Once again last night Mansfield Town supporters were given tantalising glimpses of how good their side could be next season.
The 1-0 home friendly defeat by Premier League Hull City saw Adam Murray send his side into a tough match mentally and physically tired from double training sessions to see how well they cope with staying disciplined when exhausted.
For much of the game they coped with it extremely well against players of a far higher standard than they will face in League Two.
They were caught out on a handful of occasions, but only the excellent Jarrod Bowen was able to capitalise with the winning goal on 55 minutes.
Click HERE to read the match report
Click HERE to see boss Adam Murray’s thoughts on the game
Click HERE to see a slideshow of pictures from the game
Otherwise the night belonged to veteran keeper Brian Jensen, who made three top drawer saves to keep the Tigers at bay to stake his claim for the No.1 jersey.
He was also rescued by a George Taft goal line clearance.
On the hottest day of the year so far, the two sides did well to produce an entertaining, passing game, the action only losing quality as the substitutions rolled on and off later on.
Quality games like this are perfect for Adam Chapman, who started off almost every move from his holding midfield position in a starting 4-1-4-1 line-up.
Chapman wasn’t the most popular figure with some fans last season after some indifferent performances saw him become the target of jeers.
But he did well last night and certainly didn’t deserve the heckle he got from one Ian Greaves Stand fan in the second half when a Hull player ghosted past three challengers and someone shouted out ‘come on Chapman’, despite the fact Chapman had been one of four players to come off at half-time!
James Baxendale and CJ Hamilton provided the width across the middle in that first half with Kevan Hurst and Mitch Rose industrious in the centre.
But once again, for me, the player that caught the eye was striker Pat Hoban.
Playing on his own up there, he made sure he was involved throughout the half, getting on the end of moves, showing clever touches, demanding the ball, and causing Hull all manner of problems.
I can’t see past a Matt Green/Danny Rose partnership up front to start with.
But with Hoban and also Adi Yusssuf on the bench, the options look much improved for Murray.
A big talking point for fans also was the inclusion of a couple of new trialists.
Murray began the game with a trialist left back, who completed 90 impressive minutes and looked comfortable. I can see him getting a second outing in the friendlies.
At the break a big centre forward came on alongside Matt Green up front and almost scored with his first touch as he threw his head towards a cross close in.
But, after that, his touch let him down and his performance was laboured – much running around for little reward.
He was up against accomplished defenders and was unable to cause them enough problems.
Murray stayed tight-lipped on their names and futures after the game but knows if he wants to add the the squad he will need justification for the chairman to dip into his pocket.
One of the best players on the pitch was ex-Stags winger Sam Clucas, playing intelligently in a deep central midfield role that Mansfield supporters hadn’t seen him in before.
It was unclear, after leaving Stags for arch-rivals Chesterfield, what sort of reception he might get on his return.
It did him a favour that no teams were announced over the tannoy prior to kick-off and it seemed to take some fans a while to realise he was out there before we had a tiny smattering of boos from the stand when he was in possession.
Poor old Hull have had a bad time of it with injuries and already had five on the treatment bench, naming just six substitutes.
So the last thing they needed was to see skipper Michael Dawson limp off after only half-an-hour and it was nice to hear the home fans sportingly clap the ex-Forest and Spurs star from the field.
Much of the pre-match talk had been over the FA’s approach to Steve Bruce.
We were looking forward to asking him the latest after the game, but Bruce spoke only to Sky Sports on the pitch pre-match and headed straight for the coach afterwards. Not a great surprise!
However, I personally wish him well and would make him my first choice of the current clutch of candidates.
Certainly one of the things the night will be remembered for is the heat.
No matter what the weather at pitch level, it is very rare there is no breeze and the heat is sweltering on the Ian Greaves Stand upper tiers – and I am talking over several years here.
I can’t remember feeling that warm on a Saturday let alone a night match.
The forecast is for cooler weather now so was that summer? With the big kick-off only just over two weeks away you never know.
But it was a heat we will look back on with fondness come January!
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