STERLING-JAMES AND KHAN SCORE FOR RESERVES
Reserves report: Port Vale 1-2 Stags
by Evan Draycott, mansfieldtown.net, Tuesday, 21st January 2020
First-half efforts from Omari Sterling-James and Otis Khan gave Stags’ reserves a deserved 2-1 victory away at Port Vale in the Central League Cup on Tuesday afternoon.
Sterling-James’ early strike was cancelled out by Richie Bennett’s delicate chip, but Khan’s penalty wrapped up the three points for the amber and blue.
The Stags named a mixed lineup that included five first team players for the game. Midfielders Jacob Mellis, Alistair Smith and Otis Khan all started, alongside forwards Omari Sterling-James and Craig Davies.
From the off, Mansfield were in the ascendancy. A wayward pass from Ryan Lloyd gifted the ball to Khan on the edge of the area, who forced the first save of the match from Vale ‘keeper Jonny Maddison.
A blistering start from the amber and blue was rewarded on six minutes as they took the lead.
Mansfield forward Davies laid the ball off to Sterling-James after some great hold up play, before the attacker found the bottom corner from the edge of the box with a composed finish.
Mansfield came forward again as Tyrese Sinclair cut through the Port Vale midfield and played a quick give and go with Sterling-James. Sinclair made a good connection with the follow-up shot, only to see it cleared off the line by Callum Evans.
On the quarter of the hour mark, Smith went on a powerful run into the penalty area before being brought down by Evans, moments after his goal-line clearance heroics.
Mellis stepped up to the plate but was denied by the underside of the bar from his emphatic strike.
The penalty miss encouraged Port Vale, as Lloyd launched a long pass over the top of the Stags’ defence to Bennett. Vale’s number nine got to the ball ahead of goalkeeper Aidan Stone and chipped the ball into the far corner.
The hosts continued their momentum, nearly taking the led through Rhys Browne. After Stone’s clearance found the feet of the attacker, the Vale wide man tried his luck from range, narrowly missing the target.
Following a good spell from the home side, Mansfield were awarded another penalty in the latter stages of the first half, after Khan was tripped in the area.
The dynamic playmaker opted to take the penalty he earned, smashing the ball into the top left corner of the net.
As half-time approached, tricky winger Browne jinxed his way into the penalty area and forced a magnificent save from Stags’ keeper Stone.
The referee blew the whistle for half-time and the visitors went into the break with a 2-1 advantage.
The Stags came out from the break and looked dangerous. Khan made his way into the box and played it across for Sterling-James, only for him to mistime his effort.
Chances were few and far between in the second half, but Vale missed a huge opportunity to equalise through Browne, after he displayed some tricky footwork before firing just wide.
With 15 minutes left to play, Port Vale attacked the Mansfield goal with some good link up play. The ball made its way to Browne, who turned excellently before snatching at the chance and blasting it wide.
Khan then drove into the Port Vale box with real purpose before being denied a second goal by a fine save from Maddison.
Mansfield still led the hosts as full-time loomed, but the Valiants gave the amber and blue a late scare. Bennett looked to equalise in emphatic fashion but saw his audacious 30-yard piledriver come back off the crossbar.
The Stags held on to secure what was a deserved 2-1 victory at Vale Park.
STAGS’ XI: Stone (GK), Walker, Sketchley, Cooper, Law, Sinclair, Smith, Mellis, Sterling-James, Khan, Davies.
UNUSED SUBS: Campbell (GK), Saunders, Lawson, Tomlin, Scott.
PORT VALE XI: Maddison, Evans, Brisley, Lake, Campbell-Gordon, Lloyd, Trickett-Smith, Campbell (Lennon 79’), Chimenes (Stevens 76’), Browne, Bennett.
UNUSED SUBS: Adams, Chambers, Agho.
Pugh on "good test" for players against Mansfield
Port Vale first team coach, Danny Pugh, says yesterdays Central League Cup tie against Mansfield Town was a great opportunity for some first team players to get some minutes under their belt.
The 2-1 loss against the Stags means the Vale can no longer qualify for the knockout stages of the competition, but for many first team players who haven't been featuring as much recently, it enabled them to get 90 minutes into their system.
As well as playing the full game, the likes of Ryan Lloyd and Richie Bennett will have gained huge confidence after both playing a vital part in Vale's only goal.
Lloyd's brilliant ball over the top of the Mansfield defence fed in Bennett who saw the goalkeeper off his line, and looped the ball over him to draw the Valiants level.
With other players such as Shaun Brisley, Callum Evans and Rhys Browne completing the full game, Pugh says that will be vital for the club with the first teams upcoming fixtures and was pleased with Vale's equaliser.
"It is massively important, on the main pitch as well, it helps. We were against decent opposition and most of the lads managed to get 90 minutes which will do them the world of good.
"We have another batch of games coming up so this will have sharpened a few of the lads up and given the manager something to think about.
"It was a great ball by Lloydy and a great bit of movement by Benno and a lovely finish. I think we could have got a couple more with the chances we had if we'd just been a bit sharper in the box, a bit more clinical."
Like Vale, Mansfield lined up with half a side of senior players including Jacob Mellis, Otis Khan and former Vale striker Craig Davies.
For young academy centre-back, Louis Lake, this provided a unique challenge to defend against some experienced league players alongside Shaun Brisley.
The youngster caught the eye of Danny Pugh who was really pleased with the defenders performance against an experienced Mansfield side.
"I think he did really well. He was solid playing against experienced opposition, he dealt with Davies well and he looked comfortable on the ball. He was a voice, I could hear him, so I was really pleased for him.
"They have some good players, especially in the forward line. So, it was a good test for the lads but I think we got to grips with it better after the opening period. I think we should have got something out of the game.
"They (Mansfield) were a threat and experienced but you want to play against those players in these kind of games. It is more realistic and it is a good challenge for the lads."
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