Stags defeated by Bobby's Barnsley

The Stags lost out by the odd goal in seven yesterday at Oakwell, as Stags and Tykes alike turned out to bid a fond farewell to Bobby Hassell, a player held up by both Barnsley and Mansfield as one of their best in the last fifteen years. Hassell himself played the first half an hour with the first team, and the final twenty minutes with selected legends from the Barnsley promotion to the Championship in 2006. If truth be told, The Stags could do a lot worse than bring in Hassell if they are looking for a defensive midfielder/utility defender, as he did not by any means look out of place.

Mansfield fans arrived at Oakwell expecting a team split between the first team and young players as billed in midweek with the a second fixture taking place against Solihull Moors. However, there had been a non-advertised change of heart by the management as pretty much the entire first team squad were out warming up on the pitch. As for the starting lineup, the Stags made four changes from the game against Worksop. In came, Shearer, Tafazolli, Clements and Lambe for Jensen, Shires, Jack Thomas and Westcarr. The Stags started with a 4-3-3 formation, with Chapman holding behind Clements and Rose. Lambe started from the left and Nathan Thomas from the right.

Barnsley had the ball in the net in the first minute. Following a free kick from their left, an initial header looped up into the air and Shearer came to claim the ball but made a mess of it under pressure and the ball was poked into the back of the net. Fortunately for Shearer, the referees spotted a foul which I'm not sure was there and awarded the Stags a free kick. A shaky start from the Stags stopper.

On four minutes at the other end, a bright run from Nathan Thomas as he cut in from the right and fired a long range effort over the bar. From the resulting goal kick, Barnsley played right through the centre of the Stags midfield and Tafazolli read the game well to make a last ditch interception. Barnsley's midfield diamond was causing the Stags problems as they had four central players against the three of Mansfield, meaning Nathan Thomas was coming in from the right to help out but in the process leaving Barnsley's marauding left full back with the freedom of the left side. This led to the opening goal.

On nine minutes, Barnsley worked the ball into the left channel and Scowen looked to drive into the box. He beat Hunt and the retreating Thomas dangled a leg which Scowen was happy to go over to gain a penalty. It was hard to say how much contact there was but the Stags players did not protest too much. Up stepped Bobby Hassell to place the ball into Shearer's right hand corner via the keepers hand, much to the delight of the home fans and even some applause from the Stags fans.

The Stags were only behind for two minutes before the scores were levelled. Nathan Thomas' trickery won a free kick slightly right of centre 25/30 yards from goal. Thomas himself lined it up and looked to whip in a low shot which should have been cleared by the Barnsley backline but somehow found its way to Matt Green. He may have lacked sharpness in the last couple of games but he was in the right place as the right time to turn the ball into the back of the net. A fist pump from Green to celebrate as he bagged his first goal since returning to the Stags.

Mansfield had the ball in the net a minute later. A long kick from Shearer was flicked on by Green to Lambe through one on one who duly finished,. Unfortunately, Green had already been penalised. On 13 minutes, a great passing move by the Stags ended with Lambe dinking the ball through for Nathan Thomas on the left side of the area but the winger miscued his volleyed finished well over. The Stags had started excellently and were benefiting from the extra space allowed by teams higher up the footballing pyramid. Clements was pressing effectively and Chapman was allowed more time on the ball to pick his passes. It was time he had not been afforded against the likes of Rainworth and Tamworth.

A clever short free kick routine from the Stags nearly paid dividends on 19 minutes as Chapman rolled the ball to the edge of the area where Benning looked to pick out Green only to slightly over-hit his pass. Chapman and Benning then combined well at the other end with two good tackles.

Another fine sweeping move by Mansfield on 22 minutes. The ball started in the bottom left hand corner with a Benning throw. He combined well with Lambe to find Chapman who switched play to Hunt. Mitch Rose took that as his cue to bomb into the right channel and was picked out by Hunt expertly. Rose laid the ball off to Thomas, who in turn switched play to the left side of the penalty area where Clements had broke forward. A great first touch allowed him to lay the ball off to Lambe and his shot was over the bar. Fantastic football.

On 29 minutes, the Stags were deservedly in front. Rose and Thomas combined high up the pitch on the right. Thomas saw the run of Lambe and played a lovely dink in to the left side of the area where Lambe chested the ball down and provided a side footed finish with the keeper closing in. A real quality goal. Following the goal, Bobby Hassell was replaced by Marc Roberts. He headed off to a good reception from the Stags fans, who were seated next to the tunnel.

Clements again pressed well on 36 minutes, as he won back possession high up the field. He laid the ball inside to Green who ran at the heart of defence before shooting straight at the keeper from outside the area. He could and should have played in Thomas to his right who would have been through on goal.

The hosts were level on 37 minutes in innocuous circumstances. A simple long ball into the Stags right channel by Nyatanga caught Lee Collins ball watching as the ball sailed over his head. Shearer did not make his mind up whether to come for the ball or stay in his goal and gave David Ball and unguarded net to lob the ball into from outside the area. A good finish but sloppy defending by the Stags who had hardly looked troubled in open play prior to that.

Time for a final attempt by the host before half time on 42 minutes, as a long throw from their right was headed over by Alfie Mawson, who had arguably been the best defender in League Two last season when on loan at Wycombe.

So the scores level at two a piece as the whistle went and plenty of positives on show from Mansfield going forward. They had played the better football and looked the more organised of the two sides but had been undone by two sloppy pieces of defending. Bar Shearer in goal who had failed to convince and Mitch Rose, who had not done anything wrong but had not been able to impact the game as he did in midweek, everyone in a yellow shirt had produced an above average display.

During the half time break, Bobby Hassell took the time to thank both sets of supporters for their attendance. The 'Barnsley legends of 2006' were introduced to the crowd, including Paul Reid, Stephen Foster, Paul Heckingbottom and Danny Nardiello amongst others. It was revealed that the returning heroes would be playing the last twenty minutes. The celebrations were cut short by the players emerging for the second half. The Stags made two changes as Rose and N. Thomas were replaced by Jack Thomas and Craig Westcarr. Nathan Thomas came to sit amongst the Stags fans where he appeared to greet some friends/family members.

The Stags started where they left off pressing high and it led to another chance on goal. Nicky Hunt of all people managed to box Barnsley in and chased down a ball back to the goalkeeper, forcing a mistake in the process. Davies kicked the ball straight to Lambe on the left side of the area, who squared the ball to Hunt free in the centre. Hunt got the ball caught under his feet and laid it to the edge of the area where Westcarr curled the ball over the bar.

The hosts were starting to establish themselves in the game and a deep cross from the right sailed over the head of Hunt and was teed up to the edge where Scowen blasted over. On 56 minutes at the other end, a long free kick by Tafazolli was cleared as far as Thomas, who attempted a cheeky chip from the edge of the box which went harmlessly over the bar.

A good move by the Stags on 61 minute as Lambe won the ball back on the half way line and spread the ball wide left to Green. Green faced up the defender and picked out Westcarr at the back stick who did not catch the volley cleanly and hit it straight at the keeper. Following the attack, the Stags made a further three changes. Benning, Chapman and Green were replaced by Conor Green, McGuire and Beardsley, the latter a former teammate of Bobby Hassell.

Barnsley nearly took the lead in spectacular fashion on 62 minutes. Conor Wilkinson, on loan from Bolton, brought a long ball down on his chest 30 yards from goal, cushioned the dropping ball on his thigh and let loose a volley onto the roof of the net with Shearer back-pedalling. The Stags made another triple change two minutes later. Collins, Hunt and Lambe were replaces by Fitzpatrick, Shires and Dwyer. Shires went to right back and Fitzpatrick to the centre.

Barnsley took the lead on 66 minutes. Some good play in down the right at Bree whipped in a ball towards the penalty spot for the advancing Rothwell to finish neatly passed Shearer. Rothwell was completely unmarked in the centre, poor defensively again from the Stags. On 70 minutes, the Barnsley legends were introduced and immediately Murray went and sat down as if he was not too worried about what happened during the remaining minutes. There was certainly a drop in energy from the players on the pitch. Mansfield changed to five at the back, with Shires, Fitzpatrick and Tafazolli at centre back, Thomas went to right wing back and Green on the left. McGuire and Clements were playing centrally with Dwyer and Westcarr buzzing around either side of Beardsley.

Clements took advantage of the older legs he has now up against and glided through the centre of the field on 73 minutes. He fed the ball wide to Green whose excellent delivery was turned behind for a corner, which Green drifted straight on the roof of the net, somewhat undoing his good work. On 75 minutes, Hassell hit a long range effort wide of the target, obliging to the urgings to shoot from his beloved Barnsley faithful. Two minutes later, both Shires and Tafzaolli were inches away from meeting a Westcarr corner from the left.

Good play by Dwyer down the right on 78 minutes following an excellent pass by Clements. He pulled the ball back to the edge where Clements had continued his run only for the midfield man to have his shot blocked. The ball ran to the left corner of the six yard area when Connor Green's powerful effort was saved.

On 81 minutes, the Barnsley legends got on the scoresheet. The Stags were looking ragged at the back and again a cross from the right by Neil Austin, who left Hartlepool at the end of last season, was met at the far post by Bury striker Danny Nardiello for the simplest of headed finishes.

The Stags pulled one back on 85 minutes following more neat football, although it must be said against a back line with a combined age of 137. Mansfield broke following a Barnsley corner with Westcarr feeding Dwyer and the wing man passing to Beardsley on the half way line. Beardsley played a lovely ball into the left channel for Westcarr who drove into the area, turned the defender inside out and fired a left footed shot into the far corner. Tidy finish by Westcarr and good link up play by the front men.

In search of an equaliser, Clements continued to drive through the centre of the park and again found Green free on the left. Green found the head of Clements who did not connect properly with his header and the ball trickled wide. Barnsley continued the exhibition stuff as Bryan Howard juggled the ball expertly past Fitzpatrick and had his chipped finished tipped over by Shearer from 25 yards.

The Barnsley legends managed to see the game out and the match ended in a 4-3 victory to Barnsley. A thoroughly entertaining game which the Stags could easily have won had they tightened up at the back.

All in all, it was an excellent attacking display by the Stags with Reggie Lambe and Nathan Thomas constant thorns in the side of League One defenders. I must mention Adam Chapman having criticised him in recent weeks, who started numerous good moves from the Stags and looked equally capable defensively. Mal Benning, who has produced excellent displays going forward against lesser sides, showed he is equally adept when having to defend. Chris Clements was also excellent, setting the tone with his pressing. Matt Green looked a lot sharper, not just with his goal but his all round game, holding the ball up better and running at defenders.

Conceding four goals is always a worry and there is definite room for improvement defensively. However, individually none of the defence were particularly poor and are clearly still trying to gain cohesion as a defensive unit, including the goalkeeper who has now twice been caught out of position in pre-season. The fixtures now only get tougher with both MK Dons and Leicester due to visit the One Call Stadium in the next seven days. Keeping either of those sides down to two goals or less should be considered an achievement.

It will be the first glimpse for the home fans of Adam Murray's new attacking, passing, pressing philosophy and a player like Nathan Thomas is sure to get the fans on their feet. If the team are to get results during the season proper, time needs to be spent on the sides defensive shape and for the next two games putting out the first choice back five.