Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V York City
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier; Play-off semi-final leg two
Venue: One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Monday 7th May 2012 – 2pm
Attendance: 7294 (1490)
Match Referee: Andy Davies
Don’t you just hate it when you gain ground, begin to gather pace and momentum and can see the finishing line ahead? It’s been a long hard slog and you’ve had to fight a mental battle to get to where you are, all you need to do is take that one last jump and boom your there, on the home straight with prize in sight. You jump, higher than you’ve ever jumped before but just as you’re about to be clear, the sucker punch hits and you fall at the last hurdle, allowing you’re competitor to take the lead and progress. Hurts doesn’t it.
All season long we’ve been dreaming of promotion and, if truth be told, at some stage, wake up in a cold swet thinking it may never happen. Something magical kept the dream alive, something inside kept driving us on and we truly believed our dream would come true at last, alas no, this morning we wake up in a swet colder than anything we’ve ever felt before, tears streaming down our faces, our hearts and sighs so heavy, shocked, hurt, disappointed and once again, heartbroken.
Football is a truly beautiful game, but boy it can be ugly sometimes – a year ago today I was here writing about FA Trophy heartbreak, having pictured Chris Seniors goal over and over, this time I can barley muster the energy to write, I don’t see the point – all I can see is Matty Blair sprint of after converting past Alan Marriott, all I can hear is the York fans sing in celebration, all I can think is, will it ever be our time? It’s going to be a long hard summer – AGAIN.
I have to say though that through all this anger and pain I’ve got burning inside me after yesterday’s result, I am immensely proud – Proud of Paul Cox, his coaching staff, his players and us supporters, despite the bitter ending I think this seasons story has been a sweet one. Following Mansfield Town FC this season has not felt like a frustrating drag, instead it’s been a refreshing, enjoyable, happy and adrenaline rushing experience – I will not forget this season, even though we’ve achieved nothing in terms of silverware or accolades, we’ve achieved so much to warm our hearts and help us in the long run, get to where we want to be. This chapter of Mansfield Town FC may well be over, but I can’t help but wonder if in fact it’s not a chapter, but more an introduction for what’s to come – success.
To sell out of tickets for the game well in advance is phenomenal, as myself and Wayne Briggs were walking into the One Call Stadium yesterday, the cues were already starting to form and spirits high, everyone talking about the season just gone and what could be was marvellous, I got a much better vibe from the crowd than I did when we we’re last full, the pay what you want scheme against Gateshead a couple of seasons back. It was wonderful to see so many faces supporting MTFC, families, friends, all coming together as one – I hope that some return and back us next season as we start again, I’ll write my thoughts on that over the coming weeks.
Coming into the game we knew it’d be tough without leading hit man Matt Green following his dismissal in the first leg on Wednesday night, however the scores we’re level at 1-1 meaning it was all or nothing – 90 minutes of football between another year in the conference or another trip to Wembley and a 50/50 shot at promotion back to league two.
All the talk since the first leg was about believing; skipper Adam Murray penned an emotional blog prior to the second leg which helped build the atmosphere and again reiterate how much he and the rest of the squad wanted promotion.
Both sides man one change ahead of the second leg, Lanre Oyebanjo replaced Jamal Fyfield for the visitors whilst Louis Briscoe replaced the suspended Green as the Stags opted for a 4-4-1-1 with Anthony Howell playing just behind Ross Dyer in attack.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Adam Murray (C), Gary Roberts, Louis Briscoe (Green), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, John Thompson, Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead, Danny Andrew.
After a level first leg, the game was any ones for the taking with both sides enjoying half chances in the opening ten minutes, former Stag Chris Smith headed well wide from a deep Lanre Oyebanjo free kick after two minutes, before York keeper Micheal Ingham hung onto a forceful Ross Dyer header from a Geohaghon throw as many minutes later.
On 11 minutes the Stags grabbed there first corner of the afternoon following good work between Howell and Roberts, Luke O’Neill’s delivery caused mischief and found Martin Riley whose forceful header through the crowd was scrambled cleared through Matty Blair, stopped in his tracks by Gary Roberts who did extremely well to get back and time the challenge well. Two minutes later the duo collided again, this time York getting a corner following a strong Gary Roberts tackle on Blair, whipped in by Oyebanjo, Exodus Geohaghon headed partly away with the ball landing for Patrick McLaughlin who volleyed well over into the packed QLE from 18 yards.
Exodus Geohaghon got his side in trouble of 15 minutes when he was judged to have put his arm across Jason Walker. Thirty yards from goal the visitors were awarded a free kick which Walker smashed against the wall, sensing opportunity on the break Lindon Meikle covered ground and soon fed the advancing Adam Murray, the passionate skippers shot deflected just wide of Michael Ingham’s post for a corner which was easily dealt with.
Three minutes later Lindon Meikle excelled again down the left flank following strong interchanging play between Briscoe and Roberts, the former the man to send Meikle on his mazy run. The quick footed former Eastwood wide man stepped inside Jon Challinor but failed to beat Ingham, who watched the stinging effort safely into his hands.
Mansfield have excited over the top all season and were at it again in 26 minutes as Luke O’Neill delivered from deep. Ross Dyer had to hold play up with a lack of support but did well to win a free kick right on the edge of the box after spinning past Chris Doig. Gary Roberts’ tryed the spectacular but could only fire against the wall for a throw in, Exodus Geohaghon’s bullet plucked out of the air by the strong Michael Ingham.
As the half hour mark approached, Luke O’Neill had to be at full stretch to cut out Chris Smith’s directional pass from the York defence before two minutes later, his free kick from deep sailed harmlessly away for a goal kick after Anthony Howell was sandwiched on the left hand side.
With ten minutes of the first half to go, Gary Roberts’ attempted switch of play was intercepted by the advancing Lanre Oyebanjo, the York man upended on the edge of the Stags box by Murray who again stood his ground. Patrick McLaughlin stepped up to take the resulting free kick but curled way over the top of Marriott’s cross bar.
Lanre Oyebanjo then showed the Stags it’s not just they who have a long throw weapon, launching one into the middle. Alan Marriott plucked it out the air and immediately sent the ball down field finding Ross Dyer, his pass to put Meikle 1 V 1 with Michael Ingham was just a tad too forceful and the York shot stopper claimed the ball, the story of the first half as it ended as it began, 0-0.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 York (Aggregate 1-1)
Five minutes after the restart it was the visitors that pilled on the pressure, looking to break the deadlock. Alan Marriott didn’t look comfortable as he came to collect a left sided cross from James Meredith, the stags shot stopper spilt the ball into the path of Walker whose effort cannoned away off Martin Riley who read the situation superbly. The move wasn’t dead and it was Jon Challinor who whipped back into the box, Martin Riley was again dominant in the air but seemingly nodded towards goal, Alan Marriott plucked the header out of the air to keep things on an even keel.
Ross Dyer was then guilty of a bit of greed four minutes later as Stags stretched the game from deep. Louis Briscoe provided the chip which put Ross Dyer through, the burley front man got past one before firing straight at Ingham rather than feeding an onside, unmarked Lindon Meikle – however playing the out and out front man role in Green’s absence, you can’t blame Dyer for testing the water.
On the hour mark the game still remained deadlock, Luke O’Neill chipped a free kick from 35 yards out towards the back post for Geohaghon, his header was cleared as far as Briscoe who failed to beat an alert Ingham with the attempted spectacular from the edge of the box. Four minutes later Adam Murray sparked a delightful move on the half way line, turning three before sending the advancing O’Neill down the right, the young full back played a 1-2 with Briscoe and earned a corner with York substitute Adriano Moke making the block. O’Neill’s delivery was strong and again found Geohaghon, his thunderous headed effort from the back post was headed off the line into the path of Briscoe who then fired over on the half volley.
Matt Rhead replaced Anthony Howell as the Stags switched to 4-4-2, the ex Corby man caused trouble but his efforts weren’t matched by his team as, too their credit, the visitors defended a series of O’Neill set pieces resiliently. With 20 remaining Matty Blair did well to take the ball from Lindon Meikle on the left hand side and burst down the wing, the low ball caught both Geohaghon and Riley in a tizz and fell kindly for Adriano Moke, however the York substitute thankfully blazed well over Marriott’s goal, losing his head at the final second.
With the nerves becoming stronger and the passion becoming more and more evident, the referee had to intervene when Chris Smith went in strongly on Meikle, showing the former Stag a yellow card. Louis Briscoe failed to deliver from the resulting free kick right on the edge of the box before Adam Murray volleyed into the hands of Ingham from a Geohaghon throw.
Matt Rhead, Lindon Meikle and Ross Dyer all saw efforts blocked or saved, a final burst of energy in the last minute from Meikle earned the Stags a throw, everyone bar Marriott and Sutton went forward but nobody bar Ingham got to the throw, the minster men keeper collecting un challenged to the sound of the full time whistle, meaning the game headed into extra time, still level both in the second leg and on aggregate.
Full Time: Stags 0-0 York (Aggregate 1-1)
The opening exchanges of the first half of extra time belonged to the visitors as Matty Blair caused havoc on the right hand side, Ritchie Sutton blocked for a corner which was cleared before Blair again weaved through, getting a corner from Geohaghon’s headed clearance. Worked short the visitors tried their luck through substitute Michael Potts, however the shot lacked conviction and was easy for Marriott.
In the pick of the chances at the other end, Lindon Meikle burst clean through with 101 minutes of football played at the One Call, after beating his markers for pace and skill Meikle let a ferocious shot fly, heading towards the top corner Michael Ingham proved the hero to palm away for a corner. Luke O’Neill delivered for Martin Riley who headed agonisingly over the bar.
Lee Stevenson then replaced Louis Briscoe as the Stags again looked to change the dynamic of the game, his first action would come after the turn around – the two teams still level as Marriott palmed away Ashley Chambers’ 105th minute effort.
Extra Time – Half Time Stags 0-0 York (Aggregate 1-1)
Straight from the restart the Stags looked to take advantage as York gave the ball away, Gary Roberts provided the directional ball to Matt Rhead who held up well before feeding Stevenson 25 yards from goal, the former Eastwood goal machine who opened his Stags account at Kidderminster on the final day of the season let fly first time, his shot well collected by Ingham as Lindon Meikle and Ross Dyer both called for a pass.
With time running out legs began to become heavier and the Stags momentary loss of focus stung them as three consecutive throws for York down the left saw them break our hearts in the 110th minute. Jason Walker received Meredith’s throw and whipped in the cross which caught Stags napping, Matty Blair was the villain of the piece for us, as he bundled past Marriott from six yards.
Stags 0-1 York
Buoyed by their goal, York attacked from the restart as the Stags gave it away, goal scorer Blair was free down the right and had to be stopped, Ritchie Sutton did the job but already on a booking, he was shown the second yellow and then a red, his second of the season, reducing Mansfield to ten men, after the game on twitter, a few “supporters” (I use the term very loosely) blamed Sutton for the defeat, something totally wrong and unacceptable.
The Stags refused to take the double blow laying down and with seven to go, nearly saw a repeat of the ties opening goal back from the first leg as Geohaghon launched another throw into the mix for Dyer. This time Micheal Ingham was alert and kept out the header which was heading for the top corner, splendid goalkeeper – I know he got booed and is hated by the majority, but you have to say, he was outstanding for York.
Jason Walker then missed a guilt edge chance to seal the deal with minutes to go, Alan Marriott making a tremendous double save from the deadly striker following Moke’s through ball, Luke O’Neill cleared the third shot from the line as Stags played with just two at the back in desperate search of a leveller. However it just wasn’t to be as the clock ticked down, Michael Ingham and the York back line hung on as Geohaghon, Stevenson, Meikle, Rhead, Dyer and captain fantastic Murray all fired towards goal.
The full time whistle once again brought tears, York City had defeated the Stags, the first team to win at the One Call since November 5th to book their place in the play-off final against Luton, who triumphed over Wrexham 3-2 on aggregate.
Extra Time: Full Time: Stags 0-1 York (Aggregate 1-2)
After the full time whistle had long since blown, the City players danced in celebration in front of their supporters who we’re vocal throughout, at the other end looking back at the photos this morning the Stags players fell to the floor in disbelief, skipper Adam Murray who was phenomenal throughout couldn’t hold back the tears whilst fellow team mates also wept as they headed down the tunnel. Murray’s passion and love for the club is second to none, just looking back at the photos I started to cry again – a true leader, fights for everything with desire and passion, never gave up – a player deserving of so much more than a man of the match award. Looking through the photos, you supporters were the same, tears flowing, faces of disbelief and pain – the evening rain couldn’t hide the tears of sorrow, which on any other day would have been tears of joy. In honesty I saw nothing of the crowd as soon as the final whistle blew, I fell to the ground and again began to sob, I’ve not listened to the audio and I don’t intend too – I just know that in that moment, I couldn’t hold it anymore. To come so far and rise so high only to be dragged right back down at the last knockings is a pain becoming far too familiar – I found myself saying the same words as I did a year ago ‘How long will this misery continue’.
All the best to York City in the final, we must remember to always be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.
I don’t want to end my final match report of the season on a sour note with everyone having lumps in there throat, I want to say that I am tremendously proud of the season just gone, the players, management, staff and supporters have all pulled together to make this season really wonderful deep down, following the club this season I’ve felt like never before, it’s been frightening but bloody wonderful! Once the dust has settled and the anger has been drained from my system I’ll sit down and write once more, but until then – thanks for reading and have a wonderful summer.
Before I do go, I’d just like to express my thanks to each and every one of you for not only viewing this website and making it popular, but for listening to our podcasts and live coverage, we could not and would not do all of this without your support – you are all wonderful people, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening etc as much as I’ve enjoyed commentating and writing. A few names that I need to thank too, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs, both excellent co-commentators and good friends it’s been a privilege working with you both. Thanks also to James Williamson for his marvellous match pictures and ability to get us lost when following two sat navs, a map and printed directions! To Dan Westwell for the use of his pictures, Martin Shaw for his confirmation of stats and to all my colleagues in the press who’ve been there to share the journey, and if quick enough, steal my half time Rocky’s. To one person who shall remain nameless for her constant RT’s on twitter helping to spread the Mansfield Matters love and for keeping me entertained on those long journeys, you know who you are :) and finally, once again to you for reading.
It’s been a pleasure, until next time... The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit an article, email email@example.com
Craig Priest writes ahead of tomorrow afternoons all or nothing game as York City visit the One Call Stadium
It’s just gone noon Sunday, I’m sat at my desk shaking like a leaf, feeling sick to the pit of my stomach, unable to eat, barley able to drink – the nerves I feel ahead of tomorrow’s second leg are far worse than those I felt prior to Wednesday’s first leg. In my ten years following the Stags both in the terraces and with the press, I’ve never known a game as important as tomorrow – I daren’t think of what defeat would do to us having come so far, nor dare I think of what victory would do either, I just don’t know what to expect and that frightens me to the point of tears.
Whatever happens tomorrow afternoon, I will be proud of the boys and proud of us, the supports and the club as one – a year ago I was sat here penning my match report and blog on the heartbreaking FA Trophy, the pride I felt that day of our tired broken players giving it one last shot at glory, doesn’t even compare to the pride I feel reflecting on this season. The change of attitude towards fixtures and opponents, the change in personnel and structure, the passion and commitment is second to none – in fact I don’t think there’s a club in the world that are as together as we are right now – tomorrow we have to go and make this pay, it’s simple really – win tomorrow we have 90 more minutes to go, 90 minutes to reach the football league after a four season absence, lose tomorrow and it’s a fifth season away and 46 more games, roughly 4,140 minutes of football we’re we have to start from scratch and fight the others following their promotion dream.
It’s horrible in a way that there’s no middle ground, one team is a winner, the other a looser – a harshness for BOTH sides to face tomorrow after different yet positive seasons for the respective sides. I’m going to hold my hands up now and say this, I’d rather us lose in 90 minutes that extra time or worse, penalties – I don’t think I can take the pain again. I’m sorry that I’ve mentioned the L (loss) word, I didn’t want too but in this situation it’s 50:50 – the first leg counts for nothing now due to the final score, we must not dwell on it, we must not remain angry at Green’s dismissal, we must not reflect on the own goal and discuss who should have done what, we must not be aggrieved at decisions that didn’t go in our favour – all of that’s gone now, it’s all about the 90 minutes tomorrow afternoon – it’s about keeping our nerve, standing tall, fending off the opposing attacking and striking when we can – If we look back, we fail to see what’s in front of us, the same applies to if we look past tomorrow’s fixture – look to far ahead and you fail to see the trailing leg which trips you up prior to the finishing line.
The ball is firmly in our court, coming back home level is good and in my opinion is actually better than having a lead, I’m not crazy and I’d have loved a lead coming back to Field Mill, I just think that a lead sometimes takes your focus away and will lower your defences as the visitors go for it all guns blazes, before you know it they have one back, the focus has gone, the momentum is with them, they pull level, your shell shocked, they grab another and suddenly your doing the chasing, you’re on the back foot – don’t believe me? Ask the class of 03-04! Being level tomorrow means that we have to fight as much as York, we are on our own pitch, in front of our own, sold out, phenomenal crowd – the passion at Field Mill, the desire and belief from the fans mixed in with the players drive and ability is something the visitors won’t have on their side, it’s something we must hurt them with. Back at school (on the rare occasion I was in attendance) we had a lesson about peer pressure and loneliness once, the teacher made a square of four tables with a gap in the middle, I was made to sit on the floor in the middle looking up whilst ever class member stomped around the tables above, hurling abuse at my character, singing, chanting for their team against mine – there are what 1,500 York fans at one end at the stadium tomorrow to our 7,000+ spread around the ground, if we can vocally box York in, make them feel small and weak like my character felt that day, then we will have the upper hand and if we apply this in the correct manor we can really push on and seal our Wembley fate.
Selection wise the gaffer has a massive task on his hands tomorrow, with Matt Green suspended and Riley and Meikle with injury scares, he has to pick not only the players who have the ability, but those who have the mental strength to get us through. Also coming back home does the gaffer change formations from 4-3-3 (later a counter attacking 4-2-3-1) to a 4-4-2, if so which of the midfield trio miss out? Gary Roberts vision and range is unbelievable at this level, it’s sometime no other team has and something we need to stretch the game when the pressure is building. Anthony Howell has applied himself tremendously after arriving to many critics (myself included), his sharp tackling nature, ariel and positional strength shouldn’t be frowned upon. Adam Murray, our captain, has passion burning a lot deeper than we all think, the words he writes for his blog are not media jumble they come from the heart, he is so fired up for the challenge so ready for the fight that the love, belief, ability, skill and work ethic he leads us with is like having an extra player – games like tomorrow we’re the games Adam Murray was born to play in. He has his critics, every player does, I beg of you all tomorrow, especially those who haven’t been for a while (NOTE: This is not a dig either) there should be no criticism, no negativity, no hate – just love, support and most of all passion. Look back at our transformation, the caption on that squad photo of ‘One Team: One Dream’ is not just a caption, it’s a truth – time to honour it, with 90 minutes (more should it still be more – hope not!) of sheer noise, let’s make 7th may the date we remember for raising the roof, combining as one to reach the big final, rather than the date we lost in the dying seconds at Wembley in a cup final – those days are gone now.
There is a good possibility of extra-time and the dreaded penalty shootout, I don’t want to think about but for my notes for the commentary, I have to prepare for it – I’m not going to list who I think will take, one nor talk about stats, today stats can do one! What I am saying is, of it does head into extra time I want us all to be courageous, remain loud remain positive and keep singing – our noise is the players venom and driving force, the players venom and driving force is out noise – together we are one, together we can get through, together we are Mansfield Town Football Club, the club with a fresh spirit heading in one direction only.
I mentioned that stats count for nothing, we head into the game without a defeat at home since November and only three home defeats all season, netting 50 goals shipping exactly half. York have won 12 away games and lost just three – practically inseparable and as I said at the top of the piece it’s about keeping our nerve, standing tall, fending off the opposing attacking and striking when we can.
We are at OUR home, we have 90 minutes to keep OUR dream alive – let’s tomorrow OUR DAY! BELIEVE.
Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people – tomorrow we have to do something ordinary: win a football match, let’s make it extraordinary by being vocal, proud, passionate and TOGETHER – our time has come, let’s go and bloody take it eh!
If you can’t get tomorrow, then I urge you to tune your radio’s into 106.9FM or log onto our MM-LIVE page from 12.30pm – they’ll be extended highlights of the first leg plus unrivalled build up and extended coverage of the match itself, Wayne Briggs and Scott Rogers will be joining me throughout. I think we’re going to be stationed at the back of the west lower (next to the PA Box), so keep an eye out for us and come say hello – we’ll also be outside the west stand watching the crowd filter in, again come say hello.
Last Time we met
Stats mean nothing but it wouldn’t be a match preview without including this little section, I want to do everything as normal as possible! The sides have met 38 times at Field Mill with the Stags clocking up 21 victories to York’s 10 – the other seven have ended level including the 1-1 draw on Boxing Day. In front of goal the Stags have netted 78 to York’s 39.
Just encase the P word crops up, there have been two penalty shootouts between the sides to my knowledge with one win a piece. Both have been at Bootham Crescent, the Stags winning in the Autoglass Trophy back in 1993 whilst the minster men knocked the Stags out of the Setanta Shield 4-2 on spot kicks a few seasons ago, Jon D’Layrea and Gavin Hurren netted for the stags from 12 yards against Michael Ingham who saved from Alex Jeannin and saw Mark Stallard clip the bar after the hosts had missed the first kick in front of the travelling Stagies, incidentally this the last penalty shootout a Stags senior side was involved in, with the Youth Team winning on penalties earlier in the season at MMU Newcastle. The last penalty shootout at Field Mill I recall is Stoke City in the carling cup many moons ago, The Stags winning 3-0 in front of the QLE – the drama is all well and good as a neutral but as a fan, as a commentator whose been close to a shootout twice? No thank you!
The Team Sheet: York 1-1 Stags (Play-Off Semi-final LEG ONE 2.5.12)
York City Mansfield Town
24. Michael Ingham 1. Alan Marriott Y
20. Jon Challinor 16. Luke O'Neill
23. Chris Doig 6. Martin Riley >> (29)
4. Chris Smith (C) Y 26. Exodus Geohaghon [1-1 -OWN GOAL]
16. Jamal Fyfield Y 17. Ritchie Sutton
26. Patrick McLaughlin << (18) 11. Adam Murray (C)
6. Daniel Parslow 21. Anthony Howell
3. James Meredith Y 35. Gary Roberts Y
17. Matty Blair 15. Ross Dyer  >> (9)
9. Jason Walker 10. Matt Green YY
10. Ashley Chambers 24.Lindon Meikle >> (7)
1. Paul Musselwhite 23. Shane Redmond
7. Jamie Reed 7. Louis Briscoe >> 24.Lindon Meikle
14. Michael Potts 8. Lee Stevenson
18. Adriano Moke >> 26. Patrick McLaughlin 9. Matt Rhead >> 15.Ross Dyer
19. Scott Brown 29. Danny Andrew Y >> 6. Martin Riley
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or it’s related organisations – to submit an article please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: York City V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier; Play-off semi-final leg one
Venue: Bootham Crescent
Date & Time: Wednesday 2nd May 2012 – 7.30pm
Attendance: 6,057 (1352)
Match Referee: Richard Clark
After the scheduled season had drawn to a close with a 3-0 win at Kidderminster on Saturday afternoon, our attentions soon turned to the play-off show down with York City. As the minutes, hours and days passed, nerves began to grow – I woke up yesterday morning in a cold swet, shivering and shaking like the weakest tree in a force ten gale, my stomach with more knots than a scout group’s guide rope and feeling sicker than a kid after too many Christmas Day sweats. The play-off fever had hit hard, I knew that come the end of the night we’d be closer to seeing if our remarkable run since the turn of the year would guide us to promotion – alas after a 1-1 draw we are still no closer to finding out our answers, setting up a tense second leg at the One Call Stadium on Monday and taking me, and no doubt the majority of you, to the verge of a nervous breakdown!
Last night’s game at Bootham Crescent was certainly a hotly contested one and not only do we spend the next few days wondering about the outcome of the final score line, but we wonder if Matt Green’s very dubious red card will be rescinded and also wait on the fitness of Martin Riley and Lindon Meikle, two of our most outstanding players over recent weeks.
In commentary last night, Scott Rogers myself and Wayne Briggs called the sending off of Green as silly on his part, having watched the video replay from various angles I can’t make my mind up as to whether Green did purposely handle and try to knock the ball past Ingham, or if he tried to get his hand out of the way – it looks different from every angle and as such poses the question what does Paul Cox do, risk the appeal being turned down and another game being added to the one game ban or accept footballing fate and rely on other members of his strike force such as Matt Rhead and Ben Hutchinson? Matt Green is a huge player and psychologically not having him in our 16 is a major blow, but on the flip side play-off games are unique in the fact that at any given moment, the unlikeliest of heroes can be born, it’s a tough call and one I’m glad I do not have to make.
Onto the injury worries, I have to say that when he first had a run in the side I wasn’t over impressed with Martin Riley, however since the turn of the year he’s settled in and has started the last 14 games (including last night’s trip to York), former a strong partnership with Exodus Geohaghon since his arrival at the club. If Riley is forced to miss out the dilemma is then about his replacement, is Danny Andrew the man to come in at left back with the outstanding Sutton to centre half or does Sutton remain in his now accustomed spot of left back and allow a return to centre half for John Thompson, whose torrid season of injury has limited him to only seven starts. Whoever the manager chooses will do a good job individually however they will have to learn quickly as neither Thompson nor Sutton have really played in a partnership with Geohaghon. In terms of Meikle he should be ok for Monday fingers crossed, he has proved a real key factor throughout the campaign with his attacking flare and skill but of late, I’ve been impressed with his ability to read the game which helps with the dynamic of how we play – do Smith or Briscoe offer the same, and could either of the two play as a wide striker in a forward three line which we started with last night?
Anyway the questions that are creating themselves here are just adding to cauldron of nerves really, I have total faith in our management team and indeed our squad, the depth of which sends a tingle down my spine when I compare it to previous MTFC sides – I don’t think I’ve ever seen us this strong or this powerful, that is a wonderful feeling to have in such a vital and pressurised competition.
As I wrote I my late night Chad Column straight after the game
, for a while I didn’t think we we’re true to ourselves as we let the hosts dictate how we played for a while, that said when things we’re beginning to strain to much our character stepped up and our leader took the bull by the horns and got us playing on our terms, hats off to Adam Murray who defined the term captain to a tee last night, marshalling every move – on and off the ball, he’s missed a few games but has come back strong as ever fighting for the cause, fighting for the team he loves, fighting for the team WE love – following the dream of promotion.
We knew before the game that stats counted for nothing, that it would be the team that showed the more hunger, the more desire, the more aggression, passion and fight, rather than played the better football that would prevail. We knew that it would be a fight at every corner, proved with controversy and questionable decisions – it will be the same at the One Call Stadium Monday, the drama is what we live for – BRING IT ON.
Paul Cox swept the changes at the weekend and did the same again as we prepared to face York, only Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley and Gary Roberts retained their places in the starting eleven as eight changes were made. Shane Redmond, John Thompson, Danny Andrew, Louis Briscoe, Jon Worthington, Andy Todd, Lee Stevenson and Matt Rhead all missed out as Alan Marriott, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Adam Murray, Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Ross Dyer and Matt Green all returned.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray (C), Gary Roberts, Ross Dyer, Matt Green, Lindon Meikle.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead, Danny Andrew
In any game of such important nature, you’d expect the home side backed by a bumper support to come out fighting, that’s exactly what happened as the hosts grabbed the first corner of the game less than a minute in, Martin Riley the man to make an inch perfect sliding intervention followed a lofted ball from the back. Patrick McLaughlin whipped in a strong set piece from the right hand side which Chris Doig connected with, heading over at the back post.
York’s bright start continued and after a second corner on two minutes, it was Matty Blair trying to stretch the game on the right hand side a minute later, left back Ritchie Sutton had other ideas and stood firm to deny Blair. The pressure pendulum swung the other way on five minutes as Exodus Geohaghon launched in two consecutive throws from either side before Matt Green was flagged offside two minutes later.
The Stags then took hold of the game on the ten minute mark and began to play the frightening football which saw them surge into the play-offs, Luke O’Neill turned his marker well at right back to launch a directional ball over the top for Matt Green, the 30 goal front man held up on the right against Jamal Fyfield before teeing up Ross Dyer for a cross – James Meredith got a block in and the hosts cleared the resulting throw.
Four minutes later the night got its first controversial moment, Adam Murray, playing in a holding midfield role alongside Howell as Stags dropped into a 4-2-3-1, intercepted a York attack well and sent a delightful ball over the top for Lindon Meikle to chase. Minster men shot stopper Michael Ingham raced off his line to collect the loose ball, seemingly handling outside the box before stepping back inside the area. Referee Richard Clark was having none of it despite appeals from every Mansfield player and some of the York bench turning away expecting the worse.
Murray was involved again on 16 minutes sparking another attack with a wonderful clearing pass from the edge of his own box to the left wing. Lindon Meikle drove forwards against former Stags man Jon Challinor who back heeled a clearance straight to the advancing Howell who’d covered ground well. Former Alfreton man Howell whipped a ball in however the home defence regrouped and scrambled clear.
Two minutes later the Stags we’re forced into a change as the impressive Martin Riley went down injured, physio Ian Pearce signalled for an immediate change, Danny Andrew replaced a distraught Riley, slotting in at left back with Sutton moving to centre half alongside Geohaghon. At the other end on twenty minutes Lindon Meikle’s cross field ball was intercepted by Chris Smith, however the ex-stag gave possession straight to Geohaghon who in turn found Roberts on the left hand side. It was the creative midfielder that provided the assist, delivering a teasing ball into the middle for Anthony Howell who nodded marginally wide of the post.
With the Stags defence still disorganised following the loss of Riley, the hosts thought they’d grabbed the advantage on 22 minutes. Exodus Geohaghon made a silly challenge on Danny Parslow, McLaughlin floated in the resulting free kick which was bundled in by Matty Blair after Marriott had completely missed the ball, the Stags shot stopper was given a let-off as York’s joy was short lived, the off-side straight up on the near side.
Two minutes later another York corner led to a Stags chance as McLaughlin’s delivery for the hosts was poor, Matt Green cleared from the edge of his own box and ran forward before finding Meikle who covered ground at pace. Meikle then pulled play back into the middle finding Roberts who went down right on the edge of the box, Luke O’Neill hit the resulting free kick but it lacked imagination and conviction, rising over the bar and out of the ground.
The deadlock was finally broken on 26 minutes as the Stags took the lead. Adam Murray controlled play well in the centre circle before feeding Meikle, back on the right, his forceful run earned a throw which the Stags used to perfection. Changing the trajectory from a looping back spin to a flat bullet, Geohaghon added another assist to his name, his throw finding Ross Dyer at the front post, the former Forest Green man guided the ball beyond a static Ingham into the bottom corner to send the travelling support into raptures.
York 0-1 Stags
The game then saw two moments of controversy in as many minutes as the hosts looked for a response straight from the restart. Parslow’s crisp pass through the middle saw Matty Blair advancing into the area, Ritchie Sutton smashed clear before Blair auditioned for a place in the Olympic diving squad, the referee waved away the appeals but stopped the game as Sutton and Blair went face to face. Play restarted and Marriott’s lofted ball down field dropped to Matt Green just over the half way line, Chris Smith charged across and lunged in with both feet, getting nothing of the ball and leaving Green needing treatment, the former Stags man who made 15 consecutive starts and the beginning of the last campaign before being sent out on loan to his current club York, received just a booking for his challenge. Luke O’Neill floated a fine free kick into the mix, Ross Dyer headed back into the area from the left, finding Gary Roberts in the air whose goal bound header was kept out well by Ingham.
At the other end Gary Roberts was disposed by Jason Walker 30 yards from his own goal, dangerous hit man Walker found Ashley Chambers who saw his well hit effort palmed away by Marriott. Four minutes later Chris Smith looked to build from the back finding Blair who turned play quickly back into the middle for McLaughlin, it was he who opted for goal – failing to keep his effort down the ball whizzed out for a goal kick.
With five minutes to go before the break Gary Roberts launched a long ball over the top for Matt Green gave chase too, Michael Ingham raced out and the duo clashed, Green was the one penalised, picking up a booking for a high boot. Two minutes later the hosts we’re level as miscommunication again proved the Stags down fall. Jon Challinor linked up with Matty Blair down the right, the former cutting past Danny Andrew and delivering into the middle, Alan Marriott should have come to collect however he was beaten to the ball by Geohaghon who bundled into his own net.
York 1-1 Stags
The goal had shaken the Stags and rallied the hosts, who pressed on looking for a second. Geohaghon missed timed his jump to clear the quick off, Alan Marriott had to back pedal to keep out Chambers’ looping effort. With two minutes to go before the break, the hosts missed a glorious chance to take the lead, a fast paced 1-2 interchange between Walker and Blair saw the former in space inside the area, with 18 goals to his name he missed the chance to grab number 19 of his season, dragging wide of Marriott’s goal.
Into added time of the first half it was the Stags who registered two chances in as many minutes, first Geohaghon launched in another bullet which fell for Matt Green, the leading front man connected weakly and allowed the hosts to clear. Lindon Meikle then intercepted a York clearance and drove forwards down the right hand side, his attempted cross cannoned back to him, the resulting shot was over the bar for a goal kick, the two sides ending the first quarter of the two-legged semi-final on level terms.
HALF TIME York 1-1 Stags
Both sides had chances to grab the early second half advantage, Anthony Howell and Matt Green played a neat 1-2 on 48 minutes, however Howell was denied by Ingham who released play quickly allowing the hosts to counter. Matty Blair made ground but failed to finish the job, firing straight at an alert Marriott from the edge of the box. A minute later the Stags played a really smart move, again sparked by Adam Murray who was phenomenal in the middle. The Mansfield skippers low pass sent Ross Dyer on his way down the right hand side, an acute turn saw Jamal Fyfield beaten, Dyer then squared for Green who agonisingly blazed over from the edge of the box with a first time effort despite a pocket of space to his right, had he taken a touch.
Gary Roberts then slid in well on McLaughlin on 51 setting another Stags move, Matt Green picked up the loose ball finding the hungry Anthony Howell whose forceful effort was again palmed away by Ingham. Two minutes later Mansfield we’re left shell shocked at their failure to score with a truly epic goal mouth scramble. Luke O’Neill’s deep free kick was the starting flame, Ross Dyer headed down into the mix, a blur of Amber and Red followed two yards from goal before York cleared, only as far as Geohaghon who’d back peddled to the right hand side of the box. The big defender skipped the challenge of three before seeing his ferocious cross deflect behind for a corner, Luke O’Neill’s delivery was easily cleared and Danny Andrew had to take one for the team as McLaughlin burst down the left, Andrew charged across to slam the ball out of play and picked up a booking as he caught the York man.
Just past the hour mark Matt Green was piling on the pressure as he drove forward, Chris Doig stood firm and play went on despite Green’s appeal for a free kick. Jason Walker charged through the middle but failed to beat last man standing Ritchie Sutton, who made a tackle worthy of a place in the premier league.
The games goal mouth action then went quiet for a prolonged spell as the midfield battle intensified, Jamal Fyfield upended the advancing Luke O’Neill on 65 minutes but remarkably escaped a second yellow card, there were bookings for James Meredith on 69 minutes and Gary Roberts a minute later.
The card count was becoming high and there was no surprise to see a red be shown with 16 minutes remaining, there was a surprise at the player and incident however – Matt Green gave chase to a long ball and as Ingham advanced, was judged to have knocked the ball into space with his hand. TV Replays what I’ve seen since have proved inconclusive, however others that have studied the footage in more depth say that Green was moving his hand out of the way and that the referee was wrong to show the hit man a second yellow and reduce the Stags to ten men.
Naturally York with the man advantage upped the ante in search of the advantage, crosses from Matty Blair, Jon Challinor and James Meredith we’re all defended well before the Stags made a second change, introducing Briscoe for Meikle who appeared to be moving uneasily. With six minutes to go Briscoe played a huge part in a Stags move which should have seen them ahead, charging down the right flank Briscoe fed Ross Dyer who held up well looking for support. Anthony Howell made his way into the box but Dyer’s cross was plucked out of the air by Ingham ahead of Howell. From Ingham’s kick down field the hosts we’re awarded a free kick on the edge of the Stags box, Patrick McLaughlin’s delivery was headed away as far as Challinor who hit a sweet volley wide of the target from 30 yards.
With a minute to go Jon Challinor had appeals for a penalty turned down after he went down easily in the area from Walker’s reverse pass before Gary Roberts linked up with Dyer a minute into the four added. Roberts’ central sprayed the ball wide right for Dyer who, after turning pas Fyfield should have drilled one into the middle for the advancing Briscoe, however Dyer got the connection wrong and a pass intended for the penalty spot spun back to the edge of the box for an un-expecting Roberts, which in turn allowed York to clear.
Matt Rhead then replaced Dyer heading away a corner before holding play up at the other end, in the dying seconds it was York with the final say – substitute Adriano Moke received Ashley Chambers’ pass but fired straight at Marriott who held on and cleared to the sound of the full time whistle, the teams level as Monday’s second leg approaches!
FULL TIME: York 1-1 Stags Full Audio Below with myself, Scott & Wayne...
The second leg will be a tight affair and the Stags will have to wait on the fitness of Riley and Meikle plus the fate of Matt Green. Before the game I’d have defiantly taken a draw, whilst you want to head into a home game with an aggregate lead a draw is just as good, especially when you consider our home record and phenomenal support.
If you can’t get to the second leg on Monday or are going but want to listen along and calm the nerves, tune yourselves into 106.9FM or get on our MM-LIVE page, myself, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs are live from 12.30pm with extended highlights from Wednesday’s first leg plus lots more!
I’m feeling nervous again, but hey that’s part of the fun right?! These next few days will be interesting to say the least – let’s keep believing, keep that support coming and not let the occasion get the better of us, it’s time to be brave, it’s time to be heroes.
COME ON YOU STAGS The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit an article, email email@example.com