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Season 17/18 Stagsnet Match Report
Pre-Season Friendly
Mansfield Town  
2 - 3
 Sheffield Wednesday
Taft 32, Bennett 81.
 Rhodes 12, Lees 53, Joao 83.
Attendance: 4319 (1517 from Sheffield Wednesday)
Date: 15 July 2017

Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town’s first home pre-season friendly ended in a 3-2 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. But against this quality of opposition it was an excellent workout for the Stags and if it hadn’t been for a sloppy late goal conceded, the Stags would have grabbed a deserved draw. Sheffield Wednesday, who only missed out on promotion to the Premier League in the playoffs, ran rings around Mansfield in the opening 20 minutes, with players of the quality of George Boyd, Jordan Rhodes, Sam Winnall, Adam Reach standing out. Rhodes headed Wednesday in front, but Mansfield regrouped and got a foothold into the game midway through the half, deservedly equalising when George Taft rifled home from close range. The second half of that first half was tremendous from the Stags, with encouraging performances especially from Jacob Mellis, Mal Benning, CJ Hamilton, and Paul Digby. Mansfield played a different side in the second half. The second half was very even. Tom Lees headed Wednesday back in front, before Johnny Hunt had a goal disallowed for Mansfield. Rhys Bennett deservedly equalised from a corner on 81 minutes. But the Stags conceded a sloppy goal on 83 minutes to hand victory to the Owls. Plenty of players impressed in the second half, including Danny Rose, Omari Sterling-James, Alfie Potter and Johnny Hunt.

A good crowd, but the large numbers of police including riot vans was beyond ludicrous and must have cost the club a small fortune. Who on earth thought that was appropriate for a pre-season friendly?

Mansfield included a trialist, but his name was included on the team sheet handed out in the 1861 Suite and to the press, and as a result his name was released by the media including the CHAD and BBC Radio Sheffield. Given that he scored against the Stags last season at the One Call Stadium, most fans would have recognised him anyway. He was Jordan Slew, who played for Plymouth last season.

Steve Evans named a different side to play each half. Alex MacDonald was injured, with a slight niggle, but might be ok for the Middlesbrough game. The two teams were the same 22 players that played in the game in Malta, but shuffled differently. With MacDonald injured, Paul Digby started both halves. Digby was replaced midway through the second half by trialist Slew. Omari Sterling-James has also been struggling with a niggle so Paul Raynor explained afterwards that he was not going to be given the full 45 minutes, and he was replaced by Jack Thomas for the final 6 minutes.

Mansfield Town
1st half team (4-4-2):
Conrad Logan;
Hayden White, David Mirfin, George Taft, Mal Benning;
Paul Anderson, Jacob Mellis, Paul Digby, CJ Hamilton;
Jimmy Spencer, Lee Angol.

2nd half team (4-4-2, with a diamond in midfield):
Bobby Olejnik;
Rhys Bennett, Krystian Pearce, Zander Diamond, Johnny Hunt;
Joel Byrom (back of diamond); Paul Digby (right), Will Atkinson (left); Alfie Potter (front of diamond);
Danny Rose, Omari Sterling-James.
Subs: Trialist (Jordan Slew) for Digby, 64 mins
Jack Thomas for Sterling-James, 84 mins

The pitch looked in magnificent condition. Credit to groundsman Mez Merriman, who stayed behind from the Malta trip, to make the sure the pitch was in top shape.

Before the game, there was a minute’s applause for young Bradley Lowery. May he rest in peace.

The opening 20 minutes was difficult for the Stags as Wednesday showed their quality. In the opening 6 minutes, Adam Reach got past White twice but the Stags cleared.

On 7 minutes, Winnall fired in a low left-footed shot from the edge of the box, which was well-saved by Logan low to his right. Then on 10 minutes, Barry Bannan crossed from the left, and Rhodes was just unable to reach it with a diving header.

Sheffield Wednesday were deservedly in front on 12 minutes. Reach was again allowed by White to get in a cross from the left, which Rhodes headed in at the near post, into the bottom left corner, giving Logan no chance.

On 15 minutes, Mellis’s free kick from 40 yards flicked off Mirfin’s for a goal kick. Wednesday gave the ball away from the resulting goal kick, Mellis picked up the loose ball, and slid a lovely ball diagonally to his left to Spencer, just inside the area. Spencer steadied himself, but curling a low shot straight at the keeper. Not a good effort.

On 19 minutes, Mirfin blocked a shot from Winnall, before Boyd’s shot was deflected just wide from 12 yards. Then following the resulting corner, Pudil fired in a blockbuster which Logan did well to parry away, out to Boyd, whose soft shot was straight at Logan.

On 25 minutes, Winnall played to Boyd, who returned to Winnall, who scuffed a shot wide, as Anderson did well sliding in to put Winnall off. Two minutes later, Adam Reach teed up Boyd 22 yards out, who took aim and fired wide of the right post. The Owls were demonstrating real quality through Boyd, Reach, Winnall, Rhodes.

However the Stags were starting to get a foothold in the game.

On 30 minutes, a good tackle by Benning got the home crowd going. Then Benning earned a free kick. The free kick was taken quickly, Benning played the ball forward and Hamilton was held off by a defender.

The Stags were pressing Wednesday back.

On 31 minutes, Hamilton put in a good cross that was just cleared. Hamilton eventually won the ball back and won a free kick, just outside the box on the left. Really good play from Hamilton.

From the resulting free kick, the Stags were level. Anderson took the free kick, the Owls’ defence couldn’t clear, and Taft rifled in from 5 yards.

On 35 minutes, great play from Mellis to win the ball and win a free kick.

On 38 minutes, a free kick taken by Mellis from 28 yards, the ball was initially cleared, but then the Stags kept it well, culminating in Benning putting in a teasing cross from the left to the far post where Taft surprisingly didn’t throw himself at it. Taft got a little nudge in the back but there were no appeals for a penalty from any of the players, though possibly it could have been. Moments later a great crossfield pass from Benning to Anderson, but Anderson wasn’t able to make use the of the ball.

On 42 minutes, a free kick from 26 yards by Mellis, spun off the top of the wall and over the bar. From the resulting corner from the right, taken by Mellis, Mirfin headed over. A good corner.

On 45 minutes, Mellis was involved again, before Anderson turned on the edge of the area, and fired a rasping shot straight at the keeper.

After a difficult opening 20 minutes, Mansfield had fought back superbly with some really encouraging play.

Half time 1-1

Mansfield changed ten players for the second half, with just Digby continuing. The Owls made six changes, including bringing Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher, and Fernando Forestieri.

On 49 minutes, Steven Fletcher was straight into the action heading over a cross from the right by Liam Palmer.

On 52 minutes, Atkinson gave the ball away with a loose pass, Forestieri sprinted forward and initially got past Pearce but Pearce did well to get back and block his shot.

Wednesday made it 2-1 on 53 minutes from the resulting corner from the right, taken by Jones, Tom Lees powered in a header off the underside of the bar. From the video, it’s hard to tell who should have been marking him.

On 55 minutes, Sterling-James took a free kick from 30 yards which looped up off a defender, and the keeper punched away unconvincingly. Two minutes later, Byrom put in a good free kick from the right, which was just cleared. Byrom was in the action again a minute later with a good tackle on the edge of his own area.

On 59 minutes, Pearce played a good ball forward to Rose, who ran on to it, got it onto his left foot, and his shot was blocked, it looked on target. Then Bennett’s cross-shot was deflected just over for a corner. From the resulting corner, from Byrom, from the left, Pearce headed down and just wide of the right post.

The Stags had the ball in the net on 61 minutes but it was disallowed. Hunt intercepted a ball halfway inside his own half as the Owls moved forward, he fed Potter who in turn played to Sterling-James on the left. Sterling-James knocked a low ball into the middle where a defender got a touch on it, laying it perfectly into the path of Hunt who skilfully knocked past the keeper into the left corner of the net. From the video, Hunt was just perhaps a foot offside when Sterling-James played the ball in.

On 64 minutes, Hunt crossed from the left, Rose and a defender went for the ball at the same time and it came off the defender for a corner.

Trialist Jordan Slew replaced Digby after 64 minutes.

The Stags formation was still a diamond in midfield, with Byrom behind, Potter on the right and Atkinson on the left, and Sterling-James just in front of them. Rose and Slew were up front.

A minute later, Rose leapt high for a great header on to Potter but the Stags couldn’t make anything of it.

On 66 minutes, a free kick from 26 yards by Forestieri, but the Stags wall did its job and deflected it wide.

A minute later, a good break from the Stags, Potter to Slew, to Sterling-James, who did well going forward and found Atkinson on the left. Atkinson slid a cross-shot across the face of the goal and wide of the right post.

On 70 minutes, Pearce was caught out by Forestieri, losing the ball, and bringing him down on the left. That would have been a yellow in a league game. Forestieri sent the resulting free kick from a tight angle straight at Olejnik.

The Stags had a glorious chance to equalise on 71 minutes. Diamond played a ball forward, perfectly into the path of Rose, Rose squared a perfect pass in to Slew, who fired straight at the keeper from 8 yards. It was a great chance for Slew, though the keeper did well, saving with his legs.

Straight to the other end, and Potter put in a great challenge as Forestieri was about to shoot from 12 yards.

On 74 minutes, Sterling-James played a 1-2 with Byrom, then a 1-2 with Potter, before firing over from 24 yards. Impressive from Sterling-James.

A minute later, Sterling-James tried to find Atkinson with a forward ball into the area, but it was just overhit. Nevertheless appreciative applause from the home fans.

On 76 minutes, Forestieri tried to chip over Olejnik from 20 yards, but Olejnik caught easily. Three minutes later, Matias fired in a low shot from the edge of the box, which Olejnik saved low down to his right.

The Stags were level on 81 minutes. Slew won a corner on the right. Byrom took the corner, and Bennett headed in at the left post.

Bennett was booked for a foul on Forestieri on 82 minutes. Harsh, especially given some fouls that the referee had not produced cards for earlier, and unusual to have a card in a friendly.

The Stags, having worked hard to get themselves level, then gifted the Owls a winner on 83 minutes. Slew played back to Hunt on the Stags left, Hunt’s ball inside only reached Hooper. Hooper played to Joao, who played back to Hooper. Hooper tried to knock the ball past the defenders just inside the area, and the loose ball ran to Joao, who fired under Olejnik from 8 yards.

Jack Thomas replaced Sterling-James on 84 minutes.

On 85 minutes, Byrom shot wide from 25 yards.

On 89 minutes, Forestieri took a free quick quickly, received the ball back from a 1-2, and blasted just over the angle of bar and post from just inside the box.

On 90 minutes, Atkinson did well to win the ball off a defender and the ball so nearly fell invitingly for Potter in the area, but a defender slid in to clear at the last second.

That was the last action. Good applause from both sets of fans at the end of an entertaining friendly, and certainly a good workout for the Stags.

Report by: Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Line Up:
1st half team (4-4-2):
Conrad Logan;
Hayden White, David Mirfin, George Taft, Mal Benning;
Paul Anderson, Jacob Mellis, Paul Digby, CJ Hamilton;
Jimmy Spencer, Lee Angol.

2nd half team (4-4-2, with a diamond in midfield):
Bobby Olejnik;
Rhys Bennett, Krystian Pearce, Zander Diamond, Johnny Hunt;
Joel Byrom (back of diamond); Paul Digby (right), Will Atkinson (left); Alfie Potter (front of diamond);
Danny Rose, Omari Sterling-James.

Sub Line Up:
Trialist (Jordan Slew) for Digby, 64 mins
Jack Thomas for Sterling-James, 84 mins
Opposition Line Up:
Dawson (Wildsmith 46), Hunt (Palmer 46), Lees, Pudil, Fox (Matias 46 (Joao 80)), Boyd (Forestieri 46), Bannan, Jones, Reach, Winnall (Fletcher 46), Rhodes (Hooper 46). Subs not used: Wallis, O’Grady, Thorniley, Penney, Murphy, Clare, Nuhiu.
John Brooks

Season 17/18 Reports