STAGS BEATEN 1-0 BY STOKE
Mansfield Town 0 Stoke City 1
Att: 2676 (439 from Stoke)
The Stags began with a strong first eleven which included new signing Adam Murray and trialists Scott McNiven, Alex Neil and Chris Tate. On the bench was the other new signing Derek Asamoah. On the opposition bench was Stags former striker Chris Greenacre.
The Stags began very brightly and Alex Neil was first to have a shot at goal, his right foot shot flying well over. Larkin was next to test the Stoke defence as he superbly beat Stoke left back Marcus Hall but his cross was blocked before it could reach Tate in the middle. The game settled down with Stoke coming close through Akinbiyi before they took the lead when Russell burst through a square looking Stags back line before hitting a low shot past Pilkington. In truth, the Stags keeper could have done a little better as the shot from Russell, though at close range, was not well struck. The Stags made their first change on 28 minutes when Neil Mackenzie replaced the impressive Alex Neil. Just past the half hour the Stags put together their best move of the match, Mackenzie linking well with full back McNiven who put in a superb curling cross which Larkin should have headed home, but was easily saved by the Stoke keeper. Just a few minutes later McNiven again put in a superb cross, this time Tate was the guilty party as he really should have scored yet allowed Stoke keeper Simonsen (who had replaced De Goey just minutes earlier) to make the save. McNiven, by far and away the Stags best player, then almost put through Larkin, but Simonsen got to the ball just before the Stags striker. Lewis Neal then hit an absolute beauty from 25 years which smashed Pilkington's bar and flew away from goal. On 38 minutes Tom Curtis replaced Adam Murray, who showed a few glimpses of his excellent passing ability. More good work from Larkin on 40 minutes, this time combining well with Corden, the Stags striker's shot from the left hand side deflected wide for a corner kick. On 43 minutes Derek Asamoah made his Stags entrance, replacing Chris Tate. Within a minute Asamoah broke through into the Stoke area, his quick feet saw him glide past two challenges but his shot was blocked and few wide for a corner.
The Stags made just one change at half time, Dave Artell replacing Alex John-Baptiste. A couple of minutes into the 2nd half Chris Greenacre came on for Stoke to a huge round of applause from the Stags supporters and within a minute had a powerful strike on goal, which Pilkington managed to gather. Moments later Dimech and Akinbiyi squared up to each other but the referee sensibly just had words with both men. Lots of changes in the last half hour really ruined any chance of a decent 2nd half and the game became very disjointed, and frankly, very dull. Asamoah looked lively enough but didn't really get enough possession in threatening areas, whilst Mackenzie impressed in the centre of the Stags midfield. The Stags used all their subsitutes, including Rhys Day and whilst it is perhaps understandable to some extent, Stags fans had paid good money to see in effect 55 minutes football before all the changes ruined the game as a spectacle.
Scott McNiven was hugely impressive and will be a great asset should the club secure his signature. Alex Neil also looked very useful, but apart from a couple of good flicks, Chris Tate didn't get involved as much as I'm sure he would have liked. Adam Murray looked a little rusty, but showed glimpses of his passing ability - somewhat of a surprise that Murray wasn't given a little more football.
After the match, the stupidity of the decision to move of home fans from the North Stand to the Quarry Lane End was there for all to see. Police on horseback, and a line of stewards and police preventing supporters entering the retail park. Chants of "you don't know what you're doing" inevitably followed. The high police presence for this pre-season friendly match was completely unjustified, totally over the top and the net result was to make the decision to move home fans even more ludicrous than most think it is already.
Report by Rob Wheldon
Pilkington, McNiven, John-Baptiste, Dimech, Eaton, Neil, Williamson, Murray, Corden, Larkin, Tate.
Subs: Curtis, Day, T.Curle, Artell, Asamoah, Lloyd, Buxton, MacKenzie, Hankey, Langford.
Referee: Russell Booth
Latest | July 2004