LDV Vans Trophy (North) R1
Mansfield Town 0 Crewe Alexandra 4
Hulse 4, 14, 59, Jack 62.
Attendance: 1,874 (125 from Crewe)
Gary Tyldsley at Field Mill
With the expected low turnout for this LDV opener, there was a shortage of real “match-day” atmosphere in the build-up to kick-off tonight. The Stags had a fairly youthful look with another start for Mark Hurst and the inclusion of Danny Holyoak in place of Mark Lever, plus Youth Team skipper and Jack Retter Trophy winner Jake Buxton on the bench with the promising Alex Baptiste. There was also a welcome return for injured keeper Kevin Pilkington, back after several games out with a fractured wrist.
We have already experienced one display of slick, incisive football from tonight's visitors this season and it was more of the same from the kick-off as they crafted a clear-cut opportunity within the first minute. Fortunately for the sleepy and static Stags defence the chance was wasted. Neil MacKenzie then attempted to prove that not everyone in a yellow shirt would be slow to start as he went on a mazy run through the middle before poking a harmless shot towards the Alex goal.
It did not take too long for our fears to be realised and leave us contemplating a repeat of the recent league encounter at Field Mill. Only 4 minutes had elapsed when Lee Williamson failed to control a ball in the middle of the park, surrendering possession to a quick thinking red shirt who delivered the perfect ball through a still cold Stags back-line for Rob Hulse to take past Kevin Pilkington and put the visitors in front.
Rodney Jack had been a chief tormentor in the previously mentioned league game and before the first 10 minutes had gone by he gave us a reminder of his performance that day. He has pace to spare along with the ability to make the ball stick to his feet while defenders tackle the thin-air that he has just left behind.
Whilst Crewe were carving out the best chances from open play, it was the Stags “set-piece nightmare” that struck on the quarter-hour mark. A free-kick play straight from the training ground involved a long cross to Nigerian World Cup player Efe Sodje and culminated in a second goal of the evening for Rob Hulse.
Kevin Pilkington did show his class on 21 minutes with a super save after another flowing move from Crewe involving Rodney Jack.
Stags had a better spell around the half-hour point and finally put the visitors under pressure in their own box. As usual, when things are not going well, that little bit of good fortune needed to change the course of the game does not come. After the Crewe keeper spilled a cross the ball ricocheted around the box before falling to Liam Lawrence, who hit the shot well only to see it cannon off a Crewe defender and go for a corner. Only 5 minutes later, Lawrence was involved again by putting in a great corner for Neil Moore to head just past the far post. The final point of any note in the first half was another shot from Wayne Corden which failed to trouble the Alex keeper.
Half-Time: Stags 0 Crewe 2
With Colin Larkin having little joy in the first period and then also appearing to be limping slightly, it was no surprise to see him substituted at the break. Andy White took his place and the impact was almost immediate. With Stags looking very lively during the early stages of the second period, Andy showed his potential twice inside 5 minutes. First, stretching out one of those rubber legs to reach a ball that everyone else thought was out, he just failed to get it back inside the post and then followed this up with a shot from the edge of the box which was too hot for the Alex keeper to handle - unfortunately for the Stags, nobody was following in to take advantage.
Two minutes later, the ever busy Iyseden Christie almost embarrassed the Crewe keeper with a shot from 30 yards that he managed to fumble away for a corner.
All this promising play was destined to amount to nothing when the impressive Rodney Jack took off down the right wing, got to the bye-line and pulled back a perfect ball for Hulse to hit a sweet first-time shot that gave Pilkington no chance at all, a goal that completed an impressive hat-trick.
And we had only 3 more minutes to wait before Jack capped a superb display with a goal of his own. It had the good fortune that Stags had been craving for so long but with the old adage of “you make your own luck” then it is right to assume a good side will get the run of the ball a little more than others. The ball ricocheted about the box so quickly with players on both sides getting touches it was difficult to see if Rodney Jack had actually got the final touch - however, few would have begrudged him the credit of being on the scoresheet.
The game virtually petered out from this point with Crewe content to play some impressive possession football and Stags continue to try and build on some good spells in the hope of regaining some confidence. Danny Bacon was given a chance to shine in place of Iyseden Christie and Lee Williamson was withdrawn to allow a first appearance for Jake Buxton.
There were still some positives to take from tonight. Despite the lack of a goal there was some better passing and build-up play from the Stags - what we needed tonight is a player in the mould of Rob Hulse, one who must be an excellent bet to be the division 2 top scorer come next May. My view is that Crewe are the best side we have faced and are maybe the best side that we will face all season, the gulf tonight was in the opponents penalty area - they delivered the final ball better and fed a goal-machine. A common observation from the stands, one that I could not disagree with, is that we need more movement off the ball - both in open play and at set pieces.. lets hope that starts at Swindon this weekend.
Man of the Match: Liam Lawrence
Pilkington: 6 - Great to see him back, shame it was against Rob Hulse!
JClarke: 6 - Distribution is still an inconsistent part of Jamie's game.
Holyoak: 7 - Despite the goals conceded tonight, Danny showed immense promise.
Moore: 6 - Typical battling display but absent for the opening goal.
Hurst: 5 - Did not play badly but had to chase Rodney Jack all night!
MacKenzie: 6 - Drifted inside a lot and showed his quality with some great passing.
Lawrence: 7 - Ran everywhere, involved in our best moves.
Williamson: 6 - Better all-round display from Leeroy.
Corden: 6 - Mixture of good and bad from Wayne tonight.
Larkin: 5 - Worked hard but no cutting edge
Christie: 7 - Ran his socks off and caused problems for the Crewe defenders.
AWhite (for Larkin, 46): 7 - Looked a real handful when he came on.
Bacon (for Christie, 68): 6 - Played wider than usual but did not threaten enough.
Buxton (for Williamson, 83): 6 - Confident show for the short time that he was on.
Subs not used: JWhite, Baptiste.
Referee: C.Boyeson, Hull.
Latest | October 2002