MANSFIELD Town have apologised to neighbouring Evo-Stik NPL Division One South club Rainworth MW for sending a youth side to Kirklington Road at the last minute on Wednesday to fulfil what was billed as a first team fixture.
The Stags had hit a heavy injury and illness problem which caused them to cancel a friendly at Stourbridge altogether early in the week, but rather than also cancel the Rainworth game a young side was sent instead.
With media announcements through the day locally, the expected bumper attendance was cut to 255, which will have impacted severely on expected gate receipts.
But Stags boss Paul Cox found a sympathetic ally in Wrens boss Kevin Gee, who was in forgiving mood after watching his side record a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Speaking after the match, Gee insisted: “Irrespective of the strength of the squad which Mansfield sent, we prepared for a game and were given a game.
“You have to be respectful of the situation that Paul and Stags found themselves in, and be thankful that they brought a team here at all. A lot of clubs locally would like to play Mansfield Town and we have to be realistic and recognise our place in the pecking order within their pre-season opposition.
“At least we played in a match, and an entertaining one at that, and if we and our fans were frustrated when something was taken from our big day, Paul’s frustration must be even greater as he sees his own pre-season preparations being undermined by being unable to fulfil first team matches.
“It was still a good work-out for us. Development squads are a massive part of clubs like Mansfield, and the players who came were representing their club, which they did with pride. We played against a good passing side but with the experience we have we were always going to be stronger.”
Looking back at the match from the Wrens’ own point of view, Gee added: “We took a lot more positives out of it, but there are other aspects of our play still to be fine-tuned.
“It’s a work in progress for us, but people are starting to see the way we will play this season. In certain areas we were excellent, and in others we saw scope for improvement. Scoring three goals and keeping a clean sheet is a recipe for winning matches, although our passing was a little sloppy early on.
“But the big difference between now and last season is that we are going into games expecting to win and believing we can win, whereas last season it was a case of hoping something would happen for us, which thankfully it did often enough to keep us in the division.”
The Wrens entertain Premier Division Stocksbridge Park Steels on Saturday, visit Central Midlands outfit Sutton Town on Tuesday night, and wrap up their friendlies on Saturday week at home to another Premier side, Matlock Town, where Gee spent much of his playing career.