Experienced Blackburn Rovers boss Tony Mowbray was impressed by Mansfield Town in last night’s friendly and believes they are capable of achieving their promotion dream this season.
A youthful Rovers won 3-1 at the One Call Stadium, but Stags pushed the Championship side hard all the way
“Mansfield have some good footballers and they are a good team,” he said.
“I thought our young team competed really well tonight against a side who, as I read in their programme, hope to be in the top three to get out of their league this year.
“They are extremely competitive - as with the demands of a club who have an expectation to get promoted.
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“The players have to reflect that on the pitch and I think Mansfield reflected a real work ethic and camaraderie among the group tonight.
“I think they are a credit to the club and I wish them well throughout the season.”
He added: “Mansfield have big ambitions and they have a big, strong, physical team.
“But I thought in spells of the game we managed them pretty well and gave them some problems.
“The game got a bit physical at times, but that was good for our young players to know what it takes if they want to have loans in League Two or League One.
“They’ve got to get used to the physicality, size and strength of players they would play against week in, week out. So it was a good test for everybody.”
Rovers had the edge in the first half but came under some severe Stags pressure after the break.
“Mansfield clogged our system up a little bit in the second half and frustrated us,” said Mowbray.
“So we were not as fluent second half, but it’s good for the young players to face a team that are clogging it up and not allowing us to get the ball through or spread the pitch out. It was a good exercise for them.
“Mansfield were good. They were physical, they stuck at it, they were competitive and they threatened us.
“They have some real pace and obviously Hamilton on the left wing is really fast.
“Preston at right centre half was extraordinarily strong and looked like an old school footballer.
“Of course we know Willem Tomlinson and I thought he played some lovely passes before he got himself injured.”
Some of the young Rovers players on show last night may be available on loan over the next two weeks as Mowbray whittles down his large squad into a core he will polish for this season’s Championship challenge.
“We had a game this morning as well. We’ve been training with 30 young players this week,” he said.
“We have three games this week and will start with a different XI in each and utilise the subs as and when needed, though players need 90 minutes now.
“My job is to create competition and their job is to get into the team.
“It’s only two weeks to go this weekend until the season starts so we’ve got to try to start putting our group together.
“The phone has already started ringing for some of our young players on loan. Yet we have a games programme to fulfil and we need to get through those games.
“When the time is right some of our young players will go out on loan and develop their careers and play some minutes.
“The squad we are working with now will drop from 32-33 down to the low 20s after the weekend and we’ll spend two weeks focusing on a team that is going to play against Charlton at home.”
Mansfield Town will now prepare to face Hull City at home on Saturday in their next friendly.