Craig Priest writes....
There's no better feeling than a 90th minute winner, especially when it's essentially to beat yourselves as The Stags did at Morecambe.
It was one of the most frustrating afternoon's football played on a pitch which had more sand on than the beach and more bobbles that a bobble hat convention – yet the fighting spirit and desire played a pivotal role in over turning our own wrong doings.
In the first half we broke the golden rule of not playing to the whistle, we all stood still appealing for offside before Pearce played a lacklustre and criminal back pass which was feebly weak and sold Logan short. A far too easy goal to concede.
Steve Evans has been wrong so often with his substitutions, yet the double switch at half time to introduce Anderson to right back and Atkinson into central midfield worked wonders and whilst at times it was very much trying to put a square peg into a round hole, there was a sense the result would come in the end.
It doesn't matter in the slightest about it being pretty, what counts is getting the job done and finally taking advantage of the slips around us – hence why the late winner, has taken us into third place and closed the gap on dear old Notts County.
Winning in the manner we did after making things so hard for ourselves, is all the more sweeter. The boys will be buzzing in the dressing room, the music will be booming and the energy electric. The ripple effect of that, can't be underestimated especially as the result moves us up in the league standings and gives us a real foothold to build upon.
Since the full time whistle the Stags have added highly rated midfielder Adam King to the ranks, a key addition to add some more fire to the attack which again never said die – I can’t wait to see the rest of this rollercoaster ride continue.
Steve Evans made two changes, both enforced, from the side who came from behind to beat Chetenham last weekend, skipper Zander Diamond replaced the suspended Hayden White with the injured Jacob Mellis’ place taken by Kane Hemmings – Alex MacDonald thus dropping back into his central midfield role.
For a ground opened eight years ago, it lacked soul and the pitch was awful – and as a result, the Stags really suffered to get going – the hosts too found it tough but it was Evans men who had the better of the early scraps – Kane Hemmings seeing an effort deflect behind and another also held by Roche in the Morecambe goal.
It was a game which was going nowhere and despite the difficulty to create clear cut chances, the Stags were in control enough to make a break given time as the usually do, but on the half hour – the Stags just stopped, flat footed expecting the linesman to flag for off-side. The golden rule of play to the whistle went out of the window and as Pearce deftly tried to knock the ball back to Logan – he failed to look or take in what was happening, allowing Lang to pounce, round Logan and score.
The hosts then looked sharper and should have perhaps had a second as former Stags Vadaine Oliver headed over, Mansfield fortunately limped to half-time just the one goal down, a goal essentially they’d scored themselves.
Paul Anderson and Will Atkinson replaced Diamond and Potter at the break and the Stags finally started to go through the gears and attempt to claw the game back, having a shout for a spot kick waved away when Rose appeared to be fouled by Kenyon.
Rose would soon be celebrating as on 70 minutes he levelled the game, CJ Hamilton’s give and go with Atkinson seeing the quick winger square for Rose who tucked home much to the Stags support delight.
From that moment you sensed drama was still to come, and it did – right in the final minute as Anderson and MacDonald combined down the right, the latter’s cross headed away into the path of Benning – whose shot found the back of the net, as both he and Spencer claimed the goal, the scorer doesn’t matter – the effect of it does!
FULL TIME: Morecambe 1-2 Stags
Rhys Bennett – Zander Diamond © (Paul Anderson HT) – Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (Will Atkinson HT) – Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 79)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Lee Angol, Calum Butcher
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge Assistants Darren Stain and Mark Cunliffe Fourth Official Iain Siddall
Attendance: 1,416 (334)
Craig Priest writes….
When you take someone to their first ever football match, you hope for thrills and drama – yet nine times out of ten, you get a 0-0 draw. Well any football debutants yesterday will now be screaming for more in a dramatic game which had everything as the Stags, somehow, ran out 3-2 winners of Cheltenham.
Three straight red cards, a penalty, a manager being sent-off, numerous near brawls and a 94th minute winner – seriously what more can you ask for?
For the long-term fan the above is the recipe for a heart attack, and if Mansfield had finished with 11 men on the pitch I’d be highlighting the holes in the performance, but cards change games and sometimes you come up against teams who’s game plan is not on the pitch. The Stags, well Hayden White to be precise, fell into the trap but above all else we FINALLY showed some spirit to bag three points rather than settle for one.
With Lincoln being held by bottom placed Barnet, the come from behind victory has given us a bit of breathing space to build upon in terms of putting distance between the chasing pack, whilst up the other sleeve of chasing the automatics, it’s kept the pace.
Above all else however within the dressing room, such a victory will no doubt have created a buzz of energy and adrenaline, and with just one defeat in 15 league games [unless I’ve got my maths wrong] that can only be a good thing going into next weekend’s trip to Morecambe who are hovering dangerously closer to the drop zone, thus putting them on edge.
Some will be critical of the referee for a stop-start game, yet I think he got all three sending’s off correct and the penalty – I’ve said for months that Hayden White is clumsy, he’s also mouthy – every time the referee stops play, he wants to be involved in giving verbal to the officials and oppositions, often sprinting from one side of the pitch to the other to get involve and then fails to get back leaving us exposed.
His hands were all over the Cheltenham player for the penalty, it was obvious what was going to happen when White allowed the visiting front man to get goal side, Pearce’s lunge is irrelevant for me here as the player was already on the way to ground – and as for the sending off, there is absolutely no need to lunge in two footed there – stand up and force the player out, it was a horrible tackle.
As I said above though, the collective spirit never died – it wasn’t our greatest afternoon football wise but it doesn’t matter, it’s not saying die, it’s not giving up. We have to channel that energy and fight into next weekend now and continue to progress.
Steve Evans made just the one change to the side which were beaten by Cardiff in the FA Cup in midweek as Alfie Potter replaced Paul Anderson on the right hand side, leaving MacDonald in the free role behind Rose.
The opening exchanges saw neither team create anything clear cut on a bitterly cold afternoon at The One Call Stadium where for the first time the season the pitch was starting to show some wear and tare, which is credit to the pre-season investment as by now, it’s usually sheer mud!
It wasn’t really until 20 minutes in where the Stags created half a chance as Hayden White flashed an effort wide of Scott Flinders’ goal from long range, however three minutes later he’d be heavily involved at the other end as Mohamed Eisa got around back of the Stags right back before, with arms flailing, going to ground to earn a spot-kick for the visitors – Harry Pell drilling down the middle to open the scoring.
Jacob Mellis then went down injured on 28 minutes replaced by Lee Angol as the Stags dropped into a more familiar 4-4-2 with MacDonald dropping deeper to partner Byrom in the centre of midfield, a minute later Angol involved as Benning crossed from the left – Angol cushioned well for Rose who saw his effort from 14 yards blocked.
Mansfield looked more feisty in the 4-4-2 and were back on level terms on 34 minutes as White release Potter down the right hand side, the former Northampton man skipped beyond his marker to square the ball for Angol – his shot was deflected straight to the feet of Hamilton who bundled home from close range.
Danny Rose was then on the end of a nasty elbow from Taylor Moore on 40 minutes who was sent down the tunnel by the referee Darren Handley – there was just time for Rose to nod a Byrom corner into the mix which was cleared, before the referee had to send Robins’ boss Gary Johnson to the stands, after his assistant appeared to strike Paul Raynor in a confrontation which, it has to be said, Raynor started by marching straight into the visitors technical area.
Another lengthy stoppage followed as Mohamed Eisa had to be carried off on a stretcher before the half time whistle blew after an eventful first half.
After the restart more drama would unfold as the half went on, MacDonald the closest to bringing some normality with a pulsating run through the middle on 47 minutes before seeing a shot held by Flinders.
The Stags midfielder then picked out Angol six minutes later with a pin point ball from deep, Lee Angol rising high to connect with his head, Flinders however well placed to deny the Stags number nine.
Hayden White was then given his marching orders on 67 minutes for a heavy and late challenge on Ilias Chatzitheodoridis which resulted in White squaring up with three Chelentham players before taking an early bath.
At 10 v 10 the game became more balanced again and to shore things up, substitute Lee Angol was replaced by Zander Diamond – moving Bennett across to right back whilst many were left bemused as to why Rose, who’d be kicked, punched, elbowed and ran into the ground wasn’t replaced – or Byrom whose legs were tiring.
Mansfield were all over the place and were pegged back on 74 minutes as the visitors retook the lead, Robins’ sub Danny Wright flew down the left hand side and delivered for fellow substitute Elijah Adebayo who finishes with a high shot over Conrad Logan who arguably could have done better.
With 12 minutes do go the Stags threw on Kane Hemmings for Joel Byrom opting to go with just MacDonald in the middle with Potter drifting in where needed, Potter picked out Benning on 79 minutes who drilled narrowly wide.
Mansfield then levelled things up two minutes later as Pearce did well to hold the ball up for MacDonald – his weaving run saw him square into the middle for Hemmings, who did well to spin and convert amid a crowd of players six yards out.
The drama didn’t stop there as on 83 minutes Danny Wright saw red for an elbow on Potter after being awarded a free-kick which was spotted by the linesman, with nine men and all substitutions made, the visitors were all over the place and you just sensed more drama – CJ Hamilton grabbing what proved to be the winner four minutes into six added on, the tricky winger sweeping in as the ball fell to his feet at the far post.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-2 Cheltenham
Hayden White [SENT OFF STRAIGHT RED 68] Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Jacob Mellis (Lee Angol 28, Zander Diamond 71) – Joel Byrom (Kane Hemmings 78) – CJ Hamilton
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Anderson, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer
Attendance: 3,483 (149)
Referee: Darren Handley Assistants: Richard Wild, David Benton Fourth Official Michael D’Aguilar
Craig Priest writes…
The funny thing about dreams is, just when you picture the perfect ending, the plot line twists in a completely random direction and within the blink of an eye – the perfect dream is gone.
A 4-1 score line in favour of Championship side Cardiff City completely flattered the visitors and looks very harsh on Steve Evans men who exit the FA Cup with the bitter taste of what could have been, however for my money – they can be very proud of their efforts and endeavours.
For 65 minutes the Stags really held their own and in fairness, they should have been comfortably leading at half-time as they outplayed the visitors with some promising football which, if they can replicate it consistently, will set league two alight at last.
Yet as has been Mansfield problem far too frequently, the energy ran short and the cracks began to show – cracks which sides like Cardiff are going to exploit and did so with two playground goals and one hit and hope wonder from slack marking when Mansfield, disappointingly, had long since gone home mentally.
Obviously not playing Manchester City and gaining the riches which accompany it is a bitter, bitter blow – but on the flip side, we have practically packed out the One Call Stadium and showed some of the “non-regular supporters” what we can deliver for the most part, hopefully enticing them to return and back the boys to a play-off and possible promotion charge, in a similar way the Liverpool defeat did back in the conference days.
Looking at the game out of isolation and you could tell how much we have missed Joel Byrom’s set-plays and his creativity in midfield, I’m not particularly a fan of compacting midfield with a five but having Byrom sit alongside Mellis and MacDonald really worked and opened Cardiff up.
The pedantic will say that at no point was it an out and out midfield five, but with MacDonald having pretty much free reign – there were times we prevented Cardiff from punishing us in the first half by MacDonald sitting deeper, thus becoming a five.
MacDonald continues to flourish in that central role too his tenacity and energy is the driving force to Mansfield Town right now, he didn’t top running from start to finish yet again and plugged a lot of gaps – allowing the likes of Byrom, Melliss and Hamilton to have space to work and attack – he thoroughly deserved his man of the match award.
If I were being pedantic myself and picking the holes out of it, I’d lambast our defending for allowing simplicity to unravel it – but it’s the FA Cup and in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter one little bit, a team from a higher level will have that extra bit about them to exploit us – we learn from it and ensure those mistakes don’t spill into the league.
It’s disappointing to exit the cup so close to getting a dream tie – but overall I look back with pride rather than frustration, as we matched a very good Championship side for the best part of 150 minutes of football.
We learn, we move on and we do NOT for a second think ‘Manchester City this and Manchester City that’ – we simply focus on the bread and butter and complete a longer, but more satisfactory dream – Project Promotion.
Steve Evans made two changes from Saturday’s goalless draw at Cambridge as Hayden White returned to the back four in place of Alfie Potter pushing Paul Anderson forward, whilst Joel Byrom replaced Lee Angol, taking up a spot in the centre of midfield with Alex MacDonald given a more higher and free role in supporting Rose.
It was a nervy start from the Stags as Cardiff looked to establish their dominance – a miscued volley from Junior Hoilett on two minutes gave the Stags the wake up call they needed as they clicked into gear with some neat football.
Twelve minutes in saw Mansfield test the palms of Neil Etheridge as CJ Hamilton weaved his way through, however the end shot was tame after such a good bit of movement from the tricky wing man.
A minute later Joel Byrom brilliantly picked out Hayden White who nodded into the path of Pearce, the visiting back line scrambling away as the Stags skipper looked to pull the trigger – the hosts then had Logan to thank at the other end on 18 minutes, as Hoilett was allowed too much space on the right hand side, Logan palmed the ball away as the Bluebirds front man cut inside and pulled the trigger.
Mal Benning then missed a golden chance to open the scoring on 26 minutes as MacDonald was fouled 25 yards from goal to the right. Byrom sent a square ball into space for Benning who charged forwards unmarked, but side footed the ball over the bar, rather than drill into the bottom corner – a move straight from the training ground which richly deserved a goal.
Five minutes later Mellis found Hamilton who cut the ball across for Danny Rose, the Stags leading scorer saw his effort deflected wide as Mansfield continued to turn up the heat.
The visitors then grabbed an undeserved lead on 34 minutes as Logan failed to claim a corner on his line – Steve Evans claimed a foul from the dugout, but as the ball dropped to Manga, the referee ignored the claims and allowed the ball to crash into the back of the net and put Cardiff into the lead.
Mansfield responded immediately as the Stags pilled on pressure, a cross into the box wasn’t dealt with by the visitors and as the ball dropped for Rose, there was only one place that was ending up – in the back of the net, a well-executed left footed finish to reignite the crowd.
Despite the Stags then dominating the majority of play before the half-time whistle, after 45 minutes of football – it was all square between the two sides.
After the break the visitors stepped things up a level but Mansfield stood firm as Pearce blocked Anthony Pilkington’s effort inside the area, Mal Benning also got in the way of a Zohore effort as the hour mark approached.
Simple football then undid the Stags as two goals inside five minutes put the Stags out of the tie, first a simple ball into the box saw Hoilett peel away from his markers for an easy tap in following Patterson’s low cut back on 66 minutes, before the Stags failed to deal with the second ball from a throw in on the left hand side on 71, Anthony Pilkington this time exploiting space to convert beyond Logan for 3-1.
With two minutes to go, the game was put beyond doubt in style as the Stags practically stopped dead, allowing Hoilett to pick up the ball 25 yards from goal in what seemed like a huge gap of space – he fizzed past Logan who stood no chance.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-4 Cardiff City
Hayden White – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Paul Anderson (Alfie Potter 79) – Jacob Mellis – Joel Byrom (Lee Angol 74) – CJ Hamilton
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Zander Diamond, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer
Referee: Geoff Eltringham Assistants Duncan Street & Wayne Grunnill Fourth Official Peter Banks
Craig Priest writes…
In a city full of cyclists, I can think of no better analogy for another game unbeaten, another goalless draw and another afternoon of ultimate frustration than by thinking about the constant spinning of a peddle, going round and round – moving ever closer to the final destination.
Yesterday felt like a ride through a familiar park with one way in and one way out – it started off the same old flat display which didn’t cause any issues for the opposition, progressively got into something a little bit more thrilling, but ultimately left us no better off and back to where we started.
It’s all well and good saying we’ve lost just once in twenty which to be fair is something to be pleased with, but as the games remaining start to decrease – how long do we carry on in solitary saying ‘oh that’s a good point’ and ignoring the bigger picture of putting distance between our rivals?
Yes Danny Rose did have a goal wrongly ruled out, but other than that we created very few other clear cut chances to win the game despite being relatively dominant in the second half which concerns me – at this stage of the season, we should not be walking away from games blaming the official for getting a key decision wrong, we should be walking away asking why we haven’t made sure of a cast iron result.
Yes there is plenty of time to go and plenty of twists and turns to come, but yesterday Lincoln drew with Notts County, two teams a victory over Cambridge would have helped to make ground on – whilst a win would have also kept the pace with Exeter and Wycombe above us, and put more distance between the chasing pack.
The oddments add up, remember back in November time when we did the calculations over the draws and dropped points? Well they continue to add up and could prove costly at the end of the season, especially now where we enter a period of guaranteed distraction.
Naturally we all want to beat Cardiff and bag Manchester City and the riches which follow, and if we achieve that, Saturday’s match against mid-table Cheltenham (a side who turned over an unfocussed Mansfield earlier in the season) becomes a game where naturally players and fans alike will be looking too far ahead, potentially causing us to slip up whilst the teams around us all have very winnable games – chances to gain ground.
Lose Tuesday and the bitter taste that follows also proves a distraction and creates that ball of negativity which Evans can’t handle – an implosion is waiting to happen there, it’s for that reason why in these games such as yesterday, we can’t be satisfied in walking away saying ‘well yeah, we practically won because the referee got it wrong’ – the FA aren’t going to award us the extra points we may have fallen short by at the end of the season are they?
This is in no way a rant, all in all we played well and that confidence continues to grow – the one loss in twenty stat is impressive and even after whatever happens in midweek, there’s plenty of twists to come – let’s just give ourselves the fighting chance when it comes down to the oddments by stepping it up a notch, from the off rather than 45 minutes of warm-up football and 45 minutes of actual dominant play.
Do that, and those peddles will power us to something good – fail to do so, we’ll either up rolling downhill or landing in a heap in a bush!
Danny Rose was called back into action in just one change to the side who credibly earned a replay with Cardiff City last weekend, Kane Hemmings missing out through injury. Joel Byrom also was named on the bench following weeks missing through injury.
The Stags looked nervy early doors as Cambridge saw efforts from Billy Walters land wide and deflect away off of Mal Benning in the opening three minutes – Krystain Pearce also hand to deflect away a chance from the lively Cambridge man.
On ten minutes the Stags saw an opening themselves as Danny Rose whistled a left footed effort wide of David Forde’s goal, A surging run from Mal Benning also saw the attack minded full back fire narrowly over eight minutes later as Mansfield started to find some fluidity in attack.
On the half hour, Benning again tried his luck moments after Angol and Mellis had linked up well only to see Cambridge clear their lines – seven minutes later the hosts opened the Stags up and should have taken the lead, Jake Carroll found himself free in the Mansfield area but fortunately for the visitors, fired well over Logan’s bar.
After the break Conrad Logan had to be alert to make a fantastic save to deny Uche Ikpeazu from six yards following a beautiful pivot to stun the Stags back line, at the other end Lee Angol saw a tame header easily held by Forde after Benning’s crops with 51 minutes played.
The Stags then had two efforts go astray in as many minutes, Forde equal to a beautifully struck MacDonald free kick on 63 minutes before Angol was again involved after Rose unlocked the hosts with a neat reverse ball, Angol skipping a challenge before flashing the ball across the face of goal.
Controversy struck on 68 minutes as a well worked Stags move down the left hand side saw the ball cut back into the box to Danny Rose who deftly turned the ball beyond the reach of Forde and into the bottom corner, celebrations cut short by the linesman flag which video replays post match, proved to be the wrong call.
Two minutes later Rose vollied over from a Benning cross as the Stags turned up the heat on the hosts, Conrad Logan alert at the other end on 77 minutes to keep out an effort from Brown, the game then fizzled to its conclusion – a goalless draw and tenth clean sheet for Conrad Logan.
FULL TIME: Cambridge Utd 0-0 Stags
Paul Anderson (Omari Sterling-James 81) – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (Hayden White 64) – Alex MacDonald – Jacob Melliss (Will Atkinson 88) – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Lee Angol
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Jimmy Spencer, Joel Byrom
Referee: Trevor Kettle Assistants Declan Ford & Paul Yates Fourth Official John Farries
Attendance: 4,324 (499)
Well they say it’s the luck of the draw, and how right they are – naturally I am buzzing at the fact that Mansfield Town could potentially host Manchester City at the One Call Stadium, but I can’t help but live in the realism of cloud eight, than the ecstasy of cloud nine.
Let’s just get this right straight away, Mansfield Town WILL NOT 100% be playing Manchester City as I type right now, they have to first beat Cardiff City, the reward is not ours in divine right, it has to be EARNED. So please, for the sake of the bigger picture, celebrate the possibilities, but continue things one game at a time.
Looking too far into the distance can seriously hinder you on what is right beneath your feet, which in a nutshell is Cambridge United in Sky Bet League Two – and that for me is the most important thing right now.
Cardiff City in the third round replay doesn’t take place until a week on Tuesday (this could possibly now change when you consider the prize) and so any visions, thoughts or whatever on that game and what could POTENTIALLY follow, need to be quashed right now in order to focus on progressing in Sky Bet League Two.
Shoot me down with a million bullets and burning arrows but I’ll boldly say this, progress in league two is far more important than progress in the FA Cup, I’d be happy if we were beaten by Cardiff so long as we gave it a go – We matched them over 90 minutes and deserved to win, we created some memories and visited a new ground, it’s enough for me if it were a straight choice between promotion from league two and one game against Manchester City.
I’m the first to openly criticise some of our form, not to mention the frustration of draws which should have been wins, but above it all – we have lost just once in 19 games in all competitions and are gathering momentum, it is so important now to keep that going and not get swept up in the storm.
Cambridge United are a very good side who for my money are performing below par in League Two, Sean Derry always puts out a side that is tough to breakdown and beat – having all these dreams of blue moons will only make things ten times harder for us, and easier for them.
We can not let that happen, we must not let that happen. Focus is key.
The FA Cup is of course magic, look at what the incentive of Liverpool did back in 2012/13 and how that game completely ignited our season – am I excited, am I dreaming of the possibilities – bet your bottom dollar I am, but those are dreams I don’t want yet – because those dreams and possibilities depends on ifs and buts, they depend on hard work and determination.
Can we beat Cardiff City? Yes! We very nearly did it on Saturday and I’ll tell you this – IF we beat Cambridge and make it one loss in twenty and IF Cardiff failed to win on Saturday, leaving them without a win in five, I’d put us favourites against the Welsh outfit.
But for now… does anyone know where I can get a Cambridge Vs Mansfield half and half scarf?!
Craig Priest writes…
Resilience is a quality which many under estimate, for example a small thing like being able to resist that extra biscuit with a brew is practically nothing – but we all know that eating just one is never enough, so that resistance is actually pretty powerful over a larger scale – and that is practically the story of Mansfield Town FC of late, whose goalless draw with Championship Side Cardiff City proved Evans’ side are serious.
In all competitions, Evans men have lost just one in 19 matches (Crawley away, Blackpool in the Checkatrade being a draw across 90 minutes) and are slowly building momentum and belief that success can be achieved, something the goalless draw against the Championship high-flyers will only boost.
In truth the Stags are very unlucky not to be in the hat for round four by themselves, as they had opportunities to win the game – no doubt Paul Anderson will have been awake all night wondering how his late effort didn’t find the back of the net.
They certainly didn’t deserve to lose and Conrad Logan must take a huge amount of credit for his heroic save in the dying seconds of the game, as must Jimmy spencer who was the hero of round two – he again showed what a pivotal player he is, bringing life to Mansfield’s attack after his introduction late in the first half for the injured Kane Hemmings.
Spencer showed tremendous strength and link up play to create a number of openings for the Stags, holding up the ball against a string Cardiff back line to bring other players into play such as MacDonald, who continues to flourish in that central midfield role.
Backed by over a thousand supporters, the players could really see that we were behind them – Evans right to praise that during his post-match interview, however his petulant dig of ‘one defeat in 19 isn’t good enough’ completely took away the fact of what we’d just achieved – a draw against a side who many back to be playing in the Premier League next season despite their winter slump in form.
I could write an entire article on the perspective between management and supporters, but why tarnish what was another good FA Cup memory, five years since the Stags narrowly lost to Liverpool and the hand of a cheat, and a day shy of 12 years since Alan Shearers history levelling goal.
Take the positives out of yesterday and inject them into next Saturday’s league two encounter with Cambridge United – we must turn league draws (six in the league in the run of 19 games as mentioned) into wins, as I believe at least four, possibly five of them should have been wins – but hey ho!
The cup draw should mean nothing and shouldn’t even be addressed until the replay with Neil Warnocks side, we just take one game at a time and make progress, remembering that a journey of a million miles starts with a single step.
Steve Evans named the same starting 11 that beat Carlisle on New Years Day, brining Jimmy Spencer back onto the substitutes bench to bolster attacking options with leading scorer Danny Rose still side lined with injury.
Cardiff named a relatively strong line up as they attempted to break a baron spell of four consecutive defeats, but neither side could create any real opening within the opening exchanges, skipper Krystian Pearce coming out on top in the early battle with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
The hosts saw their first real sight of goal on 15 minutes as the ball ran free for Rhys Healey but the bluebirds man failed to get a real connection on his volley and the Stags were able to clear – ten minutes later, the Stags nearly opened up city as Mellis sent Hamilton on his way down the left hand side – the tricky winger cut inside and sent a teasing cross in – which nobody could connect with.
Conrad Logan had to be alert on 36 minutes as the ball zipped into the path of Callum Paterson, a deflection took the sting out of it and the Stags regrouped, four minutes later Logan again beating away an effort as MacDonald was dispossessed in the middle by Healey, Logan equal to the effort.
Jimmy Spencer replaced the injured Kane Hemmings on the stroke of half time, Spencer creating the Stags best chance of the half during the two additional minutes as he held the ball up well in the corner following a splitting central pass, Spencer then picked out Anderson whose looping cross found Hamilton, who at the far post, nodded over the bar.
The Stags were fired up as the second half began as Lee Angol won an early corner, swung in by Potter, the winger got the ball back and found the run of Bennett at the far post who was very unlucky to be second in the race to the inviting cross.
On 51 minutes Alex MaxcDonald nearly repeated his goal at Coventry, cutting inside past three – before curling narrowly wide of Brian Murphy’s goal – two minutes later the Stags were very nearly behind, Healey firing a volley just over Logan’s bar following Lee Tomlin’s fizzing cross.
The Stags should then have taken the lead on the hour as Jimmy Spencer did really well to hold up play from Potter’s feed, Spencer squared into the middle for Angol who agonisingly saw his goal bound effort blocked by a combination of Brian Murphy and Cardiff skipper Sean Morrison, who both wondered how on earth the hosts were not behind after an excellent Mansfield move.
Both sides played check mate for a while before with 11 minutes remaining, the Stags again nearly had the breakthrough, Alex MacDonald played a sublime ball through the middle which was acutely flicked into the box by Spencer, Paul Anderson made a hidden run from right back, rounding the keeper before seeing his effort painfully turned away for a corner, eventually taken and cleared after Anderson picked himself from the floor, laying in disbelief at how he handed found the back of the net.
In the dying seconds of the game, Conrad Logan pulled off the heroics, somehow turning the ball away as a scramble inside the area saw the ball head towards the bottom corner – the stags number one showing real agility to push the ball away to safety, keeping his ninth clean sheet of the season and adding another fixture to the calendar in the process, as after 90 minutes of well balanced football – Mansfield held Championship Cardiff to a goalless draw.
FULL TIME: Cardiff City 0-0 Stags
Paul Anderson – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 90+2) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 45) – Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 75)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Hayden White, Calum Butcher
Attendance: 6,378 (1,063)
Referee: Lee Probert Assistants R.Merchant C.Taylor Fourth Official R.Lewis
Craig Priest writes…
As the clocks chimed at midnight, many would have been either miming the words to auld langs syne, or making them up – well how about, we’ll take a goal or three carlise, for the sake of three more points?
No? Ok I’ll stick to blog writing – made far easier as the Stags turned on their professionalism to see of Carlisle United 3-1 to kick start 2018 with a win, doing so without leading scorer Danny Rose and captain Zander Diamond, as injuries and some illness’ continued to plague the Stags camp.
Steve Evans dropped numerous jibes at a small selection of supporters in his post-match comments again, sighting that they weren’t happy – I can’t help but feel two things, first and foremost, he should let it go – it’ll only keep happening otherwise, and two – the minority that did have a go? Why!
We won the game, I won’t say dominated as that would suggest Carlisle had no opportunities and they did which had they took, would have saw a different game played out – but what I will say is, we controlled the game and we’re professional in our approach.
It would have been so easy to implode after the penalty incident, which one first look I felt was about right – I’m yet to watch it back, however the point here isn’t about someone being right or wrong, it’s that we didn’t cave in and throw away a solid lead – we rallied, regained our two goal advantage and saw the game through to its conclusion.
It was good to play with so much confidence going forward without Danny Rose, he was missed of course, but it gave Angol the chance to shine again – back to his old self of being hungry and winning clever free kicks and making things happen, whilst Kane Hemmings continued to cause problems – it looks like he’s finally found his form.
Being picky, I felt we sat a little too deep at times and invited the opposition on which nearly went wrong, but we’ve been talking for weeks about not having a biting central midfielder – step forward Alex MacDonald who for my money at this stage of the season, should NOT be placed back out wide, he should be developed and ‘converted’ into a central player and the team built around him.
Why? Well just watch the last few games back and look at the way in which he’s moved box to box to chase the ball and close players down, other players read him to and come in to play off him, if we are to play football, which for my money is our best chance of success, then Alex MacDonald is the lynchpin to that.
Steve Evans made three changes to the side which came from behind to beat Wycombe, bar for Conrad Logan, it was essentially the second half team which played some excellent football.
That mantra continued from the off as the Stags won a corner within the opening minute from CJ Hamilton’s bursting run – Lee Angol beaten to the ball by visiting keeper Jack Bonham from Potters resulting delivery.
Another corner from Potter on four minutes caused further problems for the visitors but it was the Stags who then opened the scoring on nine minutes as after poor free kick routine, the visitors’ attempts to mop up went wrong – Hemmings intercepted Danny Grainger’s back-pass to round Bonham and put the ball into the empty net.
Pearce and Bennett did well at the other end to keep the Stags lead, meanwhile Hemmings and Potter both saw efforts go astray as Mansfield searched for a second.
They didn’t have to wait long however, another free kick routine eventually saw MacDonald put a ball back into the mix, squared by Hamilton to Angol, whose flick past Bonham was prodded over the line by Rhys Bennett with half an hour played.
Angol and Hemmings both came close to adding a third, but despite Mansfield controlling play with some fluid moves, at the half time whistle – it was Bennett and Hemmings respective goals the difference.
Keith Curle made a double switch at the break pushing more bodies up front, fears of a Stags implosion lingered in the air like stale Bovril. The fears were made worse as the previously fluid Stags began to stutter and were finally confirmed, as on 66 minutes Conrad Logan conceded a penalty as he appeared to upend substitute Ritchie Bennett – Jamie Devitt stepped up to tuck beneath the returning Stags keeper to make it 2-1.
It should have been 2-2 on 73 minutes as Carlisle in the same move, saw an effort blocked by Logan, the ball hit the post and the cannon the cross bar – it proved the scare the Stags needed however, two minutes later a surge down the right by Alfie Potter saw the ball squared to Hemmings who made it 3-1 with his second goal of the afternoon and pretty much game over.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-1 Carlisle
Paul Anderson – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter (Hayden White 79) – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 83) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings – Lee Angol (Jack Thomas 88)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Digby, Omari Sterling-James, Calum Butcher
Referee: Darren Drysdale Assistants Duncan Street, Joe Clark Fourth Official Steven Rushton
Attendance 3,632 (320)
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