Craig Priest writes…
The 2019-20 season may still be weeks away, but yesterday John Dempsters men took a step closer to being ready for the opening day with a 1-0 victory over Alfreton – as the integration between Dempsters past and future continued.
Once more several faces from Dempsters time as academy boss were mixed in with the first team, highlighting for me that we’re preparing them for the opportunity of breaking through in times of need, rather than rely on loan players and free agents.
In fairness that’s a big part of the reason the former defender and captain was appointed and I’m glad to see that we’ve not singed 13/14 players over bringing through local talent – because so far the young lads which have been given the chance to shine - are gleaming, a prime example being Alistair Smith whose goal separated the two sides yesterday.
The strength of opposition is going to ramp up massively now that we have our three home friendlies coming up against Blackburn Rovers, Hull City and Nottingham Forest – but we can’t wrap young players up forever and I’m sure they’ll give a good account of themselves, as part of the SQUAD.
Emphasis on the word SQUAD is important at this stage because that’s exactly what we are, it’s not senior pros with a few young ones making up the numbers, it’s a collective group of players striving to achieve one collective aim – promotion to League One.
By no means is it the finished article, there are areas to strengthen and areas to add competition in – hence the two trialists yesterday, the right back known as ‘Jack’ who played around an hour, and the attacking midfielder known as ‘Arthur’ who played in the second half XI, there’s also a question of fitness and I’d expect by the Hull City match next Saturday, Dempster to be giving player 70+ minutes.
Yet again it was two XIs getting 45 minutes each and similarly to Thursday, it was a more sluggish first half with more intensity in the second half – interesting as the personnel was mixed. The Stags also opted for another new style of play in the second half, with a 4-2-3-1 which I liked, I look forward to seeing how things unfold as the intensity certainly ramps up over the next week.
-- Match Recap --
Mansfield made another bright start and were unlucky not to have taken the lead after four minutes, as Jacob Mellis’ teasing cross found the head of Ryan Sweeney, who without his curly hair from last season, was a hair’s width from connecting with the ball.
Conrad Logan then watched a header go wide on 12 minutes and had to be alert again on 26 minutes, getting down low to deny Wilde, who was allowed to get a shot in from distance to test the Stags.
CJ Hamilton sparked the Stags into life twelve minutes later but was denied by a brave red shirt after Hamilton venomously unleashed an effort, the Stags final real opportunity of the first half – going in firmly locked at 0-0 to hand over to the remainder of the squad.
With two men on trial in the amber and blue, the second half saw trialist ‘Arthur’, playing in attacking midfield catch the eye early doors, he skipped the challenge of numerous challenges before firing just side, infront of the travelling Stags faithful.
Alex MacDonald, returning from an injury scare in Portugal, was next to set a chance for the Stags as he delivered from the right hand side in 54 minutes – Otis Khan met the ball with a first time shot, sending the ball narrowly over the bar.
On the hour it was MacDonald himself who came closest to opening the scoring, he was denied by a fine save from the substitute Alfreton keeper at close range.
At the other end new keeper Aiden Stone, expected to be Logan’s understudy until Oljenik is fit, showed his credentials as he got across his line well to deny Brough’s header with ten minutes to go, two minutes later his hard work was rewarded as Mal Benning swung in a cross for the advancing Alistair Smith to convert – giving Mansfield a much deserved 1-0 lead.
The young midfielder nearly made it 2-0 with three minutes remaining, his surging run denied on the edge of the box, as the hosts cleared their lines – the full time whistle followed not long after as Mansfield rounded off their first week back in the UK with their second win in three days.
FULL TIME | Alfreton Town 0-1 Stags
STAGS [First Half] 4-4-2
Trialist ‘Jack’ – Krystian Pearce © - Ryan Sweeney – Kian Sketchley
Omari Sterling-James – Neal Bishop – Jacob Mellis – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Nicky Maynard
STAGS [Second Half] 4-2-3-1
Trialist ‘Jack’ (James Clarke 66) – Matt Preston © - Lewis Gibbens – Mal Benning
Willem Tomlinson – Alistair Smith
Alex MacDonald – Trialist ‘Arthur’ – Otis Khan
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