.
Back to the match itself and Stags looked hungry to impress and weren’t afraid to get stuck in on an evening which was awash with sharp spells of torrential rain and, during the second half especially, constant flashes of vicious lightening.
Stags survived an early corner from the Wrens and soon began to bombard the Rainworth goal and were unlucky not to lead after two minutes as trialist Calvin Andrew flashed in a pacey cross from the left wing. Ross Dyer was on the end of it with a forceful effort which was well saved by James Martin in the home goal.
Hungry Mansfield had a mere three more minutes to wait until they grabbed the opener, a fine 1-2 between Andrew and Clements saw the former take the ball around the advancing Martin, the former Crystal Palace man lost his footing but had Ben Hutchinson on hand to drill home into the empty net to put Coopers Stags in the driving seat.
Mansfield looked fearless in there attack and the Wrens somehow survived numerous crosses from either flank before receiving a helping hand from the linesman on 18 minutes as he ruled out Andrew’s bullet header from a Hutchinson cross for offside after Clements’ initial corner picked out former Celtic man Hutchinson on the far right hand side.
Seven minutes later Stags did have a second as Ross Dyer powerful converted beneath Martin. It all stemmed from the half way line where Julian Kelly played a low pass into Hutchinson’s feet, a great spin from the hit man saw Wrens full back Damian Magee left behind and Hutchinson subsequently drilled the low cross into the middle for Dyer to convert, a good all round move from the Stags.
Godfrey Poku nearly had a belated birthday present on the half hour mark as his 30 yard left footed lightning bolt tested Martin who, two minutes later, was picking the ball out of the net again as Dyer this time sent Hutchinson racing into the box – the front man lashing into the back of the net with real venom to put Stags into a commanding three-nil lead.
Hutchinson came close to his hat-trick seconds after the restart after good link up play between Clements and Jordan Ball, however James Martin threw his body onto the ball after spilling the initial effort.
Rainworth were becoming sloppy as they attempted to play their way forwards from the back, on 37 minutes a sloppy error proved a costly one as former Doncaster Rovers man Jordan Ball pounced onto a mistake from Ricky Hanson, curling the ball into the back of the net via a deflection from James Martin – the shot was going in anyway.
At 4-0 up Mansfield weren’t resting on their laurels and continued in their quest for a 5th goal, Ben Hutchinson, Ross Dyer, Jordan Ball and Calvin Andrew all came close before the break but neither could quite find the finish they were looking for.
The second half was a more even affair although, possession and shots wise Stags were still in complete control. Hutchinson, Andrew and Clements all had further efforts in search of the Stags 5th goal but neither could find it, instead it was Rainworth that came closer, finally drawing Ian Deakin into action on the hour mark as Ricky Hanson, who pushed into midfield, hit one low from 25 yards.
Four minutes later Stags made their first change of the night as Andrew departed in place of another trialist, Lamar Powell, moments after his introduction he earned a free kick right on the edge of the D – Ben Hutchinson stepped up but curled over.
Centre back Jason Gregory then came close to getting on the Stags score sheet on 77 minutes with a rasping effort from the edge of the Wrens box, James Martin did well to palm the ball away and allow the hosts to soak up the danger.
Rainworth threatened to find a consolation late on however fine defensive work from Pilkington, captain Sutton and substitute Liam Marsden, ensured Stags’ clean sheet and ultimately, the first Green Energy Challenge Trophy title.
FULL TIME: Rainworth MW 0-4 Mansfield Town
STAGS: 33 Ian Deakin (1 ?? Smith 81), 3 Julian Kelly (15 Liam Marsden 84), 5 Ritchie Sutton ©, 6 Jason Gregory, 2 George Pilkington, 17 Ross Dyer (7 Jack Hawkins 84), 8 Chris Clements, 18 Godfrey Poku (14 Jack Thomas 83), 11 Calvin Andrew (12 Lamar Powell 64), 10/21 Ben Hutchinson (13 Chris Smith 77), 9 Jordan Ball (16 Joe Flint 77)
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Ben Birch, Jordan Vilums, Chris Spencer, Matt Jones, Trovan Damar-Thompson.
Referee: Steve Meredith
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