FRIENDLY: ILKESTON FC 2 MANSFIELD TOWN 4 (match abandoned on 68 minutes)
FURIOUS Mansfield Town boss Paul Cox led his side off the field after just 68 minutes of their bruising ‘friendly’ at Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South neighbours Ilkeston FC after home player-coach Gary Ricketts put three Stags defenders in hospital, reports John Lomas.
The abrasive veteran front man had already put in challenges which left Richie Sutton with a suspected dislocated collarbone and Martin Riley requiring stitches in a facial wound.
But the final straw came when he inexplicably slammed John Thompson two-handed into the plastic and metal of the fencing surrounding the pitch which he hit head first which left the Irishman badly bleeding with a nasty cut across his nose and concussed.
The Irishman was down for a long time as the referee tried to other prevent players squaring up to each other.
Ricketts could have no excuse for his actions against Thompson and further brought himself into disgrace as he argued with furious Stags fans as he changed his shirt and walked to the dressing room, though no card was shown.
As the ugly scenes continued, Cox went onto the pitch to remonstrate with referee Jim Thornhill before doing the sensible thing and taking his players off and having the match abandoned.
Ricketts eventually needed to be escorted from the ground as an ambulance took Thompson away to join his team mates at hospital.
Mansfield assistant manager Micky Moore said: “The referee probably wasn’t strong enough. He didn’t seem to be taking control of the situation.
“He told us he was going to let Ilkeston substitute Ricketts. Now you don’t want to see players sent-off in a friendly but sometimes common sense has to prevail.
“We had three major incidents all involving the same player and three players ended up in hospital.
“We had to think about the welfare and the mindset of the players left out there and we couldn’t afford any more injuries.
“We wanted to come here and show Ilkeston some respect by the team we played and didn’t want to come here and just play trialists and youth team players.
“Supporters have come and paid their money to watch. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“Our supporters were absolutely fantastic and I hope they understand why we did what we did.
“Obviously we hope Ilkeston will do something regarding the player. I am not going to tell another manager what to do but I am sure Kevin (Wilson) will use common sense.”
The injuries will be the biggest concern to boss Paul Cox, but, despite goals from Matt Green, Louis Briscoe (2) and an own goal by Josh Hill, he will have been unhappy about the two conceded in a thrilling six-goal first half.
Stags had gone 4-4-2 with Sutton and Kendrick as full backs, Stevenson partnering Murray again in central midfield with trialist Nick Hegarty wide on the left.
The former Forest and Sheffield Wednesday youngster, whose clubs include Grimsby, York and St Mirren, has been training with Stags this week after a spell on trial at Bradford City.
Connor found himself through on goal within the first 10 seconds only for an offside flag to halt his hopes of a sensational start.
On three minutes Kendrick’s corner was played back wide to him by Thompson and his second attempt at crossing was headed just wide by Connor.
But Mansfield were rewarded for their bright start on three minutes as Hegarty’s cross was met by Green who saw Butler pull off a fine save from his header only for Hill to turn the loose ball into his own net from close range.
But, as Stags pressed from another corner on eight minutes, they lost the ball due to a Murray mis-kick and were caught by a swift counter which left Ilkeston two against one from the halfway line, Thomas timing his final pass to precision and sending Dimidh clear into space for an equally fine finish.
Mansfield could then have gone behind but Ricketts headed just over from a right wing cross.
Kendrick then forced Butler to save a 25 yard free kick before the visitors went back ahead on 15 minutes.
This time Stevenson got to the left bye-line and pulled the ball back in front of goal for Green to turn home.
Briscoe tried a wicked, swerving shot from 25 yards, but Butler kept his eye on it and was always fully behind it.
Thomas made a powerful run into the Mansfield box on the left and his low finish was kept out by Redmond’s left hand as he dived to his left.
Having come to close to a second equaliser, the plucky Robins found themselves 3-1 down on 25 minutes.
No one was able to cut out Kendrick’s left wing cross and the ball bounced invitingly in front of Briscoe who arrowed an unstoppable straight finish across Butler and into the far corner.
Riley might have added a fourth but saw a rising left foot clip the top of the bar and fly over after turning past a challenge well from a corner.
By now Sutton, who had needed treatment twice after challenges by Ricketts, left the field in agony holding his shoulder and was replaced by O’Neill.
Wilson’s long cross from the left beat the jump of Kendrick at the far post and Dimidh was there to head over another half-chance on 35 minutes.
But, from another well-flighted Kendrick cross from the left, Stevenson looped a header against the home crossbar.
Connor did well to control the ball beyond the far post and almost squeeze it home from an impossible angle, the ball rolling across the face of goal.
However, Stags sloppily conceded again two minutes from the break as Ricketts was allowed to head home a left wing Wilson cross from close range in the centre of the goal.
Stunned Stags dusted themselves down and finished the half strongly, Green making space to fire a shot straight at Butler and then cutting in from the left to blast a shot against the bar.
But, as it rebounded, an Ilkeston hand prevented Briscoe latching onto it.
The referee awarded the penalty and, inside the first minute of stoppage time, Briscoe blasted a perfect spot kick straight down the centre to end a thoroughly entertaining half of pre-season football.
Worryingly, within six minutes of the restart Stags had lost another defender with injury.
This time it was Riley who took a blow to the head in a Ricketts challenge which cut him and he was replaced by trialist Wood, the only one of the glut of trialists still at the Mill.
The procession of subs began with Dyer, Howell and Worthington joining the action and, when home keeper Butler failed to hold onto a cross, it sparked a scramble which ended with Partridge getting in the way of Dyer’s finish and the ball cannoning back off Dyer and wide of the gaping goal.
Then came the 68th minute flashpoint when Ricketts slammed Thompson into the dugout and an unsavoury end to what had earlier been such a good game of football.
After the game, home boss Kevin Wilson said: “Things are at boiling point right now and I don’t want to say too much until I have had time to digest this.
“You don’t want to see things like this at a match and I will deal with it in the right way which may be in private.
“I have a video of the match so I will study it and act accordingly.”
ILKESTON: Butler, Wilcox, Burgin, Green, Hill, Partridge, Dimidh (Lammy 51), Colton, Ricketts, Thomas, Wilson.
STAGS: Redmond; Sutton (O’Neill 31), Riley (Wood 51), Thompson, Kendrick; Briscoe (Smith 65), Murray (Worthington 63), Stevenson, Hegarty (Todd 65); Connor (Dyer 61), Green (Howell 61).
REFEREE: Jim Thornhill.