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Work ethic impresses Stags' boss in pre-season victory

18 July 2018

Despite putting three goals past Championship outfit Derby County this evening, it was the work that the Stags did out of possession that impressed boss David Flitcroft.

Stags' substitutes Jordan Graham, Lee Angol and CJ Hamilton all added their names to the scoresheet in what was a superb second-half showing by Mansfield.

Manager Flitcroft was quick to point out that alongside his players emerging as victors from the contest, he was 'delighted' with the aggressive nature of their work without the ball. 

"The general coming together of the off-season work and the pre-season work we've done, I'm really proud," he said.

"We've been allowed to go away together [to Portugal], galvanise, and watch the experienced players embrace a group of young players.

"Tonight, Jordan [Graham] getting his goal, Gibbo [Lewis Gibbens] slotting in there at left centre-half and young Blakey [Nyle Blake] coming on and adding an effect.

"[I'm] absolutely delighted with how the players have represented the football club.

"It was a night for being good out of possession. We've dominated teams with the ball in the first few games, but the test wasn't really at the level that it possibly could be.

"Tonight it was about being out of possession and on the turnover, in transition.

"There was a real aggression to our running and the third goal epitomises CJ [Hamilton]. [It's] a goal where he's ran 80 yards to go and connect with that.

"It was a night for being good out of possession. We've dominated teams with the ball in the first few games, but the test wasn't really at the level that it possibly could be."

David Flitcroft, manager

"Jordan's aggressiveness to close the 'keeper down, I think he was surprised by that. There's a good depth to this squad."

The Stags' boss also spoke of Omari Sterling-James' contributions to the match, commending his improved work-rate over the course of the pre-season programme.

"I put Sterling on and wanted him to sprint. Omari is effective when he sprints. When he jogs around it doesn't epitomise what I'm about and what the group's about," he added.

"When he runs he can be devastating. It was great work, he's locked it in, showed great feet, and the pass [to Angol for the third goal] was sublime. 

"He can do that, he's got that ability. Ability is only realised when it works hard. And that's what I keep trying to imprint on him, day-in, day-out.

"There was a running power on the team tonight which I thought we didn't have last season."

The manager also expressed his disappointment in the one goal that Stags conceded, which went in whilst Mansfield were playing with 10, as defender Nathan Cameron was sidelined with injury.

"That [conceding] was the only blemish on the night. Nathan Cameron showed why he's here and why I'm looking at him so closely. He'll put his body on the line and throw himself in front of anything to not concede a goal.

"He values his team and team-mates as much as I've met in football. Instead of the goal going in, he's put his body on the line. I'm not sure on the weight of the injury.

"We were just a little unorganised in that two or three minute spell [when Cameron was injured]. I'm disappointed to lose a goal in that spell."

Stags' boss Flitcroft then previewed Saturday's pre-season friendly against Chris Wilder's Sheffield United outfit.

"These Premiership is improving all the time and the Championship is trying to catch that up. These teams and players are outstanding.

"The Championship, as a robust and powerful league, is one of the best in the world. 

"The job Chris [Wilder] has done there is outstanding. To galvanise a set of supporters and bring almost half a city together, it's been a powerful movement what Sheffield United have done.

"They'll come here and show Chris Wilder's appetite for the game. It's another tough test. It will probably be a little different with the way they might play.

"We're going to encounter different styles, different ways teams are going to play this season. That's what you try to build a pre-season programme for.

"Certainly tonight was seeing how the team coped with not being in possession as much as the opposition team were. The discipline was phenomenal."

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