Craig Priest previews tomorrow’s home game with Ebbsfleet United.
Another beautiful day over Mansfield and again I find myself sat on the roof writing for a third consecutive day, if truth be told I keep losing concentration sat at my desk in my room – I’m nervous, I’m excited and as I wrote in my column for the Chad this week – I don’t want this season to come to end.
Tomorrow’s arrival of Ebbsfleet to Field Mill is the first of our final six games of the 2011/12 season – the start of six HUGE games which could shape our history for years to come. I think it quite poignant that our first ever game in the conference was against Ebbsfleet, now as we’re in the strongest position we’ve ever been in to actually get out of this horrible yet beautiful league, we face Ebbsfleet once more, looking to bounce back from a defeat at Fleetwood which saw an unbeaten run of eight games come to an end.
With Luton again taking on York tonight in one of the pairs two game in hands over ourselves, the ball remains in our court, regardless of the outcome we will still remain in 3rd a point clear of whoever is victorious – a draw would be even better! Some have labelled us lucky, saying that we’ve hit form at the right time and have estimated that eventually we will inevitably fall from grace – we must show those people that the defeat at Fleetwood isn’t the first trip of the fall, but merely a stumbling block to our climb – we must respond with a victory and go about our business in the way we have been doing. Be ruthless, be ugly, whatever – just be winners.
Again I’m not going to look beyond tomorrow’s game nor paint a picture of what could be, there are a lot of permutations, a lot of football to be played – a month or so Paul Cox was forever saying we had to keep on the ground and just let footballing nature take its course – I think the need to do this is more vital now than it ever will be. Sitting here in the afternoon sunshine I think back to our last few games, Fleetwood included, you the supporters have been phenomenal – it’s beautiful to stand in the press box and look around to see you all singing, dancing and enjoying our season – it’s dam hard too because sometimes I wish I could throw down my head set, grab a stags shirt and join in! As I say though, I get to stand and watch and my heart beats like a bullet train when that roar starts, that’s a blessing – I pray that this continues until the season has run its course, we are so focused on our game, giving our support, we are not letting other results affect us. It’s all about us and that’s the way it has to stay – it’s going to get harder as the finishing line approaches but I know deep down that we can do it. It’s all about us, our songs, creating our noise, spurring on our boys, getting the right result for our team – achieving our dream.
I’m going to hold my hands up now, I’m usually a great judge of character, I’ve a knack of predicting what will happen – I’ve said that I WON’T predict or paint pictures, not because I don’t want to tempt fate – but because I’m scared. I honestly am frightened of us, as a team, as a football club – we are something special, I’m not being arrogant when I say that either, I sense something extraordinary about us we’ve got this burning desire, this ability, this collectiveness and in a sense – this LOVE about us. Waking up every match day morning I’m far more nervous then I ever have been before, I can’t wait to get into the ground, to sample the atmosphere to watch what unfolds. It’s a horrible comparison and involves my greatest fear but I compare us to a solitary candle, burning slowly, calmly and peacefully but over a box full of lighter fluid, firelighters and fireworks – in every game we play we burn with that added bit of energy, we burn with that extra adrenaline which uncontrollably comes from nowhere – we are a ticking time bomb, our hot wax is starting to drip and soon we are going to explode, sending the flames high into the sky spreading a message to the wider world. I have no idea what that message is, when it will happen and indeed how we will react, but that anticipation, that anxiety to whiteness first hand the final outcome is driving me crazy – all this pent up emotion is brilliant – I love it, I really do – tomorrow can’t come quick enough!
Our opponents tomorrow Ebbsfleet are currently sat mid-table and in a few games time will pretty much have nothing left to play for with the play-offs out of reach and relegation only possible with one hell of a slump – although in this league anything is possible! Against the current top five Liam Daish’s men, who were promoted via the blue square south play-offs last season, have failed to pick up anything – being beaten by Fleetwood, Wrexham, Southport, York and ourselves – conceding 25 in games against the current top five the fleet have replied with just seven goals of their own. It’s Ebbsfleet’s inconstancy which has perhaps halted their ambitions of a better season, prior to writing this I watched the highlights of their recent 1-0 victory against troubled Kettering, the amount of chances they created was unreal and yet they only scored once – maybe a little fire power to go alongside the 17 goals from former Fulham youngster Calum Willock and the 10 from Liam Enver-Marum and Ebbsfleet could be placed a little higher. At the back it’s pretty much a similar case, they have good individuals but fail to come together as a unit, giving them the 5th worst defensive record in the division. On the road Daish’s men are a sharper unit than the one we faced at Stonebridge Road, with an away record ranked tenth the story of unbalanced attack and defence shines through, having scored and conceded 14 goals on their last six travels. Put simply, the way I see it, if Ebbsfleet turn up you’ll have a difficult game on your hands – as Paul Cox says we must prepare for every eventuality, Ebbsfleet for me are a team that can spring a surprise or two, sometimes it’s those who you don’t suspect who will cause the most damage. Going back to what I said earlier – tomorrow’s game is one will must win and approach in the same way we have been doing.
In the week I was pleased to see that John Thompson completed a full 90 minutes in a reserve team friendly, drawing 2-2 at Field Mill with Notts County. It’s reported that he came through the game fine and no occurrence of the injuries that have restricted him to just seven appearances. Will he straight into the side tomorrow, I doubt it but on the grand scale of things, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name appearing on the team sheet sooner rather than later, players like John will be key to our run in. I’d certainly expect us to go back to a 4-4-2 tomorrow and whilst I’d be disappointed to see him miss out, I think it will be Anthony Howell the man replaced for Louis Briscoe, depending on how Skipper Adam Murray’s ankle is holding up.
That’s pretty much it from out here, it’s getting fairly breezy and I’m starting to get some funny looks off the neighbours! If you can’t get to Field Mill tomorrow, join me for regular updates on 106.9FM only with build up from 2pm.
Last Time We Met
Back at the end of January our good form of five unbeaten from Boxing Day continued with a 3-0 victory. A brace from creative midfielder Gary Roberts plus another goal from leading front man Matt Green was enough to take the points in a game which Mansfield showed there grit and determination, digging deep from start to finish.
Liam Daish’s men, the first side we ever faced outside the football league, and the Stags have met only twice at Field Mill, both times it has been the Stags who claimed victory. A 2-0 in April 2009 was followed by a 3-0 victory in august the same year as we moved to the top of the league table, looking to escape the conference at the second attempt. Ebbsfleet have been victorious over us, winning the reverse fixture of that season 2-1.
Ebbsfleet 0-3 Stags 28.1.12 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, Sutton, Dempster, Riley, O'Neill, Dyer, Murray (C), Roberts , Smith (Meikle), Hutchinson (Howell), Green  (Briscoe). SNU Redmond, Edwards
Podcast: Commentary comes from Craig Priest
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit an article, please email your work to firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest, ready to get back in the Takeover Studio
Ahead of the final month of the season, we can now confirm that a mini-series of topical shows will air on our MM-LIVE page and on our host radio station, Takeover Radio 106.9FM
Due to staffing issues back at the station at the start of the season, we took the decision to drop our previous show ‘Takeover Football Phone In’ and just bring you commentary, before adding this 24-7 interactive website to the Mansfield Matters package. Now that the station is in a more stable position regarding staff, and now that we have the relevant ways of bringing you extra audio content – a short mini-series of shows will be broadcast to end the season in style.
There is however a major difference from our last bundle of shows – this time YOU are in control of what we broadcast, the ONLY rule is it has to be about the Stags. We have no script and no agenda, this is aimed at bringing you what you want to hear – quite simply if you’ve an idea, no matter how small, we will make that show. Your idea doesn’t have to be a type of show, the kind of stuff we are looking for is as follows...
· Topics to discuss
· Players you’d like to see interviewed and WHAT YOU would ask them
· Games and goals you’d like to hear again
· Your favorite player and why
· Your favorite moment of this season or past season and why
· Anything else regarding Stags – we are open to suggestion.
At the moment we have no set schedule for our MM-LIVE page broadcasts, the idea would be to create the show and put it online for you to listen too at your convenience as many times as you like, it would also include a ‘Download me’ feature so you can listen on your way to work, on the way to a game etc. The weekly shows will also be broadcast on Takeover radio 106.9FM airing on a Thursday night 8-9pm, here will also be a LIVE 3 hour show on 106.9FM on Saturday 21st April keeping you up to date with all the vital scorers from around the BSBP following our Friday night TV fixture with Wrexham, our final home game of the season.
A wide verity of guests are lined up, including the Chad’s Stags Talk team who joined us as part of our ‘Countdown to Wembley’ at the end of last season – Scott Rogers will be on THIS WEEKS ‘Stags Talk’ podcast recorded on Thursday. You too can be a guest on the show, be sure to get in touch along with any ideas you have.
The first show, set for week commencing April 2nd, will be hosted by Craig Priest who will be reading a special blog and revealing his ‘Stags Soundtrack’ – he is also keen to take your suggestions on what should be included in his blog and what songs you would include in your ‘Stags Soundtrack’. Guests to the first show and indeed following shows will be announced in due course.
Remember this miniseries of shows is focusing on what you want to hear – be sure to get in touch via the following methods
PHONE/TEXT 07982 865 624 (Cost: standard network rate)
SKYPE: Add 'mtfcmatters'
Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Fleetwood Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #40)
Venue: Highbury Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 24th March 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 3106 (480)
Match Referee: S Duncan
After two huge wins over Barrow and Alfreton, yesterday’s trip to league front runners Fleetwood was always going to be difficult. I had a feeling I would be sat here writing about a defeat which for me is quite defeatist which I hate, however I write disappointed not in defeat, but in the fact we took our finger off the pulse and stopped playing to our heartbeat. In the first half we had chances and didn’t take them, in the second it was the same – Fleetwood’s two goals weren’t out of this world, in my opinion they were nothing great they just read us well and played to OUR strengths, using them as our weakness. Fair play to them and I have no doubt we will hopefully meet again next season in League Two, yes I’m disappointed with losing, I always am – but with six games to go, we are still in a great position and despite failing to our first defeat in eight and second in 15, I’m in a positive frame of mind as in defeat, comes victory.
Some of you may now be thinking I’ve spent too much time in the sun, as how on earth can there be victory in defeat? Technically there can’t be, you wither win, lose or draw – however successful teams, successful people, look to find the positives, build on and learn from the negatives – the difference between winning and losing is not in being best on the day, it’s about those who have desire and belief to go and find the dreams rather than those who sit and wallow in self pity, those who refuse to even give it a second go, those who let confidence and ability go to waste. In the past Mansfield Town FC have been guilty of doing just that, but not now – there are six games to go, we are in a strong position and after all the work we’ve done so far, there is NO WAY ANYONE will take it from us. Defeat will keep us grounded, it will create freshness to our play so not to feel the pain again – in actual fact being beaten yesterday could prove to be a blessing.
Again I know your sat reading this thinking I’m an idiot, maybe I am – whatever, inside I feel that whilst others will say ‘we’ve been beaten by the best therefore we are not worthy of matching them’ Paul Cox, his players and staff will be saying ‘yes we’ve been beaten by the best, but we can highlight, analyze and put right WHY – plus we matched them for a fair chunk of two games and if we use that as a starting block, we can raise the barrier and achieve the dream’
At the end of the day, tomorrow is gone – we can’t change the result, we can only learn from the game and ensure that the un-doings of us can’t be replicated by others. Time is on our side, our destiny is in our hands and time is on our side. We are Mansfield Town FC, we know what we want and we WILL get it – what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Paul Cox opted for just the one change from Tuesday’s midweek madness at Alfreton, surprisingly it was Louis Briscoe who missed out, and unsurprisingly it was Gary Roberts who came in as 4-4-2 became 4-5-1.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Ross Dyer, Adam Murray (C), Gary Roberts (Briscoe), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Jon Worthington, Louis Briscoe, Matt Rhead, Danny Andrew
Opening the curtains yesterday morning I noticed the thick fog, initial thoughts suggested a murky horrible day weather wise – how wrong I was, the sun burnt brightly and the heat just a touch above spot on, the first game this season (bar Forest Green away) where I’ve been able to ditch the warm hoody scarf and coat, the ‘lucky clean sheet’ cap made a re-appearance but a monumental error saw me leave my sunglasses in the car! Still, I managed to squint and see the game, one which as predicted would be tight, but due to the heat wouldn’t be played at the velocity and speed of the reverse fixture 10 days ago.
It was the Stags who started the brighter side, looking to take an early lead, creating there first real chance of the game four minutes in. A directional ball down the right saw Ross Dyer win the ball in the air, a neat headed flick saw Matt Green in behind Nathan Pond, Green opted for a belting shot which caught Scott Davies off guard, expecting the cross Davies was forced to push the ball up into the air, Lindon Meikle was first to connect but he knew little about it, allowing the Fleetwood shot stopper to claim the ball and avert the danger.
The Stags were then fortunate to keep 11 men on the pitch on eight minutes, Dyer and Green again combined on the right hand side to earn Mansfield a corner which was headed away. Gary Roberts steamed across to cover ground and prevent a counter attack, lunging in on his man but fortunately to no avail, the ball trickled out for a throw and good refereeing saw Roberts get a very stern word rather than any card.
A minute another O’Neill corner nearly gave the Stags the lead, initially headed away the Stags picked the ball up through skipper Murray whose ferocious drive from 40 yards would have smashed the back of the net, had Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies not bailed his side out with a fine tip over the bar.
The hosts as expected moved the ball well but they failed to anything in possession and came up against a resilient Stags back line, which in turn allowed Mansfield to push on in search of an opener. Creative play between Dyer, O’Neill, Green and Howell eventually saw Meikle flagged offside before Matt Green missed a glorious chance on 14 minutes. Alan Marriott’s launched ball forward was again flicked on into the right for Green by Dyer, a neat ball back to Dyer then saw Roberts take over. On the edge of the area, Roberts' poked ball through to Green was well read by Nathan Pond however his clearance was poor and fell for Luke O’Neill on the edge of the box, his perfect cross was headed down at the far post by Howell, Matt Green raced through and somehow poked over from six yards.
It was only a matter of time before free scoring Fleetwood created chances of their own, a neatly worked quick free quick on 18 minutes saw Peter Cavanagh chip one into the area, Jamie McGuire headed over from close range after the Stags failed to track his run before four consecutive corners had the Stags penned into their own box.
On 22 minutes it was the third of the four quick fire Goodall corners which proved most dangerous, after dealing with the initial corner, Fleetwood picked up the second ball on the left hand side and switched neatly to the right hand side, again the quick play created space to put Gareth Seddon 1 v 1 with Alan Marriott, the Stags shot stopper produced a fine save to tip the ball behind for the fourth and final corner which was taken short and in turn, drifted harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Alan Marriott again had to be at his best on 34 minutes when a hesitant piece of defending by the otherwise solid Martin Riley gave the hosts a free kick on the left. Whipped in right footed by Lee Fowler, it was Gareth Seddon who connected first at the front post, sticking out a leg to divert the ball towards go, but fortunately – also straight into the hands of a grateful Marriott.
Ole style football, or testimonial style football from the Stags three minutes before the break saw Stags make over twenty passes back to front before Anthony Howell’s eventual pass go out for a goal kick, the hosts then had half a shout for a penalty a minute before the half time whistle when Peter Till took a tumble following Alan Goodall’s drilled low cross, however the referee was having none of it and eventually brought the goalless first half, to a close.
Half Time: Fleetwood 0-0 Stags
After the break it was again the Stags who registered an early chance, Gary Roberts’ teasing chip over the top saw Ross Dyer get in behind, however Dyer was unable to get his powerful effort on target as the ball trickled away for a throw. On 49 minutes an Exodus Geohaghon long throw from the right excited the Mansfield travelling faithful, however the travelling 480 would soon be left cursing their luck as for the first time ever, the Stags conceded from Geohaghon’s bullet on the counter attack.
In fairness the throw in was well researched and well read by the hosts who after heading away the initial ball, broke free through Goodall’s pass followed by a Cavanagh charge, his pass on the edge of the box found the advancing Shaun Beeley, who drilled a shot through the legs of Marriott to open the scoring.
Fleetwood 1-0 Stags
On 54 minutes, a tremendous tackle from Martin Riley prevented Jamie McGuire from breaking free, however the ball did go out for a corner, from which the hosts was unfortunate not to get a second. Alan Goodall’s corner was strong towards the back post finding Gareth Seddon, his thunderous header cannoned off the bar and behind for a goal kick.
The hosts should have then been pegged level a minute later, Lindon Meikle came alive in the middle and threaded a delightful pass into the path of Dyer just to the right of the box. The burley front man failed to add to his tally of eight Stags goals, firing into the side netting much to my disbelief as I thought it’d gone in. Another Craig Priest blooper!
Fleetwood then introduced Richard Brodie and Jamie Vardy on the hour mark, whilst Stags introduced Briscoe for Meikle, sticking with the 4-5-1 with Briscoe on the right and Dyer on the left. Mansfield’s change made no real impact compared to Fleetwood’s as Jamie Vardy bundled in Alan Goodall’s left sided cross four minutes after coming on, doubling his sides lead.
Fleetwood 2-0 Stags
Louis Briscoe then fired wide after charging forward down the right before the Stags made their final two changes, Ritchie Sutton was replaced by Danny Andrew at left back shortly after Skipper Adam Murray limped off, replaced by Matt Rhead, handing captaincy over to Martin Riley whilst the Stags finally went 4-4-2 with Rhead partnering Green up top.
Jamie Vardy then earned his side a corner on 77 minutes, despite a strong ball from Gooadall it was dealt with well allowing the Stags to attack, Gary Roberts drove forward before sending Anthony Howell on his way down the left, Shaun Beeley got back to clear for a throw which materialised into nothing.
Matt Rhead and Steve McNulty were enjoying a very physical heavyweight battle which worked in Mansfield’s favour with nine minutes to go, Rhead’s presence saw McNulty take his eye off the game allowing Briscoe to drive forward and win a corner from the boot of Beeley. O’Neill’s delivery was spot on for Rhead who beat McNulty in the air, heading back across goal for Geohaghon who saw his dominant header well saved.
Intricate work between Roberts, O’Neill and Briscoe earned Mansfield another corner three minutes from time, Luke O’Neill again provided this time for Dyer who headed wide.
Excellent defending from stand in skipper Martin Riley prevented Richard Brodie from getting his name on the score sheet in additional time. At the other end a Danny Andrew free kick from the half way line was headed down to Matt Rhead who struck venomously on the volley, earning the Stags a final corner, however the clock was against Paul Cox’s side who were prevented taking the corner by the sound of the full time whistle
Full Time: Fleetwood 2-0 Stags << Listen again to full audio, with commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers
As I wrote at the top of the piece, a defeat is never nice but this one could stand us in good stead ahead of the final six fixtures. With no game midweek it’s now an ideal time to rest a few legs before hitting the ground running once more, ahead of next weekend’s fixture against mid table Ebbsfleet. If you can’t get to Field Mill, join me for regular updates on 106.9FM only, build up starts at 2pm.
Let’s not be disheartened, let us be Mansfield Town, humble in victory gracious in defeat, safe in the knowledge that our destiny can still be controlled by us. Buckle yourselves in, the rollercoaster still has a few twists and turns to go.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations. To submit a piece of your own, please email email@example.com with your work.
Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow afternoons trip to league leaders Fleetwood...
Doctors and opticians around Mansfield this week have been over busy, after witnessing the Stags score 13 goals in two games, Stags have been flocking to the doctors to check there heart rate and state of mind, as well as getting their eyes tested!
Joking aside it’s been great to see the goals flying in and the points adding to our tally, however it wasn’t so great on Tuesday seeing us concede three in the manor which we did – three defensive mistakes which, if are repeated tomorrow at Fleetwood, will cause a lot more damage. Anyway, negatives aside what a time to be travelling to the league leaders, 7 against Barrow, 6 against Alfreton... who dares suggest 5 against Fleetwood!? Not me, that’s for certain.
Like in my match preview for the reverse fixture some nine days ago at Field Mill, I write with no fear ahead of our match with the league leaders. There’s no arrogance in my words, which I’m sure of, but on the flip side there’s no dark cloud of expectancy either. Despite our high goal supremacy over the last two fixtures and despite the well earned point in the reverse fixture, I know it will be tough, but if there was no toughness in football, then it would be pointless. I thrive on fixture’s where we have to scrap, have to fight, have to go hell for leather from start to finish – because these are all traits of winners, trust me when I say that nobody, get’s anywhere without having to be tough and ruthless.
I highly doubt it’ll be a goal glut, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended 0-0, I’d take that now by the way, I’m not saying this because I don’t believe we’re capable of scoring big a third game running – we can do anything if we truly wanted to, I’m saying this because looking at the two sides of late, virtually nothing can separate them.
Over the last eight games, the form table looks as follows: [1st] Fleetwood Town – W7 D1 GD +18 POINTS 22 / [2nd] Mansfield Town – W7 D1 GD +17 POINTS 22 – Just one goal separating the two sides at this stage of the season is phenomenal, and also huge credit to the job Paul Cox and his player have done. Our away form matches Fleetwood’s home form; both have four wins from their last five. In front of goal for the entire season, Fleetwood are the front runners with 92 goals, Stags are in second place with 73. I doubt even Mystic Meg could predict this one.
Some reports have suggested the reverse fixture to be all Fleetwood, others have suggested Mansfield, personally I remember it as a tight affair where one defensive lapse cost the Stags a goal, whilst dominant determination got them one back. Fleetwood had their chances, we had ours – ultimately the two sides cancelled each other out. I think they’ll do the same again tomorrow, however something Paul Cox mentioned about the reverse fixture has been going around in my mind. The Stags boss, who will not be leaving for Burton, said that whilst we were perhaps timid in our attacking play, there came a point when as a squad we realised that we could take the game if we started to be ourselves – thinking back there was a point when we did, just after brining Matt Rhead on we played with a bit more truth in our attacks, almost as if we’d said ‘forgot you being top, forget your on fire front line, we’re fighting for something too, and it’s not going to stop now’ If we do the same a little earlier tomorrow and remain tight at the back, then who knows what could happen. Sometimes looking at form guides, league tables and results can blur your vision; those who are successful look at what is within to achieve the best result.
If we are prepared, if we are solid and constant – then we can be the victors of the seemingly unbeatable.
Fleetwood’s home form is to be admired in fairness, as is their season on a whole. Only one team have left Highbury with all three points that was FA Trophy finalists Newport, who ran out 4-1 winners back in October. The 4-1 defeat was not only Mickey Melons’ sides last home defeat, it was also there last league defeat in total, going onto pick up twenty victories and four draws, propelling them to the top of the league standings five points clear of second placed Wrexham who have two games in hand and still have to travel to Highbury. In comparison our away form isn’t that far behind rivalling the cod army’s home form, picking up three defeats at Southport, Gateshead and Newport, it’s been draws that have prevented us from bettering our 42% away win rating.
Fleetwood are now unbeaten in 24 league games whilst we have picked up just one defeat in 15 fixtures, leading front man Matt Green is just four goals behind Fleetwood’s Jamie Vardy in the golden boot race, joint second with Liam Hearn chasing the aforementioned Vardy and former Stag Jon Shaw, whose unstoppable for Gateshead. Both sides are in form, both sides have strengths, both have weakness’ – both are as dangerous as each other and nobody, without the aid of doctor who’s tardis, can see whose going to win.
Whatever happens it will be a thrilling tale, would defeat de-rail us? Possibly, but every ones bound to lose sometime, including Fleetwood. Would defeat end our play-off hopes? Don’t be silly. Would we recover from defeat? Without a doubt. Will we be beaten? Personally I don’t think so and want to slap myself rather hard around the face for even mentioning the ‘D’ word – I’m not being arrogant, or over confident, I’m trying to be honest and true to what and who we are – we are unique, we are an energy, we are a puzzle that I’m no rush to solve!
That’s about it this time round, not much has changed since the last time we faced each other, will the 5-0 defeat from our last Highbury visit play on our minds? Again no. It’s not about the past, it’s not about the future either, it’s about the here and now – a 90 minute battle between two good teams, the beautiful games rollercoaster twisting and turning at full speed, the sea tide taking whatever path it chooses.
Seven more games, twenty-one more points on offer, four places in the lottery, one winner, three losers – numbers, irrelevant numbers, tomorrow it’s all about whoever stays on their feet rather than fall, and even if they do – they’ll still be plenty of track to run.
In team news, Skipper Adam Murray is the only doubt after picking up a knock at Alfreton on Tuesday, he's since been suffering with a sore ankle. Gary Roberts could be the man to replace him whilst John Thompson is fit, but with a lack of match action not match fit.
Let’s focus on tomorrow and continue to do whatever it is we have been! If you can’t get to take in the sea air, be sure to join myself and Scott Rogers for full match commentary on 106.9FM and MM-LIVE, build up gets underway on BOTH at 2.30pm.
Last Time We Met
As mentioned earlier in the piece, it was a week last Tuesday when the two in form sides hocked horns at Field Mill. A fast paced, ferocious, tight encounter was played out at a buzzing Field Mill, which erupted when Exodus Geohaghon headed home a 90th minute Luke O’Neill corner to cancel out an 81st minutes Jamie Vardy opener to take a well deserved point and keep our unbeaten run going.
Tomorrow’s trip will be our third to Fleetwood’s Highbury, having been beaten 3-0 last season and 5-0 this season in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay with a severely ill squad.
Stags 1-1 Fleetwood 13.3.12 line up: [4-5-1] Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Geohaghon , Sutton, Dyer, Murray (C), Worthington (Rhead), Howell, Meikle (Briscoe), Green. SNU Redmond, Hutchinson, Andrews
Audio highlights: Commentary from Craig Priest and Wayne Briggs
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, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Alfreton Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #32 Re-arranged)
Venue: Impact Arena
Date & Time: Tuesday 20th March 2012 – 7.45pm
Attendance: 3354 (1956!)
Match Referee: Darren Bond
Seriously I have no idea how to describe last night’s events, I’ve thought about comparing it to when you put FIFA on ‘easy’ mode and set each half to 12 minutes, I’ve thought about comparing it to a defensive massacre and a front line romp – but none of these comparisons even come close. Last night was just weird, wonderful yes, but horribly weird!
The score line suggests the Stags once again crucifying their opponents like on Saturday, this wasn’t the case, if it hadn’t been for too late goals from Geohaghon and Green it would have finished 4-3, which suggests a tight affair – that’s probably the best way to describe it, tight and mightily tough.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t good too watch, there we’re many heart in mouth moments and in turn many moments where I didn’t know what to say (never good for a commentator!). Parts of the game probably highlights the need for fresh legs for our trip to Fleetwood on Saturday, more defensively than anything as if we perform like we did at the back last night, we’ll get a pasting! On the whole, whilst there we’re mistakes we again demonstrated the qualities of a successful side, we went behind twice and fought back to get a two goal lead and despite conceding another, pulled together and dug deep to finish the job in the end, with a sigh of relief. Previous Stags sides would have crumbled and would have left the Impact Arena empty handed, credit to Nicky Laws side for putting up a fight I think they’ll just about survive the drop, however when you look at the two sides and the qualities demonstrated in the second half especially by Stags – you get the difference between a winner and a loser.
Sometimes in football it’s not about playing the pretty stuff, pass after pass goal after goal – it’s about character, desire, work ethic and ultimately about those who want to sink, or swim. This morning I accept the fact that in the first half, we were struggling to swim the red sea, in fact for 40 out of the 45 minutes, I’d say we were on the verge of sinking even with the two goal lead, however I am again proud of our boys. I’ll no doubt write during the week about how the game will be a wakeup call with seven now to play but in life as in football, I take my hat off to anyone who, even in the roughest of tides, can still keep swimming to follow their dreams – so Stags, my hat is off to you...
Paul Cox had a selection headache going into this one, with creative midfielder Gary Roberts back from a two game ban, did he reintroduce him to the line up or stick with the same 11 that put seven past Barrow on Saturday. In the end it was the latter with Roberts settling for a place on bench – sparking rumours that Roberts is unhappy at Stags and has had a falling out with the management, have a day off rumour mill!
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray (C), Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrew, Gary Roberts
Alfreton’s starting plans we’re rocked five minutes before kick off as Seamus Connelly took ill, he was replaced in the line up by Theo Street who proved vital for his team two minutes in preventing Mansfield from an empathic start. Luke O’Neill’s right sided throw saw Louis Briscoe head on into the middle, Matt Green looked to burst through but the leading front man was thwarted by Street’s tackled which was timed to perfection. Moments later the Stags we’re on the charge again and should have taken the lead. It was the hosts who had the initial pressure on the edge of the Stags box; Paul Clayton’s shot cannoned off a Mansfield leg falling perfectly for Briscoe on the edge of his own area. The Stags wing man who bagged a hat-trick on Saturday burst free with real intent, cantering over the half way line before stretching the game wide left to Matt Green who then found Lindon Meikle. The former Eastwood wingers cross from the bye-line was strong and found Dyer at the back post, his shot was clawed away by Jon Stewart in the Alfreton goal, who could only watch as the ball fell to Briscoe six yards from goal. Briscoe unleashed a venomous effort but fired into the packed crowd rather than the top corner.
Supporters didn’t have to wait much longer for a goal however as Alfreton took the lead on six minutes. Poor defending from the Stags gifted the hosts the opener, failing to deal with Josh Law’s deep cross park ball before failing to stop the forceful run from Anthony Wilson and the resulting cross from Nathan Jarman. Nobody had picked up the run of Jake Moult, brother of former Stags loanee Louis, who ghosted in at the far post to bundle home from half a yard.
Alfreton 1-0 Stags
Seconds after the restart the Stags lost possession on the half way line and were extremely fortunate not to go further behind, Luke O’Neill lost the ball and allowed the Reds to punt one over the top. Exodus Geohaghon failed to hold off his man and the reds nipped the ball to the edge of the area, where Paul Clayton’s tame shot bobbled away off Martin Riley. The ball looped and then dropped for Moult who, twenty yards from goal, unleashed a venomous volley towards the bottom corner only to be denied by Marriott who made an excellent save to palm the dipping, spinning ball away from danger.
Alfreton continued to push in search of a second but resilient defending from Martin Riley prevented any further early danger, allowing Mansfield to regroup and go in search of a leveller. A series of Geohaghon long throws failed to trouble to hosts however the towering centre half did have a part to play in Mansfield’s equalizer on 16 minutes.
The Stags had penned Alfreton into their own half but failed to penetrate, a scrambled clearance fell to Geohaghon on the half way line who turned his marker with ease before sending O’Neill on his way down the right flank. The young full back covered ground before drilling a teasing low cross into the middle. Matt Green, Ross Dyer and Lindon Meikle all saw efforts blocked before the ball fell for Anthony Howell, who smashed home for his second Stags goal in as many games.
Alfreton 1-1 Stags
The Stags goal proved to be petrol to Alfreton’s fire rather than a sucker punch for an old terrace favourite as four minutes later, they led once more. A sustained spell of pressure saw Mansfield try everything to get clear, Adam Murray thought he’d done enough but his riffled volleyed clearance cannoned back into the final third via the face of Jake Moult. Anthony Wilson was first too it as Marriott and Geohaghon failed to communicate but Wilson found himself forced wide by the covering Martin Riley. Wilson went down under the challenge of Riley but failed to win a penalty as the ball bounced into the path of Nathan Jarman who powered an effort beneath the legs of Marriott.
Alfreton 2-1 Stags
On 22 minutes Mansfield we’re denied a second leveller by Jon Stewart, Matt Green was the one who let fly, turning past Reds Skipper Kempson on the edge of the box before drilling a shot towards the bottom corner, only to be denied by Stewart down to his left. The resulting corner failed to trouble and Alfreton came forward once more, however it was Mansfield looking more the more likely to score, Martin Riley headed wide from Geohaghon’s 29th minute throw before being in the mix two minutes later as the Stags finally levelled.
Exodus Geohaghon’s throw from the right hand side provided the assist, thundering over everyone before Martin Riley nipped in to head home his first Stags goal from six yards. In commentary we said it was Briscoe as did the press association, in all honesty it happened in a blur and I didn’t see who got the final touch, fans behind the goal said Riley and on his twitter after the match, he seemed miffed as to why the goal was given to Briscoe – so putting two and two together and hopefully making four, I’ll say it was indeed Riley who got the final touch – not that it mattered as Stags we’re level.
Alfreton 2-2 Stags
The lead then switched elegance, falling in Mansfield’s favour two minutes after the hosts had restarted the game. Luke O’Neill’s bullet throw down the right touchline was scrambled away by Theo Street for a corner, O’Neill’s out swinging delivery was inch perfect, finding Geohaghon at the far post who nodded town for Green who poked home his 25th goal of the season from half a yard.
Alfreton 2-3 Stags
The reds refused to crumble and troubled Mansfield on numerous occasions. On 34 minutes Nathan Jarmans testing cross from the left hand side was pushed onto the bar by Marriott before Geohaghon headed the danger behind for a corner. The Stags dealt with Jake Moult’s set play with ease and then looked to get further in front. A tactical switch saw Briscoe and Meikle switch wings, the latter earned a free kick on the right on the half way line which O’Neill floated across to Briscoe. The wing man left Josh Law in a spin and drilled a low cross across the face of goal which Matt Green was half an inch away from connecting with.
With three minutes to go before the break Mansfield found a fourth with the best goal I have ever seen from a Stags player. Matt Green provided the assist holding up play on the right before playing a low crisp pass to Howell. 25 yards from goal Howell was inches away from being taken off the ball by Kempson who dived in with both feet, former Reds midfielder Howell saw it coming and not only knocked the ball away from Kempson who proceeded to tackle fresh air, but made him pay with what followed. In space Howell swung his boot at the ball and curled home a beautiful ball into the top corner beyond Jon Stewart who could do nothing bar pick the ball out of the back of the net to the loud celebrations of a mammoth 1,956 travelling fans.
Alfreton 2-4 Stags
Games with goal rushes are like buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once, unfortunately for the Stags the evenings seventh goal wasn’t one which put the game beyond doubt before break, it was one which made the second half even more of a tight affair.
Alfreton we’re fighting and looked to break free to get the killer blow, after Exodus Geohaghon was turned 30 yards from goal by Nathan Jarman, Martin Riley had to take one for the team fouling the on rushing midfielder for a free kick 22 yards central from goal. Riley escaped a booking but was made to pay with what followed, Jarman’s low free kick bent around the wall and was palmed away by Marriott who should have really kept hold of the ball. Anton Brown rushed in and smashed home, colliding with Marriott in the process.
Alfreton 3-4 Stags
The Stags shot stopper was down injured for a good few minutes before getting back on his feet, play eventually went on before the referee brought an epic first period of football to a close
Half Time: Alfreton 3-4 Stags
Alan Marriott was fine to continue in the second half and so Mansfield came out unchanged and raring to re-find the two goal cushion they held literally seconds before the break. They would have to wait for goal mouth action though as it was the hosts who started the brighter, former Stags winger Nathan Arnold created on the right hand side, playing a low ball into the feet of Paul Clayton who spun past Geohaghon before firing wide of the target just a minute in. Moments later it was Alfreton again with Arnold surging down the left, however Lindon Meikle stopped the former Stags wingman in his tracks and sparked a Mansfield counter with a fine first time ball down the right for Green. The Stags goal machine burst through into the area and was just about to pull the trigger before half time substitute Greg Young made a fine covering tackle, the ball stayed in play and Green got there first, however his ball back into the middle was far too heavy for Dyer and trickled out for a throw.
The Alfreton centre back, who was dismissed in the reverse fixture at Field Mill, soon picked up a booking as he collided with Anthony Howell following Ross Dyer’s fine header back inside from Marriott’s looping ball forward. Luke O’Neill stepped up to whip a ball into the box from the resulting free kick but saw his kick headed away by Young, despite several attempts to poke the second ball forward the hosts cleared their lines with ease.
A good move between Murray, Briscoe and Meikle then saw Green caught offside, however the next real chance fell Alfreton’s way as Nathan Arnold looked to get one against his former employers just past the hour mark. Twisting and turning his way through central Arnold found himself with space to shoot just inside the box, a fine covering challenge from Ritchie Sutton got the ball away before Adam Murray and Luke O’Neill combined to clear the potential danger which followed.
A double change by Nicky Law for Alfreton was matched by the introduction of Matt Rhead for Lindon Meikle. Ross Dyer went across to the right with Briscoe remaining on the left and Rhead up front for the final twenty minutes or so.
Luke O’Neill then thought he’d provided a fifth for the Stags with a corner, Martin Riley flicked the ball on from the middle but Briscoe’s cross back in was poor. At the other end Paul Clayton also saw a tame effort kept out.
Alfreton perhaps sensed a late come back to extend their unbeaten run to four games as they aim to survive the drop, however three minutes from time it was the Stags who struck in dominant fashion. It all started with an attempted long throw for the hosts in line with the edge of the Stags penalty box, Connor Franklin’s throw was poor and easily cleared – Matt Rhead held up in the centre circle before finding Ross Dyer on the right who sent Green through the middle. His effort on goal was bundled behind for a corner which O’Neill whipped in, a goal mouth scramble saw Exodus Geohaghon get the final touch, blasting home before sprinting away to reveal a t-shirt in support of Fabrice Muamba.
Alfreton 3-5 Stags
The party was far from over; however this time it wasn’t the reds who responded. In the 90th minute the Stags were awarded a free kick on the left hand side, Alfreton were fooled as rather than hold the ball up and run down the clock, Matt Rhead laid an excellent weighted ball inside for Briscoe, who drive to the edge of the box before firing narrowly wide through the crowd.
From the resulting goal kick Rhead was involved again, heading Jon Stewarts poor kick back into Alfreton territory for Matt Green. The leading marksman ghosted past the static duo of Kempson and Young, tucking firmly beyond the onrushing keeper for Mansfield’s 6th of the evening and his 26th of the season – the late strike see’s Green become the clubs highest goal scorer in the last 9 seasons, moving a goal ahead of Mickey Boulding who bagged 25 during the heartbreaking 2007-08 season.
Alfreton 3-6 Stags
The game got back underway but was soon over again, the referee’s full time whistle barley audible over the sounds of the partying Stags fans.
Full Time: Alfreton 3-6 Stags << Listen again to full audio with Craig Priest, Scott Rogers and Stephen Thrikill
Like I said at the top of the piece, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy and there were several moments were we could have fallen into even deeper waters, however in the end we remained strong and continued to swim towards the promise land with a gritty, determined, scrappy win.
Next up it’s a trip to league leaders Fleetwood who we held to a 1-1 draw at Field Mill a week ago. Be sure to join myself, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs for full match commentary on that one – commentary gets underway on MM-LIVE from 2.50pm whilst build up on 106.9FM starts at 2pm.
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Craig Priest preview’s tomorrow night’s trip to Alfreton...
After such an empathic win on Saturday afternoon, it won’t be hard to motivate yourself for tomorrow night’s trip to relegation threatened Alfreton in a match dubbed as a local derby. It is with caution and with a full coat of body armour that I write this next sentence, if we are to beat Alfreton – we must pretend the Barrow game never happened.
Before you all pop round to Mansfield Matters HQ with rotten tomatoes to launch at me, let me again get on record how proud and how good I’m feeling following Saturday’s win, not for a minute am I saying forget the day forever, It will undoubtedly be the game of the season and result of the season for many years to come, what I am saying is, just forget it for tomorrow night’s fixture. The over analytical part of me is smashing trying to get out, it can sense the overwhelming stench of arrogance after picking up just one defeat in our last 14 outings. One of my biggest fears in football is arrogance, with such a record our heads can perhaps sway a little too much and as we begin to look at what’s above we fail to see the sucker punch coming.
Yes we can beat Alfreton, yes if we play as we know we can, we could slaughter Alfreton (and any other team that we may face in this league) but we are forgetting one critical thing – anything can happen in a game of football, Alfreton are no different to ourselves. We (players, supporters, staff, press, big Steve next door and his dog etc) must head into tomorrow night’s game at the impact arena showing Alfreton respect remembering who they are and who, deep inside, we are. Nicky Law’s side are as I say no different to our good selves, they are unbeaten in 3 games and have too enjoyed the joys of scoring big (a 6-1 win over relegation rivals Stockport in their last home fixture). They too have a dream, this one to avoid the drop at the first time of asking after taking the Blue Square North title last term. Believe me when I say at this stage of the season, a team fighting for relegation is the team you actually need to avoid, especially when you’re travelling to their home. Former C**********d centre half Law will know what it takes to prepare a team for a fight, something he’s demonstrated over the last few games and indeed, the previous few seasons when the Reds have been looking to achieve promotion. Law’s team will put their bodies on the line to prevent further damage at the back, shipping 73 goals so far this term, the third worse goals against record in the division. In the last four games, Alfreton have conceded once keeping three clean sheets (two consecutive) something which pushes confidence to the front men as they look to take the strain and rescue the reds from the dreaded drop.
After taking the Blue Square North title by storm last season, a year after third and losing in the play-offs, Nicky Law’s reds who were often on our pre-season friendly list, struggled to adapt to life at the top level of conference football. In the reds’ opening two months they fell to seven defeats, scraped three draws and managed just two very tight victories. The form of our impact arena based neighbours failed to get any better before Christmas, Law’s side won a further two more, falling to eight defeats and picking up just three draws – On Christmas day the Reds sat second bottom. Boxing Day delivered the gift of a 5-2 home win over Tamworth which has been used as mini-effective fuel to the fire, as since Boxing Day they have been beaten only four times, picking up two draws and five wins – a run which has taken them from second bottom to 16th, five points clear of the drop zone with nine games left to go.
Law’s side will be spurred on by the fact that over the last eight games, they sit in the play-offs in terms of form, a ranking of 5th place (2 places behind ourselves in 3rd) the reds have won five, drawn one and lost two of their last eight games in which they have found the net on 15 occasions. Their run is to be admired in some-ways as it’s just as easy to throw in the towel especially as their run in see’s them face ourselves, Cambridge, Wrexham, York and Luton – it’s the fighting spirit which in some ways worries me, we have it in our locker and have demonstrated it, plus like Alfreton we have the spirit and obvious belief. If drawing with the unstoppable league leaders wasn’t enough to inflate our confidence then a seven goal demolition is combine the two together and you, not by any fault of your own, get that little bit of cockiness in your walk, that ‘we can beat anyone because we’ve done this, this and this’ type attitude and again that arrogance.
Let me again highlight the fact I’m not calling any of our supporter arrogant nor am I calling it the players, I love every Mansfield Town supporter and believe that every player will be key to our success. I’m saying that arrogance and confidence are very like minded and that the line between the two is extremely thin – we are happy for a reason, we are smiling for a reason, our hearts beet twice as fast at games for a reason, we sing loud for a reason, we are proud for a reason – not because we are Mansfield Town, ex football league one loss in 14 and we smash ‘smaller clubs’ for fun, we are all of these things because we respect sides, we work to chase our dreams – we are Mansfield Town Football Club, together as one.
Flock to the impact arena in numbers tomorrow night, just like you did when we played them in the trophy a year or so ago. Pack the terrace like you did at Tamworth, raise the roof like you do week in week out. Follow our dream and remember, over confidence and under estimation will be our greatest downfall. Let us respect our opponents, not just in Alfreton but wherever we go, let us remember every side is fighting for something somehow and last but by no means least – let us continue to be ourselves: honest but ruthless, proud but not arrogant, winners not losers.
Tomorrow night’s game will be a fight, in my opinion it’s not a local derby just another game, however several factors will make it fierce and passionate like a derby. Alfreton will scrap for every tiny piece of the ball, they won’t be afraid to tackle nor will they be afraid to have a pop at goal – it’s a cup final for them as much as us, they need victory as much, if not more than us – we have to expect the unexpected, keep our feet grounded rather than floating high above watching over yesterday. If I was a betting man, I’d put money on a red card just like in the reverse fixture where there were two, both for tomorrow’s hosts. They’ll be controversy and no doubt some uneasy moment, but hey, that’s football – that’s the beautiful game: bring it on!
If you can’t get to Alfreton tomorrow night, turn your radio dials to 106.9FM or log onto our MM-LIVE page, where there will be commentary and build up with myself and Scott Rogers from 7.30pm – you won’t miss a kick of the action.
Last Time We Met:
Earlier in the season history was made as the two sides locked horns for the first time in league action, having met for the first time in competitive action the previous season, on the road to Wembley. The sides are no strangers to each other and have often played each other in pre-season friendlies at the Impact Arena, usually a week before the season starts. Mansfield usually run out winners playing the team to ‘start the season’ however Alfreton have sprung a surprise a time or two, always showing qualities, which despite the end results, leaves us all saying ‘they’ll do something good this year’ and wishing the Impact Arena locals well.
As mentioned it was in the FA Trophy where the two first met in competitive action, a 1-1 draw on a war like pitch at Field Mill was followed by a 2-1 come from behind Stags win at the Impact Arena to reach the quarter finals of the competition.
Earlier this term it was a similar encounter, very feisty and a game in which the Stags we’re probably second for the opening 60 minutes. Two red cards for the visitors within nine minutes of each other saw the Stags needing to overturn a 2-0 score line against nine men. It proved harder than it seemed and until Matt Green converted a 74th minute penalty – many believed Mansfield would go onto loose. A fine equalizer from Lindon Meikle three minutes from time was enough to settle the majority’s nerves and send them home slightly happy – however substitute Andy Todd made sure Stags sealed a remarkable comeback, tapping home from half a yard in added on time. The Stags we’re very poor and got extremely lucky, fortunately since the turn of the calendar year, there has been no signs of repeating such awful displays.
Stags 3-2 Alfreton 22.10.11 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Sutton, Kendrick (Todd ), Meikle , Murray (C), Bolland, Dyer, Green [1p], Connor. SNU Redmond, Worthington, Howell, Day.
Podcast: Commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers
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Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Barrow AFC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #39)
Venue: Field Mill
Date & Time: Saturday 17th March 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 2519 (70)
Match Referee: Karl Evans (Wigan)
Cloud nine or seventh heaven? Where ever we are this morning it’s certainly a good place as once again the beautiful game bathes over the Stags. Tuesday night it was a close, tight, passionate encounter which saw us demonstrate our battling qualities – yesterday’s game at Field Mill, or the supposedly soon to be named ‘One Call Stadium’ (I don’t mind), was one which demonstrated our ruthlessness as we sent the traveling bluebirds home empty handed, smashing Dave Bayliss’ side 7-0. Ouch.
I remember being beaten 7-2 at Grimsby on New Year’s Day last year, even though we scored twice the pain of conceding seven was one I never care to experience again and so this morning I write, excited that we’d won by such a margin, but respectful to the 70 supporters who made the journey to Field Mill and no doubt the long journey home questioning why on earth they bother. Real champions, real winners, are humble in victory and gracious in defeat – we won 7-0, but in truth, we’ve won nothing yet.
Sorry that’s a bit defeatist, especially after such an empathic win, my reasons will become clear tomorrow when I pen the Alfreton match preview, I guess I should get on record now that I, like you and indeed hat-trick hero Louis Briscoe, have a smile wider than the channel tunnel right now. I am buzzing! The atmosphere was again spot on, every time Geohaghon picked up the ball for a throw, the drum started beating. The roar of yellows was spine tingling whilst the performance was, as mentioned, ruthless. Over the past four-five games or so, we’ve shown so many signs that we’re coming back, these baby steps are turning into gallops whilst the dream comes ever closer, it’s difficult to think that only a year ago I was sitting here writing about reaching Wembley following a 1-1 draw at Luton, the lightest shade of colour in an otherwise bleak season. Now we couldn’t care less whose in the final (It’s York V Newport for those curious!) as we focus on the one thing we desperately crave – promotion.
Paul Cox made one change from Tuesday’s midweek draw with league leaders Fleetwood, Jon Worthington was moved to the place for Louis Briscoe as Mansfield reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe (Worthington), Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Jon Worthington, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrew.
In fairness it wasn’t as ferocious a Tuesday, but the Stags still came out of the drops brightly and should have been ahead with just two minutes on the clock. Luke O’Neill started the move with a looping ball to the far side, Matt Green did enough to force a deflection from the light blue shirt of a Barrow defender, with Louis Briscoe doing well to hold off former team mate Paul Edwards to gift the Stags a throw. Exodus Geohaghon launched in the first of the afternoon with Ross Dyers connecting header cannoning back out of the post before the hosts scrambled away for a second throw. Big Ex again launched one in, this time Lindon Meikle took control of the ball on the far side, cutting in and combining with Green, however Barrow again scrambled clear.
Four minutes later it was a sharp ball through the middle from Murray that sent Stags into the final third after a sustained spell of pressure, however Lindon Meikle was flagged marginally offside.
Mansfield kept pushing and we’re soon rewarded on the eight minute mark. Adam Murray’s fine switch of play from a low Meikle ball inside stretched the game wide to Luke O’Neill, it was his deep cross that caught the visitors in a tizz. Ross Dyer won his battle flicking the ball to the left of the box for Green who proceeded to round the keeper and drill across the face of goal with the angle against him. Louis Briscoe did the rest, charging through the crowd to fire into the roof of the net, bagging the 190th goal between the two sides in the 54th meeting between the two sides.
Stags 1-0 Barrow
On thirteen minutes the Stags broke in numbers, Lindon Meikle picked up the ball in the centre circle and charged forward with Dyer and Green the two supporting runners. Paul Edwards got a block in but the loose ball ran from Green whose acute touch sent Meikle racing through, an awfully timed challenged from Edwards, who three weeks ago was in the Stags side which edged past Tamworth at Field Mill, saw Meikle go to ground and the referee point to the spot for Mansfield’s fifth spot kick of the campaign. Matt Green stepped up having scored his last three from the spot, Ben Hutchinson took the other, The Stags leading front man failed to maintain his 100% record, seeing his tame penalty saved by Shaun Pearson, who sprung down to his left.
Pearson was soon picking the ball out of his net a second time though, as three minutes later Matt Green showed his confidence hadn’t been dented with a fine charge. Latching onto Ritchie Sutton’s direction ball via the head of Howell and Dyer, the Stags front man picked up the ball on the left and drove at Barrow full back Kevin Lomax, before spotting the opportunity to shoot central – a crowd of bodies made this difficult but did create space for Briscoe, who Green spotted and picked out with a crisp low pass. Briscoe took one touch to set himself, leaving Edwards cuddling the pitch as he cut inside, before firing a beautiful effort left footed into the top corner.
Stags 2-0 Barrow
Mansfield had three more chances in quick succession to further extend their lead, on twenty minutes Ross Dyer held up play well in the centre circle before setting O’Neill free on the right. The Stags full back drove forward, cut past Edwards and fired a shot towards goal – Matt Green was the one Barrow players thanked as he couldn’t get out of the way, deflecting O’Neill’s goal bound shot wide of the target. A Paul Edwards slip then saw Lindon Meikle fire over from 18 yards on the half volley before Louis Briscoe was denied a hat-trick by Pearson, who made a fine save to keep out the thunderous drive following more creative play in the final third.
The third goal soon arrived as Paul Edwards slammed another ball out of play for a throw in, clearly he didn’t learn from his time at Field Mill that giving Mansfield a throw is more dangerous than a corner! Exodus Geohaghon made him pay, his 23rd minute rocket throw in found Anthony Howell at the front post, who glanced his header into the back of the net for his first goal in Mansfield colours.
Stags 3-0 Barrow
Three minutes later Howell could have had a second in a carbon copy move, Paul Edwards was again at fault and started an argument with Barrow skipper Phil Bolland and fellow defender Danny Hone before being promptly substituted along with striker Adam Boyes in a shock double change, which saw the blue birds go to five at the back. The defensive addition failed to work and Stags were on the charge once more, Lindon Meikle’s run down the left saw him play a low ball into space for Matt Green to run onto. The Stags leading front man blazed forward and pulled the trigger, hitting his off balance shot into the crowd of travelling supporters.
Barrow’s club motto ‘spatiari ut progrediaris’ translates as ‘Strive to attain progress’ – the only progress they were making was back towards their own goal. A foul on Matt Green gave the Stags a free kick 30 yards from goal, Luke O’Neill’s cross was cleared however the Stags kept putting on the pressure and eventually heaped more misery on the visiting keeper, who after colliding with Geohaghon and Dyer, had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken collar bone. Stags fans and players alike gave Pearson a warm round of applause as he headed off the pitch and to Kings Mill. No mercy was shown on Pearson’s replacement Stuart Dixon, Barrow’s third and final sub, who was picking the ball out of the net on 41 minutes, moments after denying Greens dominant run forward. Lindon Meikle was the one on the score-sheet collecting the ball after Ross Dyer, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray and Louis Briscoe had all moved play to the feet of Matt Green on the edge of the box – Green’s lay off to Meikle saw the wing man cut in and curl a looping shot beyond the 19 year old shot stopper, two minutes into his bluebirds debut.
Stags 4-0 Barrow
Five minutes of stoppage time followed but Mansfield failed to add a fifth, heading into the dressing room four goals to the good.
Half Time: Stags 4-0 Barrow
The intention to find a fifth was clear from the second half’s starting whistle, Geohaghon’s left sided throw was hurled into the box and found Ross Dyer who smashed a fine effort wide from 10 yards, the ball certainly took a deflection but at the speed of light, it was impossible to tell who from – the referee awarded a goal kick.
A minute later Luke O’Neill’s set piece was again spot on, Ross Dyer was again in the mix and his header back across the face of goal was scrambled clear as Geohaghon lurked, at the other end a rare Barrow canter saw Andy Cook stripped of the ball by O’Neill after the front man had turned past Geohaghon.
A throw in on the left from Barrow then posed no real threat as Louis Briscoe hammered clear to Matt Green who earned the Stags a throw, Geohaghon’s bullet was towards Howell but headed away into the path of Meikle, whose cross come shot was well held by young keeper Dixon. On 51 minutes a neat passage of play saw Mansfield a whisker away from a fifth, Ross Dyer’s low pass to O’Neill saw the Stags right back chip neatly to Briscoe on the right who burst past Alex-Ray Harvey and drill a fine ball across the face of goal – nobody could get a touch and Barrow survived, but it was only a matter of minutes until goal number five did arrive as the Stags struck once more.
Exodus Geohaghon’s 15th throw in Barrow territory created the goal, with the bullet throw launched towards Rhead. Rhead rose above three markers to cushion the ball to the chest of Louis Briscoe on the edge of the area. Given miles of space due to the tight marking on Rhead, Briscoe controlled with his chest, knee and then let the ball drop, smashing home on the volley into the top corner – grabbing his second five days shy of a year since his first at Histon and giving Mansfield a 6-0 score line for the first time since the 2003/04 season when a Neil MacKenzie treble helped dump Bishop’s Stortford out of the FA Cup.
Stags 6-0 Barrow
Barrow did have the ball in the net on 71 minutes when Andy Cook bundled home, however there was no point even celebrating as the flag was up for offside on the far side well before the ball trickled in. The Stags then added a seventh as Barrow’s afternoon got worse. A charge through the middle saw Lindon Meikle with a sight of goal, the winger had acres of time and space on the ball and eventually played Matt Rhead into the area, who after controlling with a yawn, drilled underneath the teenage shot stopper to open his account for the Stags
Stags 7-0 Barrow
The bluebirds had given up and in all honesty, the Stags didn’t have to get out of second gear to create more chances, not contempt with seven as chants of ‘we want eight’ roared out from the stands. Luke O’Neill’s 81st minute corner saw Matt Rhead and then Exodus Geohaghon denied after Dixon had dropped the ball to the formers feet.
A half late scare followed as a low cross from Paul Rutherford awoke Alan Marriott who was more than happy to have a touch! Normality was restored late on as substitute Ben Hutchinson, on for Ross Dyer, earned numerous free kicks with nippy runs. O’Neill delivered on from deep with four minutes left, Anthony Howell’s header was well saved by Dixon. A minute later smart play between Briscoe and O’Neill saw the latter steaming down on goal, the full back failed to find an 8th to match Mansfield’s biggest ever win, firing into the side netting.
Debutant Danny Andrew, on at left back for Ritchie Sutton, then showed his dead ball quality in stoppage time, curing a beautiful effort into the keepers grateful hands after Matt Rhead was fouled.
The full time whistle soon blew to end Barrow’s afternoon of misery, the stags netting seven for the first time since Boxing Day 1994 (a 7-1 victory over Hereford at Field Mill) and their first 7-0 victory since beating Scunthorpe by the same score line at Field Mill on the 21st April 1975.
Full Time: Stags 7-0 Barrow << Click here for all the goals to an obvious backing track - see below for extended audio!
My records show that one more goal would have made the game Mansfield’s highest “League” victory and indeed matched the Stags biggest ever win in a competitive fixture, a 8-0 victory away to Scarborough in the FA Cup, back in 1952. The score line adds to a list of three highest scoring wins (all a seven goal margin) 9-2 Rotherham home 27/12/1932, 8-1 Queens Park Rangers home 15/3/1965 and the aforementioned 7-0 victory over Scunthorpe. The victory does take two records though, not only is it the highest amount of goals I’ve seen Stags score, but it’s Mansfield’s biggest victory outside the football league.
The goals don’t quite do this one justice, so as a special treat I’ve uploaded around 10minutes of audio from yesterday’s game in two parts (first half second half) – commentary from myself and Wayne Briggs.
PART ONE (first half) - PART TWO (second half)
Next up it’s the trip to Alfreton on Tuesday night, join myself and Scott Rogers for full match commentary on 106.9FM and on MM-LIVE from 7.30pm!
Before I end this blog, on behalf of all the Mansfield Matters team, I’d like to send best wishes to Fabrice Muamba, his friends and family following the Bolton mans collapse on the pitch yesterday. As Stags fans we have witnessed some tragic moments down the years (and I’m not talking about our defending), incidents like the one which happened yesterday are often unnoticeable and it’s at times like these that clubs should have no rivals or any thought of results – lets all come together and hope Muamba pulls through, I often dread to think of what would happen if this kind of thing happened at a lower level – in fact the thought scares me as I recall something similar happening to former Stags defender Matt Gadsby whilst he was playing in the conference North for Hinckley, he sadly passed away shortly after the match. RIP Matt and once more, best wishes to Fabrice Muamba and those affected.
Pics: Dan Westwell and James Williamson
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Craig Priest looks ahead to the arrival of the bluebirds....
The eve of another game and I can honestly say that the fact your reading this is a miracle, things at Mansfield Matters HQ aren’t great as the electricity got cut off, fortunately I know some people who were able to channel this energy from a local football grounds stands and pump it into my house – Cheers Stags fans! Obviously I’m only joking about the bill thing but in all seriousness how alive was Field Mill on Tuesday – wow! Imagine if this can be replicated for the rest of the season!
I’m still chatting to various people now on Friday afternoon and everyone still seems buzzing after that 1-1 draw with League Leaders Fleetwood, obviously you should never look back in football going into the next game but if Paul Cox’s side can somehow mix that energy, drive and enthusiasm into these final nine games and keep it going on a constant level, then what a force we will be, It would take something really special to stop us.
Now this is the part of the piece where I perhaps have to give myself a little slap on the wrist as the above paragraph perhaps came across as a little arrogant – those who know me will know that it’s not, I’m the first person to admit my hatred for arrogance in football. What I am saying is, if we keep going about our business in the right manor, there’s no reason our dreams can’t be achieved so long as we keep our eyes focussed solely on ourselves, keep the right mindset and the right balance between confidence an arrogance – the latter a trait which Paul Cox says he will not stand for.
At this stage of the season with nine games left to play, it’s refreshing to hear a manager say that – how many managers at this stage of the season would come out with statements like ‘we’re already there’ or ‘nobody can touch us now’? I can certainly think of a few, what we have in Cox is a manager whose been in the same position before, a man who goes about his business in a calm business, refusing to get wrapped up in previous results, a man who not only sees the afternoon sun, but the evening sky.
The Stags boss understands how quickly football can change and understands that tomorrow’s test against Barrow will probably be even tougher than the test midweek against high flying Fleetwood. The bluebirds have exceeded expectation this term and are holding their own in mid table, mathematically the Holker Street outfit still have hopes themselves of reaching the play-offs, a reason why Barrow will scrap for everything, something they have done all season long.
Now under the sole manager-ship of David Bayliss following the departure of Darren Sheridan last month, bluebirds fans have began to discuss whether or not they are a ‘dirty and niggley’ side following several gritty performances to sustain their mid table position. The majority of fans enjoy Barrow’s gritty determination, a trait which, in their view, shows ex-football league sides they will not role over and have their bellies tickled. It’s this “sly” side of the game which has seen Boss Bayliss praised by Norwich City striker Grant Holt, the former Barrow man who scored 39 goals in 73 appearances between 2001 & 2003, paid compliment to the Holker Street outfit during their recent 1-0 defeat at Cambridge, when the lively front man was commentating for local radio.
Looking at the twice FA Trophy champions record against former Football League sides, the niggley approach has seen them get seven wins and two draws against former league sides, the most success has come on home soil, in fact out of all the ex-league clubs (to my knowledge) only the Stags have left Holker Street with all the points.
As with the games against ex-league sides, Barrow’s place of success has been at home – Bayliss’ side are the fourth best side in the league at home, beaten only thrice over there 19 games so far – ourselves, Gateshead and Bath or the only team to get back on the team coach with all the points in the bag. York, Grimsby, Forest Green, Ebbsfleet and Tamworth have taken a point home whilst Fleetwood, Wrexham, Luton, Kidderminster, AFC Telford, Stockport, Alfreton, Lincoln, Hayes & Yeading, Darlington and Kettering have all been condemned to defeat by Barrow. Away form is poor in comparison; the bluebirds have picked up just five wins on their travels sitting in 14th place in the away league tables and have an away defeat percentage of 63% conceding an average of two goals per game, shipping 11 during their last six games on the road – only one of Barrow’s five away wins has come against a current top ten side – 2-1 at Kidderminster.
Hopes of reaching the play-offs are as mentioned still mathematically possible, however with three consecutive defeats the bluebirds may well just focus now on a top ten finish, with new signing and familiar face to both, Paul Edwards’ recent arrival being one to help get Barrow across the line. Despite Edwards’ departure to the sound of money in the summer, he has been welcomed back by the majority – after penning an emergency loan deal from Fleetwood a mere week or so since his Field Mill departure after a three game spell, also on loan from Fleetwood.
With York and Luton facing each other in FA Trophy action again tomorrow, it’s another golden opportunity for us to leap above Luton into third, victory would put us 2 points ahead of the hatters, plus putting four points between ourselves and York – the duo will have two games in hand over us though. In other fixtures tomorrow, Southport, two points below us in 6th, travel to Stockport whilst the ever ground making Grimsby, seven points behind us in 7th with a game in hand, play host to Tamworth. Again I break my own rule by looking at these fixtures as you should concentrate on your own job before anyone else’s – once again we must go out and earn the right to our league position and indeed, victory.
In team news Adam smith could be back in contention following three games on the sidelines with injury, Gary Roberts sits out with suspension. Matt Bell has joined Leek Town for the remainder of the season on loan, whilst Sam Craven has signed on a duel registration with Hednesford Town in order to gain fitness. John Thompson will no doubt be itching to be involved, I saw him on Thursday running up and down the West Lower steps in a bid to get fit and ready for the run in – he had the look of determination and the look of a man who’s hungry for action. I expect a change or two from Paul Cox following the midweek change of system, who misses out though to go to 4-4-2 will be interesting, Jon Worthington had a fine game in the middle alongside Howell and skipper Murray. Whatever side is put out, as ever they’ll dig deep to get a result, I hope that Field Mill is once again bouncing, in all seriousness never have in that press box fearful that the vibrations from the noise would propel me out of my seat and onto the pitch – amazing stuff!
If you can’t get to Field Mill tomorrow, then turn your radio dial to 106.9FM and join myself and Wayne Briggs for regular updates, build up starts at 2pm.
Last Time We Met
The Stags and the bluebirds, also known as the ziggers prior to the 70’s, go back a long way – having first locked horns on September 3rd 1932, when Barrow edged Mansfield by a single goal in a 1-0 win in Division Three North. The sides have since taken each other on in the old division four and three, before recent matches in the conference. Only the one goal from the first ever meeting of the two proud sides is the difference, Barrow have scored 95 to Mansfield’s 94! The scorer of tomorrow’s first goal will have netted the 190th goal between the two sides, netted over a 53 game period in all competitions, incidentally since the sides fixtures in the conference, the Stags haven’t been beaten by Barrow at Field Mill, recording one win and two draws.
Back in September, Lindon Meikle’s second half strike in a 3-2 win, gave Mansfield their first taste of victory at Holker Street since 1969 – levelling the scores on the doors to 21 wins a piece, with 11 draws making up the rest of the 53 games.
The Stags went into the game at Holker Street with four clean sheets to their name, Louis Almonds 25th minute leveller ended a fine Stags run of 397 minutes without conceding.
Barrow 2-3 Stags 17.09.11 Line Up: [4-4-2] Marriott, O'Neill, Futcher , Sutton, Kendrick, Briscoe (Worthington), Murray (C), Howell, Meikle  (Bolland), Dyer (Connor), Green  SNU Redmond, Naylor
Podcast – Commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers.
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Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Fleetwood Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #33 – Rearranged)
Venue: Field Mill
Date & Time: Tuesday 13th March 2012 – 7.45pm
Attendance: 3132 (104)
Match Referee: Ross Joyce (Middlesbrough)
Walking around with a smile on your face, beaming again from ear to ear, whistling the tune to some happy-go-lucky song, singing along to the radio a little too loudly on the way to work, tapping your foot ferociously on the floor in anticipation of the next game or being unable to sleep at 3am reflecting on the events from Field Mill a few hours earlier – whatever it is this feeling, this uncontrollable burst of energy is phenomenal.... something I never thought I’d write after a 1-1 draw, bar just over a year ago when we drew with Luton to get to Wembley of course, although in fairness that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
Last night was magical, energetic, fluent, passionate and resilient as the league’s two inform teams came head to head at Field Mill as Stags, with eight wins a draw and defeat from their last ten, came up against Fleetwood unbeaten in 22 having picked up 9 wins and a draw in their last 10 games. I’ve been mulling it over trying to think of the best way to describe the game, so far I’ve got a comparison to TV Classic ‘Gladiators’ and it’s infamous ‘Gauntlet’ game, along with a game of table tennis or the mobile phone classic ‘blocks breaking’. There are probably a million more ways to describe last night’s clash of the titans and I’ll leave that down to you, what I want to look at is what the result means for Paul Cox’s side and what it represents.
In front of goal throughout the game we didn’t offer too much but we did create chances and at the death, when it mattered most, hit the target. I don’t think you can use the gladiators gauntlet comparison in terms of our attacking play, I think that comparison lies with the league leaders, our attacks are better compared to running against a bungee rope, putting every effort it to reach the target only to get dragged back by the elastic at the final moment, the thing is if you drive hard enough and dig deep – elastic will snap and for us it did, finally charging forward at a canter in the end and reaching our target. In doing so we sent a message to those around us that, although we can be dented, we can never be broken – there is the belief, desire and ability within our squad to bite back. Last night we may have not seen too much of the ball and we’re chasing for small periods but we recovered, we defended well and did so with real venom and intent showing that we can be b******s when we need to be, we weren’t afraid to fight fire with fire and stood strong to force away any attack the league leaders threw at us, whether it be over the top, down the wings or through the middle. A successful team like Fleetwood is built on having more than one method of attack and as mentioned, Fleetwood used their options well, however successful teams are also built on being able to combat such threats, which we did for 90% of the game – our foundations we’re there. I’m not going to paint this as if Fleetwood didn’t break the resistance and have us stretched – they did, but we had a goal keeper who commanded well and kept guard well with some smart saves, backed up by the entire team being there to mop up anything loose. Fleetwood’s front line of Mangan, Vardy and Brodie had scored 52 goals between them, just over HALF of Fleetwood’s 101 goals in all competitions, so naturally there’d be a goal as you’ll read later – but despite the setback, the Stags dug deep and refused to buckle and as mentioned, we’re rewarded. Throughout the game Mansfield had good spells on the ball and despite having just 1 upfront, threatened – any neutral watching on would compare the game perhaps to a well sewn pattern of fast paced flowing football – I loved every second.
So, to recap – the point has shown teams around us that we intend to finish in the play-offs and get back to the football league; it has shown we will stamp our authority on the game and match, maybe even better, whatever our opponents throw at us. The game highlighted a never give up attitude and that despite the setbacks, we will find a way through. Two things I’ve not mentioned yet are perhaps the most important. The first is the strength in depth we have in our ranks, Gary Roberts missed out through suspension and will do again on Saturday with Jon Worthington coming in for his first start since October. The 28 year old summer signing has had a seemingly rough time at Field Mill, missing out on a starting place to Aman Verma, Anthony Howell, Lee Stevenson and of late Gary Roberts to name a few, however the former Huddersfield captain has kept his head down got on with his work and taken his chance well, before I get wrapped up in writing the match report let me credit Worthington for this attitude, successful clubs are made of players with this kind of professional behaviour – last night was in my opinion Jon’s best game in the Amber and Blue, he will be a vital cog with now nine games left to play. The second thing to highlight is the atmosphere at Field Mill was electric, it has been brilliant for some time now but last night was something special, we made Field Mill a true fortress and for that, along with the boys battling performance – you should be proud.
Paul Cox made two changes from the side that saw off Tamworth 1-0 on Saturday, Louis Briscoe dropped to the bench for skipper Murray to return whilst Jon Worthington stepped into replaced suspended Gary Roberts.
Line Up: [4-5-1] Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Ross Dyer, Adam Murray (C) (Briscoe), Jon Worthington (Roberts), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Louis Briscoe, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrews [#29]
Stags got the game underway at Field Mill to an electrifying roar of ‘Yellows’ which was seemingly non-stop throughout the game, Luke O’Neill’s long ball from right back saw Dyer and the returning Murray play a game of head tennis before the ball trickled forward for visiting keeper Scott Davies to collect in the opening 30 seconds. The high tempo start continued and rarely went flat, despite the referee twice giving a drop ball for reasons unbeknown to all but him, both sides enjoyed spells of the ball.
It was the hosts that has perhaps the best chance of the opening exchanges on 10 minutes, Nathan Pond’s low pass central for the visitors was smashed away by Geohaghon, with Matt Green lively at the other end to chase the ball down, he could have gone through himself however miscommunication between the leading front man and Anthony Howell saw the latter take over and despite battling well, couldn’t keep the ball under control allowing Fleetwood to mop up. A minute later the visitors had a chance themselves countering from an Exodus Geohaghon bullet throw after Lindon Meikle lost possession on the left. Shaun Beeley’s driven low pass found Brodie, who then looked to play in former FC Halifax man Jamie Vardy, however the Cod Army’s leading man was prevented a way through by excellent defensive play from O’Neill.
With 22 gone it was nearly a case of mistakes will pay as the Stags looked to trigger an attack over the top, Good work between Dyer and Green on the right saw former Stags trailist Alan Goodall scramble clear only for the ball to be picked up by Luke O’Neill. With two men closing him down the Stags full back turned tightly and lofted a hopeful ball over the top, it was slightly heavy but Anthony Howell gave chase and was unlucky not to bundle home when Scott Davies made a mess of his attempted catch, dropping the ball into the path of Howell but smothering the ball tightly on the rebound to keep things on an even keel.
Two minutes later a looping ball was brought down comfortably by Geohaghon who decided to try and play Mansfield out of trouble unable to get a full clearance away and spotting Meikle who lurked on the left, the Darlington loan man was disposed by Brodie and despite a forceful recovering tackle the loose ball was picked up by Vardy. The highly rated striker weaved through the middle eventually shooting, only to be denied by Marriott who made a fine save down low to his left.
Both sides we’re forceful with the ball and when not in possession, the Stags kept tight and made a number of crunching well timed tackles to stop any potential breaks, a field in which Jon Worthington thrived despite picking up an early booking.
The best chance of the half came with on 32, as Mansfield won a free kick right on the edge of the box on the left hand side. Adam Murray’s defence splitting pass sparked the initial move with Matt Green holding up on the left of the box before playing in Meikle, the quick footed winger looked to cut past Beeley but was soon upended for a free kick. Luke O’Neill delivered it towards the back post finding Dyer, whose goal bound header was well saved by Davies before deflecting off Dyer for a goal kick.
With seven to go before the break tempers flared as Ritchie Sutton was wrongly accused of fouling Jamie Vardy on the edge of the Mansfield box, the referee awarded the visitors a free kick despite it being Vardy who was pulling Sutton back, something which saw the pair go face to face before being pulled apart by team mates and match officials. The duo escaped a card and as play went on, Vardy’s short free kick to Brodie saw the former Crawley man screw the ball miles wide of Marriott’s goal.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 Fleetwood
After the break it was the visitors, kicking towards there 104 travelling fans, that enjoyed the brighter start. Good movement on the left between Mangan and Brodie saw the latter drill a low ball to the edge of the box for Peter Cavanagh who smashed well over Alan Marriott’s bar on 47 minutes, before two minutes later a Lee Fowler free kick caused Mansfield problems in the air, Alan Marriott was again assured to keep out Andy Mangan’s looping header.
The game then went end to end as both sides enjoyed a chance within quick succession, Luke O’Neill’s lofted ball over the static Fleetwood midfield saw Matt Green pick up play, however as Green looked to break the referee had stopped play for a foul by Green on Nathan Pond. The free kick was taken quickly by Davies and caught Mansfield unawares, Geohaghon managed to connect with the ball but his clearance was wayward and allowed Vardy in behind, the front man struck with venom but was denied by Marriott who parried the ball and had to be brave as Vardy looked to connect with the loose ball, clattering accidently with the stags shot stopper.
A cross by Dyer on the right hand side after great work from O’Neill was headed wide by Howell under considerable pressure from Steve McNulty, before Marriott and Riley combined at the other end to scramble the ball away after Brodie had broken free following a driven pass from Lee Fowler on the hour mark.
Three minutes later it was the Stags who had a marvellous attack, Adam Murray was again creator winning the ball back in the centre circle, turning well before playing a blind ball to the right hand side for Ross Dyer. The burley front man held up play well and drove forward before playing Luke O’Neill inside, unfortunately the Stags right backs cross come shot failed to dip in time and went over the bar. Moments later Alan Marriott saved well with his legs as Jamie Vardy latched onto a route one ball from Davies.
Matt Green screwed an effort wide from inside the box with 11 to go, however it would be the visitors who broke the deadlock, netting their 102nd goal in all competitions with nine minutes to go. Peter Cavanagh picked up play central before taking the ball into space on the right hand side, lofting a neat ball over the top finding Vardy, who snook through the tight challenges of Geohaghon and Sutton, bundling past the on rushing Marriott, who was a tad unfortunate to see the ball squirm through.
Stags 0-1 Fleetwood
Mansfield looked for an immediate response and withdrew Jon Worthington for Matt Rhead, who made an instant impact. Louis Briscoe, who’d replaced Lindon Meikle moments before the opening goal, switched play neatly seeing Ross Dyer head the ball into the area. Matt Rhead swivelled well and unleashed a thunderous shot, only to be denied by Davies as he pushed the ball around the post for a corner.
A series of long throws and fast paced movement would follow as the Stags then refused to let Fleetwood have the ball going in search of a leveller. As the game entered four minutes of stoppage time Alan Marriott launched a ball up field, finding Rhead who flicked on for Matt Green. The Stags leading front man turned well and earned a corner in front of the QLE, who banged the drum and sang loud anticipating what was to come. Luke O’Neill’s right footed ball into the middle was met by Geohaghon who thundered his header beyond Davies into the back of the net, grabbing his first goal in Stags colours and sending Field Mill into pandemonium.
Stags 1-1 Fleetwood
Mansfield defended sharply in the remaining three minutes and as Field Mill’s electric noise bellowed out, you could hardly hear the full time whistle blow, as the Stags took a well earned point from the league leaders who wondered off the pitch in disbelief.
Full Time: Stags 1-1 Fleetwood << Highlights, with commentary from Craig Priest & Wayne Briggs
The sides will meet again a week on Saturday, but first the Stags have two games to slot in, first it’s Barrow at Field Mill on Saturday (regular updates on 106.9FM only with myself and Wayne Briggs) before a trip to neighbours Alfreton on Tuesday night (full commentary on 106.9FM and MM-LIVE from 7.30pm with myself and Scott Rogers).
Photos: Dan Westwell
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations. To submit a piece of your own, please email email@example.com with your work.
Craig Priest Writes...
With the dust still settling on our victory away at Tamworth on Saturday, focus soon switches to our next game as the fixtures keep on coming. Tamworth was labelled as the ‘biggest game of our season so far’ by Paul Cox on Thursday with York and Luton not in action, by grabbing a 1-0 win, we did what was required. Next up we return to Field Mill where we have been victorious in our last five home fixtures, unbeaten since November – a sequence of eight home games without defeat. We will have to battle hard however to stretch our home winning sequence to six, as we face league leaders Fleetwood Town who are without defeat in 22 league outings, picking up 19 victory’s and three draws.
Often spending my Friday’s round at Wayne’s house, I was speaking to my co-commentator prior to our trip to Tamworth about things totally unrelated to football when suddenly he asked me what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object. I’ve thought about for a few days and there has to be a winner, either the unstoppable force will keep going, knocking the immoveable object out of the way or will ground to a sudden halt, in short – there has to be a winner. I was randomly talking to Skipper Adam Murray about this in the Stags office today after training; we both came to a satisfactory conclusion that the whole riddle could actually be a good way to describe tomorrow night’s game. Both the skipper and I agree it would perhaps a step too far to call ourselves an immovable object with our unbeaten record quite tame compared with Fleetwood’s, the principal and logic still applies – something has to give.
Unbeaten in 22, 1st placed Fleetwood travelling to 4th placed unbeaten in five Mansfield on paper says it should be another victory for Micky Mellons men, however looking over the last ten games as we enter our final ten games, we aren’t too far the league leaders when it boils down to the top ten’s form guide over the last ten fixtures, sitting second in the form guide standings.
There’s no doubt that tomorrow night’s game will be one almighty challenge, and as Paul Cox says ‘A big game for big players’ – his statement being more about ability and desire levels rather than a literal one about height, although there could be some logic in that, which we’ll come on to later. Just because Fleetwood are on an almighty run in their second ever season in the blue square premier, doesn’t mean they’re entitled to victory – reputation and past results do not give anyone, ourselves included, the divine right to take home the points. Points have to be earned and whilst many may have already put the game down as a defeat, Paul Cox said at this morning’s press meeting that he and his side are not intimated by the strength in depth that Fleetwood have and that like every other fixture, his side would approach the fixture without fear and go out and earn the right for the result, as in fairness, they have done over the course of the season.
It’s certainly easy to see why some would be fearful of the threat the cod army posses, with former FC Halifax man Jamie Vardy and former Wrexham hit man Andy Mangan in there forward line, Mellons men have bagged 87 goals in the league so far with the combination of the aforementioned duo bagging 45 between them. At the other end a tight defence has seen the millionaire owned Lancashire club keep 16 clean sheets in the league and FA Cup respectively. On the road the Cod Army have won their last seven away games, bagging 18 goals, shipping just two, with their last defeat on the road coming to title rivals Wrexham back in August – it’s this run which see’s them statistically the best away side in the league, a win percentage of 83% from their 18 away games so far is backed up with a goals per game tally of 2.33 per game, finding the net in their last fifteen outings away from Highbury.
Stats are nothing though, we’ll no doubt go into tomorrow’s games as underdogs, but as before – the underdog can prevail. We’ve already faced Fleetwood in the FA Cup this season and matched them at Field Mill, with Ross Dyer’s 70th minute strike cancelling out Jamie Milligan’s brilliant first half free kick, I see no reason why tomorrow at worst can’t be repeat performance – in fact putting it out there, we could sneak a win, although our lads would have to wear woolly hats and a black and white stripped jumper as any win against Fleetwood would be a smash and grab affair. We have the ability within to play as normal and weave the ball in, but against Fleetwood who have probably forgotten what it’s like to lose, I’d be inclined to play rough and ready – match pace and flare with force and authority. They say never change a winning team, but as you saw on Saturday a few legs became tired and we realistically need to keep them fresh ahead of the final nine games (taking tomorrow out of the mixing bowl), I wonder if tomorrow would be the right game to give Matt Rhead his first start, hand loan man Danny Andrews a debut and bring skipper Murray or fellow midfielder Worthington into the fold. I’m probably going against my own philosophy here as I’m the type of person who says never change your side to counteract the opponents, always make them play your game – the two can fuse those. By opting for a back five, becoming a three on the attack, we’d have force a stronger unit to deal with the likes of Vardy, Mangan and Brodie – imagine those three coming up against Exodous Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton and Martin Riley, the three v three is another example of unstoppable force and immovable object! With Luke O’Neill and the unknown quantity of Andrews at each full back, you don’t lose the attack threat in wide areas and with Adam Murray, Anthony Howell, Jon Worthington and Gary Roberts you have a quartet of players there able not only to break play up, but create play for the likes of Dyer or Rhead to hold up whilst Green or Hutchinson can make attacking runs and grab the goal which could make the difference. SMASH at the back – GRAB up top.
The options are there for Paul Cox and in all honesty, whatever team he puts out will work hard from start to finish to get a job done. Every fixture affects us tomorrow night, but as Paul Cox says often, it’s all about what WE do, let the others get on with things. It is possible for us to slip out of the play-off zone if we lose and York beat 7th placed Grimsby at Blundell Park, the minster men would go above us on goal difference, if this were to happen Southport would have to lose at home to second from bottom Kettering for us to remain in the play-offs, should we be beaten by Fleetwood.
As I’ve said I don’t think we will lose, something has to give and I just have a feeling deep down in my heart that we can sneak victory. I’m not going to predict the other scorers mainly for the fact I agree with the gaffer that we should concentrate on ourselves rather than others, nor am I going to say slipping out of the play-offs tomorrow would end our hopes – It won’t. There is a buzz about Mansfield Town FC and an uncontrollable energy matched with desire and ability – that’s one hell of a combination which having seen all the play-off contenders in action, I don’t think anyone can match.
Tomorrow is just another game, a tough one I grant you, but we approach it as normal, baby steps for a big dream, noise from start to finish, playing the Mansfield Town way ensuring that, no matter the end result, the full time whistle still see’s us smiling with the same buzz, same energy and most importantly same belief that we have right now.
If you can’t get to Field Mill tomorrow, be sure to join myself and Wayne Briggs on 106.9FM only, from 7.30pm for regular updates throughout the night.
Last Time We Met
As mentioned above the two current in from teams have met earlier this season, going toe to toe in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round. A 1-1 draw at Field Mill saw the Stags head for Highbury, only for a 24 hour bug to sweep the camp on match day meaning the Stags we’re only able to name six subs and have no Paul Cox in the dugout as the Stags boss was unfit to travel along with a few of the players.
Fleetwood naturally thrived and ran out comfortable 5-0 winners, a score line that could have been even more had it not been for Alan Marriott, who had a fine game between the sticks. Youth team striker made his professional debut in the final 12 minutes whilst long term injured defender Rhys Day replaced Martin Riley with 7 minutes to go as the former Cheltenham centre half was also struggling to hold back the sick! Nice. The defeat marking the first time Stags were absent from round one proper since 1931.
Yet to meet in the league this season, the sides will meet again at Highbury a week on Saturday – having hopefully earned a lesson, do NOT eat the sandwiches! Last season was the first time the sides had ever met, Fleetwood completed the double over the Stags with a 3-0 win at Highbury and a 5-2 victory at Field Mill.
Fleetwood 5-0 Stags (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round Replay) 1.11.11 Line Up: [4-3-3] Marriott, Sutton, Futcher, Riley (Day), O'Neill, Murray (C), Bolland, Howell (Somes), Dyer, Moult, Meikle SNU Thompson, Connor, Bell
Audio Highlights: Commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers
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