Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Grantham Town 3 v Mansfield Town U21 1 - PSF

Tuesday 26th July 2016
Pre-Season Friendly
at the Meres
Grantham Town (3) 3
Dan Durkin 3, Jamie McGhee 7, Grant Ryan 35
Mansfield Town U21 (0) 1
Jordan Hammill 74
Mansfield Town played two games tonight; whereby Adam Murray took a mixed ages cum first team squad over to face Mickleover Sports, while Mike Whitlow and Simon Ward travelled to Lincolnshire where their under 21 side faced Grantham Town of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League..
Three players from the Under 18 players pool stepped up and featured in this game at the Meres, while the Under 18 team had already played at Derby County earlier today, as the busy preparations for the season ahead reach their peak.
Grantham started on the front foot and surged into a two goal lead inside the first seven minutes, before the Stags had got into any kind of cohesive rhythm.
The game was only three minutes old when the bouncing ball sat up in front of Dan Durkin some ten yards from goal, who spotted that Alex Roughton had advanced from his line and lobbed the ball over the vistors keeper and opened the scoring.
Jamie McGhee doubled the 'Gingerbreads' lead shortly afterwards, when he dispossessed  Joe Fitzpatrick with a crafty handball on the referee's blind side just inside the Stags half, before charging forward and drilling a rasping thirty five yard drive. 
It was a quality finish, in spite of McGhee's dubious actions in the build up.
Shocked into action, Mansfield began to introduce more creativity into their own game.
Fitzpatrick delivered a long free kick towards Joshua Cook from out on the left flank, but the ball sat up unkindly in front of the Stags number 11 and he struggled to get any power in his shot, but still forced a save out of Jake Turner. Fitzpatrick's presence and distribution of the ball were one of the highlights of the Stags performance tonight. The new U21 set up is a great opportunity for the player to shine, having been around the periphery of the club for a while now.
Cameron Healey, who has featured with the first team in pre-season, looked comfortable with the step up two levels from the Under 18 squad.
Cook was thwarted by Turner again, just moments later, when the Grantham keeper raced off of his line and reach Cook's through ball a fraction before Tyler Blake got to it.
Adam Porritt, getting up in support of the Stags attack from his right back berth, delivered a cross for Drew Ricketts to knock the ball into Blake's path, but the young Stags striker's shot was deflected behind for a corner. Adrial George took the resulting kick and Ricketts met the ball with a powerful header that was blocked by a Grantham defender.
Ricketts wore the captain's armband for Mansfield tonight and his leadership qualities shone through the longer the game went on.
The Stags were threatening to get back into the game after their inauspicious start, but still had to be wary of the home side's quick breaks out of defence and effective long ball and direct tactics.
Jamie McGhee seemingly had a 'right to roam' and he was popping up all over the final third for the home side and testing the Stags rearguard.
While Grant Ryan, looked strong in the tackle and difficult to knock off the ball, in the centre of attack for the home team. Just as it looked as though Mansfield were getting back into the game, it was Ryan who gave them a mountain to climb, when he made it three nil with a stunning strike from thirty five yards that bulged the top left hand corner of Roughton's net.
These are the sort of games where teams gel together and the bonding process begins.
Prior to this game a lot of the Stags squad had never played together, but as the game unfolded, especially after the break, you could see the understanding growing between this mix of Under 21 players and a few younger lads.
But Grantham were winning on merit and deserved to be three goals ahead at half time, through a combination of hard work and quality finishing, especially when they raided the Stags final third in the opening ten minutes, like an unexpected invasion of shock troops.
After the break the visitors imposed themselves on the game more with Cook and Adriel George looking sharp alongside Blake up front, but Grantham's no nonsense defending was proving to be a difficult obstacle to overcome.
Luke Shaw, Ben Saunders and Lee Shaw put a string of passes together before the latter saw his shot saved easily by Roughton.
Ollie Humphrey was 'tackled' very heavily by Michael Hollingsworth, it was a challenging that was unbecoming for a friendly that had otherwise been played in an enthusiastic, firm yet fair manner. But the response to the foul galvanised the Mansfield players and the camaraderie among Humphrey's team mates was clear to see.
Trying to bully these guys is obviously not advisable.
The Stags were getting forward more now, but George's shot from distance was a little too over ambitious, and sent the ball boys scurrying beyond all the athletic equipment behind the goal and into the outside lane of the running tack that circumnavigates the Meres pitch to retrieve the ball.
George lofted a cross to Blake but Turner showed good positional awareness and was well placed to take a catch.
Saunders and Luke Shaw both tried to beat Roughton, peppering his goal with long range shots, but the visitors keeper had shrugged off the scoring opportunity he had afforded Grantham right at the start of the game and was growing in both confidence and stature.
Both teams had made several substitutions by now, such is the nature of these pre-season run outs; Tobi Shoyoye showed some good touches and is one Stags hopeful I'm hoping to see more of this season, while Jordan Hammill pulled a goal back in the seventy fourth minute, when he rifled a shot past Turner from just inside the area.
Two players came together inside the Stags goalmouth, it was a six and two thirds collision with no malicious intent on either side. Tyler Johal most certainly didn't think it was a penalty and he remonstrated quite vociferously, but the referee awarded a penalty anyway.
Karma intervened however and saw that justice was done, as Luke Shaw's spot kick vanished over the bar and into the distance.
Hammill made himself some space to get his shot away just outside the 'Gingerbreads' eighteen yard line but the Grantham keeper thwarted him and a possible late comeback for the visitors with a good stop.
Right at the death Roughton was called into action again and showed his agility to keep out a stinging shot from Lee Shaw.
FT: Grantham Town 3 v Mansfield Town U21 1
Grantham were very welcoming and accommodating on the night and obviously have a clutch of players who are raring to go as the new season approaches rapidly over the horizon. It was a good test for the Stags U21 team, who will know a lot more about each others strengths now and there were promising signs that it is going to be an exciting season for this team as they take their place in the Football League reserve team set up.