During Monday morning’s press conference we we’re told that Alan Goodall would be given a second shot at left back, however arriving at Field Mill and being handed a team sheet told a different story, with his name nowhere to be seen, rumours suggest that he’s signed for fellow BSBP side Fleetwood. Goodall’s absence saw three fresh names on the team sheet, Joe Kendrick the only one making the starting line up.
A quick check of Google gave me enough information to share with the listeners, Kendrick’s a 28 year old defender, his most recent club was bray wonders, he’s also had spells with Darlington, Tamworth & Torquay. The other new names on the team sheet were also both defenders (Cheers Google!) 20 year old Lewis Horne a product of the Bradford youth set up who has had loan spells with Fleetwood & Barrow, and 28 year old centre half Shaun Pejic, most notably of Wrexham having played 175+ games for the welsh side, he’s also had spells with York City & more recently Vancouver Whitecaps.
Starting Line Up [Squad Numbers In Brackets]:
 Alan Marriott
 Ritchie Sutton –  Martin Riley –  John Thompson –  Joe Kendrick (Trialist)
 Louis Briscoe –  Adam Murray (C) –  Lee Stevenson –  Jon Worthington –  Lindon Meikle
 Paul Connor
SUBS: Shane Redmond –  Ross Dyer –  Adam Smith –  Lewis Horne (Trialist) –  Andy Todd –  Matt Bell –  Anthony Howell –  Luke O’Neill –  Shaun Pejic (Trialist) –  Danny Mitchley.
The stags began with a 4-5-1, but after around 10 minutes adopted a 4-4-1-1 with Lee Stevenson moving up park playing just behind Paul Connor.
Doncaster brought a strong side to field mill but with an improvement on last season’s finish just above the relegation zone, Donny boss Sean O’Driscoll used the game to cast his eye over a few trailists, some named some not named. With this in mind, the opening exchanges were very testimonial style, lots of slow passing, a few up pace runs but ultimately nobody knew quite what to do whilst on the ball.
Seven minutes in and it was the visitors who created a rare opening, strong passing in the middle of the park managed to help progress Doncaster into the final third, James Hayter suddenly found himself with a sight of goal, Marriott sprung off his line to put the pressure on, Hayter’s chipped effort did enough to beat Marriott, but also beat the bar, landing high & wide for a stags goal kick.
Doncaster’s Chris Brown headed straight at Marriott following a neat ball in from George Friend with 14 on the clock but it was around 15 minutes later, after a spell of dull passing & slow movement which saw the Field Mill crowd begin to nod off, that the game sprung to life. Louis Briscoe, playing in his natural wide right role, broke free following Thompson’s over the top cross park ball, Briscoe shrugged off two challenges, bursting into the box and eventually squaring for the on rushing Connor & Stevenson, stopped only by the linesman who judged Briscoe to have fouled his marker during his power mazy run.
The best chance of the game without doubt fell on 34 minutes, Martin Riley the creator, chipping a fine ball over the top for Paul Connor to latch onto, Connor tried to side heal the bouncing ball into space but his touch was heavy, resulting in his shot being rushed under pressure, firing wide of Neil Sullivan’s goal.
On 36 minutes it was Doncaster’s turn to threaten, James Baxendale volleyed well over from distance after some short, sharp 2 touch passes saw the visitors move neatly up the pitch, Baxendale’s miss was nearly a costly error, from the resulting goal kick Mansfield regrouped and Louis Briscoe once again showed why he’s need on the right wing, powering his way past 3 defenders following good work from skipper Murray, Stevenson & Worthington, Briscoe’s final drilled cross flashed across the face of goal but the only boot connecting was one belonging to a Doncaster Rovers player, hoofing clear the danger whilst the Field Mill crowd applauded Briscoe’s excellent work rate.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 Doncaster Rovers.
Paul Cox seemed pleased with what he’d seen from Mansfield in the first period and sent the same 11 back out for the second half, Sean O’Driscoll did the exact opposite making around 10 changes to the Doncaster side, including powerful striker Billy Sharp.
4 minutes into the second half, Paul Connor had a similar opportunity to his first half chance, Alan Marriott this time providing the long ball down field, a hefty bounce after the Doncaster back four missed the ball entirely saw Connor begin to pounce, denied only by Doncaster sub keeper Gary Woods who spared his defence’s blushes.
Mansfield then made their first substitution of the evening, Lee Stevenson was replaced by Anthony Howell who slotted onto the left wing as Lindon Meikle moved up front making it a solid 4-4-2 formation, The formation seemed to rub of well to begin with, a good spell of passing involving Adam Murray covering every blade of grass saw the stags skipper chip a cross park ball to Anthony Howell, his flick of found the grateful hands of the keeper rather than the lurking Paul Connor.
Billy Sharp, Doncaster’s record signing was then at the heart of the action as the clock hit the hour mark, Sharp spreading the ball wide right to James Coppinger who in turn pinged a lovely cross towards the far post which Sharp powerfully headed wide of Marriott’s goal.
Moments later a good demonstration of Mansfield’s passing movement earned the stags a corner, Adam Murray’s deep delivery was headed away by Doncaster but only as far as Louis Briscoe who thundered a volley goal wards, however the trophy semi-final hero couldn’t keep his effort down and as the ball was retrieved from row Z, he along with 2 others made way.
Briscoe was replaced Adam Smith who slotted onto the right, Lindon Meikle was replaced by Ross Dyer who moved up front whilst Howell moved wide left, Trialist left back Joe Kendrick was replaced by another Trialist, former Barrow loanee, Louis Horne who also slotted in at left back.
James Coppinger was eager to test the latest in a long line of Trialist lest backs, skipping past Horne and powering an effort towards Marriott’s goal with 69minutes of the encounter gone. The stags saw it as a little wake up and threw together some football of their own, Smith, Murray & Howell combining to win a corner over on the far side. Drilled in by Murray looking for Thompson at the back post, Doncaster again headed away, Jon Worthington picked up the ball around 30 yards out, earning Mansfield a free kick after being bundled down. Worthington stood over the free kick but eventually left it for Murray, who’s blast from 30 yards beat the wall but kept rising, landing wide of the target.
John Thompson received a very warm round of applause as he made way for Trialist Shaun Pejic, as the ball boys retrieved Murray’s free kick from the stands. The former Notts County captain put in an excellent performance alongside Martin Riley, anyone watching who didn’t know Mansfield’s transfer dealings would never have guessed last night was the first time Thompson & Riley have played together.
The game fizzled out into testimonial passing once again, but with 78 on the clock Mansfield were made to pay for slopping passing, Worthington gave it away in the centre and Billy Sharp powered his way past Riley, arriving in the area to slam powerfully past Marriott left footed to open the scoring.
Stags 0-1 Doncaster
With the game entering its last ten minutes, the final three substitutions were made by Paul Cox, first Danny Mitchley & Luke O’Neill replaced Paul Connor & the impressive Ritchie Sutton respectively, before Adam Murray was taken off for Matt Bell, receiving a warm send off from the stag’s faithful, rightfully named man of the match.
Mansfield looked to create late opportunities, great link up play between Adam Smith & Luke O’Neill saw the latter cut inside to curl a left foot cross into the box, Ross Dyer came close to connecting but Doncaster recovered to clear, a late O’Neill corner was also scrambled clear as the stags looked for a leveller, however with time against them, it was Doncaster Rovers who ended the game victorious.
Full Time: Stags 0-1 Doncaster Rovers.
A good performance from Mansfield will perhaps be over shadowed by the sloppiness which saw us concede, however the shirt flashes of what could be are becoming longer & longer. Mansfield enjoyed great spells on the ball, Adam Murray covered every blade of grass to offer options and deliver pinpoint passes. Louis Briscoe looked at home on the right hand side, battling well to beat his markers, with only his final ball letting him down. If the rumours are true about Goodall, we should take another look at Kendrick, I know there’s a long way to go before the season starts but we need to be gelling soon, these constant trialists won’t help the foundations to properly set. I don’t quite see why we’re looking at other centre backs; unless it’s a stop gap and a way of reducing the possibility of injuries to those who can play centre half. We certainly don’t need to be signing any other central defenders, Ritchie Sutton, Matt Bell, Martin Riley, John Thompson can all play there plus you’ve got Tom Naylor & Rhys Day to return to the fold sooner rather than later. All we need is a left back & a little more fire power upfront and then we’re set, I can feel a Mansfield win brewing, watch out FC Halifax!
Thanks for reading, see you Saturday on Takeover 106.9FM for full match commentary on FC Halifax vs. Stags, build up starts at 2PM with the link to listen online on the right hand side.