Sunday, 24 July 2011

Pre-Season Friendly: FC Halifax Vs Stags.

‘Lucky 7’
Each morning when you wake up, you get a different feeling. Yesterday, I was awoken to the sound of bird song, followed by a calming silence, rare for my street, as I pulled back the curtains to reveal a nice blue sky with the sun beginning to shine. Ironically as my radio alarm sounded (I’m always up before it) I caught the end of Michael Buble signing ‘Feeling Good’ “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life, for me.... and I’m feeling good” I knew then, that I was in for a good day.
We’ve seen flashes of what could be during the last few games, however flashes of what could be don’t bring the same satisfaction of winning – so yesterday we headed off up the motorway from junction 29, towards Halifax to take on the team we’d beaten in last year’s FA Cup 4th Round qualifier – newly promoted to the BSBN: FC Halifax Town.
A pleasant and quick journey soon saw us arrive at our destination, and after a quick detour for food, I headed off for the press box (a new one on my list of press boxes too!) as everyone else headed for a refreshing pint in the warm summer sun – the sods!
After setting up the kit and attempting to make it a neat wiring job, it was time to go on air as team news arrived – the side to take on FC Halifax saw a few changes and introduced the latest trialist to the set up, central defender Nick Wood. The 20 year old started his career with Sheffield Wednesday, progressing through their youth system, including a loan spell at Sheffield FC. Last season Nick made 12 appearances for Tranmere Rovers, before being released at the end of the season. Even before watching him play, I was pretty certain there was no danger of him getting a deal at stags with plenty of players ahead of him. So why was he playing? Martin Riley (Food Poisoning), John Thompson (Hip – not serious) & Rhys Day were all injured, meaning the gaffer Paul Cox was low on natural centre half’s, not wanting to risk other members of the squad who can play centre half, mainly Matt Bell & Ritchie Sutton.
Line up [Shirt numbers in brackets]
[1] Shane Redmond
[2] Luke O’Neill – [6] Tom Naylor – [5] Nick Wood – [3] Joe Kendrick
[7] Louis Briscoe – [4] Jon Worthington (C) – [8] Paul Bolland – [11] Adam Smith
[9] Paul Connor – [10] Matt Green
SUBS: [1] Alan Marriott – [12] Adam Murray – [14] Anthony Howell – [15] Lindon Meikle – [16] Lee Stevenson – [17] Ritchie Sutton – [18] Matt Bell – [19] Ross Dyer – [20] Danny Mitchley – [21] Andy Todd
Its maybe worth noting that yesterday’s game was the first time during pre-season that the squad numbers have matched the names given on the team sheet, it’s just a shame FC Halifax chose to rename Shane Redmond ‘Steve’ and Louis Briscoe ‘Lewis’ ah well, nobody’s perfect – just ask Tyrone Thompson what he’d say about his defence skills (low blow, sorry Tyrone!)
Back to yesterday’s action and it was the stags who enjoyed the brighter start, just a minute into the game, Luke O’Neill chipped a lovely ball forward after some neat passing in the centre, loan signing Matt Green was the recipient and after turning his man, laid a cleaver ball off to stand in skipper Worthington who blasted an effort towards goal, his right footed effort ballooned back off Scott McManus and Mansfield began to build again.    
Seven minutes later it was the stags who nearly took advantage of a defensive error, Louis Briscoe’s deep cross park ball wasn’t fully headed away by Liam Hogan, Paul Connor was first to the loose ball and delivered a telling cross left footed from the left hand side of the penalty box. Connor’s cross flashed across the face of goal and Matt Green was inches away from a connecting header, Louis Briscoe tried to keep the move alive but the spin of the ball saw it go out for a goal kick.
Mansfield continued to look lively, a minute after Greens near header he managed to finally connect from a corner. Joe Kendrick’s deep left footed in-swinger was headed back central by Adam Smith, Matt Green heading the high loose ball straight into the grateful hands of Simon Eastwood.
The game was stopped temporarily as Shane Redmond & Tom Naylor both required treatment after a clash of heads attempting to clear a loose ball, Redmond looked for a moment like his Mansfield debut maybe cut short as Alan Marriott began to warm up, however a quick jog saw Redmond ok and he return to action, with Marriott sitting back down to catch 40 winks, see Mazza’s twitter for more details!
Mansfield’s early running and hard work was nearly undone as the game became 10 minutes old, a break down the left wing saw Liam Needham fouled as he cut inside. The resulting free kick saw the hosts come a whisker away from opening the scoring, Liam Hogan heading Tom Baker’s free kick just wide after creeping in at the near post.
Mansfield looked comfortable on the ball in the FC Halifax half, fine passing movement between debutant Bolland, skipper Worthington & wingers Briscoe & Smith had the hosts chasing the ball quite often, however as the home side won it back, they began to look a threat themselves. A miscommunication between Naylor & Trialist Wood saw Nick Gray through 1 vs. 1, Shane Redmond sparred the stags blushes though stealing the ball from the feet of the lively Gray.
Louis Briscoe, finally wearing the number 7 shirt once again, reminded the travelling support of how magnificent our number 7 is as the game passed the 20 minute mark, Paul Connor’s fine lay off after showing good strength to hold up play saw Briscoe powerfully strike right footed, forcing a fine saw from Eastwood to earn the stags a corner.
Briscoe then turned provider moments later as new striker Matt Green had a chance to shine, Briscoe powerful run down the right flank saw him release Green who lingered on the edge of the penalty box, with the flag down Green pulled the trigger but unfortunately wasted his chance and dragged the shot wide or the target.
FC Halifax continued to put moves together and had a golden opportunity on 32 minutes, Shane Redmond batted away a left wing free kick but the ball ran loose for David Haggerty, who from close range blasted over the top of the bar.
Two minutes later at the other end it was Mansfield’s chance to shoot as the pendulum continued to swing back and forth, Joe Kendrick’s deep left footed corner delivery was headed down by Tom Naylor, the ball landed about a yard from goal, Matt Green swung his boot at it and smashed his effort straight at Eastwood, had he put it anywhere else Mansfield would have taken the lead for sure.
End to end action began to unfold as the game neared the break, Ryan Toulson, who impressed throughout, delivered a pin point cross in search of Nick Gray, Gray headed straight at the grateful & alert Redmond who quickly bowled the ball out to spark a Mansfield counter attack. Louis Briscoe thundered down the right and with Paul Connor & Green racing forward in support, opted to chip a ball into the area, Paul Connor connected but headed wide, applauding Briscoe’s work rate before cursing his luck.
Half Time: FC Halifax 0-0 Mansfield
Paul Cox made two changes at the break, winger Adam Smith & central midfielder Paul Bolland gave way for Lindon Meikle & Adam Murray, who came out without the captains armband on, but shortly before the whistle, stripped it off Jon Worthington’s arm to regain control!
2nd Half Starting Line Up [Numbers in brackets]  
[1] Shane Redmond
[2] Luke O’Neill – [6] Tom Naylor – [5] Nick Wood – [3] Joe Kendrick
[7] Louis Briscoe – [4] Jon Worthington – [12] Adam Murray (C) – [15] Lindon Meikle
[9] Paul Connor – [10] Matt Green
Remaining Subs: [1] Alan Marriott - [14] Anthony Howell – [16] Lee Stevenson – [17] Ritchie Sutton – [18] Matt Bell – [19] Ross Dyer – [20] Danny Mitchley – [21] Andy Todd
With the half just two minutes old, it was a combination of two players who played for Mansfield the last time the sides met, that saw the arrival of the game’s opening goal. Louis Briscoe battled well down the right hand side, passing the ball low for Paul Connor, Connor held up play well and after a neat turn, returned the ball to Briscoe, last season’s top scorer progressed into the area and fired past the keeper to put Mansfield ahead.
FC Halifax 0-1 Mansfield
Four minutes later, Mansfield had the chance to double their lead, Adam Murray & Paul Connor involved in a silky passing move which saw the ball run to the impressive Lindon Meikle, the former Eastwood man cut in from the flank and fired powerfully towards goal from 30 yards, Simon Eastwood held on well.
Lindon Meikle then became one of several players involved in creating the next Mansfield opportunity, Meikle’s pass to Paul Connor saw the hit man ping in a left footed cross in search of Green, The Oxford United loan man headed down to Briscoe who looked to return a cross for Connor, the cross headed away only as far as Joe Kendrick who belted an effort towards goal, firing narrowly over.
The home side had efforts of their own and should have drawn level on 68; Nick Wood’s headed clearance from a corner fell kindly for substitute James Dean who fired wide from 16 yards. Two minutes later, Paul Connor’s game was over as he was replaced by Ross Dyer. Dyer had a 5 minute spell with Matt Green, which was spent waiting for a clearance as the midfield did battle, before Lee Stevenson replaced Green and Paul Cox made a tweak to the formation. Stevenson slotting in just behind Dyer as 4-4-2 became 4-4-1-1.
With 77minutes on the clock, it was Stevenson that nearly grabbed a second, fantastic on the ball work from Briscoe, Stevenson, O’Neill and Dyer saw the latter play a neat 1-2 with Stevenson who fired over, left footed, from the edge of the box.
A late FC Halifax free kick cannoned back off the wall and came to nothing as stags made more changes, Ritchie Sutton & Andy Todd replaced Luke O’Neill and goal scorer Briscoe, before Lindon Meikle was taken off after pulling up bursting down the left, Matt Bell replaced him but no sooner had Bell had taken to the field, he headed back off as the full time whistle blew to signal Mansfield’s first win of pre-season and the first win under Paul Cox.  
Full Time: FC Halifax 0-1 Stags
After the game, Paul Cox explained the trialist situation to me, and as I predicted beforehand it was to do with injuries. He seemed pleased with the win but felt Mansfield have a lot more to offer and a lot more to learn – I agree. I look forwards to Tuesday evening’s game at Hednesford, we’ve set the bar it’s time to jump over it and raise it a little higher as the season’s starting line comes closer. You can hear his full interview & yesterday’s audio highlights below.
If you can’t get to Hednesford on Tuesday evening, fear not because once again there’s full match commentary on Takeover Radio. Locally on 106.9FM & around the world online if you have trouble getting that link to work, simply open Windows Media Player – FILE – OPEN URL – paste this: - PRESS OK and after a minute of buffering, you’ll hear my voice (providing you tune in at 7.30PM!)
Thanks for reading, see you soon.

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