FORMER Newcastle United youth and reserve striker trialist Ryan McGorrigan (19) scored twice in Mansfield Town’s comfortable 3-0 pre-season friendly win at Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South neighbours Hucknall Town tonight.
Stags played some decent football on a difficult, bobbly surface while industrious Hucknall will be pleased the scoreline wasn’t bigger against them after being forced to soak up some fearsome pressure in the first half-hour.
It finally took a lobbed goal from Anthony Howell, playing a striker’s role, to break their resistance with almost the last kick of the first 45 minutes.
It was also his last kick as he was replaced at the interval by McGorrigan, to whom the second half truly belonged.
Playing the full game for Stags was ex-Derby County centre half Pablo Mills, released by Crawley Town this summer.
Mansfield have yet to concede a goal in their four pre-season games to date and boss Paul Cox said “I’ve got a lot of lads 90 minutes under their belt and I was pleased with how we played on a tough surface.
“The grass was long and it was a bit bobbly but I thought the lads did well and worked really hard.
“I had a go at Ben Hutchinson and Louis Briscoe last week but they both came back at me well tonight and we have got genuine competition for places now.
“Pablo is training with us to keep fit so he is not a trial player.
“He is talking to lots of other clubs and we just said we’d see what happens. But, of course, you have to be interested in a player who has just won back-to-back championships.”
Admitting the Newcastle youngster had given him reason to ponder offering him a contract, he added: “Ryan McGorrigan had two chances and scored both and showed good movement. The first was an excellent finish, the second showed a poacher’s instinct.
“They don’t always have to be massive names. As long as they can stick the ball in the back of the net then they are doing the same job.”
John Thompson, so badly injured in pre-season last year, finally made his first appearance of the pre-season campaign after shaking off a tight thigh muscle problem.
There were also returns for Hutchinson and Briscoe after being dropped for the last two friendlies following poor displays in the opening game at Leamington.
Had Hutchinson been alert in the opening minutes, he might have latched onto a beautifully-weighted ball over the top by Thompson.
But seconds later, Hutchinson made space onto his right foot over 25 yards from goal and let fly with a swerving effort that home keeper Fisher didn’t really see and, in the end, kept out with his knees.
Howell, playing as central striker, couldn’t quite turn the ball home from a corner, then Briscoe ran down the right at fired low at Fisher as Mansfield started the night with purpose.
Briscoe next went down the left flank and lofted in a tempting cross that Howell headed over.
Briscoe curled a quickly-taken free kick at Fisher and Howell had a shot charged down from Wright’s drag-back.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for the home side and, had Wright’s first touch from Briscoe’s square pass been better, it would have been 1-0 on 15 minutes, the ball instead running to a grateful Fisher.
Hatfield’s screwed blast well wide from 10 yards inside the Mansfield half showed how desperate the under-siege Yellow were becoming.
Roberts was rightly lectured for a late tackle from behind on Wilby.
For all their early pressure, Stags could have found themselves behind on 39 minutes as Dempster missed his header as Austin floated the ball forward, allowing Slack a shooting chance which he blasted over.
Soon after Hutchinson turned and shot low at Fisher and, just before the break, he composed himself 25 yards out and let fly with an effort that went wide of the far post with Fisher beaten.
Redmond had more work to do, getting behind Topliss’ low shot on 44 minutes.
But seconds before the break Stags finally went ahead.
Briscoe provided the through ball down the centre, Howell beat the offside trap and, with Fisher advancing, timed his lob to perfection and into the empty net.
McGorrigan took over from Howell for the second half and within a minute had controlled well, juggled the ball on the right hand corner of the box before dispatching a superb half-volley across Fisher and inside the far post.
Stags then survived a few moments of home pressure and a couple of near misses as Sutton put a dangerous ball out for a corner from which a scramble ensued in which a shot was blocked.
An angled shot from the left foot of Hutchinson forced Fisher to help the ball round for a corner on 59 minutes.
Matt Green’s brother Jake, still without a contract offer, came on to replace the limping Sutton on 65 minutes, then the subs began to flow with former youth team players Somes, Shaw and Rogers getting in on the action.
Wright flicked the ball up and tried a cheeky dipping shot from long range which Fisher saw all the way as we entered the last 15 minutes while Somes saw a shot deflect just wide for a corner
With 10 minutes to go, a Stags counter-attack saw Briscoe release McGorrigan. But he checked his run when he might have gone clear and in the end his chip was too high and the moment was gone.
In the final minute Wright launched a long ball to the far post from wide on the right. Somes tried to hit the target but miscued and could only help the ball back across the middle of goal where McGorrigan was racing in to complete a highly satisfactory brace and cap a good night for both sides.
HUCKNALL: Fisher, Baugh (Brown 62), Austin, Hayes (Blair 71), Nightingale, Carty, Ludlam (Ganderson HT), Hatfield (Snowden HT), Slack (Garner 54), Wilby, Topliss (subbed 81).
STAGS: Redmond; Thompson (Todd 70), Mills, Dempster (Shaw 82), Sutton (J. Green 65); Briscoe, Poku, Roberts (Rogers 74), Wright; Howell (McGorrigan HT); Hutchinson (Somes 70).
REFEREE: Liam Jones.