After a second week of pre-season training, Mansfield Town sent split squads to two different friendlies on Saturday at local non-League clubs Clipstone and Carlton Town – and there were plenty of positives on show.
With the first match kicking off at midday and the second match at 4pm, it meant supporters could attend both games, bringing much needed revenue into the local non-League scene.
It was the first time Mansfield’s first team squad had ever played two games in a day in pre-season and I thought it worked very well indeed.
Heavy rain in the morning might have kept the attendance down a bit at Clipstone though, unfortunately.
There was plenty of time to get from Clipstone to Carlton between the games and enjoy the Sausage Festival at Carlton’s ground.
On the pitch, it was another good workout for all the Stags’ first team players with everyone getting at least 60 minutes, apart from Jack Thomas who was rested as a precaution with a tight groin.
In some respects, the performances from the two Mansfield sides weren’t great, but these pre-season friendlies, especially early ones, are mostly about getting fitness, so it can be misleading to read too much into them.
A disappointing aspect was some defensive errors including Krystian Pearce and Brian Jensen gifting goals to the opposition.
The state of the pitches didn’t help, with the grass at Carlton looking long enough to act as a reminder to supporters that their own gardens might need a trim.
In the first match at Clipstone, new striker Pat Hoban really caught the eye with a strong showing, good in the air, a fine shot that hit the woodwork, a flying volley into the net that was disallowed, and generally good link-up play.
He looked like the type of player the Stags missed last season with Chris Beardsley never fully fit during the whole season.
Adi Yussuf reminded us of his finishing skills with a good goal, and looked strong and fit.
There was also a cracking goal from Mitch Rose from long distance. And, as at Rainworth a week earlier, young Louis Danquah, who has just signed pro terms at the club, did not look out of place at left back.
Then at Carlton, it was a first opportunity to see tall new centre half George Taft, who will effectively be the replacement for Ryan Tafazolli.
Taft had his first match action for eight months following injury last season, and he looked comfortable on the ball with good distribution.
It was good to see Mal Benning continuing his goalscoring form with a low crisp strike.
Man of the match for me was Matt Green, who again looked very sharp, and scored two goals, the first a screamer, chesting the ball down on the left, cutting inside and rifling a bullet shot into the left corner of the net, and the second from a great cross from right back Rhys Bennett. Bennett looked like a full back very keen to get forward at every opportunity.
Another player to catch the eye was Kevan Hurst in midfield, with good passing and crosses and good delivery from set pieces.
In both friendlies, the Stags changed the entire outfield team with about a quarter of the game left.
One piece of play in the latter stages that caught the eye at Calrton was a high quality free kick routine as young striker Jason Law headed in from an excellent Tom Marriott delivery.
The Stags now have attractive friendlies against Bolton Wanderers and Premier League Hull City to look forward to at the One Call Stadium.