Full Time Score: Retford Utd 0-5 Mansfield Town XI
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Venue Cannon: Park, Retford
Goal Scorers: Lee Angol (P) Omari-Sterling James [2 (1P)] Krystian Pearce, Nyle Blake
Craig Priest writes…
A second half-flurry of goals helped one of two Mansfield Town sides onto victory yesterday (Saturday 14th) as impressive displays from Omari Sterling-James, new signing Neal Bishop and youngster Lewis Gibbens saw the Stags XI beat Retford Utd by five goals to nil.
Manager David Flitcroft cast his eye over this Stags XI with assistant Ben Futcher overseeing the 0-0 draw at Hednesford in the afternoons other senior fixture.
Having missed the trip to Bradford Park Avenue on Thursday due to other commitments, it was the first time I’d seen the new look Stags, and whilst I wanted to see the likes of Otis Khan and Tyler Walker who were playing in the Hednesford match, I was more than satisfied with the players I did see, Neal Bishop and youngster Lewis Gibbens particularly impressing.
Out of the summer signings, Bishop is the one who has gone under the excitement radar a little, but 100% he is the type of player we need in the engine-room of midfielder – putting in a puppeteer-like performance yesterday… pulling all the strings.
The former Scunthorpe man did a lot of work box-to-box off the ball, closing play down and keeping the Stags shape, which in similar fashion to the pre-season matches thus far, was a 3-5-2/ 3-4-3 system – playing out from the back and enjoying long, fluid, spells with the ball.
Bishop, flanked by Will Atkinson and the transfer listed Calum Butcher with sterling-James and Anderson in the wider positions, controlled the middle of the park well and was the buffer between the back three of Pearce, Paul Digby and youngster Lewis Gibbens and the Stags attacking threat of Angol and youngster Jordan Graham.
It will be interesting to see where the 36 year old fits in Flitcroft’s plans going into the season, but his drive across 90 minutes is something we’ve lacked along with the experience of playing at a higher level – he looked comfortable in sitting back at allowing the wide players to push on, but also in lurking on the edge of the opponents box to redistribute moves which break down – he was actually very unlucky to not score with a well saved long-range effort during the second half.
Moving from the experienced head of Bishop to the youthful promise of Lewis Gibbens, who played on the left-side of the back three, Gibbens had a fine game and I believe will be one to watch over the next six-months – if he can’t break the first team, which given the lack of defensive signings so far could actually be a possibility, then a loan as a regular in a conference national side is a must to maintain his development.
The youngster was strong in the air and was a real threat from attacking set-plays, during the first half alone he had three opportunities to score, crashing one header against the bar and nodding two over. At the other end he was very comfortable in playing out from the back and playing with a high-line, he very rarely lost an Ariel battle – marshalled through the game by Bishop and the very vocal Paul Digby.
David Flitcroft included two more youngsters in the Stags XI, with Jordan Graham starting up-front alongside Lee Angol, he had a quieter game than the other too but looked sharp enough.
The other youngster was Nyle Blake came off of the bench to replace Paul Anderson during the second half and capped a fine display with a goal. Playing right side of the midfield five, Blake looked quick and had a few tricks in his locker – creating a number of opportunities, he’s certainly another whose development should be statically planned and monitored, as the Stags face four Championship sides over the next fortnight before their League Two opener, at home to Newport County
The recent heat-wave had done the Retford Utd pitch no favours and it took the Stags a while to get settle, but it was the Stags who enjoyed the best chance early on – Omari sterling-James sent in a pin point corner in the 6th minute which found Lewis Gibbens at the far post – the youngster unlucky not to score as his thunderous header cannoned off the bar and out for a goal-kick.
An error of judgement from Paul Digby moments later at the other end nearly let the hosts in, however Bobby Oljenik was alert and stood firm to deny the hosts an opening.
From then on in it was pretty much one-way traffic with the Stags bossing possession and creating chance after chance after chance without reward, Sterling-James particularly impressing with a number of corners which saw Gibbben twice head wide, along with captain Krystain Pearce and Calum Butcher – who both sent headers off target.
Paul Anderson nearly opened the scoring with an audacious left footed lob which was heading from the top corner after the home keepers poor clearance, fortunately for the home glovesman, he scuttled back and made a fine save to deny the Stags’ adaptable midfielder, playing in a left wing-back role.
Lee Angol and Jordan Graham also saw efforts blocked, but the Stags dominance paid off with three minutes to go before the break as Will Atkinson was comically bundled over inside the area – Lee Angol stepped up to take the spot-kick and converted successfully.
The Stags continued their dominance after the break and didn’t seem to tire, Sterling-James and Atkinson both saw chances denied as Mansfield looked for a second – something they found through Sterling-James on 63 minutes from close range.
Skipper Pearce then made it three on 70 minutes as he tore away from his marker to covert a Sterling-James corner, five minutes later Sterling-James turned goal scorer, converting the Stags second spot-kick of the afternoon, which he won after a crazy left-sided run which left the hoists chasing a blur.
Youngster Jordan Graham saw an effort blocked before Neal Bishop was also denied by a fine save, however Sterling-James grabbed another assist with three minutes to go, his left sided cross finding youngster Nyle Blake, who converted the Stags’ fifth from close range.
FULL TIME: Retford Utd 0-5 Stags XI
STAGS: Bobby Oljenik, Krystian Pearce ©, Paul Digby, Lewis Gibbens, Omari Sterling-James, Will Atkinson, Neal Bishop, Calum Butcher, Paul Anderson (Nyle Blake 64), Lee Angol, Jordan Graham.
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