Hull City travelled to Mansfield Town for the second of five senior pre-season friendlies on “home” soil. Home meaning England, not the KCOM Stadium where we no longer bother to prepare.
Pre-season is about developing fitness first and foremost but for City the only objective for the trip to Nottinghamshire was avoid injuries. Do you hear? At all costs – avoid injuries. Remember that.
I’ve not been to Mansfield before. I’m not sure how I’ve missed some of City’s previous trips to Field Mill/One Call Stadium but given the results and performances I’ve listened to and then read about in horror down the years – I’m half glad I wasn’t there.
The Stadium is OK. Three sides are very nice. The stand behind one goal housing 142 City fans and the empty stand at the other are small, modern stands with no restricted view. Along one side ran another nice stand that held the bulk of the 1,500 and summat crowd and a very nice family bar underneath where we grabbed a quick pint. My companions then grabbed a couple more during the first half so thrilling was the action!
The fourth stand, a dilapidated wood and corrugated plastic monstrosity has been ingeniously put to use as a massive advertising board. It’s as attractive as Terry Dolan’s CV but I suppose it fills some coffers.
The other notable thing about Mansfield is that it was hotter than the sun. Opening the car door in the car park at the train station felt like opening the jaws of hell. When Michael Dawson limped off the pitch after half an hour joining Allan McGregor, Alex Bruce, Moses Odubajo, Adam Diomande and, presumably, Harry Maguire and Jake Livermore on our ever-growing injury list – I’m certain the jaws of hell seemed a preferable destination to Steve Bruce than Field Mill. Daws will have a scan on a potential medial ligament injury. With my very untrained eye, it looked like something that will keep him out weeks rather than months but I’m almost certain he’ll now miss the start of the season.
Ahmed Elmohamady – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Mo Diame – Tom Huddlestone – Sam Clucas
The positions are notional. City interchanged like a five aside game at times, particularly in the second half when Andy Robertson had replaced Tom Huddlestone at centre back (Hudds replaced Daws) and Sam Clucas was attempting to play ten positions in one half.
The half took a while to get into gear. Sam Clucas was booed by the Mansfield muppets for ten minutes or so until they got bored and while City moved the ball around, they were playing without purpose. Maloney and Huddlestone had strikes deflected narrowly over and wide respectively while Pat Hoban shot wide from a quick Stags’ break as Dawson was suffering his injury.
Jarrod Bowen replaced Dawson and had a fine game. I like this kid. I think he’s got it. He would have been involved in the first team picture at the back end of last season for me and he certainly will be for the foreseeable future given that Steve Bruce and Mike Phelan will otherwise have to play at Scunny on Saturday. Bowen’s got pace and skill with the ball at his feet and a fine left foot but he’s making better decisions with every game and his effervescence adds something to the team.
With half time approaching and Dawson’s injury casting a shadow over the game, City had two good chances to go in front. Snodgrass slid in Maloney, ten yards from goal to the left of the penalty spot and in an improbable amount of space but he shot too close to the ‘keeper, Brian Jensen. The big Dane then beat away a shot from Snodgrass from inside the penalty area after great work by Maloney.
Half time: Mansfield Town 0 Hull City 0
The second half suffered from the usual gaggle of substitutions with both clubs making them in dribs and drabs to elongate the agony. Josh Tymon (for Huddlestone) and Eldin Jakupovic (for Kuciak) came on at half time, Peter Odemwingie (for Maloney) then Greg Olley (for Diame) and finally Abel Hernandez (for Snodgrass) followed later in the half.
City dominated the half with Mansfield weakened by their substitutions and, in truth, not that strong to start with. They didn’t look as accomplished as Grimsby Town on Friday but did break with speed through Hamilton and Hoban but rarely put a foot on the ball. There were several moments of quality, often through Diame, that went nowhere before we eventually took the lead when Maloney found space on the left and slid the ball through for Bowen who’d made a fantastic run and finished beautifully on the run with his left foot [0-1].
Being the closest thing we’ve got to a signing so far – albeit one we probably don’t want – Peter Odemwingie caused a bit of a stir. He made his first successful ten-yard pass leading to a City fan shouting “sign him”. Given that he’s got knees with working ligament, I think he’s close to a contract already. The former Nigerian international striker played wide on the left when he came on and wasn’t involved much. He’s still pretty mobile and was a willing runner but he wasn’t involved anywhere near enough to judge him. He did get one sight of goal when City broke quickly and Abel played him in on the left. He steadied himself and shot hard and low against the foot of the near post. Greg Luer pounced on the rebound but was denied by a terrific goal-line clearance.
Odemwingie was the second Tiger to hit the woodwork after Greg Olley had burst onto a pass in the box and shot well but close enough for Jensen to tip the ball onto the bar. It was another decent little cameo from Olley who continues to impress with his composure on the ball and his intelligent movement off it.
Full time: Mansfield Town 0 Hull City 1
This was never anything more than a light run-out in the early throes of pre-season. That its lead to another potentially serious injury for City has to worry Steve Bruce. We’ve not got anywhere near strenuous in matches yet and the players are dropping like Elmo in the penalty area.
Will we even have a team to face Leicester? At the moment it’d be made up of fans, coaches and kids from the reserves. Which is why it’s probably a small consolation that the most impressive player on the fine looking turf at Field Mill was Jarrod Bowen.