Gaining The Advantage & The Gladiators Fall – Gainsborough Trinity 0-4 Stags / Matlock Town 0-4 Stags
Craig Priest writes…
Weeks ago I wrote how much of a fan I was about pre-season – but last night I finally hated it, as Steve Evans split the first team in two and sent sides to Matlock and Gainsborough respectively – I imaging it’s like having two twins as a parent and asking which is best?
We weighed up the dilemma of which game to go to over the course of the weekend and eventually settled on Gainsborough – mainly so I had an “easier” drive ahead of my driving test the following morning [Today, Wednesday – I passed for those interested!], but also because after exhaustive discussion, we thought those at Gainsborough would be the ones who Evans wasn’t so sure on, meaning the players we also had seen less of so far. [More on Matlock shortly]
I wrote on Monday about how Evans and Raynor should split and go to a game each – but I knew deep down that wasn’t going to happen, feelings confirmed walking into the Trinity ground and seeing Richard Cooper and Mike Whitlow take the warm-up.
Personally I thought that all bar two, maybe three, would be in with a shot at a start at Crewe in the line-up to face Trinity – by the end of the game, Alfie Potter, Joel Byrom, CJ Hamilton, Rhys Bennett, Omari Sterling-James and Jimmy Spencer had all given a good account of themselves – certainly Potter who, after that display, will be very disappointed if he doesn’t start at Crewe.
I purposely excluded Logan from that list – mainly because he and Olejnik are going to play rock, paper, scissors to decide who starts – it’s the ONLY fair way!
Sterling-James grabbed two goals, both well taken [although I did tweet it was Hamilton with two, apologies! You try reading my handwriting and craning your neck around that big pole that restricted my view!], whilst I felt Spencer’s hold up play was perfect, I had visions of Rose/ Angol making runs off him. Byrom controlled the midfield whilst Bennett had a steady game at right back, but by far – Potter was different class, I’ve no concerns about wide play with him on the pitch.
Whitlow and Cooper have lots to report back on, I’ve no idea how Evans will decide – it’s just going to break down to how best to break Crewe down, the system we use to do that and fitness – I think across the two squads, there are 16, if not 18/19 players fighting for a start – including the two keepers…. How about the flip of a coin or an arm wrestle?
REPORT – GAINSBOROUGH
Also on Stagsnet, where you can view Martin Shaw’s full report on Matlock
Lining up in a flat, traditional 4-4-2 formation, both sides started with the pace and intensity of a league encounter, just a minute in good movement from Potter on the right hand side of midfielder picked out Omari Sterling-James, only for the hosts to clear and counter – captain Pearce sweeping in well to snuff out the danger.
Conrad Logan then produced a fine stop two minutes later, Johnny Hunt was beaten by his marker at left back and as the hosts drilled in a low testing cross, none of the Stags players picked out the on rushing Trinity front man, who was denied by a fine save from Logan.
On six minutes though the Stags found the opening goal, Joel Byrom’s quick thinking from a dead ball, saw Mansfield play a quick free kick – Byrom’s crisp pass picked out Sterling-James to the right of the area who stopped, turned his man and curled beyond the home keeper.
It should have been two on fourteen minutes after some fluid cross-park football, Potter’s driving run towards the edge of the Trinity area created space for and advancing Rhys Bennett – a neat 1-2 saw a testing Potter cross scrambled clear.
Gainsborough enjoyed a successful period with the ball and should have pulled themselves level on twenty minutes as Mansfield’s defence switched off from a corner, fortunately for the visitors, the unmarked Trinity man at the far post could only fire up and over the bar.
Rhys Bennett pulled the strings on 29 minutes, intercepting well on the half way line and driving his side forward, he found Potter on the overlap who in turn picked out CJ Hamilton with a nice cut back – Hamilton’s lofted cross found its way to Jimmy Spencer who was unfortunate to see his left footed effort fly up and over the bar.
Joel Byrom tested the water with a tasty delivery on 33 minutes which the home keeper had to push away as the Stags looked for a second, they waited just five more minutes before Jimmy Spencer controlled a directional ball from the back. The former Plymouth man picked out CJ Hamilton who did the rest with a little help from the near post.
Bryom came close to adding a third on the stroke of half-time but his thirty yard effort was always rising.
Mansfield didn’t rest with a two-goal lead, Jimmy Spencer saw two early efforts go astray before Jack Thomas pulled the trigger in a rush of blood following strong work again from Potter on the right touch-line – Spencer had made a fine run to find space and lose his marker.
It was then cometh the hour cometh the third goal, Alfie Potter the creator as he weaved a way forwards before slotting in Sterling-James, his shot from a narrowing angle as his movement took him away from goal, snook beyond the keeper and nestled into the net.
Six minutes later the Gainsborough keeper pulled off two fine saves in quick succession as a hungry Mansfield looked for a fourth – the Trinity glovesman first palmed away a swerving bullet from Sterling-James, before Potter danced through from the second phase of play, his effort from the left hand side of the box stinging the keepers hands before the hosts cleared.
A momentary lapse allowed Gainsborough in on 70 minutes but the home striker couldn’t keep his shot down, whilst two minutes later, a perfectly weighted deep clipped central pass from Thomas put Sterling-James free into the box – he curled wide after cutting back onto his right footed, an opportunity he really should have buried.
Five minutes later Alfie Potter got the goal he deserved, picking the ball up on the bye-line – Potter showed quick feet and fluid movement to take the ball beyond three players and get into a shooting position to the right of the box, he took one look up before stroking the ball firmly underneath the keeper – a fitting goal in a fine display from Potter.
Hamilton came close to sealing his second of the night with two minutes to go following good work from Potter and Sterling-James but at the death it was Logan taking the plaudits – rushing off his line to deny the on rushing Trinity player, who had caught the Stags flat footed.
All in all a good run out from a strong Mansfield side – in particular Conrad Logan, Joel Byrom, Alfie Potter and CJ Hamilton staking a claim for a starting place at Crewe.
Stags [4-4-2] Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett Kyrstian Pearce © George Taft Johnny Hunt, Alfie Potter Joel Byrom Jack Thomas CJ Hamilton, Jimmy Spencer Omari Sterling James
Unused Subs Hakeem, Collins, Harrison
REPORT – MATLOCK
View Martin Shaw’s full report on Stagsnet here
Also in a flat 4-4-2, watched by Raynor and Evans – the Stags senior players also got a full 90 minutes, meaning Alex MacDonald was the only player not to get a game (discounting youngster Lewis Collins), as he continues to recover from injury.
The Stags broke the deadlock on 15 minutes through Lee Angol, the former Peterborough front man tapping into an empty Gladiators net after a sharp cut back from Paul Anderson.
After the break former Stag Callum Lloyd was shown a straight red-card for a tackle on Mellis, and with a man more – The Stags soon added a second, Will Atkinson’s 72nd minute strike from inside the six yard box – completed a slick move been Benning and Rose – the latter teeing up Atkinson.
The third came through Mellis as Atkinson turned provider, before Lee Angol finished what he started – the last two goals coming in the games final two minutes as Matlock struggled with a man less.
Stags [4-4-2] Bobby Olejnik, Hayden White Zander Diamond David Murfin Mal Benning, Will Atkinson Paul Digby Jacob Mellis Paul Anderson, Lee Angol Danny Rose
Unused Subs Sam Wilson [GK] Tyler Blake, Cam Healey, Brad Peace-McDonald
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