It’s not uncommon for managers to arrange behind closed doors friendly’s during the week to allow fringe players some much needed minutes, especially when the club doesn’t have a reserve side. However it’s not too often these hastily arranged friendly’s will be made open to the public, in fact last night was the first ever ‘mid-season open to the public’ friendly I’ve ever been too in over 10 years as a stags fan.
Without a Stags’ game on Saturday I went along to Alfreton to whiteness there exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Carlisle United – however it wasn’t the same and I was totally lost! It’s because of this I’m grateful Eastwood opened their doors last night, as not only could I watch my team in action, I could also don the headset and return to my rightful home – the press box! (see podcast below, also thanks must go to both clubs for allowing us to broadcast the game at such short notice!)
I began the day as I always start Monday’s these days, interviewing Paul Cox at the weekly press meeting. He told me he was hopeful John Thompson would be making an appearance as he looked to boost his chances of a Stags debut on Saturday at AFC Telford United. As the day passed and the game arrived, Paul Cox confirmed to me that Thompson was in the starting 11, alongside Rhys Day at centre half.
The strong Stags squad also included trialist Lewis Neal, The experienced 30 year old midfielder has recently returned to the country following a spell with Orlando City, however he has plenty of league experience under his belt, playing 70 games for Stoke City after graduating through their academy before playing for Preston North End, Carlisle United and Shrewsbury Town.
Paul Cox also named another trialist amongst the substitutes however the Stags chief wanted the trialists name kept secret, during the show we referred to him Voldermort after the popular Harry Potter character, also known as ‘He who shall not be named’ – The same will apply during my match report.
The stags wore there away strip as Eastwood donned a bright orange strip, myself and Scott Rogers were reminded of pre-season as the Stags ran out with no numbers on the back of the shirt – not that it mattered!
Jordan Jones (Youth Team) – Rhys Day – John Thompson – Matt Bell
Andy Todd – Adam Murray (C) – Paul Bolland – Lewis Neal
SUBS: Alan Marriott, Jason Gregory (Youth Team), Clayton Brown (Youth Team), Danny Barke (Youth Team), Joe Flint (Youth Team), Anthony Howell, Nick Hegarty, Matt Green, Ross Dyer, Ritchie Sutton, Luke O’Neill, Voldermort.
It was the Stags who got the game underway at Coronation Park, however they we’re soon on the back foot as Eastwood took over possession following Adam Murray’s miss placed pass, Eastwood’s Sam Wood saw his final shot land wide after a centred cross from Lavelle White.
Three minutes later the Stags found themselves in Eastwood territory and tested home keeper Jake Want, Jordan Jones was the provider putting in a neat cross on the return from Andy Todd, Paul Bolland lurked on the edge of the area letting fly left footed however the Eastwood keeper collected well. Mansfield were then caught on the break, the keepers long ball downfield should have been dealt with by Matt Bell, however his back pass to Shane Redmond was too slow and Eastwood nipped in, John Thompson did well to come across and push Eastwood’s wing man wide, before heading away the resulting cross.
Mansfield then had a great chance to open the scoring with 11 minutes on the clock, Jordan Jones’ headed clearance was brought down well by Lee Stevenson in the centre circle, a neat turn saw Stevenson charge forward in a 3 Vs 2 scenario, Stevenson had trialist Neal to his left with Todd making the right ahead of him to the right, Stevenson opted for the latter who saw his shot blocked by the keeper and Eastwood finally scurry clear.
Three minutes later the game found its opening goal, A poor Eastwood corner was matched by some pour Stags defending as they failed to pick out the Eastwood runners at the near post, Sam Wood’s sloppy corner bobbled up and was converted into the roof of the net from close range to put the hosts ahead.
Eastwood 1-0 Stags
Mansfield we’re eager to respond but had to be patient as Eastwood enjoyed spells of pressure, with 20 on the clock patient movement from the Stags saw the ball eventually fall for Bolland a good 30 yards from goal, his left footed effort was turned behind for a corner by keeper Jake Want, however Matt Bells delivery was poor and Stags failed to draw level.
The Stags had further chances for a leveller before the break, with 33 minutes gone Jordan Jones was taken down by Eastwood’s Lavelle White giving Mansfield a free kick in a dangerous position – Matt Bell finally delivered a testing ball after a series of poor deliveries from set pieces, Andy Todd rose highest to bells in swinging ball, Heading into the keepers arms. Two minutes later the impressive Jones moved the ball inside well from Todd’s pass, the 16 year old full back fed Lee Stevenson who fired goal wards but saw his effort blocked by Jake Want, the resulting corner was again ineffective.
Stevenson and trialist Lewis Neal both had another couple of half changes before the whistle blew, however neither really troubled Jake Want and had it not been for a defensive error, both sides would have been level at the break, however as the half time whistle blew – it was the hosts who were ahead.
Half Time: Eastwood 1-0 Stags
Paul Cox made two changes at the break, skipper Adam Murray was withdrawn along with Lewis Neal, Anthony Howell replaced the stags captain whilst Neal was replaced by fellow trialist ‘Voldermort’. Mansfield also switched to a 4-4-2 with Stevenson dropping into the midfield, ‘Voldermort’ onto the left wing and Howell partnering Moult up front.
Eastwood had a golden chance for a second goal with just over a minute of the second half gone, Jones’ miss placed pass was picked up in the centre by Eastwood, however Shane Redmond did superbly well to deny the lightening quick Jarrad Westcarr before John Thompson nipped in to avert the danger.
With the second half 10 minutes old, the fact the game was a friendly shone as Anthony Howell was brought down after Rhys Day’s long ball over the top, Eastwood skipper Gavin Caines was the last man as he brought Howell down, on reflection Caines can count himself rather lucky as the referee awarded the free kick right on the line. Lee Stevenson opted for a blast but the ball ballooned off the wall, Howell’s resulting cross back into the box was cleared.
Just after the hour mark Mansfield looked sharp on the break after ‘Voldermort’ had headed away a Tom Manship free kick, Anthony Howell held the ball up well before returning ‘Voldermort’ who let fly right footed inside the area, Jake Want pulled off a decent save but Mansfield we’re first too it, Jordan Jones showed good footwork to pull the ball back into the box from Stevenson who fired over the bar and out of the ground from close range.
Four minutes later the Stags finally drew level, despite an Eastwood attack which saw Redmond pull off another superb stop; The Stags showed composure and took their chance – a long ball through the middle bounced perfectly for Anthony Howell who spotted the keeper off of his line and lifted the ball over him left footed to level the game.
Eastwood 1-1 Stags
Alan Marriott then took to the field as Shane Redmond was withdrawn; Nick Hegarty also came on to provide some more flair on the left with Matt Bell departing. The Stags then thought the comeback was complete as the clock struck 72, another good piece of movement saw Lee Stevenson create space for himself, letting fly from the edge of the box – the shot looked all the way in but a last second swerve saw the ball cannon back out of the post, with Eastwood reacting first and putting the ball behind for a corner.
The Stags began to press more up park and pen the hosts into their own half, John Thompson and Rhys Day set up camp on the half way line with Thompson leading the line brilliantly and Day completing the double act winning every header strongly and dominantly. Thompson also showed great vision too, and with 79 on the clock picked out Jones with a decent cross field ball, Jones looked strong in the air but could only head behind for a goal kick.
A minute later however the Stags were finally ahead, Good movement saw Andy Todd played into the area. The Stags player coaches touch was too heavy but Eastwood keeper Jake Want gave the Stags a helping hand deflecting the ball into the path of Howell who in turn put the ball back into the middle, where former Eastwood midfielder Stevenson fired home to put his new club ahead with 10 minutes to go.
Eastwood 1-2 Stags
Two more late efforts followed from Stevenson, there was also good movement between ‘Voldermort’ and Howell with the latter being flagged offside, the full time whilstle eventually blew with every Mansfield player bar keeper Marriott camped in the Eastwood half.
Full Time: Eastwood 1-2 Stags
Paul Cox’s Stags side put in a good shift and there is no doubt they would have had a clean sheet had it not been for that 14th minute error. Trialists Neal and ‘Voldermort’ had average games, whilst the centre half pairing of Thompson and Day shone – If these two can up there fitness a little more, Mansfield will have the best defence in the league in my opinion. Young right back Jordan Jones did himself proud with a solid performance which seemingly pleased Paul Cox in his post match interview. Lee Stevenson had a decent game being involved with 90% of Mansfield’s chances and will certainly have put himself in the frame for a start on Saturday.
If you can’t get on Saturday be sure to join myself and Scott on 106.9FM and www.mtfcmatters.weebly.com from 2PM, we’ll be live with build up followed by full match commentary.
Thanks for reading.