Craig Priest writes…
With two games in as many days and the squad split for each, some may worry that splitting the game may not be healthy as the season’s opener approaches – however following the 2-2 draw with Championship Middlesbrough last night, I think the experienced heads of Steve Evans & Paul Raynor will be building a broader picture over how this squad will pan out over the season.
In previous pre-seasons when a manager has split the squads for games in quick succession, a pattern has emerged very quickly as it’s been (bar the odd one or two changes) pretty much obvious which were the starters and the reserves.
With Steve Evans and Paul Raynor though, there’s been no pattern – the XIs [when it’s been 45 minutes each] and Squads have been rotated thoroughly each time, in my opinion making it hard to form smaller groups and therefore a split in the dressing room.
I’ve no doubt it’ll be the same again for AFC Stamford [Friday 7.30pm] and Nottingham Forest [Saturday 3pm] and that by Gainsborough [Tuesday 7.30] the duo will have a much broader idea of who will start at Crewe.
From what I’ve seen so far, I certainly couldn’t fill out the team sheet for Crewe, well aside from two names anyway – George Taft, who again impressed at the back, and Paul Digby – who was excellent.
The system we played last night was criticised by a few for a lack of wide-outlet, though I thought White and Benning did enough from full back to offer us that – however in my view, the system last night lent itself to how we control possession box to box and mount counter-attacking moves – Digby was instrumental in that.
The former Barnsley and Ipswich man read the game well and the freedom he was given allowed the Stags to enjoy spells with three at the back [thus getting White and Benning forward] and caught the visitors on the back foot creating a number of chances – I honestly believe in a system which includes Danny Rose and Alex MacDonald, Digby is going to be key to our success.
Joel Byrom also played the interceptor role and again did an excellent job, he and Digby seemed to have an understanding from the first whistle which took a while to come on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday with both midfield pairings.
Questions will of course be raised over the way in which we gave away a two-goal advantage but you would expected a championship team to punish you in the manner which Borough did – but other than the goals, we gave Gary Monk’s side very little opportunity to get inside the box, which again highlights the way the system worked – of the two managers, I would say that Monk will have been the more disappointed.
The team selection wasn’t hard to guess – those who didn’t play at Stocksbridge Park Steels in the 4-0, started – with the majority playing the full 90minutes, they started brightly too with some strong tackles in midfield catching the visitors unaware and putting them on the back foot in the early exhanges, Omari Sterling-James unfortunate not have opened the scoring two minutes in, collecting a loose ball from Mikael Soisalo before seeing his 25 yard effort blocked by former Stag Alex Baptiste who, when substituted midway through the second half – received a rousing reception from the home faithful.
Mansfield saw creative openings through Will Atkinson and Paul Digby but couldn’t break the deadlock – shot stopper Bobby Olejnik keeping the scores level at the other end, as the highly rated Patrick Bamford got ahead of Taft to get a shot away on 12 minutes – the former Exeter glovesman palming the shot into the air before collecting the loose ball to kill any danger.
A minute later, Borough did have the ball in the net – their own, as an own goal from Johnny Howson put Mansfield ahead. Joel Byrom’s free kick the catalyst from the right hand side, as he picked out Mal Benning on the opposite side, his cut back across the face of goal turned in by Howson.
Paul Anderson came to the Stags rescue on 17 minutes as a dangerous corner from Gaston Ramirez was nodded forcefully towards goal by Dael Fry, Anderson in the right place to keep the Stags ahead.
Sterling-James was unlucky to get the ball caught beneath his feet on 18 minutes following strong work from Hayden White, but from the visitors clearance, the Stags doubled their advantage – Paul Digby intercepting play to feed Lee Angol, who calmly slotted beyond the keeper in a superb display of football.
Straight from the restart, Borough found a way back into the game as Stags failed to regroup in time, Patrick Bamford slotted in Soisalo who fired into the roof of the net from a tight angle to wake the visitors up.
It worked too as on 23 minutes, a fine save from Olejnik kept the Stags ahead – as he palmed away Howson’s low driven effort – although five minutes later, questions were asked of the Stags keeper as he didn’t put claim on another Ramirez corner – Fry again connecting but this time, finding the back of the net to level the game.
With the game level both sides enjoyed spells with the ball but with no real outcome, a long throw from George Taft was volleyed wide by Anderson with two minutes to go before the break, before on the stroke of half time – a good challenge from Benning prevented Soisalo from advancing – the teams tied at 2-2 at half time.
That’s how it stayed throughout the second half in what was a more controlled affair, though that’s not to say their weren’t chances – Mal Benning continued to try and re-find the Benning belters collection on 49 minutes, a right footed effort from distance narrowly wide.
Minutes later the visitors opened the Stags up but wasted a golden chance as Ramirez fired into the evening sky, before on 63 minutes – Sterling-James hit one wide on the half volley, as Joel Byrom’s dangerous free-kick was nodded into the front man’s path.
Trialist Jordan Slew again was given a run out and with seven minutes remaining curled a shot wide after some good movement, the games final real chance as the match fizzled out into a 2-2 draw.
Line Up: Bobby Olejnik, Hayden White, Zander Diamond ©, George Taft, Mal Benning, Joel Byrom (Lewis Collins 87), Paul Digby (Jack Thomas 85), Will Atkinson, Paul Anderson, Omari Sterling-James (Jordan Slew 71), Lee Angol
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Krystian Pearce, Jacob Mellis, Jimmy Spencer, Alfie Potter, Johnny Hunt, CJ Hamilton, Danny Rose
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