Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft was delighted to see his side show defensive discipline against top class opposition tonight before they pulled off a shock 3-1 home friendly win over Championship neighbours Derby County.
The Rams dominated for long spells to give the Stags their first real defensive test, which they passed with flying colours.
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“It was different to the other games due to the standard of players we came up against tonight - and that’s two teams of them,” said Flitcroft.
“Derby have got outstanding Championship players and there was a lot of quality on show. We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of the ball and when we did we had to be economical with it, which I thought we were without hurting them in the first half.
“It was about the discipline and the shape of the team, which we’d worked on for a couple of days.
“For the last couple of games we’ve had a lot of the ball and dominated teams with it. Tonight was all about being out of possession and the fitness levels of the lads.
“The first half team have had to runs some distances tonight to get anywhere near the Derby players, so I was really delighted with that.
“Then we put the second half team on and we sat in shape really well. We were really disciplined but looked quick and aggressive on the counter-attack.”
Stags twice took the lead after the break before a superb team goal on a counter-attack, tucked away by CJ Hamilton, put the icing on the cake.
“I said last season I want a hungry and ambitious squad who want to run for each other and the supporters and they certainly did that tonight,” beamed Flitcroft, who also blooded a handful of young U21 prospects after the break.
“Look at CJ running 80 yards to score his goal as it meant a lot to him – that’s what I want to build the future of Mansfield Town on.
“I told the players they were up against a side tonight with players on fantastic money.
“For our young players tonight to stand up and be counted was fantastic. Football evolves.”
One of those youngsters, Jordan Graham, did well to intercept a poor pass out by the keeper and coolly lift it into the net for the opener.
“Jordan was onto it quick and it was an accomplished finish,” said Flitcroft.
He concluded: “There is still work to do. There were times when the gave the ball up too easily when in possession, so we will work on that.
“But the work ethic and spirit was good. Three weeks into pre-season I am happy with where the squad is and the flexibility.”
The one setback on the night was on-trial centre half Nathan Cameron coming off after only 11 minutes on the field with an ankle injury.
“I don’t know how bad the injury is, but I do know that the block was exactly the aggression he showed for me at Bury – putting his body on the line to try to stop a goal,” said Flitcroft.
“Nathan having to come off was the only disappointment of the night. It’s potentially an ankle injury and it was disappointing they scored in that moment we were down to 10 men.
“We will see how it settles down over the next 24 hours.”