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Season 17/18 Stagsnet Match Report
Pre-Season Friendly
Retford United  
0 - 5
 Mansfield Town
 Angol pen 42, Sterling-James 63, pen 76, Pearce 70, Nyle Blake 87
Attendance: 260
Date: 14 July 2018

by Sam Binch at Cannon Park

The Stags were victorious in their latest pre-season game, running out comfortable 5-0 winners against non-league Retford United on a scorching afternoon in Nottinghamshire. In all truth, this will be the easiest game Mansfield will have all pre-season, as the home only managed one weak effort on target all game, gifted to them by Paul Digby. As on Wednesday against Bradford Park Avenue, the second half was much more impressive than the first, with the professional fitness of Mansfield Town shining through the longer the game went on.

Manager David Flitcroft and Goalkeeping Coach Ian Pledger were in the dugout to oversee the game, with Assistant Manager Ben Futcher in charge at Hednesford, where the remainder of the first team squad had travelled. The formation was again 3-5-2 as we have seen in both games so far, and the personnel were as follows :

Bobby Olejnik;
Krystian Pearce, Paul Digby, Lewis Gibbens;
Will Atkinson, Calum Butcher, Neal Bishop, Omari Sterling-James, Paul Anderson (1st appearance of pre-season);
Lee Angol, Jordan Graham

Unfortunately, no teamsheet/news was provided for the home side.

The first chance of note came in on 6 minutes following a set-play for which the three defenders had gone forward, when Sterling-James' cross from the right was directed powerfully towards goal by the head of youngster Gibbens, only to see his effort come back off the bar. Moments later, another cross from the right was headed over by Krystian Pearce, who seems to have acquired the nickname 'The Chief'.

On 8 minutes, a mistake from Paul Digby allowed a Retford forward in on goal but the shot was tame and comfortably gathered by Olejnik.

After a short drinks break following an injury, the duo of Sterling-James and Gibbens combined again, with Gibbens header going over the target.

Following a quiet period in which the Stags continued to press, they almost took the lead from a sublime Paul Anderson effort. A defensive clearance from Pearce was chased down by Jordan Graham, prompting the Retford keeper to come off his line and head away. His clearance came straight to Anderson on the left, who with his weaker foot lobbed a shot goalwards only for the keeper to tip his effort around the post for a corner. Great play from Anderson and the keeper.

On 26 minutes, patient build up play culminated with an inviting Atkinson cross from the right which Angol looked like he had diverted goalwards (hard to tell from my vantage point), but the ball drifted wide of the far post. The Stags were awarded a corner so I can only assume a defender was able to get a touch on Angol's effort.

On 28 mins, good work again down the right from Atkinson found Sterling-James unmarked in the centre of the goal but he ballooned the finish over the bar. The chance was similar to Benning's on Wednesday, but simpler. Two minutes later, Lee Angol was becoming a growing influence in the game, his shot was deflected into the path of the marauding Atkinson, who went around the keeper but was well marshalled by a Retford defender. The whistle had gone for offside in any case. On 33 minutes, Sterling-James who seemed to be involved in everything going forward, delivered a corner which was headed over by Pearce.

Following tame efforts on goal by Graham and Butcher, the Stags were awarded a penalty with three minutes of the half remaining. Lee Angol showed great pace to burst into the box past two defenders, shooting across the keeper with his left foot. His shot was parried into the path of Atkinson, who was clumsily fouled by a Retford defender. Lee Angol stepped up right footed and place the ball slight right of centre into the back of net, with the keeper diving in the opposite direction. A deserved lead and a deserved goal for Angol.

Just before the half time whistle, Angol glided past a few defenders, this time into the right side of the area, but unfortunately the ball bobbled up just as he was about to strike and trickled off his knee out for a goal kick.

A decent half for the Stags, but lacking the ruthless streak they showed in the second half against Bradford Park Avenue on Wednesday.

Half time 0-1

No changes at half time for Mansfield. The away side seem buoyed by Flitcroft's half time words, creating opening after opening in the second period. This began on 47 minutes, when a Retford defender miscued his clearance backwards and up into the air on the edge of the box, the ball dropping onto the right instep of Jordan Graham from 15 yards, whose effort beat the keeper but not a defender on the edge of the 6 yard box. A little too casual from Graham. Moments later, Butcher volleyed well over from the edge of the box. On 48 minutes, a left footed in-swinging cross from Graham found the glancing forehead of Sterling-James, but it was an easy pick up for the keeper.

Mansfield were now overrunning Retford, and on 49 minutes it should have been two. A ball forward by Pearce was excellently controlled and laid off by Butcher with his back to goal, finding Atkinson on the right, who cut inside past a defender and onto his left foot, only for the ball to bobble at the crucial moment and Atkinson lift the ball over the bar with only the keeper to beat. On 54 minutes, an Angol shot from the edge of area was deflected for a corner, which came to nothing. A feature of Mansfield's play was Angol dropping deep into the left half space and starting moves. Following the corner, Sterling-James switched positions with Atkinson. Sterling- James immediately found joy down the fight, getting to the byline but seeing cross deflect off a defender and into the keepers arms. A minute later, the home side finally had a bit of joy, winning a corner. A near post free header went flying over the bar by number 12. An inquest was held by the Mansfield defence as to why the player was unmarked.

On 59 minutes, Anderson's cross from left was headed toward goal by Graham at the back post and bundled in to the net by Atkinson. The goal was initially given but overturned for handball against Atkinson. This appeared to be the correct decision. I was right next to linesman and he never signalled, but when consulted by the referee said it was handball, after receiving criticism from the Retford players.

A minute later, a handball in the Retford box was given as a free kick just outside the area, this time by the referee with no help from his linesman. He seemed unprofessional and was constantly laughing and joking with the referee on his headset during the game. Angol took the free-kick and shot high and wide.

Four minutes later, a lovely Butcher through ball found Sterling-James in the inside right of the box in a similar position to Atkinson earlier in the game, but this time Sterling-James was able to slot low under the advance goalkeeper. 2-0 Mansfield.

Paul Anderson was replaced by Nyle Blake, with Sterling-James coming to the left and the youngster playing down the right. Blake was straight into the action, as he cut inside from the right, only to see his shot blocked. The ball ricocheted to Angol, who rolled square to Butcher just inside the area, only for the former Millwall man to find the field behind the goal for a second time. From the resulting goal kick, Lewis Gibbens won the ball with a sliding tackle in the centre circle, the loose ball running to Angol, who played a lovely lofted pass with outside of his right foot to Blake, who opted for a quick touch and shot which looped wide. On 69 minutes, a skilful turn by Atkinson just outside the area drew a free-kick. Sterling-James this time took the free kick, which deflected for a corner off the wall.

Sterling-James took the corner from the right, which Pearce side footed home on the volley from slightly left of centre, 8 yards from goal. 3-0.

On 71 minutes, Neal Bishop joined in the attacking barrage, seeing his shot from the edge of the area well saved by the keeper. Bishop won countless balls in front of the back four, keeping his passing simple. Another free kick a couple of minutes later, but the same outcome as earlier in the half with Lee Angol off target.

Mansfield had a second penalty of the game on 75 minutes. A great move ended up with Sterling-James on the left hand side, who darted into the area onto his right foot where he was crudely brought down by a defender. Sterling-James took the penalty, finding the bottom left hand corner with ease, sending the keeper the wrong way. 4-0.

On 78 minutes, Jordan Graham had the ball at his feet just inside the area on the right, turned his defender and curled a left footed over the bar. On 84 minutes, a good interchange between Graham and Blake near the right corner flag sent Blake advancing into the area, he picked out Bishop with a pull back in the D but Bishop was the latest candidate to find the filed behind the goal following an unfortunate bobble.

A minute later, a low effort from Butcher trickled wide of the keeper's right hand post, with the man between the sticks scrambling with unnecessary enthusiasm. Everyone was flying forward with the game coming to an end. Pearce found himself with the ball at his feet in the area, his shot was blocked before Atkinson fired wide of the right hand post on his weaker left side.

The final goal of the game came on 87 minutes. A jinking run by Sterling-James down the left saw him check back onto his right foot, before picking out fellow wing back Nyle Blake at the back post. The youngster killed the cross excellently before directing his finish on the stretch into the roof of the net. A great moment for Blake. Sterling-James again involved, with two goals and three assists in the game, having played in three different positions.

An easy win then for Mansfield, who after a timid first half put their non-league neighbours to the sword in the second. Apart from building the confidence of the players and fitness being built on a very hot day, I'm not sure there was really much to be learnt from a tactical point of view in playing opposition such as Retford. I'm also not really sure why David Flitcroft was at this game rather than the game at Hednesford against stronger opposition, with players who seem to be the preferred options at this moment in time. Nevertheless, Omari Sterling-James will certainly have played his way into his manager's thoughts, as will Atkinson and Angol, who both played very well.

Report by: Sam Binch at Cannon Park

Line Up:
Brief Player Comments :

Olejnik - Almost nothing to do, but still showed enthusiasm and leadership in talking his defence through the game. Constantly implored his defenders to 'make the right decision'.

Pearce - Not tested defensively, but 'The Chief' used the ball well and took his goal like a striker.
Digby - Not tested defensively, but used the ball well and helped Gibbens through the game. Very good talker for someone so young.
Gibbens - Not tested defensively, but used the ball well. Unlucky not to score with a header.

Atkinson - Like him at wing back, suits his marauding runs and stamina. Yet to be tested defensively though. Won a penalty, involved in most good things and unlucky with a bobble.
Butcher - Nice assist for Sterling-James first goal, should've had another one when Atkinson missed. Playing in a more advance role, making runs in behind. Still could be involved more and shooting needs to improve, if he is to stay of course. Quieter than most others on the pitch, and like a moan!
Bishop - Appears to be carrying out the role the manager has asked of him, breaking up play and distributing simply. Could perhaps step off the defence toes a little and will probably need legs around him in the league.
Sterling-James - Exciting performance with two goals and three assists. Seems fitter than last season and more fearless. Could play a part this season. Showed good versatility also but again untested defensively in those wide positions.
Anderson - Unlucky not to score with audacious lob. One nice cross. Not involved as much as others.

Angol - Looks sharp. Contributing to the build-up excellently by dropping deep and creating space for others. Hope he keeps this form up.
Graham - Looks a decent prospect. Not sure he has the poacher's instinct at the moment but his link up play is generally good. Quite similar to Angol in that he occasionally holds on to the ball too long or tries a trick.
Sub Line Up:
Nyle Blake (for Anderson, 64 mins)
Opposition Line Up:
unknown (no team sheet)

Season 17/18 Reports