Craig Priest writes…
Mansfield Town returned to the One Call Stadium last night [Wednesday 17th] for the first time under the stewardship of John Dempster, but swallowed the taste of defeat against Championship Blackburn Rovers – a match in which the 3-1 score line doesn’t do the Stags’ justice.
The Stags played really well against their Championship counterparts and particularly in the second half were unfortunate to not at least take a draw following a fine display from the visiting shot-stopper; however three sloppy errors allowed Blackburn to routinely take victory.
Former defender Dempster will have been unhappy at the way in which his side conceded the three goals, especially having started the trio of Preston, Pearce and Sweeney for the first time under his stewardship – undoubtedly aiming to replicate the solid defence of last season.
Sloppiness however is both expected and accepted in pre-season, and all in all the Stags gave a good account of themselves and looked on par with Rovers, who fielded a very strong Championship side.
Once again John Dempsters cast his eye over trialists as he looks to add strength to his squad, with the two from the weekends victory at Alfreton both getting 45 minutes each, along with another attacking player – the names of which are fairly common knowledge (see below) but are not confirmed by the club.
The question all fans are asking now is, if I were manager, would I sign either of them? My answer would be a very flat ‘No’ – all three have put in OK displays but I personally believe we have enough cover within those particular areas already at the club in the Academy set-up who I would favour developing over new faces, for the sake of new faces.
It’s only the right side area where I’d be looking to strengthen to give Hayden White some competition defensively, as it looks like Dempster prefers to keep Hamilton in a more advanced left sided role, rather than utilize him as a right wing-back.
‘Trialist A’ hasn’t really overly impressed me so far and I think there are better players out there who we can even loan in or bid-for, whilst young James Clarke who’s been brought into the Under 23 set-up has impressed me during his pre-season game time.
As for the other two, again you’ve got the likes of Otis Khan, Jacob Mellis, Alex MacDonald, and Willem Tomlinson who you’d play over them, with youngsters Alistair Smith, Jason Law, Jimmy Knowles, Tyrese Sinclair and Jordan Graham all exciting prospects who will be pushing to breakthrough – so unless they [the trailists] can offer something really different which we as supporters aren’t seeing yet to Dempsters vision, I’d let them move on elsewhere and avoid being too top heavy.
Reflecting on the match itself, I’ve no major qualms about the result or performance, I’d like to see us have a little more intent to attack and utilize set-plays, but that’s going to come a lot more against Hull City and Nottingham Forest, plus on the training ground as the Stags prepare for the season’s opener at Newport.
-- Match Recap --
Stags fans were treated to the return of the solid back three from last season but saw little in way of early attacks and watched on as the visitors took the lead on ten minutes, working a free kick quickly to deliver an early cross which the Stags weren’t ready for, Matt Preston judged to get the final touch with the goal going down as an own goal.
Conrad Logan then was alert from the restart as he rushed out to deny Butterworth – Jacob Mellis was the first to register an effort of note for the Stags on 14 minutes, smashing over the crossbar from the edge of the box.
Logan then made two good saves, the first on 26 minutes to deny Ben Brereton, then five minutes later parrying away Buckley’s low strike as the visitors began to show the divisional gap.
At the break the Stags were a goal behind and made a number of changes to sit into a 3-5-1-1 formation which included two trialists either side of Willem Tomlinson in the centre of the park, with Hayden White and Mal Benning out wide. Otis Khan then slotted in behind Rose with only the keeper and back three remaining on from the first half.
Blackburn added a second on 52 minutes as Pearce hit a clearance straight at Buckley who reacted quickly to tuck beneath Logan. The Chief wasted no time in making up for his error, a minute later thundering an effort into the top corner following a Stags’ corner.
Three minutes later Pearce nearly drew the match level as he saw a header blocked by a Rovers body after another Stags corner, Otis Khan’s tremendous free kick followed on 58, as he was denied by a fine save from the keeper – who from the resulting corner, watched Pearce’s header go over the bar.
Trialist C nearly claimed an assist on the hour as he fed Danny Rose, his brilliant strike was expertly saved by the keeper as Mansfield began to really dominate the game in their quest for an equaliser, which also saw Khan hit another free kick – denied this time by the post.
Pearce was then denied by the keeper with nine minutes to go, four minutes later Blackburn wrapped things up as Armstrong latched onto a pass which had the Stags defence all over the place, finishing underneath substitute keeper Aiden Stone.
FULL TIME | Mansfield Town 1-3 Blackburn Rovers
Conrad Logan (Aiden Stone 78)
Matt Preston (Alistair Smith 78) – Krystian Pearce © - Ryan Sweeney (Lewis Gibbens 78)
Trialist A [Jak Hickman*] (Hayden White 45) – Alex MacDonald (Willem Tomlinson 45 / Omari Sterling James 76) – Neal Bishop (Trialist B [Arthur Gnahoua*] 45) – CJ Hamilton (Mal Benning 45)
Jacob Mellis (Trialist C [Jose Baxter*] 45)
Andy Cook (Danny Rose 45) – Nicky Maynard (Otis Khan 45)
*Social Media reports, unconfirmed by the club
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