Comfortable 4-1 Victory Over Worksop

The Stags ran out comfortable 4-1 winners over local non-league side Worksop Town on a sunny evening at Sandy Lane. Emphasis was again on playing out from the back through what appears to be a favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Lee Collins retained the captains armband from the weekend.

'The Beast' Brian Jensen was given his first chance to impress for the Stags following Scott Shearer's error against Tamworth on Saturday. A slight surprise as Murray has clearly indicated Shearer is his number one, so unless Shearer is carrying a knock I do not see why he should not be involved, even from the bench. Shires replaced Pearce at centre half, the former possibly still feeling the effects of the knock picked up on Saturday. Mitchell Rose and Craig Westcarr also came in for Chris Clements and Reggie Lambe. Jack Thomas dropped in alongside Chapman as suggested in my last blog, with Rose operating from the right, Nathan Thomas on the left and Westcarr behind Matt Green. Worksop Town's starting line-up featured the son of ex-Stag Scott Sellars, Conor.

Mansfield started promisingly and were ahead after three minutes. The Stags won a corner on the right, which was taken short to Nathan Thomas. He drove from the corner flag towards the angle of the penalty area and squared a low cross to the far post where Westcarr was waiting to sidefoot the ball to the keepers right and into the back of the net. Sloppy defending by the hosts but another glimpse of an inventive set piece from Mansfield, in evidence throughout the friendlies so far played.

On 9 minutes, Nicky Hunt timed a challenge to perfection with a Worksop player through on goal to concede a corner. This led to a shot from outside the area, which went high and wide. Matt Green burst into life on 12 minutes as he won the ball back up high up the field in the opposition right back position. He cut inside and curled a shot wide of the far post, never really troubling the keeper.

An excellent piece of football by the Stags on 20 minutes. Jack Thomas won possession on the half way line and passed forward to Rose, who produced a delightful flick around the corner to Westcarr. Westcarr picked his head up and played a floated 20 yard pass to Green. Green took the ball on his chest and into the area but his shot to the keepers left was excellently saved. Nathan Thomas was closing in quickly on the rebound but a defender was on hand to keep score down to one. At the other end, Lee Collins was caught out after a heavy touch but Mitchell Rose recovered well to spare the skipper's blushes.

The Stags went close on 23 minutes, again through excellent pressing well inside the opposition half. Having switched to a 4-3-3, with Chapman now holding, Thomas and Rose playing central and Westcarr moving wide, Rose was able to display his athleticism and won the ball about 25 yards from goal. With Westcarr free to his right, Rose perhaps chose the wrong option in taking a pop at goal, but nevertheless it was a rasping drive which was brilliantly turned over the bar for a corner. From the resulting Chapman set piece, Lee Collins headed was saved up into the air and Matt Green headed over from close range under pressure.

Worksop Town produced their best first half chance on 24 minutes. A long ball was flicked on and and the Worksop striker found himself through on goal. Jensen coped admirably with his first real test and spread himself well to smother the strike. At the other end, Nathan Thomas beat a few players and switched play to the right for Hunt. His cross ran through to Benning at the far post who put the ball into a neighbouring garden.

Things evened up for a ten minute spell as the hosts began to relax more in possession. A few poor pieces of distribution from the back by Jensen meant the Stags were unable to build any forward momentum. Craig Westcarr was unhappy with Jack Thomas and Mitchell Rose, asking Chapman to 'sort these two out'. Rose heard Westcarr and was not best pleased with his teammate. Chapman seems to be seen as the on pitch leader by both the players and Murray, but to me still looks off the pace and vulnerable in a deeper role against a mobile attacking midfielder.

Rose, who had been everywhere in the first half and was right to feel angered by Westcarr's outburst, got the Stags moving forward again and went close with a second long rage effort, which was deflected wide for a corner. The corner from the right was again met by Collins, who this time saw his effort cleared off the line. The ball was hooked wide again to the corner taker Chapman, who dallied and was dispossessed leading to a counter attack, diligently snuffed out by the retreating Nathan Thomas. On 39 minutes, Jack Thomas had his first foray forward but let loose a tame shot from 25 yards straight at the keeper.

Nathan Thomas continues to impress and looks equally threatening on both wings. The problem he has on the left however, is that he prefers to run through the centre of the pitch rather than get to the byline, which means he is coming infield on to his weaker side and lessens the threat of a shot on goal. On this occasion, his right footed shot was weak and ran straight to Shires who had stayed forward from a previous corner. Shires' shot appeared to be heading on target but hit Matt Green before it could reach.

On 43 minutes, The Stags doubled their lead. Mal Benning, who had again been effective going forward, set off on a run down the left and put in a cross which went into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar. I'm not sure the full back could claim he was trying to score but it is great to see the Stags possess an attacking full back for the first time since Luke O'Neill.

On the stroke of half time, Mitchell Rose was in action again, this time down the right as he dropped his shoulder and drove into the box. Unfortunately for Rose, he was unable to pick out Westcarr or Green who were waiting in the middle, much to the youngsters frustration. This was the last act of the first half and the Stags went into the break with a two goal lead.

Mansfield had played some good stuff in the first half and but for some good saves from the keeper could have been 4 or 5 goals in front. A few worrying moments at the back but a good attitude was shown to make recovering tackles by defenders and midfielders alike. Mitchell Rose had bought agility and mobility to the centre of the park, but the move forced Westcarr to the right wing, which reduced his influence on the game.

Just the one change was made at the break, as young keeper Adam Bishop replaced veteran Brian Jensen. The Stags kept with the 4-3-3 formation they had switched to midway through the first half.

Mansfield started slowly, the midfielders trying to take too many touches on the ball, much to the annoyance of Adam Murray. The hosts had two efforts from outside of the box which went wide of Bishop's respective posts.

The Stags struggled to get their passing game going and paid the price on 56 minutes as Conor Sellars pulled a goal back. Shires played the ball to Chapman inside his own half under no real pressure. Chapman, trying to being too casual, was dispossessed and the ball laid wide to the right of the area where Sellars steadied himself before passing the ball into the bottom right hand corner of Adam Bishop.  It was a poor mistake by Chapman and shows that if the Stags are going to pass out from the back, they need to make sure that no risks are taken on the ball when under pressure.

Following the goal, the Stags made a further two changes. Nathan Thomas and Craig Westcarr were replaced by Adi Yussuf and Reggie Lambe. These were straight swaps tactically, as Yussuf was strangely deployed from the left. A couple of minutes later, Jack Thomas was replaced after a quiet performance by Chris Clements and a minute later Matt Green was replaced by Chris Beardsley. Green had looked a little sharper than Saturday but missed a good chance and still looks to be finding his feet following his injury. On 61 minutes, Sellars sent an ambitious 30 yard plus free kick wide of the target. Mal Benning followed suit at the other end by firing a shot which did not threaten the keeper.

A good move from the Stags on 65 minutes as the substitutes linked up. Yussuf played the ball inside on the edge of the box to Beardsley, who turned the ball into Rose with his back to goal. Rose laid the ball off to Clements who drove a shot over the bar. On 67 minutes, Liam Marsden replaced Nicky Hunt, who had started to tire.

Mal Benning again produced a touch of class on 70 minutes. He left his defender for dead with his turn of foot and broke into the box, pulling the ball back for Lambe whose effort was blocked into the path of Clements, who shot into the ground, beating the keeper but not a retreating defenders who deflected the ball over.

On 76 minutes, the Stags restored their two goal cushion. Lambe was fouled on the right edge of the area after some nifty footwork. With the angle favouring a left footed player and Benning standing over the ball, it was a surprise to see Lambe step up and float the ball over the wall and into the left hand side of the net. Lambe deserved his goal, having been excellent in pre-season so far.

Lambe went close again on 81 minutes, combining well with Clements as he had done since his introduction and curling a left footed effort wide of the goal. By this stage, the hosts seemed to have run out of gas and were introducing a number of fresh faces. On 88 minutes, another short corner routine ended with Chapman whipping a ball to the far post for Adi Yussuf to head over the bar. Having mentioned that Chapman looked sluggish in open play, I must say his set pieces created at least three clear goal scoring opportunities.

There was just enough time for substitute Yussuf to add a fourth in the 90th minute. Having been quiet stuck out on the left hand side, he was move centrally alongside Beardsley, with Rose coming to the left. He picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, shrugged off a defender and smacked a powerful effort passed the substitute keepers outstretched left hand into the corned of the net from outside the area. Three goals in three pre-season games for Yussuf. It is important for someone who has been in a rich vein of form the previous season to keep ticking over by continuing to find the back of the net. He is certainly someone who deserves a start or at least another full half as the main striker under his belt.

All in all an enjoyable friendly victory for Mansfield supporters with the result never really in doubt throughout the ninety minutes. Mitchell Rose was the stand out performer of the night in my opinion, thriving in a more central role both on and off the ball. I would like to see him tried in a more disciplined role in front of the back four, as I feel this is the area of the park which the Stags appear weakest at the moment, with mobile attacking midfielders able to operate easily around Chapman. Nathan Thomas again looked incisive if a little quieter than usual.

Barnsley up next for the Stags at Oakwell for the testimonial of former Stags full back Bobby Hassell. There is also a friendly away at Solihull Moors on the same day. Hassell sticks in my mind as an attacking full back who was equally adept going the other way, much like Mal Benning has displayed so far. It remains to be seen as to the strength of the side that Murray will field and I am still undecided as to whether I will attend. Nevertheless, all the best to Hassell in his future endeavours and I am sure the fixture will be well attended by the home supporters who hold him up as a club legend.