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Academy manager hails ‘attitude’ in ‘unbelievable test’

10 September 2019

Academy manager Richard Cooper says he ‘cannot fault’ the ‘attitude’ of Stags’ reserves, following their dramatic behind-closed-doors Central League Cup encounter against a strong West Brom side on Tuesday afternoon.

Mansfield found themselves 4-0 down, with Wales international Hal Robson-Kanu netting a hat-trick, but fought back to 4-3, courtesy of strikes from Andy Cook, Omari Sterling-James and Tyrese Sinclair.

Cooper, who oversaw the fixture at Palm Training Ground, says that there are plenty of positives to take from the match.

“We know that we have talented players and we can open up other teams. The one thing that we have to look at is the manner of the goals they scored.

“They had some high-level players out there but it’s about nullifying the weaknesses that we showed.

“There were loads of things that we could learn from the game but it’s all positive really.

“We could have got something out of the game but West Brom could also argue that they had some good chances themselves.

“The one thing I will say to our boys is full credit must go to them for keeping going. We actually nearly got back into a football match that we thought at times had ran away from us.

“The lads kept going and that’s a real positive about the group and where they’re at. Their attitude is always good. It would have been easy to put their heads down and let the game pass them by but it was a really good performance in terms of attitude and I can’t fault them for that.”

Cooper also revealed that goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik and striker Cook returned from injury to feature in the match.

“Cooky [Andy Cook] got 60 minutes under his belt, which was good. There were some bright performances from the young lads and Tyrese [Sinclair] did very well.

“Bobby [Olejnik] played his first 45 minutes and came through it unscathed. So that’s a massive plus.”

The academy chief added that the game, against a strong Baggies outfit, was an ‘unbelievable test’ for Stags’ younger players.

“Jimmy Knowles played 30 minutes against really good opposition and the back-three of Chis [Jamie Chisholm], Gibbo [Lewis Gibbens] and Aiden [Walker] had a great learning curve as Hal Robson-Kanu played up top and they had Chris Brunt in midfield.

“It was an unbelievable test because I don’t think we’ve ever played against that level of player before.

“The way they play and the way they move the ball, any mistakes we make they’re on straight away and punish us.

“In terms of development of the players, it was a worthwhile exercise. Credit goes to the boys for getting back into the game.

“We probably had some moments to even salvage a draw because we had some decent chances towards the end.”

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