Craig Priest writes…
In the surroundings of Yorkshire, the biting November wind mixed with the blinding winter Sun made for a strange setting for Mansfield Town FC – as an afternoon’s cup drama nearly played out in the predicable ‘David beats Goliath’ manner, which the FA Cup is designed for… that was until Barnsley born and Barnsley based Danny Rose stepped forward with a BAFTA worthy performance, to break the hearts of his own people. Now THAT is drama.
As supporters arrived at Sheerian Park and crammed into the car park, stories emerged of how the catering van – intended for inside the ground, had got stuck in the mud! It was a chilling reminder if where Mansfield once were, as five or six seasons ago – visiting grounds such as Sheerian Park was part of the story every week.
That’s no disrespect whatsoever to Shaw Lane who played their part tremendously in a day I’m sure they won’t forget in a while – but as I watched supporters walked down the muddy path to the away end where a temporary stand had been put up specially, the memories kept flooding back and I couldn’t help but worry what would happen if our attention slipped and focus faltered.
At the half time whistle, my fears were confirmed – despite a very well worked opening goal from Pearce, a mixture of sloppiness and sheer determination from Shaw Lane had pulled them level and had it not been for a tremendous last ditch challenge from Danny Rose, the hero of the day, Football League Mansfield would have been losing to Non-League Shaw Lane… and rightly so.
In the first half, and probably until Roses’ header in the second to be fair, Mansfield were the worst team – they didn’t look up for the fight and had no idea how to play the pitch, which had more diverts than a field infested with randy moles (which is non-league, it’s not a criticism, the One Call Stadium pitch was the same but a few seasons previous).
Fancy touches and finesse passing wasn’t going to work until the legs were tired, and running on adrenaline Shaw Lane were going to battle for as long as they could, even with each other! They had players with vast experience and in front of the nation were not going to roll over – something I think the Stags half expected them too.
To Mansfield’s credit, they woke themselves up at half-time – Evans’ voice no doubt bellowing around the hollow container dressing rooms ten times louder than normal, but still didn’t find it easy – the penalty miss, a poor hit well read by the keeper, was very nearly the final nail in the coffin.
For once, the heads didn’t drop which – had that happened in a league fixture, they would have done and we’d be well beaten as a consequence! Danny Roses’ brace was a finishing master class – everything from the anticipation of the movement around him to the athleticism and execution was a joy to be hold, and as he made way off the pitch late on, his white kit drenched in mud and the standing ovation painted a picture of a hero, and in dramas such as yesterday – heroes win BAFTAS.
As always the bigger picture comes into play now, that’s now six games unbeaten in all competitions with three wins, two of which are back to back – momentum for Saturday’s trip to Coventry where once more the surroundings will be very different.
I wish Shaw Lane all the best with their future, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever with this – yesterday was a stark reminder of how far Mansfield have come and the battles we’ve faced, I’ve no desire to see us return to that place – it’s time to kick on and climb.
Skipper Zander Diamond was the only survivor from Tuesday’s checkatrade victory over Everton U23s, he replaced Rhys Bennett as Evans switched back to the side which drew with Exeter a week ago.
The hosts started brightly in the opening minute as the cup fever set in, Nicky Walker tried to slot in the home front pair but Conrad Logan was on the ball like a duck to water, and it was soon the Stags who knocked on the door.
Mal Benning swung in a third minute cross from the left but saw Jon Stewart claim the ball high, a minute later – tricky from Mellis opened up some space – his effort from just inside the box, bravely blocked by home skipper Ryan Qualter, before Alex MacDonald and Mellis again had pop shots, which the ducks scrambled cleared. Rose also was unlucky not to grab a goal, after Kane Hemmings’ effort was palmed up into the air by Stewart, Rose steamed in and connected but saw the ball hit the post and go out of play.
A tremendous burst of pace from Rose to tackle the advancing full back Ryan Serrant stopped the hosts from opening up the Stags – Conrad Logan also had to get down low to a poked cross from the attacking left back on 25 minutes.
Eight minutes later, the Stags worked one straight from the training ground as Byrom was tripped by David Norris – the hosts claimed it wasn’t a free kick, and having watched the game back since – thyey may have a claim, although a foul on Rose a split second before the one on Byrom, just about balances things out.
Byrom stood over the free kick and as Macdonald pulled away into space, Byrom clipped the ball into his path – after setting himself, Macdonald delivered into the mix – the ball deflecting straight into Pearce’s path who struck cleanly on the half volley into the bottom corner to put Mansfield ahead.
The Stags lead was then taken away from then with four minutes to go before the break as they didn’t deal with a scramble inside the box – a blocked effort from Lee Bennett saw the ball fall kindly for him and at the second attempt – drilled low and hard beyond Logan to silence the Stags supporters packed behind the goal and give Shaw Lane, their moment in the spotlight.
The hosts should have been ahead on the stroke of half time, as fuelled by their goal, they came forward again – this time a left sided ball into the box wasn’t dealt with and Nicky Walker turned an effort against the post – before Danny Rose, from nowhere steamed in to challenge the Shaw Lane man who had the goal at his mercy – Roses’ tackle saved the game for the Stags at a critical moment.
After the restart with the Stags attacking towards their own supporters, Jon Stewart was on hand to thwart CJ Hamilton who attempted to lift the ball over him, at the other end ex Alfreton man Paul Clayton was fouled by Pearce – the resulting free kick on 51 minutes curled over the bar by Alex Byrne.
On 64 minutes after knocking on the door, the Ducks were sent Quackers (Sorry!) as Jacob Mellis twisted his way through and was fouled inside the box. The tricky midfielder who scored the Stags last spot kick after a frustrating run of misses from Rose, Spencer and Hemmings, stepped up.
However the story of the FA Cup should make it obvious to what happened next, as Mellis saw his spot kick saved by the towering figure of Stewart in the Ducks goal – a good height for him to be fair but a good solid save.
Zander Diamond nodded over Alex MacDonald’s resulting corner as the tension rose.
The battle continued as the Stags came forward but failed to find a way through, until Danny Rose netted a sublime header on 73 minutes to put Mansfield ahead. Rose’s movement was a pleasure to watch, spinning away from his marker as the cross swung in from the left.
On 77 Rose nearly added his second but hit the ball into the side netting, not that he’d have to wait much longer as just seconds later – Rose pulled off the finish of the round who started and finished the move.
Rose on the edge of the box swept the ball to Mellis and made his run – in the meantime, Mellis swept the ball wide right to MacDonald whose first time cross hung beautifully in the air for Rose, who at the far post hit a sweet volley almost with his back to goal into the back of the net. You’ll struggle to see a better piece of movement all season.
With five minutes to go, Jimmy spencer who replaced Rose just two minutes earlier, should have sealed the win – MacDonald again the man to create as he pulled the ball back across the box – spencer wrong footed got it all wrong.
The Stags then held on with good possession football through five minutes of added time, to kill the dreams of Shaw Lane and make it into round two.
FULL TIME: Shaw Lane 1-3 Stags
Paul Anderson – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Paul Digby 90+5) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 82) – Kane Hemmings (Will Atkinson 90+2)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Rhys Bennett, Alfie Potter, Omari sterling-James
Attendance: 1,576 (560)
Referee: Ben Toner Assistants: Steven Rushton, Richard Ward
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