Premier League Aston Villa ran out 3-1 winners at the One Call Stadium last night as a brace for Darren Bent, either side of a Gary Gardener strike, cancelled out Alex Fisher’s first half opener for the Stags.
It was a positive performance from Paul Cox’s Mansfield against two Aston Villa line-ups which both featured big name stars such as Joe Cole and Daren Bent. The Stags managent cast their eye over a number of trialists, two of which had a run out against Notts County at the weekend, who we believe to be wing back Rob Taylor, who was released from Port Vale in the close season, and Shaun Harrad, who has been with Alfreton since his contract was terminated with Bury in Januray.
Paul Cox and his team also cast their eyes over another shot stopper who we believe to be Birmingham City’s 19 year old Nick Townsend who spent a short loan spell with Lincoln earlier this year. The teenager glovesman had a solid game between the sticks and would be worth another trail, he looked confident and commanding, he certainly wasn’t afraid to come off his line and, in fairness especially as the game went on, kept the score-line respectable as Villa’s experience became more dominant over the Stags.
Mansfield began brightly and registered two chances in the opening ten minutes, A.Trialist (yes him again!) wearing number 20 tested Shay Given from 30 yards and despite being narrowly off target, had the former Newcastle United keeper back peddling. Liam Marsden also had the visitors panicking as he unleashed the first of several long throws into the box which led to a corner which despite a good delivery from A.Trialist (Taylor), was cleared well.
Villa registered their first effort on seven minutes as Joe Bennet weaved his way around A.Trialist (Townsend) who did well to recover before Martin Riley blocked the effort on the line, at the other end a dominant run from Ollie Palmer saw the front man drag wide.
Alex Fisher continued to impress and tested Shay Given on a number of occasions before Fergus Bell was replaced by Sam Clucas as a precaution. The highly rated winger delivered a number of dangerous set-plays but it was Liam Marsden that helped deliver the killer blow four minutes before half-time with a long throw.
Fellow defender John Dempster, who captained the side, provided the pivitol front post flick on over the head of the villa back line – Alex Fisher did the rest, nodding forcefully over the line for his second goal in as many games to put Mansfield ahead.
Joe Cole had the chance to level prior to the break but a combination of good positioning from A.Trialist (Townsend) and a narrow angle, saw the former England international clip his cross well over the bar.
Cole, along with the rest of Villa’s first half line up, were replaced at the break whilst Paul Cox made three further changes, A.Trialist (Taylor) and A.Trialist (Unknown) were replaced by Anthony Howell and Amari’i Bell whilst Matt Rhead replaced Ollie Palmer in attack.
Rhead caused problems for the villa back line and on 52 minutes nearly set Mansfield’s second goal of the game, cutting back across the box for Sam Clucas who couldn’t quite get to the ball before Villa’s Jed Steer.
There was then sad news for Mansfield as Sam Clucas hobbled off through injury, youngster Jack Thomas replaced him but attention shifted from the pitch to Clucas’ movement, eventually heading down the tunnel sporting a support cast on his leg and using crutches.
Mansfield were then pegged level on 61 minutes as an expert ball across the Stags box from Alan Hutton saw Darren Bent pull the trigger and convert beneath A.Trialist (Townsend) who stood little chance of keeping the effort at bay.
Paul Cox kept the changes coming and five minutes from time, saw his side surrender the game as Gary Gardener put Aston Villa in front, Darren Bent then wrapped things up right at the death as Amari’i Bell lost possession on the half way line to a villa player, a quick cross saw Bent loop a header into the back of the net to make it 3-1 to the visitors.
Stags:  Trialist GK (Nick Townsend, Birmingham City),  Ritchie Sutton,  John Dempster (C),  Martin Riley,  Liam Marsden ( A.Trialist 75),  Jamie McGuire ( Chris Spencer (Youth Team) 75),  Fergus Bell ( Sam Clucas 29 /  Jack Thomas 55),  A.Trialist ( Anthony Howell 45),  A.Trialist (Robert Taylor) ( Amari’i Bell 45)  Ollie Palmer ( Matt Rhead 45),  Alex Fisher ( A.Trialist (Shaun Harrad) 67)
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