Craig Priest writes...
Upon reading the headline “Thompson Announces Retirement” this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a cold shudder of sadness, despite knowing deep down the news would come sooner rather than later.
The 31 year old defender has endured a torrid time at his third Nottinghamshire club since arriving in the summer of 2011 and has, upon numerous advice from medical staff, family and friends, decided to hang up his boots and retire from professional football – a big loss not only for Mansfield Town Football Club, but for the game itself.
There was a huge buzz around the place when Paul Cox secured the signature of Thompson after a friendly with Notts County last summer, with many saying the former County captain could be the ideal man to skipper Stags to success.
He arrived with a big expectation on the back of a fairly successful career, as well as success with County John captained Nottingham Forest’s academy side to Premier League glory before breaking through to the senior side and also had the honour of skippering his country, Republic of Ireland, at under 21 level before again, breaking through to the senior side.
What happened with this promising and successful defender was nothing short of tragic and horrific, there is no place in football for incidents like this and still, over two years on – the debate continues over the action taken with perpetrator Gary Ricketts.
For those that are unaware of what happened, the incident which proved career ending, took place during a pre-season “friendly” with Ilkeston on Wednesday 3rd August 2011. It was a fairly entertaining game with Stags looking sharp and Thompson, making his third appearance at centre-half, was settling in well showing the promise we all expected.
Ilkeston front man Ricketts had already injured right back Ritchie Sutton during the first half and, with Stags leading 4-2 at half-time, injured a second player in Martin Riley shortly after the break – Thompson’s centre half partner needed at least six stitches. Being a friendly no card had been shown by the referee nor had he asked the Ilkeston bench to substitute Ricketts, who would go on and injury a third player with a needless challenge on 68 minutes.
A long ball forward sparked the clash on the half way line, the pair jumped for the ball but with Thompson on the cusp of winning the tussle, Rickets shoved the defender mid-air to attempt to win the ball and in doing so, saw Thompson go crashing into the corner of the dugout and then, at speed, collide with the pure concrete pitch side barrier.
I was fortunate to have my view blocked of the incident by the TV scaffolding which is next to the press box at the New Manor Ground however others got a full view of it and we’re sickened by it for a long time.
Thompson was rushed to A&E and required 60+ stitches to his face, this along with a broken nose, dislocated finger and damaged shoulder would have been enough for anyone to call it a day there and then, but not Thompson, who fought desperately to recover and eventually made his Stags debut against AFC Telford in mid-November.
The popular defender helped keep Stags’ first clean sheet in 13 matches and enjoyed a mini-run in the side before suffering a relapse which kept him out until the season’s final day at Kidderminster, where he returned as Cox rested players ahead of the play-offs.
Another injury kept Thompson out of the early pre-season matches before an eventual return against Hucknall, where he skippered the side. For whatever reason, another prolonged absence saw Thompson out of the side until November where he enjoyed another mini-run in the side, which included a start against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch Thompson play for the reserves of late and have seen glimpses of what could be, however a closer look at the defender tells you that the spark he had upon arrival, has gone and there’s a reason – scars that a physical can disappear, but scars that are mental, are more difficult to fade away.
Taken from the clubs official website, Thompson speaks about his torrid time with words that bring a lump to your throat.
Thompson says “When I eventually got back playing after overcoming most of the physical issues, I soon realised I was doing things which I wouldn’t normally do on the pitch. Panic attacks were common and I would not be able to sleep before games. My confidence on and off the pitch had been severely knocked.”
The former Notts County and Notts Forest defender continues to speak openly about his desire to return, stating “I have done everything I can, even seeing a psychologist at my own expense. My recovery is still ongoing.”
It’s a sad and sorry tale that a player who has enjoyed such a prestigious career has had to call a halt to it with his everyday life affected by the one incident whilst another player, the one who inflicted such damage, continues playing.
This however is not about hatred or even right or wrong, it’s about celebrating the career of an excellent footballer. The success John has had, for club and indeed country, will be no consolation to having to walk away from the game he so dearly loves, however John leaves behind a legacy in a way and a message.
Life throws curve balls and sometimes, dodging them is impossible. If you want something badly enough then mentally you will do all you can to have another shot at it, no matter the circumstances. Winning & being a success is not defined by medals, but by looking back and saying “I gave it my all”
John Thompson can walk away with his head held high able to say those words, I wish a genuinely down to earth and level headed guy all the best for the future, safe in the knowledge that whatever path his career takes now, he will be a success.
Thank-you for playing your part in our title winning season John, all the very best for the future.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit a blog, email email@example.com
Naturally there have been numerous messages of support to Thompson via twitter today following his retirement, view the pick of the below & tweet your messages of support to @mtfcmatters [Views expressed are those of the tweeters!] More RTs of support can be found on our twitter feed
The moment when Adam Murray lifted the BSBP trophy and signified Mansfield's triumphant return to the Football League is one Stags fans will never forget.
Here on Mansfield Matters we have followed the journey all the way from Leamington in that first pre-season friendly to League Two - below you can here our TWO HOUR special looking back on the season, where dreams came true.
Following Saturday's Blue Square Bet Premier title win, it's time now to reveal yet more winners, this time for the three awards you have been voting for over the past week or so. Over the next few days, out panel with reveal there awards and winners, however for now it's time to reveal who YOU have chosen to win the Player, Goal & Game of the season awards...
Player Of The Season
It was a hotly contested award with all the registered players nominated, however there was one clear winner in this one as defender LEE BEEVERS took the majority of the vote, winning the Player Of The Season award by 28% of the total votes cast by text, twitter, email and online.
The former Lincoln defender joined from League One Walsall in the summer and gave Paul Cox options in both full back areas. The 29 year old has started 40 games for Stags this term, netting the one goal at AFC Telford - post Christmas he has been ever present and has established himself as a hero, running through brick walls for MTFC, playing on with numerous injuries determined to deliver success.
Finishing a close second was fellow defender Luke Jones whilst in close third came skipper & player-assistant boss, Adam Murray.
Goal Of The Season
Always a popular award, the winning margin on this one was always going to be tight - the winner by a solitary vote was Adam Chapman for his sensational left footed 22 yard curler against Grimsby. There were ten nominated for this one, chosen by our panel - here's the order they finished in once the votes had been counted.
10. Matt Rhead - Woking (A)
9. Junior Daniel - Stockport (A)
8. Matt Green - Lincoln (A) [League]
7. Luke Jones - Tamworth (A)
6. Ben Hutchinson - Ebbsfleet (H)
5. Lindon Meikle - Luton (A)
4. Louis Briscoe - Lincoln (A) [FA Cup]
3. Lee Stevenson - Barrow (H)
2. Adam Chapman - Stockport (H) [Hat-trick goal]
1. Adam Chapman - Grimsby (H)
Game Of The Season
Had the voting included the away trip to Hereford and the home game with Wrexham, there'd probably be a different winner, however they weren't and the winner of Game Of The Season, is our FA Cup third round defeat to Liverpool.
The hand of suarez condemned us to defeat on what was a proud day for the club, the stadium full and everyone united chasing a dream.
PHOTO SOURCE: Various - To add your picture email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write...
Fixture: Mansfield Town FC Vs Wrexham AFC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #46
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Time & Date: Saturday 20th April 2013 – 5.15pm
Match Referee: Nicholas Kingsley (Wickford, Essex)
Attendance: 6,394 (142)
Tears now are becoming a bit of a habit for a Mansfield Town supporter, in recent years they have been tears of sorrow, but yesterday at last they were tears of joy as our beloved Stags were crowned Champions and made it back to the football league.
The memories of Tuesday 29th April 2008 have finally been banished, no more remembering the rain and the heartbreak, no more nightmares of that ball floating over Jason White’s head. What we have now is a cherished picture, in front of over 6,000 Stags fans with the sun beaming onto the One Call Stadium pitch and champagne flying – Adam Murray held a loft the Blue Square Bet Premier trophy, dreams do come true!
From that very first game back in 2008 at Ebbsfleet to the full time whistle yesterday the journey has been incredible and has taught us so many lessons and has given us a wide variety of experiences. On reflection winning the way we did is more precious and more valuable than ‘smashing the league’, that phrase frustrated us in the summer as its arrogant and if we’ve learnt anything from this experience, arrogance gets you nowhere. Our success will be remembered for the hard work, desire, willingness and all round enthusiasm to defy the odds and be the best. It just goes to show that no matter what situation you find yourself in you should never give up – Mansfield Town never gave up and by doing so have delivered a precious moment never to be forgotten.
You have to take your metaphorical hat off to the Chairman John Radford for keeping faith in Paul Cox, who now arguably is our greatest ever Manager. Back when we were getting battered by Grimsby, Ebbsfleet, Dartford etc it looked like last season was a one off, however the Chairman seemed to believe as did the hardened supporters deep down. Upon accepting the Mansfield job Cox gave a message to the fans which said ‘success is built on strong foundations’ by sticking with Cox during that turbulent spell Mansfield have got solid foundations and in the space of 703 days since his appointment success is in the bag.
We are both in agreement that last term’s tough to take defeat in the play-off semi final has actually been of benefit, the players who still remain at the club have used the game as inspiration to go that one step further whilst those that have come in have bought into the philosophy and have helped us take that definitive step.
At some point something clicked within that dressing room and we went from the side which nobody gave a second glance to, to the side which made everyone stand up and watch in awe. Nobody knows what that magic formula is except for Paul Cox, thank goodness he’s feeding it to Mansfield Town Football Club. From all at Mansfield Matters a heartfelt thank you.
Last time we were in the Football League we were a side with so much hate and so many dark clouds hanging over us, in some ways we were a laughing stock – this time around thanks to John Radford, Paul Cox and his players we are coming back a club full of love, full of hope and desire, there isn’t a dark cloud in sight.
It was a tough decision for Paul Cox yesterday however he stuck with his guns and fielded the same side which dramatically beat Hereford mid week.
LINE UP [4-4-1-1]: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, Greg Taylor, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C), Adam Chapman, Lindon Meikle, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green
SUBSTITUTES: Ritchie Sutton, Jake Speight, Anthony Howell, Matt Rhead, Junior Daniel.
Adam Murray led out the Stags to a momentous roar from the Mansfield Town supporters and within the opening two minutes the whole of the UK could have heard the delight had one of the early chances gone in. Adam Chapman’s long throw from the right put a young Wrexham side under considerable strain which saw keeper Andy Coughlin palm away John Dempster’s powerful header for a corner. The Stags defender was close again from Murray’s resulting corner but was this time blocked by the visiting defence.
Lee Stevenson has been like the constant flame in Stags’ fire and five minutes later registered two chances in as many minutes, his first snap shot blocked by Leon Clowes before keeper Coughlin was positioned well to keep out the lively midfielder’s left footed belter following a delicate Adam Murray clip.
The Stags captain knew exactly what promotion meant for the Mansfield fans and came close to breaking the deadlock himself on 13 minutes as Chapman’s long throw sat up nicely for him on the edge of the area, Andy Coughlin again on hand for the visitors.
After a short spell of pressure from the welsh side Mansfield came close again on 16 minutes as Green sent the ball into Lindon Meikle’s path, despite good footwork the wide man was unable to get his shot on target and the ball went astray for a throw. Stags weren’t done though as Beevers and Briscoe combined to win possession back, the Latter’s dangerous cross saw former Stag Dave Artell clear practically on the line.
The early atmosphere was beginning to take a nervy twist however the players remained calm and confident as they searched for the opener, Murray’s 22nd minute free kick nearly saw an own goal before runs from both Stevenson and Green broke down.
The offside flag spared Stags’ blushes on the half hour mark as Dele Adebola blocked Greg Taylor’s attempted clearance on the edge of the Stags box, James Colbeck dragged wide from ten yards however he was in an offside position anyway.
Ten minutes later and the deadlock was broken as Louis Briscoe was tripped inside the area by Robbie Evans, Matt Green kept his cool to convert the subsequent penalty and ultimately put Mansfield Town back in the Football League.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-0 Wrexham
It mattered little about the score at Aggborough with Mansfield ahead however one goal could change everything, Stags defending well in the opening exchanges to keep Adebola and Cieslewicz quiet.
Mansfield weren’t content with the one goal and searched for a second, Chapman came close inside the area on 54 minutes however the hungry Stags had the ever reliable Lee Beevers to thank two minutes later as he bravely challenged the advancing Rob Ogleby as a Murray corner painfully broke down.
Another Murray corner on the hour saw Dempster nod across the area for Stevenson, he was twice blocked before firing wide from a narrow angle – no matter what Mansfield tried the penny just wouldn’t drop a second time.
Wrexham shot shopper Coughlin then saved well from a lively Briscoe on 66 minutes, Alan Marriott also called into action seconds later holding on to a free header from Declan Walker following a deep freekick.
Time ticks slowly on and Stags kept the tightest of grasps on that critical one goal lead, Marriott again made a crucial contribution on 76 minutes with a sublime challenge on Wrexham substitute Bradley Reid outside of the Stags shot stoppers box.
Each minute seemed like an hour but Stags battled on through soaking up everything Wrexham could throw at them those final few seconds, despite the fact they were down to ten men following the sending off of Dave Artell. The brave challenges and desire to never stop running was rewarded as Nicholas Kingsley brought his whistle to his lips ending the game and indeed Mansfield’s time in the conference.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 Wrexham – MANSFIELD TOWN ARE PROMOTED BACK TO THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The noise after the whistle was phenomenal, we were sat apart for this one but both watched on through tears of joy having witnessed a dream come true. As the various chants of Yellows, Champions and Paul Cox is our king bellowed out we watched with smiles wider than the Channel tunnel as the players and staff collected their winner’s medals.
The last man up was Adam Murray, the skipper and Player Assistant boss has Amber and Blue blood running through his veins. It’s no secret that Murray’s career has been turbulent especially in those early days at Derby County – his story has been an incredible one as has Mansfield’s, there really is no other player, person or man that we would of liked to see hold that trophy aloft.
Congratulations to all the players and all the staff it has been an honour, a privilege and a pleasure to follow and share the journey with you. Remember the time and remember the day for the rest of your lives – MANSFIELD TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB: BLUE SQUARE BET PREMIER CHAMPIONS 2012/13.
Thanks for reading, see you in pre-season when we begin our next chapter...all together now WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS MY FRIENDS...
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writers and not those of Mansfield Matters or it’s related organisations. To submit a blog email email@example.com
Adam Murray lifting the BSBP Trophy above his head is a moment we'll never forget as Stags made it back to the Football League yesterday. Here at Mansfield Matters we'd like to thank the chairman John Radford for showing patience in Paul Cox when some called for his head. We extend our thanks to Paul, his coaching staff and players also, for delivering the goods and making our dreams come true.
Over the next few days we'll look back on that magnificent day and reveal the full story as Mansfield Town went into the unknown. However right now, as creator of Mansfield Matters I'd like to extend my personal thanks to a few people that have made this journey unforgettable.
First and foremost I'd like to thank my partner, Emily Sykes. Her expert eye for design has taken this website to the next level whilst her passion for Stags has made each and every game that bit more enjoyable. It's because of her we have added such features as the team sheets and numerous banners which have appeared throughout the season, and, if it wasn't for her, there wouldn't be as much detail in every blog or report.
Next i'd like to extend my thanks and appreciation to those who have joined me in the commentary box this term, Scott Rogers, Martin Shaw & Stephen Thirkill - your knowledge, passion and enthusiasm has been evident and has made the show a more enjoyable listen.
John Wilkinson at Takeover Radio 106.9FM deserves a mention for getting us out on FM every week, as do all the Takeover volunteers who willingly give up their spare time.
To my dad and to Ems family who have supported me, and the show through out the season - even during the times when it's been easy to say 'enough's enough'.
Thanks too to all the clubs which have made us welcome and all the journalists who've helped with line-ups etc.
Finally my thanks goes out to each & everyone of YOU - for listening to the show, reading our blogs/reports and for generally spreading the word about Mansfield Matters. This whole premise is nothing without you. Thanks for following the journey with us, stayed tuned for lots of exciting things and features over the next few weeks.
From pre-season until the end, this is Mansfield Matters, for the fans by the fans - See you in league two!
Craig Priest Writes...
It seems like there’s an hour between the ‘Tick Tock’ of a second at the moment, but that’s always the way when your side is on the cusp of something beautiful, something special, something magical and something magical – PROMOTION.
I’d only just started watching the Stags on and off when they beat Carlisle back on Saturday 20th April 2002 to clinch promotion to Division Two (League One as it’s now known), since that day I’ve grown closer to the Stags and if you cut me open, my blood will pour out Amber & Blue.
The club helped me overcome bullying, make friends and be part of a group rather than weirdo on his own! Watching the Stags has led me to a career I never imagined possible and, over the past year has brought me together with the girl of my dreams. Without being weepy, ALL of us have a reason for following Mansfield Town Football Club and tomorrow could be the day when our faithful support is thanked and reward, should Paul Cox’s men beat Wrexham – they ARE back in the football league regardless of what Kidderminster do at home to Stockport, the side that partly relegated us five years ago.
There are a few permutations tomorrow, mainly because we made an error at Braintree! These can be seen on the picture (left), in reality Stags have a five to two chance of a return to the football league – whatever the scenario we ALL hope and pray, that come tomorrow night at 7pm, Adam Murray and Paul Cox will stand side by side and hold the BSBP trophy aloft in front of over 7,000 supporters: the dream we’ve been picturing for ages, coming true in front of our eyes!
I’ve been a regular at Stags games for at least ten years now, in which time I’ve missed four games due to lack of finance. I have stood on terraces, singing and dancing in the pouring rain. I have sat on numerous coaches watching the white lines of the road come flashing by, chatting and singing despite the score. I have witnessed Stags murder teams and in turn, been present as Stags have been battered black and blue in the back and beyond of the UK which, prior to relegation, we never knew existed. I’ve braved a mine-field of splinters on wooden benches, moved out of the way as weeds grew through terrace cracks and attempted to grow around my feet and dodged flying football after flying football! I’ve cried into my microphone at Wembley Stadium, commentated in the blazing heat as the likes of Ebbsfleet, Hayes & Yeading and others have stuffed us – I’ve cried under a table at the One Call after play-off defeat. Like YOU, I’ve experienced the lowest of the lows with very little high – tomorrow could be the highest of the highs at long last.
Back in 2008 when we we’re relegated to the conference, I began to write a diary about our time in the conference. After being picked to write blogs for the Chad, I stopped writing but have kept the document back in the hope of finishing it one day, this morning I had a quick read of those early days. As a club we have come so far, the football Billy McEwan (Stags first manager outside the football league) put on show wasn’t great but reading back, we owe him a lot. The week before the season began we had EIGHT players registered, the NIGHT before our first ever game in the conference at Ebbsfleet United, McEwan had managed to take our quota up to 19 and save us from hefty fines (Well almost – bloody fax machine!) and at one stage, the possibility of relegation further down ala Boston! If he hadn’t stepped in, just think we’re we might be now eh!
I care little about talking about the style of football etc, what mattered was we had a chance to fight back, yes it’s taken us longer than expected but we have been privileged in my opinion anyway, to learn some valuable lessons along the way.
Most notably in that first game at Ebbsfleet, Standing on the cracked and uneven terracing where weeds grew alarming around our feet! At half time we we’re two nil down, the rain dropping on us as we we’re open to the elements – our arrogance was gone.
We learned that in this division you should NEVER under estimate an opponent, nor should you look to far ahead – always expect, the unexpected.
This is a valuable point of note for tomorrow as Wrexham, the side we we’re relegated along side of, come to the One Call Stadium. We have played some excellent stuff post Christmas and our run has been nothing short of spectacular, however at times we have been poor – it all boils down now to one game. Wrexham, despite their injury trouble, will come to town hoping to spoil the party and get some momentum for the play-offs – we have to wary of that. It is still a possibility that things COULD GO WRONG tomorrow and we might need the play-offs again, prepare yourselves for that and no matter what happens, sing from start to finish.
What sets us aside from other clubs in this division is our supporters, we are the most passionate. When we back the boys, the atmosphere is electric and the lads have what can only be likened to a nitro boost! A lot can be written about the critical points in our Journey, I’m sure I’ll be sat here with the Mrs. in coming weeks writing them, ONE thing counts now and it’s the same support you’ve given since day one. Look at Lincoln and Fleetwood last term, Grimsby, Liverpool, Lincoln etc THIS term – NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.
I didn’t choose Mansfield Town; they chose me with that unique heartbeat – the supporters, the warmth and love bursting at the seams.
I wrote on Wednesday about the magical moment in the last minute on Tuesday night, tomorrow is another chance to cherish and create memories like that one which last forever.
Outcomes, results, team selection, the price of a Bovril and a Pie and all irrelevant now, as are the previous 45 games. Tomorrow is just another day so go and enjoy it, make friends, sing songs, be proud and BELIEVE – The happy ending, is just around the corner.
Our Blue Square Journey began on the terraces of Ebbsfleet, tomorrow it could come to an end at our beloved home – stood on Quarry Lane is a ground which has changed little in bricks, mortar and metal, but has changed in terms of support and atmosphere, we are a family, we are together supporting one cause and one dream, we are the heartbeat of MTFC and we are the reason we get up a stupid O’clock to head off to Barrow etc. For me the journey has been one hell of a ride, tomorrow’s the tip of the iceberg – BRING IT ON.
LAST TIME WE MET
A mere 15 days have passed since we last locked horns with Wrexham in the twice re-arranged fixture at the Racecourse Ground. Stags headed into the match with 12 wins on the spin and were favourites for a 13th and to top the table yet squandered the chance with some poor defending. Matt Green put the Stags ahead after Luke Jones had a goal wrongly chalked off moments before, yet despite Green’s goal Stags failed to build and conceded a tame leveller as Marriott fumbled Dean Keates’ free kick over the line. Danny Wright netted the winner later on as Stags failed to fight back.
The two clubs go back along way and were of course relegated alongside each other back in 2008. The sides have now met 86 times down the years a relationship which begin back in 1932. Wrexham have recorded 32 wins to Mansfield’s 33 and have netted 123 goals to our 128 in total.
Meanwhile at the One Call, Stags have recorded 20 wins to Wrexham’s eight with as many draws.
Everyone will want to be fit for this one! Even I’m thinking of taking my boots to back a 90th minute winner! Joking aside Stags will be without Ross Dyer & Ryan Tafazolli whilst player of the season favourite Lee Beevers will also probably be missing after suffering another dislocation to his shoulder on Tuesday night at Hereford. That said, Beevers is like super-man so maybe we’ll see him in the starting line up anyway!
Wrexham are struggling with knocks as they’re usual end of season plummet is happening. Striker Danny Wright is out with a dislocated elbow, suffered in the mid-week draw with Braintree, whilst a number of others are also sidelined.
If you haven’t got a ticket for this SOLD OUT encounter, then removed the house held pets, valuables along with anything sharp and breakable! Then log onto our MM-LIVE Page and Takeover Radio 106.9FM from 4pm as we’ll bring you all the twists and turns on Mansfield’s potential title-winning, promotion clinching day.
Chad journalist Stephen Thrikill will be joining me for the match, sharing his views and opinions as you can, via twitter (@mtfcmatters) and text (07804 15 66 37).
During the build up, we’ll be revealing the winners of our ‘People’s Choice’ awards – voting closes at 10pm TONIGHT, you can cast your vote on our three categories by clicking here. We’ll also be reviewing the season, our time in the conference and taking a look back at what happened on Tuesday night as Matt Green enhanced his reputation as club legend.
We’ve been there since that first pre-season friendly at Leamington and we’ll be there until the very end, this is Mansfield Matters: A show for the fans by the fans!
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit a blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Hereford United FC Vs Mansfield Town FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #21 [Re-Arranged]
Venue: Edger Street
Date & Time: Tuesday 16th April 2013 – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 2,141 (627)
You know even if the world’s greatest writers from throughout history all got together in one room and were told to look back on last night’s events, I don’t think they’d manage to do it justice. It was a night which took all the twists and turns of a gripping TV murder case, mixed in with the emotion of a will they won’t they love saga.
The task was simple, win to keep our title hopes alive. However after the slip at Braintree on Saturday the confidence had been severely dented and when hosts Hereford grabbed an eight minute lead after some, in truth, woeful defending which was relegation like defending – Stags we’re on the ropes, taking the last breath and watching on as their blood drained away.
Something inside must have burnt away as the travelling support kept singing, hoping that a song could spark their side back into life, the reward coming on 37 minutes as marksman Green nodded Mansfield level. An even keel gave Stags hope and despite scares from a surging Hereford side, they stood strong and following the introduction of Rhead especially in 64 minutes, charged at the Bulls with a battering ram, like the police on a drugs raid!
Controversy ensued as Stags saw efforts palmed off the line, decisions go against them and efforts land wide of the mark. The clocked ticked down and Stags’ hope seemingly faded, yet they never gave up – they showed the mark of champions, fighting until the end to get the better sweet ending the so desperately craved and duly deserved.
I can still picture it now, Alan Marriott with a long punt forward, Matt Rhead rises above Luke Graham and flicks the ball on. Matt Green drops off the shoulder of his marker and swings his lethal boot at the inviting ball, it happened in a split second yet in that instant seemed to take an eternity to go in – CRASH, the ball hits the back of the net, Stags are 2-1 up and the pandemonium begins.
The fans spill out onto the pitch as Green wheels away leaving a distraught Hereford and a heartbroken Kidderminster in his wake. The players and bench sprint over to join the celebrations as Matt Rhead, the man who changed the game and set the most precious goal of our recent history, jumps onto a steward’s back – his emotion roar and bursting at the seams.
For the rest of my life I will remember those scenes of jubilation, the belief of players and supporters, the desire to get that goal and the bitter sweet moment when we stop our destiny falling into the hands of others. We’ve worked hard for it and came strong when it mattered – ONE MORE STEP now.
As the ball nestled in the net late last night, all that angst and emotion came flooding out – from that night we stood in the rain and heard we’d been relegated, to the final minute against Darlington & York and the subsequent heartache. The mine-field of splinter filled wooden benches we’ve sat on at Grounds and watched some part-timer stuff us 4-0 to the cracked, weed overgrowing terraces in the freezing cold – each and every game we’ve been there and hoped that one day, our day will come – because of last night’s heroics, we could be back in the Football League by 7pm On Saturday 20th April, spookily the same date as Stags last sealed promotion at the One Call Stadium, known then as Field Mill.
We are NOT there yet, we HAVE to get a result against Wrexham on Saturday, keep levelled headed folks and do what you did that night, channel that passion into noise – BELIEVE as our day will come, it’s so close now, BRING IT ON!
Paul Cox made two changes from the side which slipped up at Braintree on Saturday, Adam Chapman and Lindon Meikle came in as Anthony Howell and Junior Daniel went out. There was also a shock return to the bench for Jake Speight, having played no football since his injury in January Paul Cox was taking a huge gamble.
Line Up [4-4-1-1] Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, Greg Taylor, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C), Adam Chapman, Lindon Meikle, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green
Substitutes Ritchie Sutton, Jake Speight, Anthony Howell, Matt Rhead, Junior Daniel
Stags, knowing they needed to respond from Saturday’s unacceptable defeat, began well and should have scored inside the opening minute as the lightening Green latched onto Meikle’s through ball before being denied by the legs of the excellent James Bittner. Meikle was first to the second ball and again teed up a hungry Green, only for the front man to be denied again by Bittner who smothered the ball into his chest.
Mansfield’s fiery start had the visiting fans of 627 bouncing, the sang louder as Green again saw an effort stopped by Bittner a minute later and then a Briscoe cross go agonisingly astray on four minutes.
The visiting Staggies were then silenced four minutes later as Hereford went against the script and opened the scoring, with a little help of some lacklustre defending from Stags as they allowed Chris Sharp to cut the ball inside left and gift Ryan Bowman space to drill home from twelve yards.
Stags were on the ropes as Hereford, spurred on by their opening goal and the on-watching Kidderminster players, came forward in search of a second. John Dempster came to the rescue on twenty minutes, slamming away a Chris Bush long throw before Stags were dealt a bitter blow as Lee Beevers tussled with Marley Watkins and stayed down in pain. It was clear that Beevers’ had again dislocated his shoulder and was in sheer agony, despite the best efforts of Simon Murphy the Stags physio and the Hereford staff, Beevers was unable to continue and as he headed down the tunnel, replaced by Ritchie Sutton, shed a tear as the battle with injuries had finally beaten him.
The blow had taken Stags’ best player from the game and Paul Cox’s men were disorientated, allowing Watkins and Sharp far too much space to put crosses in whilst in midfield, Adam Chapman looked uninterested in closing down his Hereford counterparts as the Bulls began to take the game by its horns.
Mansfield survived two quick set-plays on 35 minutes and were then back in the game two minutes later. Green and Meikle were again excellent down the left hand side, the latter driving backwards, forwards, inside then out before floating in the cross from the bye line, which Green rose to nod in goal 25 of his season and, more critically, get Mansfield back level.
Adam Murray took one for the team with five minutes of the half remaining as he clearly rammed the advancing Chris Sharp off the ball, picking up just a booking. With seconds of the half remaining John Dempster was again the hero as he cleared an effort from Josh O’Keefe off the line, the second ball fell back for O’Keefe who was denied by Marriott who was also fouled by the Hereford man.
HALF TIME: Hereford 1-1 Stags
The hosts continued to pile on the pressure at the start of the second half although the Stags fans failed to stop singing, a powerful run from O’Keefe on 48 minutes was eventually halted, Dempster also nodded clear a succession of corners on 49 minutes before the lively Sam Clucas fired wide a minute later.
Matt Green & Lindon Meikle were again the unstoppable pair on 53 minutes as quick passes saw Green doubly denied by Bittner and the offside flag.
Paul Cox then made the game changing substitution on 62 minutes as Matt Rhead came on in place of Stevenson, Hereford were unsure how to handle Rhead and with Stags in a flat 4-4-2 now, something clicked as they began their quest for a winner.
Two minutes later Greg Taylor sparked pressure as he whipped in from the left hand side, Green kept the ball alive but the move broke down seconds later as Murray tried just too hard as he attempted to pick out Briscoe on the right.
Controversy arose on 65 minutes when Taylor again crossed for Green; this time an ambitious effort looked to have crossed the line however it wasn’t given as Bittner looked to have palmed away. Lindon Meikle and Matt Rhead also registered efforts but couldn’t find the target.
Hereford looked dangerous on the attack and were handed an unfair free kick on 73 minutes as Meikle tussled with his man on the edge of the Stags box. Sam Clucas stepped up and wasn’t far off finding the back of Marriott’s net.
Mansfield, attacking like contenders on Gladiators Gauntlet, saw further efforts from Rhead, Meikle and substitute Junior Daniel kept out before Alan Marriott made a critical stop five minutes from time, getting his body behind the ball to deny Watkins who sprinted from box to box as Stags threw pretty much everything forward.
It didn’t look like it was going to come as Stags again charged but were knocked back, however the Stags fans remained focused and the players too, getting the just reward in the first of four added minutes, just seconds after Adam Murray’s shot had bounced agonisingly wide of the mark from a Chapman free kick.
The ball had ran all the way back to Marriott who restarted play with a long punt up park, Rhead flicked the ball on and Matt Green peeled off his marker with the sharpest of spins. The ball sat up for Green who pulled back his striking leg and let fly, beating the advancing Bittner in the Hereford goal and sending the Stags fans into complete ecstasy. The scenes were wonderful to whiteness as the floodgates of passion burst open.
The full time whistle then blew to more celebrations as supporters danced in the terraces, bellowing their songs deep into the night. Paul Cox and his player sprinted onto the pitch and the entire squad danced with those believing supporters. One more game now! It sends a shiver down my spine – GET IN!
FULL TIME: Hereford 1-2 Stags
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations, to submit a blog, email email@example.com
Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write...
Having twice squandered the chance to tighten their grasp on top spot it’s very easy to become disheartened and stop believing this is our year. We have the safety net of the playoffs but after last season’s heartbreak, it’s a path we desperately don’t want to take. In some respects tomorrow is all or nothing, do or die, now or never – win and we’re back in the driving seat, draw and we’re clinging on and lose, well in our opinion it’s all over.
Should we go into the final game of the season having been beaten by Hereford, we would then need Stockport County to win or at least draw with Kidderminster, a situation which would see us relying on goal difference or even goals scored. The idea of our fate being in Stockport’s hands fills us with complete and utter dread, think back if you will to the 29th April 2008. Play off hopefuls Stockport looked nailed on to beat our relegation rivals Chester City and subsequently put our destiny back in our own hands – Stockport tried but ultimately failed as the game ended goalless, ensuring Chester’s safety for another season and relegating us to the Blue Square Bet Premier.
We remember attempting the great escape and having our destiny in our hands ahead of the home game with Rotherham, the defeat to the Millers took it away from us and put our fate in the hands of others. Saturday’s defeat at Braintree was spookily a similar situation, we somehow let our hold on top spot slip and once again we find ourselves chasing in second – the difference this time around is the fact that we have ONE LAST CHANCE to control our own fate, you can talk about four points being enough but realistically it’s not we have to win tomorrow night at Hereford or our mindset and confidence will be shattered, for us anything other than a win at Hereford places our fate elsewhere, more accurately and ironically in the hands of Stockport County – look where that got us last time!
For five seasons we have travelled to some weird and wonderful places, we have stood on cracked open to the element terraces, we have sat in paint crumbling wooden stands and felt the creeks of decaying and rusting stadiums – throughout all of this we have kept singing and supporting the boys riding the roughest of waves. We have become frustrated with our situation yet unlike some sides we could mention have accepted and embraced it, always letting that burning desire to return to the promise land simmer inside and keep us going.
In truth we weren’t ready for it last year, it seems like this year we have learnt our lesson and on our day do look like an established league 2 side – performances sometimes have not been eye catching but we have got results, that’s what Champions do.
Before travelling tomorrow night think back to every journey you have been on during our time in the Conference so far. Whether it is a moment on the coach, in the car or at the pub, everyone of us has a memory from every single game. Close your eyes and picture those perfect memories forming in front of you and just embrace the warm feeling of reflection for a moment or two. Tomorrow night is another trip, another chance for memories – forget losing at Braintree, forget losing our grip again and for goodness sake throw your calculators and your permutations/predictions into a huge dustbin, make as much noise as humanly possible and show those players that we still believe.
What makes us special is spirit, for some reason we’ve had it in abundance during our recent successors and we don’t believe Kidderminster have that. With them not in action tomorrow you can bet your bottom dollar a few Harriers fans will go along to cheer on their neighbours, if we keep singing and show our support is there from start to finish then the boys will do the business.
This is our time!
LAST TIME WE MET
The Stags and The Bulls last locked horns on September 29th, Martin Foyles side putting an end to four consecutive home wins for Stags as the Bulls took home a point as Marlon Jackson’s early finish was cancelled out by Exodus Geohaghon prior to the break in what was the sides first ever meeting outside of the Football League following Hereford’s relegation the previous season.
Stags and Hereford have done battle numerous times over the years though, tomorrow’s meeting the 33rd meeting in all competitions – a partnership which first began in 1972 – Stags on top with 13 wins to 11, eight draws have also been played out.
Whoever nets the first goal between the pair tomorrow will have scored the 90th goal between the pair who have played out only two goalless draws; Stags again lead the charts having netted 51 to Hereford’s 38.
Mansfield have had less luck at Edgar Street though and it’s actually Hereford who lead the charts with seven wins to six defeats, Mansfield’s last victory at Edgar Street coming in January 2007 as Stags began life without Ritchie Barker with his replacements Martin Gritton and Barry Conlon both netting either side of a Micky Boulding effort in a 3-1 win – this the Stags last victory over the Bulls.
Stags boast nearly a full quota of players ahead of this one, Paul Cox may consider shaking the pack a little following defeat at Braintree and can choose from everyone bar Ryan Tafazolli, Ross Dyer, James Jennings and Jake Speight.
If you’re not making the all ticket trip to Edger Street then join Craig for full match commentary from 7pm on 106.9FM and via our MM-LIVE Page, will Stags top the league again at the most critical of stages?
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit a blog email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write...
Fixture: Braintree Town FC Vs Mansfield Town FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #45
Venue: Amlin Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 13th April 2013 – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Brett Huxtable (Devon)
Attendance: 1,755 (1,200 approx.)
Yesterday morning the sun shone brightly as we headed out of Mansfield and towards Braintree, inside we had that warm hopeful feeling that our five year stay in the Conference would come to an end, however that early morning sun had turned to rain as the second half filtered to an end, Stag’ hope of a party drained away as Braintree ran out 2-1 winners.
Naturally the defeat was hard to take and in some aspects the defeat felt like that terrible night when Stags were relegated in the first place. All that hope, all that expectation just vanished in an instant and over 1,200 Stags fans exited the ground wondering if it would ever be. On the way home Kidderminster made it worse by narrowly beating Wrexham in the 5:15pm kick off – in our opinion what Kidderminster do is irrelevant, the ball is still in our court we just have less space to swing our racket and smash ourselves back into the promise land.
It’s simple really we have to win our remaining games – whilst it’s true we can also do it by getting four points (going up on goals scored) we need to be sure and go into Saturday’s game against Wrexham with some critical breathing space, we believe winning at Hereford will give us the push we need to be Champions however anything other than a win and it’s the heartbreaking lottery of the play-offs once again.
It’s difficult to sense why we didn’t do it yesterday, we can sit here and talk about bad defending, lack of bottle or lady luck not being on our side but what does it matter nothing can change what happened yesterday even if we wanted it too. The future however is a different ball game, we still have the power and the spirit to write our own happy ending – don’t be disheartened by this bitter blow just keep believing until the end.
Before we go on to the match report this week there’s just one point we’d like to clear up. After the match we had a tweet about Matt Rhead, the big front man was in our opinion wrongly criticised with the tweet basically saying that Rhead contributes nothing when coming off the bench. Yesterday if it hadn’t been for the brilliance of McDonald in the Braintree goal Matt Rhead would have turned the game round himself as he saw two goal bound headers expertly saved. The Front man is a menace to deal with and is not just the flick on man, he can ball the ball to feet and is more articulate then people give him credit for.
And so it’s on to Tuesday remember that there’s an easy way, a hard way and a Mansfield Town way – fingers crossed that ‘way’ is up!
Paul Cox stuck with the side which reached top of the table midweek by beating Macclesfield.
Line Up [4-4-1-1] Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, John Dempster, Luke Jones, Greg Taylor, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray (C), Junior Daniel, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green
Substitutes Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Adam Chapman
Needing three points to go five clear at the top of the table and put pressure on Kidderminster, Stags began well to the backing of at least 1,200 travelling supporters. It was a rampant start too as Lee Stevenson and Matt Green combined to pressure the hosts inside their own box, Stevenson’s left sided clip nearly fell for Daniel however Braintree nodded clear.
Six minutes later the relentless pressure led to a corner as Daniel’s cross was nodded behind by Matt Paine, Luke Jones then headed Adam Murray’s delivery wide of the mark as the Stags fans kept on singing.
They had literally seconds to wait before they could erupt in cheers as the Stags grabbed the opening goal. Lee Beevers made the assist which was perhaps the pass of his career from Murray’s knockdown, the ball had the right mix of weight, power and direction on. Predictably it was Green to latch onto it, staying onside before blasting beyond Nathan McDonald for his 24th goal of the season.
Four minutes later Stags were close again as Braintree withstood immense pressure, Adam Murray’s deep free kick sat up at the far post for the advanced Jones, who was denied by a well positioned McDonald, the Braintree shot stopper also holding onto another free-kick from Murray moments later.
Braintree were given a rare sighting of goal on 18 minutes as John Dempster fumbled a clearance in a very boggy penalty box, allowing Ben Wright to fire at goal – Alan Marriott was on hand to save the driven goal-bound effort.
Nine minutes later the game hit a pivotal moment as Stags romped forward, looking certain to score. Anthony Howell bustled his way through midfield, passed three challenges and then slotted Green clean through on goal – with the net drawing the Stags in, Green let fly but saw his effort cannon back off the post. Louis Briscoe hit the rebound but dragged wide, Junior Daniel kept the ball alive but Braintree withstood the pressure, somehow!
Louis Briscoe then tried an ambitious effort on the half hour mark from 40 yards which came close to dropping in before Greg Taylor whipped in a dangerous cross which was just too pacey for Green three minutes later.
The hosts put on a little bit of pressure as the half faded away, John Dempster and Lee Stevenson on hand to clear – Stags headed into the break one goal to the good, all the had to do was hold on.
HALF TIME: Braintree 0-1 Stags
Stags began the second half as they’d started the first but still couldn’t find that elusive second, Junior Daniel made up the ground within the opening minute before being felled by Matt Paine. Louis Briscoe stepped up to drive in the resulting free kick, denied only by the keeper who got his full body behind the well hit effort.
Despite more pressure from Stags, the hosts began to drive forward and fired a truly awful shot well wide of the mark on 57 minutes through Ben Wright. Three minutes later however the hosts stunned Stags as they pulled level through Matt Paine – The Iron right backs 25 yard effort was tame and trickled beyond Marriott whose defence failed to close down the ball on three occasions.
Stags had it to do and threw on Rhead for Stevenson, however the Stags front man could on watch on as a now confident Braintree surged forward and scored again, however Wrights effort was ruled out as he clearly shoved Dempster off the ball.
Lindon Meikle then came onto replace Briscoe but again, the fresh Stags face could only watch on as Braintree took the lead – this one legal and standing. Sam Habergham’s left sided cross not closed down or headed away by Dempster, who was beaten at the back post by Kaine Sheppard who nodded home.
Adam Chapman was then Cox’s final throw of the dice as the replaced Howell, seconds after his introduction he launched in a long throw which Rhead agonisingly headed over.
Rhead was then denied by two sublime saves by McDonald in the Iron goal as Stags thumped against the door as the clock ticked down at pace. Further efforts saw from Daniel, Green, Chapman and Murray all went astray as frustration grew and Mansfield realised they’d again squandered the opportunity to pressure rivals Kidderminster, the full time whistle almost felt like relegation again – a huge fight is needed now.
FULL TIME: Braintree 2-1 Stags
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations, to submit a blog, email email@example.com
Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write...
Tomorrow could be a historic day as Stags descend on Braintree, three points plus nothing more than a draw for Kidderminster at Wrexham sends our beloved Mansfield Town back into the football league.
We think you could go as far to say that what Stags have done so far doesn’t matter – what does winning at Barrow matter, what does scrapping past Lincoln matter, it doesn’t – winning at Braintree however does! Should Paul Cox’s men come away with three points the pressure is heaped on Kidderminster, who are then fighting to keep their own dream alive.
There is two ways of looking at tomorrow in our opinion, we’ll either be champions by 7pm or we’ll have to go again at Hereford on Tuesday. The supporters will help massively in our quest for glory, around three coaches are rumoured to be making the trip tomorrow – whatever the situation just please keep on singing.
The final Saturday away game of the season often sees supporters don the fancy dress outfits; it’s like an unwritten rule amongst football fans. The point is it’s an opportunity to relax, to smile, to sing and basically create good memories something we definitely need to happen tomorrow, there’s no room for pressure or that burning angst of worry.
Think back if you will to that heartbreaking relegation season five years ago, sitting through a match and watching our poor side be beaten black and blue and edge closer to the drop kind of took the fun out of an away trip. The back end of the season too whilst attempting the great escape saw worry and nerves – even in a batman costume how can you create a happy memory!
We know that you’ll be there at the moment thinking this is a load of mumbling and rambling, it’s just that so much hinges on tomorrow’s game. It’s difficult to focus and preview the fixture properly when you know deep down that only one thing matters WINNING!
Forgive us here for sounding like kill joys, whilst we urge you to enjoy and embrace tomorrow, and of course deeply hope it is our day – we also say be prepared for one final twist – do not write Kidderminster off, they will fight and take it as far as they can. The same can be said for our opponents Braintree too, the former Blue Square Bet South Champions have had a semi decent season and sit in a safe mid-table position ensuring their safety for another term, will they want to beat us – naturally they will.
Two teams in tomorrow’s game and two teams in the title race just keep doing what we do singing loud and being proud of our beloved club: Believe that tomorrow could be our day!
LAST TIME WE MET
The sides have only met thrice before, earlier in the season Stags maintained their unbeaten record against the Iron by running out 2-0 winners at the One Call Stadium back in September. Lee Stevenson struck to open the scoring on 41 minutes before Jake Speight knocked in the second five minutes from full time.
Last term Stags took four points from the Iron, at the One Call Stadium Stags overturned Ben Wright’s opener with goals from John Dempster, Lindon Meikle plus a brace from Matt Green.
At the Amlin Stadium in Stags third game under Paul Cox, Louis Briscoe opened the scoring moments into the second half however they couldn’t hold onto the lead as Sean Marks was on target to steal a point for the newly promoted hosts.
With three points needed to move five clear at the top of the conference table, Paul Cox will probably have everyone knocking on the door asking to play! Those confirmed as out are James Jennings, Jake Speight & Ross Dyer whilst defender Ryan Tafazolli looks unlikely to feature, after being substituted early on for the reserves on Thursday afternoon.
If you can’t make it to The Amlin Stadium (Cressing Road), but want to keep up with the action on a day which could see Stags finally seal promotion back to the football league, then be sure to join Craig throughout the afternoon.
Build Up, followed by FULL MATCH COMMENTARY, gets underway at 2pm via our MM-LIVE page and across Ashfield on Takeover Radio 106.9FM.
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