STAGS IMPRESSIVE AGAINST PREMIER LEAGUE OPPOSITION
Mansfield Town 1 - 3 Aston Villa
Fisher 41. Bent 61, 90, Gardner 85.
Attendance: 3432 (1078 from Aston Villa)
Date: 17 July 2014
Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town put in an impressive display against Premier League Aston Villa on Thursday night. The circumstances were very different to the last time a Premier League club came to the One Call Stadium of course (Liverpool in the FA Cup) but this was a useful pre-season workout against Villa’s first team players including debutantes Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson and the returning Darren Bent. The Stags received a standing ovation from the 2400 home fans at the end of the game despite conceding two goals in the last five minutes to lose the game. In an even first half, Mansfield took the lead on 41 minutes when a trademark long throw from young right wing-back Liam Marsden was headed on by John Dempster and headed in by Alex Fisher. The Stags had already come close with a crisply struck 30 yard free-kick from Sam Clucas that was turned around the post by Shay Given. At the other end, Mansfield’s unnamed trialist keeper from Birmingham City made a good save while Richie Sutton cleared off the line. In the second half Clucas had a sight of goal before worryingly limping off and then leaving the stadium on crutches and a protective strapping that went up to his knee. Later in the evening Clucas tweeted “Good news from X-ray just need to see what MRI scan says tomorrow” which was better news than it might have been. Darren Bent equalised for Villa on 61 minutes with a tap-in following excellent play along the by-line from Scottish international Alan Hutton. Stags trialist keeper made a couple more fine saves. It took until the final ten minutes of the game for Villa’s Premier League stars to finally get on top of the Stags and it was no surprise when they scored twice in the final 5 minutes running rings around Mansfield’s tiring defence, as first Gary Gardner toe-poked home after a superbly worked move, and then Bent headed in from close range after good play from Andreas Weimann.
Plenty of positives for the Stags with particularly good displays from Alex Fisher, Ollie Palmer, Fergus Bell (before he limped off), Sam Clucas, the central defenders (who all played 90 minutes before they tired late on) and young Liam Marsden who continues to not look out of place in the side and whose long throw is a potent weapon . The trialist keeper from Birmingham also made some very good saves though his kicking was erratic.
Villa’s style of play won’t reflect what we can expect in League Two, and we’ll get more of an idea where the Stags are in terms of preparation for the season with the trips to Grimsby and Lincoln, and the home game with Walsall. But the players are getting good workouts with the current prestigious friendlies at the One Call Stadium.
Mansfield Town 1 Aston Villa 3 - 17th July 2014
chad.co.uk report by Stephen Thirkill
Two goals from former England international Darren Bent secured Aston Villa a 3-1 win and condemned Mansfield Town to their first defeat of pre-season.
Alex Fisher’s glancing header had given Stags a 1-0 lead at half-time to cap an impressive first half display from Paul Cox’s men.
But the Premier League side, who made 11 changes at the break, came out firing in the second half and levelled when Bent poked home from close range.
And, as Mansfield began to tire, Gary Gardner made it 2-1 on 85 minutes before Bent bagged his brace right on the final whistle to secure Villa’s victory.
The result was harsh on a Mansfield side who had battled hard against their more fancied opponents in the first half and caused problems.
But as the game progressed Villa’s superior passing and fitness levels began to take over as the Premier League side took a firm grip on the game.
But despite the result Mansfield boss Paul Cox will have been pleased with the individual display of his trialist keeper who pulled off a number of fine saves to keep the score down.
There were also impressive individual displays from Alex Fisher, who continued to show that he could be the man to finally replace the goals of Matt Green, and Sam Clucas showing why he is so valuable during an excellent cameo display.
But boss Paul Cox will be waiting anxiously to find out the full extent of injuries to Fergus Bell and Sam Clucas who were both subbed after picking up knocks.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox named three trialists in his starting line-up, including an unnamed goalkeeper as he continues his hunt to replace Alan Marriott.
Stags started with a 4-4-2 formation, with Sutton, Dempster, Riley and Marsden all lining up alongside each other in a system that will likely form the backbone of the defence when the season kicks off at Northampton.
Sam Clucas, who was the subject of a bid from an unnamed League One side, and contractless Anthony Howell were named on the bench along with four trialists.
Youth team player Chris Spencer was also named on the bench with a second half appearance all but certain.
Star-studded Villa gave a debut to former England star Joe Cole, who joined the club earlier in the week, while Darren Bent started the second half.
Villa started brightly and came close to taking the lead when Joe Bennett saw his shot cleared off the line by Martin Riley after the visitors broke the offside trap on six minutes.
Ollie Palmer registered the home side’s first effort on eight minutes when he scuffed his shot wide from the edge of the box while under pressure.
Alex Fisher fired a comfortable effort straight at Shay Given from the narrowest of angles on 18 minutes as Mansfield hit well on the break.
Mansfield’s unnamed goalkeeper showed excellent reflexes to parry a well hit shot from Leandro Bacuna after a patient passing move by Villa carved the defence open on 20 minutes.
Gabby Agbonlahor should have put the Premier League outfit ahead but he narrowly headed Bacuna’s cross over the bar on 28 minutes.
Fergus Bell picked up a slight knock in a challenge and was replaced by Sam Clucas.
Bacuna should have done better on 31 minutes when he fired a rushed effort comfortably wide as Villa began to up the pressure.
Given had to be at full-stretch to turn away Clucas’s curling 25-yard free-kick on 35 minutes.
Mansfield hit the front on 41 minutes after Alex Fisher rose well to head home from just inside the six yard box.
It was a well deserved half-time lead for Stags side who had competed all the way with the more fancied opponents.
Villa made 11 substitutes at half-time while Mansfield brought on last season’s player of the year, Matt Rhead, for goalscorer Alex Fisher.
Sub Sam Clucas was himself subbed on 55 minutes after he picked up a knock following a clash with Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.
Former England international Darren Bent levelled for Villa after Alan Hutton’s surging run and cutback left him with the simplest of tap-ins on 61 minutes.
Kierain Richardson was denied on 73 minutes by the outstretched boot of Mansfield’s trialist keeper as Villa pushed for the winner.
But Villa finally took control late on when Gardner and Bent both scored.
Mansfield: Trialist 1, Sutton, Dempster, Riley, Marsden, Trialist 2, McGuire (trialist 80 mins), F.Bell (Clucas 28, Thomas 55 mins), Trialist 3 (Howell 45 mins), Palmer (Rhead 45 mins), Fisher (Trialist 67 mins). Subs: Amari’i Bell, Chris Spencer, Trialist 6, Trialist 7.
Villa: (first half): Given, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bennett, Bacuna, Carruthers, Delph, Tonev, Cole, Agbonlahor.
Villa (second half): Steer, Herd, Westwood, Baker, Hutton, El Ahmadi, Gardner, Richardson, N’Zogbia, Bent, Weimann. Subs: Grealish, Stevens.
Attendance: 3,342 (1,078 away).
Mansfield 1 Aston Villa 3 - Mat Kendrick's full time match report and bumper picture gallery
The Bomb Squad were back with a bang as Darren Bent’s brace inspired Villa to victory at Mansfield.
Bent scored twice and played a part in Gary Gardner’s goal as Villa kicked off pre-season with a 3-1 victory over League Two Mansfield at Field Mill.
Alan Hutton claimed an assist for Bent’s first goal on 61 minutes which cancelled out an opener from Stags striker Alex Fisher.
Gardner made it two from close range on 85 minutes and Bent rounded off the win with a 90th minute third.
Bent’s previous Villa appearance came at Wigan on the final day of the 2012-13 campaign, while Hutton’s last involvement was in Paul Lambert’s very first friendly at Burton in July 2012. Even when Bent was warming up in the first half he received a warm ovation from the 1,078 away supporters - and it was cranked up a few more decibels after his leveller.
Lambert and new assistant Roy Keane took their strongest available squad to Mansfield, while the travelling support made up around a third of the 3,432 crowd.
Captain Ron Vlaar is taking a well-earned rest after his World Cup heroics, while Brad Guzan and new signing Phillipe Senderos have also been given post Brazil 2014 breaks.
The other absentees were Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak who are set to miss the start of the season as the big strikers battle to recover from severe injuries.
Joe Cole made a first half debut, with fellow newboy Kieran Richardson handed a claret and blue bow as part of 11 changes at the interval.
Villa started out with a familiar 4-2-3-1 shape, even if the personnel was a little different to the side which limped to Premeir League safety in May.
Cole slotted into the No.10 position, even though he wore No.12, with the former England star keen to prove Villa’s long search for a playmaker is over.
There were a few touches of class from Cole during his first 45 minutes, but the 32-year-old midfielder was unable to make much of an impact during a subdued opening half.
With Guzan set to meet up with the squad on next week’s Texas tour, veteran stopper Shay Given swapped his coaching role for a return between the sticks. It was the Irish goalkeeper’s first action for the claret and blues since Lambert’s men crashed out the FA Cup at Millwall 18 months ago.
Jores Okore, back following a cruciate ligament problem, partnered Ciaran Clark in central defence, with Joe Bennett at left-back and Matt Lowton on the opposite flank.
Samir Carruthers, himself returning from a serious injury lay-off anchored midfield with Fabian Delph, while Leandro Bacuna and Aleksandar Tonev flanked Cole in a supporting trio behind captain for the night Gabby Agbonlahor.
With no sign of Antonio Luna, Bennett was back at No.3 and came close to an opener when his close range effort was hacked off the line after Bacuna rounded the goalkeeper.
Bacuna himself had an effort parried by the Stags stopper midway through the first period after latching onto a dinked past by Cole.
Mansfield, featuring several trialists, threatened in flashes before the break, with Ollie Palmer dragging an effort past the post after a driving run.
Agbonlahor got his first glimpse of goal on the half hour mark, heading a clipped cross from Bacuna just over after Carruthers spread the play to the right. Bacuna was taking u some promising positions down that flank, but after whipping a dangerous ball across the face of goal, then blazed a cross-shot high and wide.
Given was called into action towards the end of the first half when Sam Clucas let flow with a low 30 yard free-kick which the keeper parried to safety.
Mansfield opened the scoring on the stroke of half time when Alex Fisher nodded in from virtually on the goalline after John Dempster flicked on Liam Marsden’s long throw.
Villa, with a completely changed 11, reverted to a 3-4-1-2 formation after the break, as Richardson made his first appearance, and Bent and Hutton came in from the cold.
With Jed Steer in goal, midfielder Ashley Westwood slotted into a back three, between Nathan Baker and Chris Herd, who was back in the fold after personal issues.
Hutton and Richardson played as wing-backs, Gary Gardner and Karim El Ahmadi were in central midfield with Charles N’Zogbia, returning to fitness and favour after missing all of last season, behind Bent and Andi Weimann.
Gardner had Villa’s first attempt of the second half, but he whipped his free-kick just past the post after Richardson was fouled 25 yards out.
Tellingly it was Bent who equalised for Villa on 61 minutes, coming alive in the box to score with a trademark tap-in after Hutton played in a low ball from the right.
Bent had two more chances when he was played in by Richardson and Weimann, but he denied by the keeper on both occasions, with the flag also up for the first opportunity. El Ahmadi then flashed an effort just wide.
Gardner grabbed the winning goal from close range on 86 minutes after good work from Bent and Weimann, who almost made it three when he was denied by the keeper in the closing stages.
Bent did add a third with virtually the last touch of the game, steering in a predatory header from close range after Weimann crossed from the right.
Villa (1st half): Given, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bennett, Bacuna, Carruthers, Delph, Tonev, Cole, Agbonlahor.
Villa (2nd half): Steer, Herd, Westwood, Baker, Hutton, El Ahmadi, Gardner, Richardson, N’Zogbia, Bent, Weimann. Unused substitutes: Grealish, Stevens.
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