Senior professional development coach Richard Cooper has praised in-form hat-trick hero Keaton Ward following today’s 3-0 victory over Morecambe in the Central League.
Despite Morecambe fielding a side containing vastly more experience than the Stags, the home side shone at the Worksop Van Hire Stadium and went ahead in the 25th minute when Ward finished off an excellent team move.
He then lifted the ball over Morecambe ‘keeper Dan Nizic for his second after half-time, before dispatching a penalty which he won himself to cap off a superb display.
And Cooper, who made up part of the coaching staff for today’s fixture, praised the midfielder for his performance against a strong Morecambe midfield, in addition to frontman Iyrwah Gooden, who played a part in all three goals.
“He’s infectious at the minute. He’s in a good vein of form. I’ve seen him quite a lot in the Saturday morning stuff. He’s been against proper midfield players today, if you want to call it that," Cooper said.
“He’s box-to-box, he’s got a load of energy, he’s still got a lot to learn. He has a knack – and it’s a good knack – of knowing how to score a goal as well and the hat-trick’s evident of that.
“I think Iyrwah’s pace is to die for. He’s blessed, he’s a fit player and when you put him and Jordan [Graham] together, it’s a perfect match. The opposites attract. Jordan’s very good at getting hold of the ball and Iyrwah’s very good at stretching the defence and keeping it occupied.”
Morecambe included former Notts County frontman Adam Campbell and former Stags’ striker Vadaine Oliver in their XI and Cooper, who previously spent a spell as first team coach at One Call Stadium, thought the young Stags’ defence marshalled the duo superbly.
“The realism of the game [was the most pleasing thing], you can’t give the lads that. Some of the players they’ve got in their side today and some of the lads we were going to be up against, you can talk a great game with them in training but it was first team experience today.
“Especially with the likes of Vadaine Oliver and Adam Campbell, they’re good players. For the likes of our defenders, it’s good to be in and around that.
“It will give them a lot of confidence. The thing is with Vadaine, you’ve also got to be wary about the second ball with him as well because he’s very good at angling headers down or across your own box so it’s sometimes the ability to win the second ball.
“Especially with the likes of Vadaine Oliver and Adam Campbell, they’re good players. For the likes of our defenders, it’s good to be in and around that."
“I think between Aiden [Walker], Henri [Wilder] and Gibbo (Lewis Gibbens), they certainly did that.
“Also for Keats (Keaton Ward) and Harry [Bircumshaw] to stay with runners because Vadaine can also pick out a runner with a header, which we know [from his time at] Mansfield, he’s certainly done that for us in the past.”