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Archived News from July 2022

24th July 2022 0:23

Quality of goals impress boss in Blades win

Stags’ manager Nigel Clough praised ‘three very good goals’ in an excellent work out as his side beat Sheffield United 3-0 at One Call Stadium last night.

The gaffer was impressed with the way his squad approached the encounter in challenging, humid conditions against strong opposition.

Hiram Boateng scored a brace and Rhys Oates got on the scoresheet as Mansfield emerged as victors in the behind-closed-doors friendly.


Speaking to iFollow Stags after the match, Nigel said: “We scored three very good goals.

“[I am] Very pleased with ten days to go until the start of the season.

“We hung on in there and when we got the ball, I think we did ok with it tonight.”

Hiram Boateng was again a standout performer for the Stags and the gaffer was praiseworthy of the third goal on the night from the former MK Dons midfielder.

“It was a brilliant goal that stuck out because of the quality of the finish.

“I think it is a contender for goal of the season already.

“All three were [good] in terms of build ups.”

When asked what impressed Nigel the most, he said: “We restricted them to very few opportunities.

“[There were] Not too many scares [from Sheffield United].

“I thought we were a threat going the other way [too].

“The [3-5-2] system is working well at the moment, but [it’s] certainly not set in stone.”

Several changes to personnel throughout the contest allowed the manager to see some of his players operate in different positions. Forward Jordan Bowery played in the middle of a back three for parts of the match.

“[I see Jordan playing] Everywhere,” said the boss.

“He will probably get in the team every week where we need him.

“[His versatility is] Absolutely invaluable.

“Because of his good attributes, he can slot in everywhere.”

With the temperature during the day reaching 39 degrees Celsius, frequent substitutions were made throughout the contest to deal with the challenging demands of the evening humidity.

“We [the Stags’ coaching staff] felt that 60 minutes, which is the maximum any player did tonight, was the equivalent to 70/80 minutes in normal conditions,” said Nigel.

“We jigged it around, splitting the game into three thirds.

“It took some working out.

“People playing in different positions was another important factor tonight.

“We might need that throughout the season.”

The manager provided an update on the squad’s absent players.

“We had it all worked out [team selection] then we lost Will Swan this afternoon who felt his groin tighten up yesterday after training, it is nothing serious.

“[Kieran] Wallace is out for a few weeks as with his knee.

“Macca [Stephen McLaughlin] was out tonight with a tight Achilles.

“[Because of this,] We had to rip it all up and start again.”

With Swan not involved, the manager included transfer listed Danny Johnson in his playing squad.

“We were short of bodies tonight.

“Ideally, we didn’t want to risk him [Johnson] getting injured.

“It was good for him to get 45 minutes or so under his belt.

“He [Johnson] has never been a problem, ever since day one.

“In a footballing sense it has just not quite worked out.”

The boss also provided the latest regarding the club’s transfer activity as he hopes to bring in another forward player.

“We’ve had a few bids rejected in the last few weeks.

“There’s a possibility of one on loan.

“We’ve got a few plates spinning as the saying goes at the moment.”


Delighted Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough closing in on new striker as deal to sell Danny Johnson looks set to go through
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Tuesday 19th July 2022

Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough was delighted by his side's 3-0 demolition of his former club Sheffield United in tonight's friendly.

And he also revealed he is close to signing another striker while a deal looks set to go through to sell transfer-listed Danny Johnson, who played part of the behind-closed-doors game against a powerful Championship outfit tonight.

“I am delighted with that,” said Clough.

“It was a step up again from Saturday with the quality of performance tonight, despite us switching it around and people playing in different positions.


“I thought after the first five minutes we were very good indeed.”

Young striker James Gale set up the first two goals for Hiram Boateng and Rhys Oates and Clough said: “I think he played the last 45/50 minutes and did well and battled away.

“I think it took him five or 10 minutes to get into the game with the quality of the opposition as they are good Championship defenders that close you down quickly. But once he got into his stride he did very well with two good assists.”

Boateng crowned the night with a spectacular curling 18-yarder near the end and Clough beamed: “It was as good a goal as you will see all season.

“Can you get Goal of the Season in a pre-season friendly? It was an incredible finish.

“Laps (George Lapslie) played him a great little ball on the edge of the box, he made half a yard and as soon as he hit it I thought it was going in.

“But it always looks more spectacular when it goes in off the far post.”

The kick-off was put back to allow the heat of Britain's hottest ever day on record to die down.

“We didn't want players to really have more than 60 minutes tonight because it is the equivalent of about 80 minutes in the heat we played in,” he said.

“So we jigged it all around. Losing Will Swan this afternoon with a tight groin messed the plans up a little bit, but Danny Johnson came in and did 40-odd minutes which helped us out.

“Hopefully Will will be all right for Saturday, if not we have a squad game against Derby on Tuesday.

“Stephen McLaughlin also had a right Achilles in training yesterday so missed out - pitches are very hard at the moment.

“James had a scan on his calf and is going to be a few weeks. I think only Perch and Keiran Wallace will be missing for the Salford game at the moment.”

Clough was happy to see versatile Jordan Bowery have a spell at centre half tonight, saying: “We thought about it last season. He has played there in one or two friendlies and things before. But he has all the attributes if we need him to do it at any point.

“I was talking about it to James Perch last week. Jordan did it in training. He has pace and reads the game and comes out with it.

“It is good to see people in different positions. Ollie Clarke played right centre half for the last 30 minutes and laps went to right wing back and was excellent.

“You never know at times during the season with the smallish squad we are going to have to fill in in certain places and positions and they have proved they can do it.”

He added: “We have now played the three at the back for the first four games and only conceded the one goal from a corner on Saturday.

“They have looked pretty solid most of the time and goalkeeper's not had much to do.

“Riley Harbottle is certainly ready for League Two and they looked a good, strong three with John-Joe O'Toole and Oli Hawkins. If Perch and Elliott Hewitt are our three main ones and could be the starting three, if we go with a three, at Salford.”

On signing a new striker, Clough said: “We're still making enquiries.

“We have put bids in that have been turned down. There is a possibility of one on loan or a permanent. We'll see it goes.

“But it will probably be dependant on something happening with Danny Johnson, which looks like it will happen.

“We are trying to get to the finer details of a deal for him. I don't think we're too far away so we're hopeful something might get done this week.

“I think it will be best for everybody. Danny has never been a problem for a minute while he has been here. It's just sometimes in football it sometimes doesn't quite work out.”


Nigel Clough told iFollow Stags:
Mark Stevenson: "Any news on the elusive striker?"
NC: "We've had a few bids rejected in the last couple of weeks, there's a possibility of one on loan, so we've got a few plates spinning as the saying goes at the moment, but it might well be dependent on something happening with Danny Johnson which we're not too far away with"
Mark Stevenson: "He's still likely to go out is he, as he played some part tonight?"
NC: " Yeah, we were short of bodies tonight, ideally we didnt want to risk him get injured but it wasn't that sort of game, so it was good for him to get 45 minutes under his belt as well. Danny has never been a problem honestly since Day 1 when he came in, it's just in a football sense it's just not quite worked out"


Paul Heckingbottom spoke about another United defeat after the game:

“The goals were terrible but it’s another reminder. Whilst we haven’t been stressing performances too much, you can’t turn a blind eye to the goals we’ve conceded when you consider who’ll start against Watford. It’s about defending better, it’s poor defending. A bit of laziness and everything we pride ourselves on last year, the goals were the opposite of that.” [Via BBC Radio Sheffield]


Paul Heckingbottom 'can't turn a blind eye' to concerning Sheffield United pre-season issue
examinerlive.co.uk, By Nathan Hemmingham

Paul Heckingbottom says that although emphasis has not been on the performance in recent friendlies, he cannot 'turn a blind eye' to the standard of defending in the past two matches. A 3-2 defeat at non-league Scunthorpe was followed by a 3-0 loss at League Two Mansfield on Tuesday night.

The Blades boss has moved to strengthen the defence in the summer, with the arrival of Bosnian international Anel Ahmedhodzic for an undisclosed fee from Malmo and Newcastle's Ciaran Clark joining Sheffield United on loan for the season.

He was expecting a much better performance in front of his goal in the two games and says the standard of defending, particularly on Tuesday night, was 'terrible'.

He now wants to see a big improvement against Burton tomorrow night and Barnsley on Saturday and will 'not ignore' any more mistakes at the back.

"The goals against [Mansfield] were terrible," he said. "We haven't been stressing over performances, it's other things that we have been working on, but you can't turn a blind eye to the goals we have conceded when you are thinking right 'who's going to start against Watford?'


"It's been poor defending, a bit of laziness and everything that we prided ourselves on last year the goals against Mansfield were the opposite of that.

"It bothers me because I don't want to see that. Regardless of what I am saying about how we are preparing, it's hard for me to stand on the sideline and ignore mistakes off players and them thinking they are going to play at Watford.

"I would be lying if I said any different. It's been easy to see in my view where the mistakes are but the emphasis will change now.

"There will be no excuse in terms of preparations, we will be ready for the games in terms of being physically ready and players will understand exactly what is expected from them. We are not picking teams to win these games, but I want to see the attitude with how we want to play, how we want to protect the ball, protect our goal, defend.

"Depending on which three we put out, there will be bedding in, of course there will, because there are two new players in the group and everyone defends differently. That will improve over time."


Sheffield United: Players are warned the focus has shifted ahead of Watford clash
Sheffield Star, By James Shield

Sheffield United’s pre-season, Paul Heckingbottom admitted ahead of Friday’s visit to Burton Albion, has so far focused on fitness and conditioning with a little bit of team bonding thrown in for good measure.

But he also wanted to see his squad develop good habits. Which is why, after watching them concede three goals for the second match in a row during last night’s meeting with Mansfield Town, the United manager made no attempt to shy away from the fact he is concerned by the quality of their defending.

Actually, make that desperately disappointed. Heckingbottom even went as far as to suggest that a repeat at either the Pirelli Stadium or Oakwell, where United conclude their preparations for the new campaign with a game against his former club Barnsley, will force coaching staff to revise their plans for August 1st’s game against Watford.


Sheffield United's defensive work was way below par when they travelled to Mansfield Town: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

“We’re thinking all the time,” Heckingbottom said. “You always have things in mind of course, ideas that you work with. But those can change depending upon what you’re seeing. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.”

Three days after losing 3-2 to Scunthorpe, where second-half strikes from substitutes Iliman Ndiaye and Rhian Brewster made the scoreline look disappointing rather than catastrophic, United made the short journey to Nottinghamshire confident of adding to their victories over Casa Pia and Lincoln City earlier this summer. But it quickly became apparent, when Mansfield gave as good as they got during the opening period, that things were not going to be as routine as Heckingbottom and his staff would privately have hoped.

The searing heat can not be used as an excuse for the lethargy some United players displayed. They have just spent the week in Portugal and it clearly didn’t affect their opponents who, Heckingbottom conceded afterwards, had used “a higher line than usual.” His own side, by contrast, “spent more time working in front of them” than coaching staff would have liked.

Barring some flashes of brilliance from Ndiaye, whose burgeoning partnership Brewster was again in evidence, United created little and appeared to concentrate even less. Any analysis which bruises their egos will doubtless be dismissed as hysterical, over-the-top reaction to an insignificant game.

But if these contests are meaningless, then why stage them in the first place? And even if United had prevailed as they should have done, aspects of their performance would still be concerning.

Hiram Boateng’s second of the night, after Rhys Oates had doubled Mansfield’s lead, was unstoppable. But his opener and the former Barnsley forward’s effort definitely weren’t.

Static and slow to react, United’s rearguard was prised apart by routine runs and simple crosses.

“The goals were terrible,” Heckingbottom said. “We haven’t been stressing performances as much as getting ready physically. But you can’t help as a manager having one thought about the team (at Watford) as well.”

“It’s a bit of laziness maybe,” he continued. “Last year, all of the things we prided ourselves on, it was the opposite of that.”

Heckingbottom was measured in his criticism of United’s defensive shortcomings afterwards. Yes, he told journalists afterwards, the quality of their work at the back fell way below what was expected. But the 44-year-old, who included new signings Anel Ahmedhodzic and Ciaran Clark in his starting eleven, also sought to remind that solid lines of communication have yet to be established between them and long-serving members of United’s squad.

“I’ve never been a great fan (of pre-season),” Heckingbottom revealed. “It serves an important purpose but it’s not like the real thing, is it?”

Although Heckingbottom was right not to go overboard of press the panic button, he will still be deeply concerned about the quality of United’s work in front of Wes Foderingham and Jordan Amissah; the young German who kept goal in Adam Davies; absence at Scunthorpe. Behind the smile and relaxed demeanour he adopted during the post-game inquest, one suspected he was also fuming.

Fortunately for Heckingbottom and his coaching staff, as their attention shifts towards next Monday’s visit to Vicarage Road, the issues with United’s defending appear to stem from an overly relaxed mindset rather than any systemic issues. Heckingbottom seemed to confirm these suspicions when, for the second time in the space of a week, he insisted they had just “received a reminder” about the “need to be right on it” no matter the occasion or the opponent. As they look to recover from the disappointment of last term’s defeat in the Championship play-off semi-finals, United would probably benefit from a kick-up the backside. They have now conceded as many goals in their last two outings as they did during their final of last season, including their two legged tie against Nottingham Forest.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of work,” said Heckingbottom. “Because you just pick the players that you know are going to do the job.”

After using the first four instalments of their six-match warm-up programme to primarily address fitness, United have set themselves different targets for the clashes with Albion and Barnsley. Clearly, the timing of the fixtures means Heckingbottom will select two different starting elevens and adopt a more conservative approach towards his substitutions. The emphasis, beginning in Staffordshire, is now going to be on quality of performance.

“We’ll be different now, in terms of how we look after them and work them before games from now on in,” Heckingbottom said. “They won’t be running before games now, so there can be no complaints. The shirts are there for them.”



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