Mansfield Town’s first home friendly of the summer ended in defeat on Saturday but they can take heart from giving Sheffield Wednesday a good run for their money.
As pre-season games go this was one of the better ones you’ll see, both teams playing some decent football at times and a few goals added into the bargain too.
The cliched ‘useful run-outs’ would have pleased both managers, though how much they’ll read into events at this early stage of the summer is hard to tell.
But for those attending it was good to see their teams’ new faces in action and both sets of fans can look ahead with a degree of optimism based on what was on show.
Wednesday had the first opening of note seven minutes in when a long ball forward was headed away by George Taft but only to the feet of Sam Winnall who drove low into the arms of Conrad Logan from just outside the penalty area.
The visitors were dominating possession early on, most of their work going through Barry Bannan in midfield.
And it was Bannan who began the move which led to the opening goal on 12 minutes. His pass through midfield found David Jones who in turn fed Adam Reach down the left, and after he’d beat Hayden White he crossed to find Jordan Rhodes six yards out and he headed down past Logan and into the corner of the net.
Stags could have levelled three minutes later when an error at the back allowed Jacob Mellis to feed Jimmy Spencer but his shot from a slight angle was gathered easily by Cameron Dawson.
George Boyd was then denied by Logan at the other end after Stags got in a muddle at the back, Daniel Pudil and Boyd then both seeing efforts blocked by Logan from the corner.
For a pre-season game it was proving entertaining stuff, Boyd again going close with a low drive from the edge of the area after a pull-back from Jack Hunt.
Stags then got level on 32 minutes after CJ Hamilton had been fouled down the inside left channel. Paul Anderson whipped in a free-kick which Wednesday made a total mess of clearing and the ball fell to defender George Taft who slammed it home on the half volley from a few yards out.
Chances dried up a little as the half then fizzled out, Anderson firing straight at Dawson right on the whistle but the teams ultimately going in level after both had enjoyed good spells of the game.
Both sides made a large number of changes at half-time but it was two players who remained on the pitch that combined for Wednesday’s second goal on 54 minutes. Jones curled in a corner from the right and Tom Lees got up to powerfully head home via the underside of the crossbar.
Stags responded with Rhys Bennett’s cross being deflected just too high and then Krystian Pearce nodding the resulting corner narrowly past the post.
Fernando Forestieri saw a free-kick deflected over at the other end on 65, before Stags cleared the corner and broke away in a move that ended with Will Atkinson shooting just wide of the far post.
Stags went even closer soon afterwards as Zander Diamond’s divine through ball found Danny Rose down the right but his low ball in couldn’t be turned home by trialist Jordan Slew.
Marco Matias tested Bobby Olejnik with 12 to go but the sub keeper was equal to his shot, the game lacking the fluidity of the first-half but remaining entertaining nevertheless.
And it would be Stags who would get the next goal with eight minutes to go, Joel Byrom’s corner to the back post headed down and in by Bennett.
However, it took just a couple of minutes for Wednesday to get back in front, recent sub Lucas Joao sliding the ball home after it broke to him in the penalty area.
Mansfield: 1 Conrad Logan (Bobby Olejnkik 46), 3 Mal Benning (Joel Byrom 46), 4 Paul Digby (Jordan Slew 64), 8 Jacob Mellis (Alfie Potter 46), 9 Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 46, Jack Thomas 83), 10 Paul Anderson (Danny Rose 32), 14 George Taft (Krystian Pearce 46), 15 Jimmy Spencer (Will Atkinson 46), 16 Hayden White (Rhys Bennett 46), 18 David Mirfin (c) (Zander Diamond 46), 22 CJ Hamilton (Johnny Hunt 46)
GOALS: Taft 32, Bennett 82
Sheff Wed: 25 Cameron Dawson (Joe Wildsmith 46), 4 David Jones, 5 Daniel Pudil, 15 Tom Lees, 17 Jordan Rhodes (Steven Fletcher 46), 19 Adam Reach, 21 Morgan Fox (Fernando Foriesteri 46), 24 Sam Winnall (Liam Palmer 46), 26 George Boyd (Gary Hooper 46), 32 Jack Hunt (Marco Matias 46, Lucas Joao 80), 41 Barry Bannan
Subs not used: 3 Jordan Thorniley, 6 Connor O’Grady, 7 Matt Penney, 20 James Murphy, 22 Atdhe Nuhiu, 33 Sean Clare, 34 Dan Wallis (GK)
GOALS: Rhodes 11, Lees 53, Joao 84
Ref: John Brooks