Matt Rhead’s 43rd minute strike proved the difference last night as Mansfield came away from Grimsby’s Blundell Park with a 1-0 pre-season victory having faced their toughest test so far.
The Mariners proved stern opposition to Paul Cox’s men and on reflection, will be disappointed to have been beaten after seeing numerous chances go astray – perhaps highlighting to Paul Cox that some final tweaks need to be made ahead of the season’s opener at Northampton.
Cox again used the match to cast his eye over two trailists, one again rumoured to be former Port Vale man Rob Taylor whilst the other is also rumoured to have had a long spell at Port Vale in the form of midfielder Anthony Griffith. The unnamed central midfielder on trial [Griffith] didn’t have the greatest of games and played just the first half whilst the unnamed wing-back [Taylor] put in another reasonable game having appeared in all of Mansfield’s pre-season friendlies’ so far, his addition should be a formality now providing the budget allows it.
On a cold evening at Blundell Park, it was an even opening to the match as Grimsby looked to keep possession, it was Mansfield though that had two chances to test James McKeown in the Mariners goal, Trialist wing-back [Taylor] hit a third minute free-kick high over the bar before sending in a teasing cross two minutes later which Ollie Palmer was inches away from.
Sascha Studer was then called into action on nine minutes to deny Grimsby’s A.Trialist from distance after Jack Mackreth played a low pass from the right hand side to stretch the Stags back line.
The swiss keeper was called into action again four minutes later as Grimsby’s John Paul Pitman and Paddy McLaughlan looked to caused trouble, Mansfield’s latest addition showed great agility to block the hosts’ effort before Ryan Tafazolli mopped up the danger.
At the other end Mansfield had their best chance of the game so far through Ollie Palmer on 18 minutes, latching on to Matt Rhead’s flick on, Palmer to the right of the box looked to loft the ball over McKeown but couldn’t beat the town shot stopper who, despite fumbling, kept the Stags front man at bay. Moments later Fergus Bell looked to show his attacking ability driving forward linking up with Rhead and Palmer, but saw his driven effort go wide of the Town goal.
With five minutes to go before the break, Grimsby saw a golden chance to open the scoring fall by the way side. The lively Mackreth played a pivotal role down the right hand side, evading Riley before whipping into the area – his cross found Paddy McLaughlan whose header cannoned back of the cross bar with Shuder rooted to his line.
At the other end a Lee Beevers corner was headed wide by Rhead at the far post however the front man made no mistake seconds later on 43 minutes as he gave Mansfield the lead. It was Ollie Palmer that helped set the move as he took the initial shot, with the ball squirming off the underneath of McKeown’s body, Rhead had the simple task of blasting into the empty net.
Paul Cox rang the chances at the break making all but two of his available substitutions, the hosts also made changes with former Mansfield man Craig Disley entering the fray along with the much sought after Ross Hannah – it was the duo that caused trouble on 53 minutes with a neat passing move, Hannah’s eventual cross punched firmly away by Studer.
Just after the hour Grimsby had another opening, this time it was left back Azwald Thomas who got forward to play a cross, unpicking the Mansfield defence. The drilled ball flashed all the way across the six yard box but fortunately for Paul Cox’s men, couldn’t be turned home.
Former Mariners favourite Liam Hearn then replaced Rhead in the Stags attack to a rapturous round of applause from his former employees, however Hearn was kept quiet and it was his former team mates that teased the most – John Dempster, Amari’i Bell and Sascha Studer all on hand to keep the hosts at bay as the game moved into the closing stages.
Liam Hearn and Amari’i Bell both had chances to double Mansfield’s lead in the final five minutes, Bell seeing a right footed drive held by McKeown before Hearn stung the legs of the home defence.
Right at the death, Craig Disley was unlucky not to change the outcome of the match – heading wide unmarked at the far post from an excellent reverse chipped pass from fellow substitute Scott Neilson.
Stags: 1.Sascha Studer, 17.Ritchie Sutton, 6.Martin Riley, 5.Ryan Tafazolli (4.John Dempster 45), 10.Lee Beevers (11. Liam Marsden 45), 4.A.Trialist [Anthony Griffith] (7.Simon Heslop 45), 2.Jamie McGuire © (12.Adam Murray 45), 15.A.Trialist [Rob Taylor] (3.Amari’i Bell 45), 18.Fergus Bell (8.Chris Clements 45), 9.Ollie Palmer (19.Alex Fisher 45), 20.Matt Rhead (16.Liam Hearn 63)
Unused Subs: Jack Thomas
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