Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox was furious as his side capitulated to a 4-1 pre-season friendly defeat at Evo-Stik NPL Premier neighbours Worksop Town tonight.
Two late goals flattered the Tigers, but Cox, who will play a different XI in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Stevenage tomorrow (1pm), was unimpressed by some of the displays at Sandy Lane.
“One or two haven’t done themselves any favours tonight,” he said. “I have mixed the players up into two teams and it’s my job to put the jigsaw together from those.
“Tonight there was no heart, no desire and no application. We are talking about doing the basics right.
“There are standards that need to be met and there were probably one or two players out there tonight who don’t know what we are about yet. Our standards tonight were atrocious.
“We had enough chances of our own, the ball was around the box that many times.
“But our basic defending was poor. I don’t think Ian Deakin did that much wrong in goal tonight. But the defending in front of him was poor.
“We won the championship last year by being rock solid at the back, yet tonight we looked vulnerable. But I would rather these situations happened pre-season than when the league starts.”
Deakin has now signed for the season as back-up keeper and will not remember his ‘debut’ with much affection.
But Keiran Murtagh was a giant in midfield with a superb display while fellow new boy Paul Black looked very fit, bombing on at every opportunity.
Also, Ross Dyer will have been delighted to get through his first 45 minutes since that awful knee injury in the first game of last season, though was beaten in the air more often that usual and still looks short of being fully back fit.
Of the trialists, ex-Sheffield United and Dundee striker Jordan Robertson played the second half and put Stags back in it at 2-0 with a goal while former Burton striker Evan Garnett also showed some good touches.
Ex-Stags winger Nathan Arnold also impressed in the second half as did Godfery Poku, who failed to make the Stags side after joining last summer, and Cox said ‘never say never’ when asked if the ex-Luton man could yet force his way into this season’s plans.
Former Derby defender Mitch Hanson was also on the bench, but didn’t get a chance to play.
On what became a chilly night at Sandy Lane, Mansfield were making their first appearance on English soil since winning the BSBP title in April, though drew 0-0 at Naxxar Lions in Malta on Saturday.
The Stags made the first real chance on six minutes when Dyer flashed a good effort across goal on the turn from 18 yards.
But on 17 minutes a long ball forward deceived Riley, who missed his header, allowing Mettam to go in on goal only for the Tigers man to tamely lift his attempted lob straight into Deakin’s arms.
There was more work for Deakin three minutes later as he dived full length to his right to block a firm far post header by the towering Denton from a left wing corner.
Hutchinson had sight of the home goal a minute later, from Briscoe’s pass, but his low finish from a central position 12 yards out was straight at Hallam.
Instead, within 60 seconds, it was the Tigers who roared ahead as Mettam was first to react to a low ball in the box and dispatch a low finish under Deakin for a 21st minutes lead.
Briscoe did well to wrong-foot Roe on the edge of the home box before rifling a powerful right foot shot over the bar.
Then Meikle was wide of the far post with a low effort after cutting inside from the left.
Deakin showed some excellent handling as he cut out a powerful low right wing cross, then took command of a high forward ball as he came forward to claim amid several players.
Meikle and Murtagh had shots blocked in quick succession, but Worksop held onto their lead at the break.
Arnold, Poku and Robertson replaced Dyer, Briscoe and Hutchinson for the second half – and all three made a positive impact.
On 52 minutes Riley got up for a powerful header at goal from a Murray corner, only to find keeper Hallam perfectly placed.
Arnold shot low and wide of the far post soon after as Stags looked for a quick reply.
The impressive Murtagh switched feet from right to left to blast a superb effort only just over from 20 yards.
However, on 63 minutes Mansfield were caught pushing up by a through ball that allowed Denton to race away, lure Deakin towards him, and then round the keeper before crashing the ball into the net as defenders tried to quickly get back.
Arnold was too high with his shot on the turn from distance as was Poku a few minutes later.
As Garnett came on for Meikle, Muldoon flashed a shot into the Stags sidenetting from the right while Deakin then had to beat away a swerving long distance effort from Husbands.
However, Mansfield were back in the game on74 minutes.
Murtagh drilled in a low ball from the right by-line and Robertson turned it in from close range.
Stags put on some late pressure, but it was the Tigers who sealed the win a minute from time, thanks to a Dempster own goal.
Dempster calmly nodded a long forward ball back towards Deakin. But it bounced wide of the keeper, who seemed slow to react, and watched in horror as the ball bounced past him and into the net as he tried to give chase in vain.
There was even still time for Mullen to grab the goal of the night a minute into stoppage time as he held onto the ball along the edge of the box and looked up to swerve a superb 18-yard finish round Deakin and under the top right hand angle to put the seal on a good night for the Tigers.
WORKSOP: Hallam, Miller, Roe (Jackson 66), Davies (Mullen 81), Gaughan (McKenzie 57), Hill, Muldoon (Jordan 81), Clarke (Husbands 68), Denton (Wall 76), Mettam (Forbes 60), Higginson (Barnett 57). Subs not used: Cottingham, Forbes, Jepson. STAGS: Deakin; Sutton, Riley, Dempster; Black; Briscoe (Poku ht), Murtagh, Murray; Hutchinson (Arnold), Dyer (Robertson), Meikle (Garnett 71). Sub not used: Hanson.
REFEREE: Mr D. Tracey.