REPORT FROM STOKE FAN SITE
Mansfield Town 0 Stoke City 1
By Smudge, oatcake.co.uk
City coasted to a 1-0 victory that was a little more comfortable than the scoreline suggests, with Darel Russell netting the only goal of the game. Stoke were also boosted by the inclusion in the side of defender Gerry Taggart, raising hopes that he may be about to put pen to paper for The Potters?
Pre-Season Friendly - 17th July 2004
Mansfield Town 0 Stoke City 1
1-0 Darel Russell... 30
Attendance 2,676 (439 Stokies)
Potters Line-up (4-4-2)
Henry Thomas Taggart Hall
Henry Brammer Clarke Neal
Steve Simonsen for Ed De Goey... 29
Chris Greenacre for Gifton Noel-Williams... 36
Dwayne Lee for Clive Clarke... 46
Ben Foster for Steve Simonsen... 57
Clint Hill for Gerry Taggart... 57
Daniel Platel for Ade Akinbiyi... 57
Carl Dickinson for Lewis Neal... 62
Ed De Goey 6 Had little to do before being injured
Henry 7 Shaky at first but got better and better
Hall 7 Good tidy display
Taggart 8 Wonderful to see him back
Thomas 7 A couple more ropey moments!
Russell 8 A good effort and a goal into the bargain
Brammer 8 Exerted his influence more as the game went on
Clarke 8 Very pleasing contribution from the skipper
Noel-Williams 7 Excellent workrate before his enforced retirement
Akinbiyi 7 Some nice football and unlucky not to score
Neal 7 Good work to set up the goal
Simonsen 7 Looked a very tidy keeper again
Greenacre 7 A couple of goof efforts and some hard work
Lee 5 Would have expected better from a trialist
Foster 7 Had little to do but did it well
Hill 7 Once silly free-kick but otherwise top-notch
Platel 5 Looked a little too lightweight on the ball
Dickinson 7 Another very promising substitute appearance
Comfortable win for Potters at Field Mill
Prior to their eagerly awaited short tour to Austria, when they'll take on tough European opposition in Roma and Levski Sofia, Stoke saw off much weaker opposition in the shape of Mansfield Town, recording a fairly comfortable 1-0 win and rarely having to break sweat. Darel Russell netted the only goal of the game but Stoke could have had at least four in the first half.
The most pleasing sight of the day simply had to be the appearance of Gerry Taggart in the red and white stripes as he took to the field to partner Wayne Thomas in the heart of the Stoke defence. Gerry played no part in the Newcastle Town or Wrexham games and there is still now official word on whether he'll be signing for Stoke for the coming season. You have to feel it's a good sign when he takes to the field in the red and white stripes though and it really cheered up the 439 Stokies who travelled to the game to see him out there on the pitch.
With John Halls still missing because of the thigh injury he picked up at the Lyme Valley Stadium Karl Henry went into the right-back spot while Marcus Hall resumed duties at left-back. Lewis Neal was back in the side on the left hand side of midfield while Darel Russell pushed out to the wide right. Carl Asaba was listed as being one of the substitutes but it was clear to see from the way he was dressed that although he was by the Potters bench he was not going to be playing any part in the proceedings.
The importance of having Gerry Taggart on the pitch soon became apparent as he made his presence felt in an opening exchange of hostilities that saw the home side trying to strike an early blow and running enthusiastically at the Stoke defence, sending in a succession of crosses. No matter where they played their crosses though, it was always Gerry on the end of things to get the ball clear or tidy up the danger.
It took a little while for Stoke to get into their stride against the eager home side but once they did they started to look dangerous. Poor delivery wasted two early corners but in the 16th minute Darel Russell ran positively with the ball outside the box and let fly with a good shot that the keeper was grateful was straight at him.
In the 21st minute we should have taken the lead as Ade broke down the right and cut inside the area, leaving two defenders for dead with a sharp turn, before laying the ball on a plate to Gifton some nine yards from goal and with a clear sight of the net. Unfortunately, Gifton scuffed his shot - possibly kicking the ground first? - and the ball rolled straight to the keeper on the line.
In midfield Clarke was making his presence felt in the middle while Brammer was noticeable by the way in which he was always making himself available to receive the ball. A few of Brammer's forward passes went stray though as he either misread runs by his team-mates or played the ball too close to a defender.
Stoke were though looking menacing every time they came forward and they were not to be knocked out of their stride when Ed De Goey had to leave the pitch in the 29th minute with what appeared to be an injury picked up from kicking the ball clear. In fact, within 60 seconds of Steve Simonsen coming on to replace him Stoke had broken away and as Lewis Neal picked the ball up on the left side of midfield he spotted a defence-splitting run by Russell and slid a through ball to match the run. Russell was left clean through on goal though appeared to slip just as he was about to hit his shot. However, he still got enough purchase on the ball, despite the slip, and though the keeper got a good hand to the ball he couldn't stop it from finding its way into the back of the net.
Stoke were now looking very dangerous and if Gifton had not been the victim of some extremely harsh refereeing he could well have been on the scoresheet. We received though a couple of timely reminders that we couldn't rest on our laurels as Mansfield had two extremely good headed chances within a minute of each other, both of which required saves from Steve Simonsen - the second of which was a very nice diving save indeed.
Ade Akinbiyi dragged an angle shot wide of the target on 35 minutes and then Darel Russell dragged a low shot also wide of the mark as chances continued to flow in an open game. Without ever really getting out of second gear Stoke were easily controlling the game and more goals seemed a very distinct possibility.
Gifton was then seen limping a little and was promptly taken off as a precaution allowing Stoke to bring on Chris Greenacre who received a heroes welcome form both the PA announcer and the Mansfield supporters. He hasn't set the world on fire since he came to Stoke but he is still extremely well regarded in that part of Nottinghamshire.
Stoke's dominance of the match almost resulted in a second goal on 38 minutes when Clive Clarke picked up the ball about 25 yards out and made a bit of space fort himself before firing in a rocket shot that beat the diving Mansfield keeper all ends up only to crash down off the underside of the crossbar. Ade was following in for the kill inside the box but in typical Stoke fashion the loose ball bounced down unkindly for him and he wasn't able to get his shot in.
Ade Akinbiyi was once again looking eager and threatening on the ball and he watched in agony in the 44th minute as his shot on the turn inside the area, from a wonderful through ball by Brammer, beat the keeper but somehow also beat the far post with all of the Stoke fans up and expecting the ball to hit the back of the net.
After a careless loss of possession on the edge of his own area by Wayne Thomas Stoke had to endure a torrid little spell of pressure form the home side right on half-time but were able to clear their lines without too much stress and so took a 1-0 lead into the interval. In truth it could easily have been 4-0.
The first half had not been exactly what you would call exciting but it had been incident-packed. The second half though would be anything other than that. Both sides made many substitutions and it was clear to see that the Stoke team had one eye on the forthcoming trip to Austria. The end result was a second half that had very little to say for itself and even less for anyone to report on!
Eager to impress on his return to his former stomping ground Chris Greenacre was looking sharper than usual and tested the home keeper with a fine shot in the 55th minute. Two minutes later however saw wholesale changes from Stoke. Dwayne Lee had already been brought on for Clive Clarke at half-time and that switch was followed by Foster, Hill and Platel (apparently Carl Asaba's half brother) coming on for Simonsen, Taggart and Akinbiyi. Not long after that Carl Dickinson, who has been doing very well for himself during pre-season, came on to replace Lewis Neal.
The changes left Stoke with just one forward and they adopted a 4-5-1 formation to kill off the rest of the game. It didn't help the game as a spectacle but TP had no other real options and so played it tight and safe for the remaining 30 minutes or so, with Greenacre ploughing a lonely furrow up front on his own.
I don't think that either of Stoke's trialists did themselves any great favours with their displays. Dwayne Lee looked a little sluggish and didn't impose himself on the game - thus wasting a golden opportunity to shine. Daniel Platel certainly looked keen enough but lost possession too easily and too often. Dwayne Lee earned a few sarcastic cheers and jeers with an attempted snap-shot from distance that cleared the roof of the stand behind the goal.
The Stoke subs who did shine were Clint Hill, who showed a good reading of dangerous situations and Carl Dickinson who displayed once again the competitive side of his game. Both of these players did well as the game progressed and with Dave Brammer exerting more and more of an influence as the game progressed Mansfield could get no clear sight of the Stoke goal despite their slightly better possession of the ball.
It wasn't until the closing minutes of the game that there was any real goalmouth action and it was Stoke who came closest to adding to the scoresheet. Dickinson let fly with a dipping 25-yarder that the keeper had to tip over the crossbar and them, in the last minute of normal time, stand-in right back Karl Henry burst down the right flank, into the area and teed up Darel Russell as he pulled the ball back for the midfielder. Russell shot first time but too close to the keeper allowing the save to be made. The keeper could only parry the ball though and it was to his immense good fortune that the rebound evaded both Platel and Dickinson as they looked to cash in.
And that was about that. A clean sheet for The Potters and a relatively comfortable victory to go with it. If you were being hyper-critical you could point to just a single goal when we should have had more, but overall it had been a useful and worthwhile exercise. The return of Taggart was good to see and so were the performances of our starting midfield. Steve Simonsen looked impressive in goal and you'd have no qualms about starting the season with him between the sticks. Clint Hill showed that he is prepared and ready to make his bid for a starting place in defence and that should spur Wayne Thomas into an even greater effort in the season ahead. Both trialists disappointed though and may have done their chances some damage as the team prepares to fly out to Austria and the countdown to the new season begins in earnest.
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