Craig Priest reveals some of his memorable moments on the road with the Mansfield Matters team...
Away days are notoriously brilliant, often regardless of the result on the pitch. You spend all work working and then on a Saturday get to sit on a coach for hours, watching the white lines go flashing buy in search of three points. Fair enough I’ve not painted the most beautiful of pictures there but trust me, when you throw in really good friends, bucket loads of banter, a sing song, maybe a dance and a beer or ten – the afternoon turns out to be wonderful.
As I’ve said on numerous occasion, I always enjoyed travelling on the coach with such a wonderful group of people, again the only “downside” to broadcasting this seasons action, was the fact that logistically going on the coach isn’t do-able. The coach leaves practically straight after the game and had I been on it this season, would have had a few annoyed faces waiting for me to pack up – having the car means there’s no rush, which I’m grateful for. Obviously you miss out on some of the banter but similar to footballers going into training, we’ve developed our own little “car school” which creates banter now and then, although as James Williamson knows, sometimes it’s better to remain silent then open your mouth, Hi Andy! – That’s all I’m saying!
Coming home there’s no pressure as everything’s done and you can chill out which we tend to do, however the journey to the game isn’t the same as your against the clock to get to the relevant ground with enough time to set up and go live on air at the scheduled time, sometimes things don’t always go to plan, something that’s happened on more than one occasion this season!
I have to say that only drivers are supposed to get road rage, however when the traffic is crawling at a snail’s pace for no apparent reason at the clocks ticking ever closer to when I’m supposed to be at a ground or worse, on air, passenger Craig can catch road rage too, something discovered in pre-season when the Stags headed for Boston United. Our “Car School” departed Mansfield around 11.30am for the 1 hour 20 minutes trip so that we’d arrive at the Jakemans Stadium around 1pm, plenty of time for me to set up the radio kit and for the others to enjoy a drink in the sunshine. Things we’re going fine heading through Newark, the banter and conversation was flowing in the glorious weather, then we hit Lincoln, Sleaford and eventually Boston where the nightmare began. Slow moving traffic slowed us down through Lincoln but we got through the worst of it, the same again in Sleaford however in Boston itself and the long stretch to the ground, things took a frustrating turn. The traffic was barley reaching 10MPH and a final leg which should take ten minutes, took around 50 minutes – finally arriving at the ground at around 2.15pm a trip which totalled up to roughly two and a half hours.
I was sat in the car clock watching for the final bit of that journey, I honestly considered getting out, taking my kit from the boot and walking (maybe jogging) to the ground, it would have been faster that the speed we were doing in the car anyway! There was something so smug about the passing pedestrians and cyclists too; never have I dished out so many ‘I hate you’ looks! Finally arriving at the ground I thought ‘great, now I can kick on and get this show on the road’, but as you can imagine things never run smoothly in Craig’s world, when things are going wrong, they do so in epic fashion as it took a further ten minutes to get my press passes and into the ground due to a conversation about tea and coffee. Tea eventually proved the winner and in we went, heading to the main stand on the side of the pitch in search of a press box, imagine my horror when there wasn’t one. Panicking I asked a steward where the press box was and was directed behind the goal, where low and behold, the press box was, it certainly made an interesting afternoon’s commentary with the sides kicking up and down rather than left to right – got to love new experiences really.
Another road rage trip was one which also led to a near death experience, travelling to Fleetwood for an FA Cup replay back in November. A chemical spillage on the M61 had seen the motorway closed and, adding to a long list of problems, saw the team coach caught up in the chaos. I knew their pain having been on a Motorway closure the previous season when the Stags headed for Newport, I’ll never forget the SSA people selling stuff to the people in the cars around us!
Fortunately the power of twitter had alerted us to the dilemma prior to our departure and we made alternative plans, as did every other motorist which was part of the problem! We opted for logic and thought the most likely route people would take would be the M6 and such, avoided it taking the M62 followed by the M55. As predicted a lot of folk travelling in that direction opted for the M6 and around Preston, it had become jammed and closed by the BBC, sorry, traffic cops! Everyone filtered onto the M62/M55 and with both already tight with maintenance work, things began to crawl. Fortunately I foresight to avoid the M6 had gained us some ground and after a final couple of agonising miles at 15MPH, we were clear and on the home straight looking good, and the headlights on the car died – yeah I laughed too.
We pulled into a garage some eight miles from the ground to tinker about with the lights, we prodded every button, kicked and punch everything and still nothing worked bar the brake lights, indicators and full beams. After a LOT of cursing and pacing up and down the forecourt, we decided to carry on, get to the ground and then call the AA (other breakdown companies are available). It was pitch black, we had no headlights and we’re driving with full beams on with cars going the other way constantly flashing us and piping at us, the was more swearing that a turret’s group meeting. We nearly crashed twice and Scott Rogers was practically in tears in the back, whilst I kept my head down, holding down the beam light thing whilst my dad drove into the darkness. Eventually we arrived, unharmed, at the ground where we got out the car shaking and our hearts racing, myself and Scott headed into the ground to set up whilst the other travellers with us made for the turn-style, my dad stayed and waited for the AA (other breakdown companies are available), I think out of us all, he got the best deal as the Stags went onto be trounced 5-0 and dumped out of the cup, a night which saw them endure a five hour coach trip, getting stuck in traffic with everyone on the coach throwing up with food poisoning which also effected members of the press, who’d eaten the sandwiches of doom. On reflection, we got stuck in traffic, broke down, nearly died and got hammered 5-0 – I hate football at times!
There have been a few close calls time wise due to work commitments for midweek games, namely Grimsby when a drastic run around the surrounding streets was needed to gain entry into the stadium at 7PM, with heartburn I add due to a 2 minute wolfing down of McDonalds – also a SatNav failure at Cambridge saw my dad do a Williamson and get lost, however no matter the situation, nothing compares to the nightmares of Boston and Fleetwood.
There are plenty more stories to come but for now there you have it, lessons have been learned once more – Tea beats coffee, always have a weekend away where you can and NEVER travel to Fleetwood with us without life insurance!
The views expressed in this piece are those solely of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations. To submit a piece for publication, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest reveals some of his memorable moments on the road with the Mansfield Matters team...
I often get asked what’s my favourite thing about football, the obvious answer is the search for glory, however having followed the Stags home and away for some 10 seasons now my answer to the aforementioned question becomes ‘people and places’.
Yes, I know I sound like a boring TV host from the 90’s, but honestly it’s not as boring as it sounds – going away with the Stags I’ve met some of the most brilliant people I could ever wish to meet and have had adventures in some of the most strange places. I’ve written before about the adventures and people I’ve met and come to be friends with as a supporter, memories I’ll cherish forever – an example would be going to Northwhich Victoria a few seasons back and hogging a children’s zip wire! I have to admit at the start of the season when I knew I’d be nowhere near the supporters coach or terraces because of my media work, I shed a little tear because I thought those silly little story’s would be no more – 11 months on and wow, how wrong I was!
There are so many story’s from the past campaign it’s difficult to know where to start or what to include as, as you can imagine, there are some more un-publishable stories, mainly involving Scott Rogers’ habit to change song lyrics and James Williamson’s admissions – enough said!
The latter, James, is one of the people I have met solely through my radio work, first encountering the photographer at Chasetown in pre-season. Even though the first conversation was kind of awkward as James seemed to know me but I had no clue to who he was, we became good friends as the season went on, sharing lifts, stealing Jaffa cakes and photographs! You may have seen on my twitter and on Scott’s twitter a regular tweet reading ‘Shock, James is lost again’ – it’s not an exaggeration, James really could get lost walking around his own house – he is once rumoured to have driven past Darlington’s 25,000 seater stadium twice on the way to our league encounter back in September, it was on the afternoon that we discovered his lack of directional sense.
As you’ll more than likely know we tend to arrive at grounds early to set up and prepare for our show, this particular afternoon we had around an hour to kill before going live and as such decided to take full advantage of the free tea and coffee machine the Quakers had purchased with their FA Trophy winnings. Myself and Scott had already figured the tea machine out, poured seven cups a piece and taken them back to our seats in the press box via a mass amount of corridors and stairs, we presumed James had followed until both our phones beeped simultaneously with a text from James reading ‘I got lost, gone back to that media room, come and find me please’ after picking ourselves up from the floor laughing, we eventually went and guided the lost photographer back to the press box, if ever anyone needed one of those baby control lead things, it’s James.
I’d say ‘if ever anyone needed a SatNav’ however James does indeed own a SatNav, it’s just a shame he never follows it. I recall a boiling day back in October when I travelled with James to Forest Green Rovers, an afternoon neither me nor a innocent couple of pheasants won’t forget in a hurry. Making good time, somewhere along the road was a wrong turn taken by captain James who insisted he knew where he was going... the New Lawn ground is reachable via a stretch of tight, bending country lanes which I discovered the previous season on the mini-bus with the fans, James also knew this and found a stretch of road which looked ‘vaguely familiar’ and as such, turned off the SatNav and followed the road. It soon became apparent that after passing the same tree at least 50 times, we we’re lost. Eventually after several ‘I’m sure it’s down here’ comments James turned back and found a main road, where we’d ask for directions – James saw an exit and headed for it, having to swerve for a pheasant who was just there passing the time doing whatever pheasants do when James made the desperate dash for civilisation – the measure of how lost we we’re was the fact the ‘road’ we took wasn’t actual a road, merely a hunters type wood – if I travel to Forest Green with James next season, I’m taking armour just encase! Fortunately we were practically mistake free on the way home and poor Peter the pheasant lives to fight another day!
Near death experiences have been somewhat of a common occurrence around me this season, if an eight mile night time drive with no headlights wasn’t bad enough (a story for another time), being of the company of Chad journalist Stephen Thrikill when his beloved Huddersfield are playing certainly is! I recall a trip to nearby Tamworth where Stephen was covering for John Lomas back in March when the journalist, author and Stags Talk host nearly killed an old lady. Always looking out for the Huddersfield scores to protect his investment from the 2004 play-off final where he bribed the linesman who ruled out Colin Larkin’s goal, Stephens team were looking good for another victory until relegation threatened Rochdale levelled the match eight minutes from time to steal a point. Always the worker, he didn’t get to check the scores until full time when we we’re off air and his match report had been sent – upon seeing that Huddersfield had dropped points, he punched the desk in a fit of rage, fair enough you may think... tell that to the old lady who was walking past at the time who jumped out of her skin and nearly had a heart attack there and then! The looks her family shot in Mr Thirkill’s direction where like James Williamson’s driving in the house of pheasants – near deadly! I have to say that I enjoyed seeing Thirkill get the death stare as before the game, he had frankly destroyed me with banter about my coat, lucky cap and apparent stalkerish nature towards my ex-girlfriend – complete rubbish of course!
There are plenty more story’s to come over the course of the summer, and reflecting on today’s revelations I think we’ve all learnt a few things – James Williamson needs a constant guide, has taken hunting to a whole new level and needs new glasses whilst Stephen Thirkill should be restrained from seeing the football scores in the presence of old ladies, needs to take a look at his own fashion before digging into mine and makes very false claims!
The views expressed in this piece are those solely of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations. To submit a piece for publication, email email@example.com
Fresh from the end of season review, Craig Priest brings us his report card on the players from the season just gone...
A total of 38 players donned the infamous amber and blue last season, some contracted, some on loan and some in affective – whatever, 38 names all involved in what, on reflection, was a wonderful campaign – today I give my report card and brief thoughts on the players to be involved.
Please note that I’m in a rather sarcastic mood and that, whilst I’m aiming to be informative for some, I am going to through the odd gag in here and there. As always you can interact and share your thoughts via the comments below, our facebook page or twitter with fellow fans.
He was already a legend and a crowd favourite before the season kicked off, however this season he has been as ever impressive and endured a fantastic campaign. Pulling off so many vital saves over the course of the season, unofficial vice captain Marriott is the shining example that a team is only as strong as its keeper – Marriott’s enthusiasm, hard work and dedication have been spread from in the former Lincoln mans gloves into the boots of every player.
Out of contract at the moment, Paul Cox needs to pull out all the stops to get Mazza’s signature, securing the Stags in my opinion the best goal keeper in the division, letting Marriott add to his 128 league appearances in the amber and blue, or in his case – gray and pink.
Personally I’d have to say Barrow away when Marriott walked on rocking the pink goal keepers top purely because of Scott’s reaction in the press box, however seeing as that’s not a moment involving Marriott as such, you can look no further than THAT goal against Wrexham – it seriously couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
Appearances 50, clean sheets 14, Goals 1!
The final graduate of the old youth set up to fly the nest, Tom unfortunately had already left before the best part of our season arrived. As always he put in solid performances but his final season with us was probably overshadowed by the two sending’s off which caused early season reshuffles at the back.
Now at Derby County, Tom’s flying the Mansfield flag in the Championship and like you, I’m proud to see the youngster following his dream.
Nothing from the actual season itself springs to mind initially, however it was great to see Tom back for Rhys Day’s testimonial last Saturday, during which he and Andy Todd had a coming together of sorts – it was funny, I guess you had to be there.
A brief spell back in February saw Paul arrive on a month’s loan from Fleetwood, he filled a gap, that’s about it for this one...
I seem to remember Paul making a vital challenge I think in the Tamworth game, however his memorable moment comes on his return to the One Call Stadium whilst on loan at Barrow – being subbed after less than half an hour summed up his performance, got beat easily every time and did more damage than good, but helped us on the way to a high scoring victory so yeah, cheers Paul.
Appearances 2 (1)
One of many left backs to have had a trial spell in pre-season and by no means the people’s choice in fairness. When he did play he did ok but once again it was during the spell where we didn’t really threaten – the long list of clubs on his arrival should have told you all you needed to know really. As I say, he did ok when he played but injuries etc saw him fall down the pecking order and eventually, farmed out on loan highly unlikely to return.
Without doubt the player I feel most sorry for after an in different season. Jon arrived with a good reputation in the football league with Huddersfield and Bradford, however in the early season matches Jon failed to settle and form a partnership with Murray and as such, fell out of favour.
I’ve been privileged to see Jon play in numerous friendly’s along with his handful of appearances in the first team and I can say with honesty that his commitment, work rate and team ethic has impressed me. He works hard off the pitch to keep match fit and is looked up to by a lot of the younger lads, he’s just been mightily unlucky to have seen Roberts and Howell ahead of him.
Out of contract at the moment, I’d personally offer Jon another year with the reserve team ready to go at what is actually a competitive level. Nobody wants the tag of ‘reserve’ but he is a natural leader and will do wonders for the younger element of the squad, plus offer a real competition for places in the first team midfield.
I’m not sure if it’s classed as memorable or not, but his performance against Fleetwood towards the latter end of the season was nothing short of phenomenal.
Appearances 8 (9)
Tommo is a total legend and had it not been for that horrific pre-season injury, would have probably have played every single game. A wonderful humble man off the pitch who despite everything that he’s faced this season, has kept plugging away, I’m so pleased he returned for the final match of the season at Kidderminster – next year will be fresh for him and hopefully he will flourish at the heart of another championship winning defence as he goes into the second year of his contract.
Returning against AFC Telford after so long out to help a leaky defence finally shut up shop is certainly up there along with his final day appearance at Kidderminster proving that good things come to those who wait.
Appearances 7 (1)
A season of two halves for the former Cheltenham man, the first half saw him in and out of the side and more often than not, in the wrong place at the wrong time – including being on the pitch at Ilkeston one of the three injured. From January onwards Martin kicked on and had a settled run in the side and really came into his own, impressing at the heart of the defence and more than earning the right to skipper the side at Kidderminster.
Out of contract now, in my opinion he’s another must keep – that said he’ll have to work hard to keep his place with Thompson on the mend and the rumours surrounding a return for John Dempster, the working hard things a good thing though as it gets the team rewards as was demonstrated.
Most people thought it was Briscoe who scored at Alfreton away, Martin Riley soon took to his twitter to put that right!
Appearances 30 (2), Goals 1
The man who divides opinions on the terraces yet the man whose always good for a phenomenal strike. A lot of folk forget that before Matt Green’s arrival, Paul Cox looked to convert Briscoe into an out and out front man during pre-season, an experiment that in my opinion was never going to work. Fair enough Louis popped up with the goals at times, delighting the crowd with 80% of them, however with a year left to run on his contract I’m hoping the wide man can find his feet and delight once more so that the comparisons to previous seasons stop.
The hat-trick against Barrow or one of the many phenomenal strikes – you decide.
Appearances 26 (14), Goals 11
Paul Cox’s first signing arrived with a tremendous record from previous seasons but failed to fit into our system and as such played a very rare part. A joker off the pitch he’s kept working and next season will come into his own with the reserves to keep him ticking over waiting for that first team call.
Whilst I was delighted to see him net his first goal of the season at Kidderminster to cap an excellent performance, Stevo’s memorable moment has to be the second half as a goal keeper in Rhys’ testimonial – like a duck to water...
Appearances 7 (2), Goals 1
Another player not to be at the club during this seasons peak having moved into part time football with Gainsborough, the 12th Stag man was a big loss but in truth, was a piece of the wrong jigsaw, reduced to appearances from the bench. That said, he still got the goals, netting our first of the season early on against Bath.
I’ve mentioned his goal against Bath, however it’s his strike away at Wrexham in the final minute which springs to mind for this one. An important strike and one thoroughly deserved.
Appearances 4 (11), Goals 4
A player Paul Cox says is his biggest regret, not for singing him but for not signing him in the summer and not following his gut feeling. Rhead has proved an excellent addition and his a wonderful player to have in the side not just for his physical presence but for the things he does off the ball, Rheady is a very cleaver player and one I hope we take on a full time basis next season.
Rheady Rheady Boing Boing Rheady Rheady Boing Boing .... need I say any more! PS, his goal to relegate Kettering.
Appearances 2 (15), Goals 2
Very much a broken car when he arrived on loan from Oxford but TLC from Paul Cox repowered the Green machine to the sound of 30 goals. His goals have been massive, his all round play a delight to watch too – let’s hope he doesn’t prove a one season wonder and that in the transfer market Cox not only hangs onto the former Oxford man, but brings in a clone to power us to promotion.
A season perhaps overshadowed a little by the silly red card at York, Greens always good for a goal, long may that continue.
Pick a goal, any goal. Maybe the brace away at Darlington to get us long suffering Staggies some revenge, maybe his permanent arrival in January or maybe his delightful back heel to Luke O’Neill in the Newport home game to set goal number five – there’s so many!
Appearances 47 (1), Goals 30
The captain, the legend – next player please... No in all seriousness captain Muz is a delightful character and undeserving of the stick he gets from the select few. He is a total work horse, not afraid to speak his mind, a man of passion and a player with the desire and ability to match. Some of the work he does on the pitch often goes unnoticed, he’s skipper for a reason and will undoubtedly don the armband as we return to the football league.
Early in the season when things weren’t quite going to plan, Muz rallied the troops in an interview which caused a little bit of friction which in the end, merged into love. Muz’s memorable moment is in every blog he writes, so open, so honest, so passionate and so enjoyable – what a guy!
Another unlucky sole like his alarmingly twin look-a-like Jon Worthington! Arrived from Macclesfield on a two year deal with a shoulder injury which was then followed by an ankle injury away at Hednesford in pre-season during what was actually a very strong performance. Paul never really recovered and despite a handful of appearances in the early months of the season, found himself at the very bottom of the pecking order and out on loan to Harrogate Town and despite having a year left to run, will probably be on the list of players released.
More of a personal one than an actual Bolland pacific moment, I referred to his looks early, well when he replaced Worthington in the line up, I often referred to Bolland as Worthington in commentary – awkward.
Appearances 6 (7)
A player who doesn’t get half of the credit he deserves, a total work horse and a real valued asset to the side. Whether played as a wide man or a front man, Ross does what’s needed of him with minimum fuss and despite him being the target man in the air, is actually a very accomplished player with the ball to feet which he’s shown throughout the campaign.
It’s true that without Matt Green we’d have never have finished in the play-offs, the same can be said, if not more so, for Ross Dyer – another player who needs to grab a pen and sign a new contract.
Forest Green Rovers away, the fastest Mansfield Town goal ever.
Appearances 47 (3), Goals 10
Refereed to by Adam Murray and the players as the ‘baby chicken’ Luke has been attracting interest from Championship clubs after a wonderful debut season at Field Mill. Arriving from Leicester City in the summer Luke wasn’t first choice for a starting birth at first however the pre-season injury list saw Luke handed his chance – the youngster using it to full affect and deserving of all the awards he scooped along with Green.
Time for Burnley and the other clubs to bugger off and Luke to take up that one year option – a key player.
Being called the baby chicken, his wonderful set pieces and excellent tackles.
Appearances 47 (3), Goals 3
The third player to suffer the pre-season Ilkeston set back but without doubt one of the star performers throughout the season, playing all across the back line with no fuss. Wrongly took far too much slack for his sending off in the second leg against York and will in turn be suspended for next seasons curtain raiser, I’ve been mightily impressed by Sutts and hope he stays.
The goal that never was thanks to the linesman’s flag I think against Lincoln at home from Geohaghon’s throw, his ginger beard and the fact he’s studying to be a sports journalist.
Appearances 44 (2)
You know, the guy who played left back against Bath on the opening day of the season. Yeah that’s pretty much it – a character off the pitch with decent banter but just not part of the furniture this season in fairness. Out of contract and after various loan spells elsewhere, I’d be surprised if he was given another deal.
Not for public reading!
Very much a bit player this season due to injury and his prolonged loan at Aldershot, however the wide man has impressed when coming on and in the last months of the season, provided competition for places and kept Briscoe and Meikle on their toes.
He scored a goal, that’ll do.
Appearances 8 (4), Goals 2
Bundles of energy whenever he plays and adaptable with it, along with Micky Moore and Paul Ogden a really important addition and one that will thrive, presumably in charge, of the reserves next term. An excellent coach and a player that in fairness, wouldn’t look out of place given a regular start.
The winner at home to Alfreton – legend.
Appearances 6 (3), Goals 1
The man who proved everyone wrong, myself included, with a truly phenomenal season. Works hard, gets stuck in, wins headers, makes passes, covers ground and scores goals given the opportunity. A fairly regular face in our line up doing the unseen work to a fine level – his part in getting us into the play-offs should be noted and with a year’s option on his contract, it should be taken.
His second strike at Alfreton was out of this world, thoroughly deserved.
Appearances 32 (5), Goals 5
A season of torrid injury setbacks forced early retirement, a massive shame. If the injuries wouldn’t have occurred to him or John Thompson, well frankly I drool at the prospect of those two together at the back, something I was fortunate enough to see in a friendly with Eastwood earlier in the season.
Scoring the penalty in his testimonial, the final look at the fans before hanging up his boots – a top man.
Appearances 0 (1)
The Irish gloves man has been forced to face a season on the bench with the fine form of Alan Marriott and will face a tough decision if offered a new contract. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Shane in friendlies and his one league appearances, generally his shot stopping is good, a season in the reserves playing competitive football wouldn’t go a miss.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the spider crawl! Anyone who went to Kidderminster will know exactly what I mean!
Appearances 1, Clean sheets 1
Another expected not to feature as much however the former Eastwood man, Paul Cox’s second signing, has flourished in the amber and blue and has earned various call ups for England C. With quick feet, bags of pace and energy – Lindon has been a joy to watch over the season and I’ll undoubtedly say the same again next season. Lindon has great vision too and reads the game well, a few tweaks here and there and he’ll be the complete player and a lot more in between.
The fluke goal at Bath was different to say the least, the equalising goal at home to Alfreton was exquisite too.
Appearances 38 (9), Goals 7
Brought in early season following a trial spell to make up the numbers, Nick made one substitute appearance at Gateshead before moving on following the expiry of his one month contract. I take my hat off to him for signing just to make the numbers up when he’d have known his days we’re limited
Appearances 0 (1)
Arriving three games in on loan from Bury, Ben changed our season for the better coming in to provide some stability across the back line, helping us onto our first unbeaten run of the season. In honesty it’s a shame that Ben couldn’t have stayed a little while longer however things happen for a reason and without his departure, we’d have never have got John Dempster and subsequently big ex.
At about 9 feet tall, his height was always a good weapon, however the memorable moment has to be his goal away at Barrow, his only Stags goal.
Appearances: 15, Goals 1
After John Dempster’s loan had expired, Exodus was the next defender to arrive on loan, more than playing his part in our play-off charge, that phenomenal trademark long throw becoming a real weapon. Creating a tight partnership with Martin Riley, Exodus impressed during his loan spell chipping in not just with the throws but with strong headers at the back and a forceful presence up top. Now a free agent I think after his loans expiry and the termination of his Darlington contract, it’ll be interesting to see if the big man looks to join on a permanent basis in the coming weeks.
Every long throw and the atmosphere it creates!
Appearances 15, Goals 2
Youth team striker with a very good goals record in the young guns respective league. Drafted in on a senior non-contract basis as cover for the FA Cup matches with Fleetwood, made an appearance in the replay following the numerous illness’ sweeping through the camp. Hopefully Adam along with the other third year youth teamers will get a pro deal and enjoy a season in the reserves.
Making his debut at Fleetwood in the cup
Appearances 0 (1)
On a short term loan from Stoke for a second spell at Stags after playing under Duncan Russell the previous season, he failed to really impress and headed back to Stoke without making a real difference.
Erm..... I’ll get back to you
Appearances 1 (2)
Brought in following a successful trial in the January transfer window, the former Kilmarnock and Middlesbrough man proved a little hit and miss. Against Eastwood in the second friendly, he was suburb netting two outstanding goals and highlighting he could do a similar job to Matt Green. A mini run in the side followed in which he looked lively without finding the net, missing out to be by his partners side as she gave birth before more substitute appearances late in the season. In all honesty I was surprised that he wasn’t involved with either play-off leg, especially the second leg – If he signs another contract then I’ve no doubt he’ll come into his own in the reserves and maybe push for a regular spot.
The two goals against Eastwood where fantastic, his performance to help us seal a play-off spot at Hayes & Yeading was strong too, however the last minute penalty at home against the same team seals it.
Appearances 5 (7), Goals 1
Apparently my brother if you listen to Scott Rogers! Had a trial in pre-season, disappeared, came back November time, played twice, teetered on average and then left on Boxing Day.
Looking like me, he’s blessed.
A late arrival providing cover at left back on emergency loan from Cheltenham impressed when he played, both in friendly’s and from the bench. With a sweat left foot posing a dangerous dead ball threat, I guess I’d like to see more and may well do as, despite Sutton’s excellent at left back, we are crying out for a natural left footed full back.
Slotted in well when Riley was injured during the first leg of the York semi-final final and came close to a goal a time or two.
Appearances 1 (5)
Arriving on loan from Nottingham Forest, Kieron made history following his Stags departure in January, becoming the first ever player to play for all three sides in consecutive matches. Kieron impressed during his nine game loan spell with strong tackles and fluent movement down the left channel, a real shame we only got nine games from him. I’d certainly love to see him back but I highly doubt it, he’ll be a regular face in at least league one next season.
Impressive tackles, fluent movement and the history making tag – I’ve already covered it really! A really nice lad, very polite with a great football brain.
Arguably the best defender we had all season, it was a devastating blow when a deal couldn’t be done to bring him to Field Mill permanently in January. Always strong in the air, a handful from set pieces, JD had a genuine fondness of the club and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him back in the coming weeks following his release from Crawley, in fact – it’d delight me.
In his final appearance for us in the 5-2 victory over Darlington at Field Mill, his goal got us back on level terms after an early set back – a fitting parting gift.
Appearances 12 (1), Goals 3
On loan from Bradford City, he came, kicked a ball around and then left.
Other than the above, I’d say his constant rants on twitter to sum it up I use a twitter hash tag... #arrogencegetsyouknowhere
Appearances 0 (2)
I was excited by the signing of Kelly along with Kettering team mate Verma, however his Stags career failed to really delight fans not really getting a proper run. Operating as a left winger, he was played left back when he did get a run out and you could tell he was out of position. Both he and Verma were meant to join on a permanent basis in January but the crazy nature of their parent club Kettering saw them both return – personally I’d give him another shot but I’m not sure I’d have many agree with me.
A great player but I’m struggling to pick out a highlight from his Stags stint!
Appearances 1 (1)
As I mentioned, arrived with Kelly but was the one who enjoyed a better run, making a difference to what was a then struggling side with some neat movement, strong passes and well timed tackles. Struggled with a bit of an injury which may have hampered his full potential, would I have him back? Potentially but would he get in the side ahead of Roberts, Murray and Howell? No.
On New Year’s Day at York he scored an absolute belter!
Appearances 5 (1), Goals 1
Arrived in January with a reputation as a bit of a bad egg, reputations count for nothing so long as you deliver the goods, something Robbo has down to a tee. A phenomenal midfielder who can do things with a football some of us can only dream of! Sometimes his ability is far above conference level and some of the balls he plays are too cleaver and come to nothing however it’s a delight to watch and without doubt a major factor to our play-off run. Role on next season when his tremednoud play and work rate takes us to the league title.
A decent brace away at Ebbsfleet, the way he plays and a personal memory following the Ebbsfleet match I can never reveal – a real character and top bloke.
Appearances 18 (1), Goals 3
The former Eastwood boss has worked wonders, I’ve been privileged to work with and get to know him, I’m over the moon he’s penned a two year deal as I know that he will take us to new highs. The football has at times been frustrating but together we’ve pulled through and got within touching distance, the majority of the signings have been spot on and to be honest, the way he’s picked up and reinvented Luke O’Neill, Matt Green, Ross Dyer and Gary Roberts to name a few has been a credit to him. His coaching staff and Andy Todd and Micky Moore have played a key part, as has chief scout Paul Ogden whose knowledge of the game and this level is second to none.
Basically, bring on next season!
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not the views of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit a piece of work for publication, email firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTOS: James Williamson, Dan Westwell
Craig Priest reflects on the season just gone...
Like the season before, the 2011-12 season will be remembered from the history books as yet another heartbreaking one. Flicking back through the images, the one most used to sum up the campaign is the one of Adam Murray stood in tears on the One Call Stadium pitch whilst the York City players and Supporters dance in celebration in the backdrop – this is wrong, this shouldn’t be the image that defines the season just gone because for once, there is a bigger picture, there is a story to be told. The 2011-12 campaign may well have ENDED in heartbreak, but the beginning and middle of the tale follow a totally different script, as the 2011-12 campaign in truth, was Mansfield’s best for many year, it was the year they became reborn.
Still reeling from the pain of a Wembley cup final defeat in extra time, it’s fair to say that the Stags we’re broken down to the most delicate of shells, we all knew change was needed and that whoever took over the reins, would have a tough job in rebuilding us and putting us back out to battle. Many names we’re thrown into the hat for the managerial hot seat, the two front runners appeared to be ex Rushden & Diamonds chief Justin Edinburgh and former Eastwood boss Paul Cox, on the 19th May 2011 it was the latter appointed on a one year deal.
Despite the initial concerns that Cox had not managed in the BSBP, a year on his addition and the path we have taken as a result as more than proved enough to banish away that original doubt. When you look at what we did, you can be proud – so many ex-league clubs in this division think they have a divine right to waltz straight back into the football league, the arrogance is often shameful and will get you nowhere, something that after three seasons in the conference we accepted and dealt with, changing our answer to one question which in so many ways can shape your seasons fortunes. In the past we’d answer ‘What are Mansfield Town FC’ with ‘A Football League team’, now we answer ‘A conference side, equals with those around us’
We appointed a non-league manager with vast non-league experience and vast non-league contacts. He then appointed another non-league manager as his assistant in Micky Moore before adding to his coaching team with the vastly experienced Andy Todd and chief scout Paul Ogden, probably one of the best scouts outside of the football league. In terms of the playing staff, there were a few ex-football league players that arrived in Paul Bolland (Macclesfield), Jon Worthington (Bradford) and John Thompson (Notts County) but looking back through the season’s stats, the ex-league boys have featured less for one reason or the other than the non-leaguers such as Lindon Meikle (Eastwood), Ross Dyer (Forest Green) and Anthony Howell (Alfreton). Whether or not this was the intention at the beginning who knows bar Cox himself but whatever, my point is that the blend of players was finally right, we had players at the club wanting to play football and be a success rather than link up with an old friend, run about a bit and pick up a pay cheque, no matter how harsh that seems. My point is also that in appointing Cox and building a non-league structure, our broken shell has been mended properly rather than cheaply fixed with pound shop filler – I’m sure that will make sense eventually!
Below you can find my review of the season month by month, stats etc will be throw in along with the occasional comment with my round up at the end – sit back and enjoy reading the 2011-12 season review: the season Stags we’re reborn.
With the squad beginning to assemble nicely, the time for football soon arrived with the pre-season schedule kicking off with a friendly against Rainworth MW, only Neil Collett and Danny Mitchley appeared from the ‘old guard’ as Micky Moore ran his eye over several trailists and youth players with Paul Cox at a wedding. Trialist striker Patrick Samba netted for Stags in a game which ended 1-1, after the match Moore revealed that none of the trailists would be given a second look. Three days later the proper pre-season campaign got underway with a trip to Nuneaton, trailist Chris Carruthers set up new signing Lee Stevenson to put Paul Cox’s side ahead however the hosts, who would go on to be promoted via the blue square north play-offs, overturned the score line and ran out 2-1 winners.
After two games on the road it was back to Field Mill to face Notts County, the first opportunity for supporters to get a look at Paul Cox’s newly assembled squad ahead of the campaign. The Stags started brightly and we’re ahead through Paul Connor on 26minutes, five minutes after Adam Smith had seen his tame penalty saved by Notts keeper Stuart Nelson. Neil Bishop levelled for the visitors on 28 minutes before Notts took home the bragging rights, Hamza Bencherif netting the winner on 75 minutes.
The Stags search for a pre-season victory would continue as Doncaster Rovers ran out 1-0 winners, Billy Sharp scoring the game’s only goal 12 minutes from full time, John Thompson donned the amber and blue for the first time after signing late Friday night following the Notts County game, the Rovers match also gave us a look at three trialists, Lewis Horne, Shaun Pejic and left back Joe Kendrick, the latter penning a one year deal days after the match.
A trip to FC Halifax gave us a first look at Oxford loan man Matt Green, however it was a combination of the old guard that grabbed the games only goal two minutes into the second half, Paul Connor provided the assist for Louis Briscoe.
Next up was a tight encounter with Hednesford Town in what proved to be the toughest test of pre-season. The Keys Park pitch was one which Paul Cox was really looking forward to playing on due to is tough bobbley nature, the final score shows just how close the game was, Stags running out 3-2 winners, winning 2-0 through Matt Green’s first in Stags colours and a Louis Briscoe penalty before the hosts pulled one back. Tom Naylor then netted from a Matt Bell corner before the hosts set up a tight finish, making it 3-2 with five minutes left to play. Cox clearly had words with his players in the dressing room despite the victory and kept myself and the press waiting, but as ever was frank and honest with his answers to the questions.
A comfortable 4-1 victory at Boston United which saw Adam Murray net twice, Louis Briscoe bag another penalty and Anthony Howell also get on the score sheet, the boys we’re heading for a weekend in Skegness and things we’re looking fairly rosy, that was until we took on Ilkeston in our penultimate pre-season friendly, a game which would change our entire dynamic ahead of the season’s opener.
Matt Green had scored twice to put Stags into a 2-1 lead early in the first half before Gary Rickets and Ritchie Sutton collided, the latter was able to carry on but again collided with Rickets after Louis Briscoe had made it 3-1. This time Sutton was unable to continue and headed straight for A&E. Gary Rickets then made it 3-2 with a header before Louis Briscoe netted from the spot for 4-2 at half time. Five minutes into the second half Martin Riley took an elbow to the face from Rickets and required a trip to A&E and several stitches, before the games controversial moment on 68 minutes when John Thompson was shoved into the advertising hoardings by Gary Rickets as they battled with the ball. Thompson suffered several facial injuries and left a pool of blood embedded in the New Manor pitch, the actions led to Paul Cox leading his team from the park and the match being abandoned, click here to read the full report from the night.
A happy medium had all of a sudden gone back underneath a dark cloud, plans had to be remade and plans redrawn ahead of the season’s opener, however there was time for one last pre-season trip as we headed to Chasetown. The injuries sustained during the week had seen another trialists introduced, former Macclesfield and Rochdale man Matt Flynn. A delightful Adam Smith chip and a neat Ross Dyer goal had put the Stags into a 2-0 goal lead in the opening 20 minutes before Chasetown pulled one back, Ross Dyer made it 3-1 before trialist Flynn made it 4-1 with five to go before the break. The Stags had several opportunities in the second half but failed to make the pay, the full time score staying at 4-1 meaning the Stags headed into the season on the back of five consecutive victories.
Contracted Players Used During Pre-Season: Neil Collett, Danny Mitchley, Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Ritchie Sutton, Tom Naylor, Adam Murray, Lee Stevenson, Jon Worthington, Ross Dyer, Paul Connor, Louis Briscoe, Shane Redmond, Adam Smith, Anthony Howell, Andy Todd, Matt Bell, Lindon Meikle, Martin Riley, John Thompson, Paul Bolland, Matt Green.
Trialists Used During Pre-season [Rainworth MW trialist match]: Jason Beardsley, Josh Wilde, Lee Bennett, Patrice Liburd, Milan Redi, Yann Jougeul, Joe Lamplough, Patrick Samba, Jamie Jackson, Connor Branson (Y), Sean Lynk (Y), Jack Whickham (Y), Aaron Striland (Y) – (Y) Denotes youth team trialist.
Other Trialists Used: Chris Carruthers (Nuneaton A), Nathan Craig (Nuneaton A), Rhema Obed (Nuneaton A, Notts County H), Alan Goodall (Notts County H), Steven Watt (Notts County H), Joe Kendrick (Doncaster H Signed following the match), Shaun Pejic (Doncaster H), Lewis Horne (Doncaster H), Nick Wood (FC Halifax A, Hednesford A, Ilkeston A, Chasetown A), Nick Hegarty (Ilkeston A), Matt Flynn (Chasetown A), Odilion Koudemba (Chasetown A)
Youth Team Players Used [Rainworth MW only]: Blake Vincent, Jobe Shaw, Oliver Medley.
After the pre-season events had begun to fade away, the season’s curtain raiser with Bath City at Field Mill soon arrived, as just shy of four thousand fans arrived for the long awaited match, a fair percentage taking advance of the Wembley ticket offer. Prior to kick off Paul Cox added trialist Nick Wood on a month’s short term deal as cover following Ilkeston gate, wingman Louis Briscoe also penned a contract extension until the end of the 2012-13 campaign. Martin Riley donned a head band to be able to make his competitive, he one of six who marked their first league appearance in the amber and blue. Kick off was delayed by ten minutes to allow the additional fans to take their season, despite an agonising wait to kick start the season officially, it soon proved worth it as Paul Connor headed home young full back Matt Bell’s cross just minutes in to put Paul Cox’s side into an early lead. Bath took a share of the spoils, Adam Connolly netting 11 minutes before the break.
Next up it was the first long trip of the campaign as we headed for Gateshead, a trip which is one of very few this season I wish I hadn’t of made. A lacklustre display saw us crash to a 3-0 defeat and have Tom Naylor shown a straight red card, Lee Stevenson and Joe both debuted in the match, whilst Nick Wood came on late on for what proved his only appearance.
Dropping to 21st after the Gateshead defeat, it was off to newly promoted Braintree next, a trip I’ll never forget (Keep your eye out for a separate series of ‘Craig’s Travel’ blogs in the coming weeks to find out why!). Louis Briscoe smashed in his first of the season minutes into the second half before the hosts levelled through Sean Marks in a match which gave a debut to giant defender Ben Futcher, who arrived from Ritchie Barker’s Bury.
Three games in and still without a win, it was back to Field Mill to see if our luck would change against our old FA Trophy adversary’s Luton Town. Matt Green grabbed his first goal of the league season with a sensational strike from outside the box before Paul Cox’s men, unchanged for the first time, again surrendered a lead, Will Antwi heading home for a point with 12 minutes left to play, a second successive draw and third point from a possible 12 saw the Stags sat it 20th at the full time whistle.
Something needed to spark us into life and re-light the fire which burnt so brightly in pre-season, the spark arrived as Kettering Town arrived at Field Mill on August 27th, keeping the same line up as the credible Luton draw, goals from Louis Briscoe, Matt Green and Ross Dyer swept Kettering aside, sealing our first victory and clean sheet of the campaign in a match which saw Ritchie Sutton return from his injury and come off the bench to make his debut.
With the fire burning, it was soon time to add fuel, a bank holiday lunchtime trip to relegated Stockport County did that. A well balanced encounter between the sides saw just the one goal, Luke O’Neill grabbed it with a sweet left footed effort in front of the 436 travelling Staggies on 67 minutes, Ritchie Sutton made his full debut at the expense of Martin Riley who picked up a toe injury during the win over Kettering.
The three points moved us up to 8th place, ending the season’s opening month in a stronger state than we had started it.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Bath City (H) D1-1 3997 (80) Paul Connor
Gateshead (A) L3-0 825 (125)
Braintree Town (A) D1-1 875 (212) Louis Briscoe
Luton Town (H) D1-1 2592 (437) Matt Green
Kettering Town (H) W3-0 2051 (112) Louis Briscoe, Matt Green, Ross Dyer
Stockport County (A) W1-0 3571 (112) Luke O’Neill
September proved one of those months that, if you take out the middle, was really enjoyable. It began on the road again as we headed to our FA Trophy final opponents Darlington, who proudly showed off their trophy in reception, much to our dismay. In a way the players remaining from that heartbreaking day used it as fuel to the fire, a strong first half performance saw us 2-0 up at the break with Matt Green netting both. The hosts responded strongly in the second half but a good defensive display saw us keep hold of the score line and grab our third consecutive victory.
So we’ve beaten our FA Trophy heartbreakers and are going steady, could things get any better? How about a nice 5-0 win on the telly? Go on then! Oh, there was a 7-0 victory against Shepshed Dynamo in a friendly sandwiched in-between the league matches, Paul Connor grabbed 4 goals, Danny Mitchley got 2 whilst Nick Wood grabbed the other. We’d never won in front of the TV Cameras in the conference but on a wet yet sunny afternoon which produced a lovely rainbow, the Stags found gold. Matt Green and Louis Briscoe netted before the break for 2-0, Ross Dyer then converted a low cross for 3-0 before Briscoe took the roof off with an emphatic volley for 4-0. Luke O’Neill added the fifth after linking up with Matt Green on the right hand side.
The win against Newport had stretched our unbeaten run to six, with two draws followed by four consecutive wins, the first time we’d achieved the latter since 2003 – however keeping a fourth consecutive clean sheet and getting as many wins had put us in pole passion to break a new club record of five consecutive wins without conceding, the Newport game equalling the record set in May 1997. A full list of stats, records matched and/or broken can be found at the very bottom when complete.
Matt Green put the Stags into an early lead at Holker Street against Barrow in the months third fixture, however the dream of setting a new club record for five consecutive victories and five consecutive clean sheets was broken by Louis Almond on 25 minutes, his strike levelling the game and becoming the first goal Alan Marriott conceded in 397 minutes of football. Ben Futcher headed home three minutes later to put us 2-1 up at the break, Adam Boyes brought things level again in the second half before Lindon Meikle netted the winner ten minutes from full time.
Wondering how long the winning run could continue, supporters didn’t have long to wait for the answer as it was back to Field Mill for a midweek battle with AFC Telford United. Matt Green’s second half strike opened the scoring to put Stags 1-0 up and top of the league, however Chris Sharps strike on 85 minutes proved the hammer blow, knocking Stags back down and only able to take a point.
The hammer blow then got worse at the weekend as we looked to return to winning ways, an awful performance against Kidderminster saw us crash to a 3-0 defeat and have Louis Briscoe sent off. A pathetic Mansfield we’re 2-0 down in just seven minutes, just when we thought those days had gone. The third goal came from the spot on 23 minutes, Lee Vaughn tucking home.
The good football, the smiles, the happiness had all vanished and pretty much nobody was looking forward to the months final trip, across the welsh border to then league leaders Wrexham who we’re enjoying a fine start to the season despite their manager jumping ship to Doncaster and numerous off field problems. Paul Cox made three changes from the side defeat by Kidderminster, Tom Naylor donned the Amber and Blue for the first time since his dismissal at Gateshead which resulted in a four game ban, Andy Todd and Jon Worthington also came in. The hosts started brightly and were denied by Marriott just a minute in, the Stags keeper pulled off a world class save, tipping away a goal bound free kick. Danny Wright headed into his own net on 39 minutes to put the Stags one goal up at the break, Lee Fowler levelled for the hosts before Matt Green converted from the penalty spot after Nat Knight-Percival was sent off for conceding the spot kick as last man. The game then got headed at Tom Naylor was shown a second yellow card and sent off despite it being he who was fouled! At 10 V 10 the hosts pushed however Substitute Paul Connor put the game beyond doubt in the final minute of stoppage time, coolly converting to put Stags back on the winning track and finally beat Wrexham on welsh soil for the first time since February 1986.
The victory over Wrexham wrapped up September, with us sitting in 5th place at the full time whistle.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Darlington (A) W2-0 2647 (296) Matt Green 
Newport County (H) W5-0 2324 (121) Matt Green, Ross Dyer, Luke O’Neill, Louis Briscoe 
Barrow (A) W3-2 1244 (137) Matt Green, Ben Futcher, Lindon Meikle
AFC Telford (A) D1-1 2481 (110) Matt Green
Kidderminster (H) L3-0 2522 (117)
Wrexham (A) W3-1 3478 (150 Approximate figure) Danny Wright [OG], Matt Green [P], Paul Connor
Usually in October you begin to search for the winter coats, woolly hats and scarves, however as October got underway and we headed for the delightful Nailsworth to take on Forest Green Rovers, we were reaching for the sun cream and deck chairs as a scorching sun was the back drop for our match with the Rovers.
The hosts are famously a rather Green club, however it was the Stags that used solar power (wow what an awful pun!) to gain the advantage, Ross Dyer using the sunlight to power him forward and score after 17 seconds, to my knowledge the quickest Stags goal ever scored. The Stags failed to take their following chances and we’re pegged back on 41 minutes, they we’re then forced to play the entire second half with 10 men as Anthony Howell was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on the stroke of half time, a challenge which split opinion at the time however the match DVD proved the dismissal a correct call. The Stags defended resiliently in the 30 degree heat and clung on for a 1-1 draw.
Back at Field Mill there were three changes as Grimsby arrived, defensive due Tom Naylor and Ben Futcher who were suspended for the trip to Forest Green were brought back into the fold along with Lindon Meikle, who replaced the suspended Anthony Howell. Michael Coulson had put the mariners ahead at the break however the Stags completed the turnaround in the second half; Luke O’Neill netted a splendid 40 yard free kick before Paul Connor came off the bench to head home the winner from an O’Neill corner.
The smiles at the full time whistle were again broad however a repeat performance the following weekend wasn’t found as those smiles turned to frowns as impressive Southport ran out 3-1 winners. Losing Tom Naylor through injury early on didn’t help as the Stags defence were caught at sea by a long throw, Andy Todd converted into his own net before substitute Martin Riley diverted a Southport shot beyond Marriott to double the visitors lead. Tony Gray scored a third after the break, during which Paul Cox made his final two changes introducing Lindon Meikle and Paul Connor, the latter fresh from scoring in a behind closed doors friendly with Solihull Moors. On 76 minutes Paul Connor sent a header goal wards, the final touch coming from Southports Steve Akrigg before crossing the line for 3-1, another lack lustre defeat.
Paul Cox’s side had to refresh quickly and faced a midweek trip to struggling Lincoln City, who were the other team relegated alongside Stockport. The Stags boss made five changes which included a first full start for Paul Bolland, the travelling support of 981 were phenomenally noisy but had endure cheers of joy from the home faithful midway through the second half as Martin Riley made a meal of Joe Anyon’s strong boot downfield, Gavin McCallum smashed home beyond Marriott on his return to Sincil Bank. Three minutes from time a delightful move saw Matt Green slide into level the game, a fine save from Anyon and several other blocks in the final minutes prevented Stags from taking all the points, alas in the end in finished 1-1.
One “derby” was followed by another as Alfreton visited Field Mill for the first ever league meeting between the pair, the reds were the more productive in front of goal and took a 2-0 lead into half time with goals from Anton Brown and Paul Clayton. Three minutes into the second half Antony Wilson was shown a second yellow card but with ten men, still the reds pushed, had it not been for the sending off of Greg Young on the hour mark, Stags may well have lost. Even against nine men they needed luck, it came on 75 minutes as Paul Connor was fouled in the box, Matt Green scored the resulting spot kick. The clock still clicked down and the Stags still trailed, a moment of magic from Meikle on 86 minutes levelled the game before Andy Todd of all people bagged the winner with a sloppy finish in injury time, ensuring the Stags ran out 3-2 winners in another lame performance that in honesty, warranted defeat, but you know what they say – take the rough with the smooth.
The Alfreton match was it for league action in October, putting us in 8th place in the table, rounding off the month was a FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie with Fleetwood at Field Mill. A wonderful free kick from Jamie Milligan put the visitors ahead at the break however a leveller from Ross Dyer on 70minutes set up a midweek trip to the seaside for a replay. The match at Field Mill also saw the return of Louis Moult on loan from Stoke City whilst youth team hit man Adam Somes made the bench.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Forest Green (A) D1-1 893 (241) Dyer
Grimsby (H) W2-1 2982 (589) O’Neill Connor
Southport (H) L3-1 2406 (114) Steve Akrigg [OG]
Lincoln (A) D1-1 2944 (981) Green
Alfreton (H) W3-2 2982 (320) Green [P] Meikle Todd
Fleetwood [FA CUP] (H) D1-1 1725 (134) Dyer
The penultimate month of the year got off to a disastrous start as a sickness bug swept through the camp and wiped out virtually everybody ahead of the FA Cup replay with Fleetwood. Micky Moore took the managerial reigns as Paul Cox stayed at home unfit to travel, a bug for Matt Green also saw him miss out and hand Louis Moult a first start since returning on loan. The performance and result was stuff of nightmares as Fleetwood romped to a 5-0 victory, meaning the Stags failed to be part of round one for the first time since 1931. Despite the score line there were some positives, John Thompson made the bench for the first time since that injury, youth team hit man Adam Somes debuted as sub whilst Rhys Day also saw some late action from the bench.
Things got no better as the weekend arrived, Harrison Dunk struck twice to see Cambridge run our 2-1 winners at Field Mill, completing the turnaround after Matt Green had put Stags into a 55th minute lead. The match at Field Mill also saw two debutants, Nick Hegarty who’d previously been on trail started his contract which ran until Boxing Day, whilst highly rated defender Kieron Freeman arrived on loan from Nottingham Forest.
A Monday night trip to Eastwood for an open to the public friendly gave us a look at some of the players that had yet to feature, the defence partnered Rhys Day and summer signing John Thompson – goals from Anthony Howell and Lee Stevenson saw the Stags side run out 2-1 winners. John Thompson had done enough in the friendly to warrant a first start and got it at AFC Telford, coming in for Ben Futcher whose loan spell had expired and returned to parent club Bury. Thompson was solid enough and helped keep the Stags first clean sheet in some 13 matches, however despite the tight back line, the front line offered little and the match ended as it began – goalless.
A week later it was a long trip to Bath City, the leagues bottom club. During the week Paul Cox had strengthened his side in the loan market, brining in Aman Verma and Marcus Kelly from Kettering, young striker Nialle Rodney from Bradford and experienced defender John Dempster from Crawley. Mansfield stuck with the same back four to keep the clean sheet but made changes in the middle with Aman Verma debuting at the expense of Hegarty whilst Paul Bolland replaced skipper Murray who was suspended after picking up five bookings, John Thompson donned the armband. Marley Watkins had put the hosts ahead after an error in the middle by Paul Bolland, Lindon Meikle levelled with a fluke goal from the bye line in a dull, frustrating fixture.
Rounding a frustrating November off was a midweek home fixture with Gateshead, a game which handed John Dempster his debut alongside Thompson at the expense of O’Neill and gave Lee Stevenson his first start since the reverse fixture in August. Ross Dyer gave the Stags a 9th minute leader following an excellent move of creative football, however several missed chances were made to rue on 68 minutes when former Stag Jon Shaw continued his impressive season for the heed, heading in his 20th of the season for 1-1. The draw rounding off a winless month and as we look back, the only month of the season we went without victory, picking up just three points from the 12 on offer.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Fleetwood (A) [FA Cup] L5-0 1159 (78)
Cambridge (H) L2-1 2046 (237) Green
AFC Telford (A) D0-0 2203 (474)
Bath City (A) D1-1 816 (146) Meikle
Gateshead (H) D1-1 1513 (34) Dyer
With Christmas songs being overly played in supermarkets and shopping centres since October, the only festive cheer we wanted was three points after the previous months winless run, the arrival of Braintree to Field Mill did just that. It started off as bah humbug though as Sean Marks was on hand to give the visitors an 8th minute lead, John Dempster then levelled heading in Aman Verma’s corner, from then on in it was one way traffic as the Stags took the game to the visitors in the second half, Matt Green added two more to his tally with Lindon Meille also on the score sheet.
In midweek it was a trip to Grimsby, which started and ended goalless in a game which Alan Marriott shone between the sticks, the following night we had another chance to look at the fringe players again at Eastwood, this time the Stags side on show ran out comfortable 4-0 winners, trialist Ben Hutchinson scored two emphatic efforts whilst fellow trialist Anto Flood and Louis Briscoe were on target at Coronation Park before the weekend arrived with a break from league action and, on reflection, the seasons turning point.
Our FA Trophy run of the 2010-11 campaign is well document and despite defeat in the final, we will forever hold it in high regard. Despite being on a bit of a barren run in the league with one win in eight games, the belief that our squad was stronger than the Wembley 15 was high, as was the desire to go all the way and bring home the silverware after being what, a minute away last season. Heading to blue square north strugglers Droylsden confidence was high and the team strong, in the pouring rain and on a tough pitch the Stags rallied but wasted several early chances and were matched in their attacking play by the hosts, who played the pitch well and grabbed a 19th minute lead through Dale Johnson. The same man struck again midway through the second half on the break, a deserved goal following lots of first half pressure, A switch to 4-4-2 saw the Stags come alive and after several more missed chances, grabbed one back six minutes from time through a Matt Green header – the goal proved too late though as the hosts defended well and saw out the game to go through to round two and dump a frankly pathetic Stags (for 70 minutes of the game) out at the first hurdle, shattering dreams of another Wembley final – some games during the season I’ve been annoyed with, none more so than this.
Looking back now at the end of the campaign not being involved in the trophy has proved a godsend as we channelled our energy into our league form and in fairness, we were rewarded in the end as Adam Murray said throughout the season being knocked out at round one was probably a blessing in disguise – at the time though the frustration was rife. Things didn’t get much better the following weekend as we headed to Haig Avenue to play Southport who’d already beaten us once during the season. Goalless at the break John Dempster gave the Stags a dream start to the second half nodding home a Luke O’Neill corner, however the lead barley lasted two minutes as Chris Lever scuffed a shot beyond Marriott. Ritchie Sutton was then shown a second yellow card and Stags reduced to ten men, a battling performance saw them hanging on for a point until the last minute when Southport were awarded a penalty, Chris Lever powerfully converted before the hosts added a third following a poor piece of defending in the final minute of four added on.
On Boxing Day back at Field Mill the Stags found a little fight as they face York City, Matt Green skipped past Michael Ingham for his 15th of the season on 11 minutes, Ross Dyer and Aman Verma both came close before the break however the visitors struck through Liam Henderson midway through the second half to take home a point.
Before the chimes of Big Ben could signal the start of 2012, the Stags we’re handed some great news as Matt Green was poised to seal a permanent move from Oxford, Gary Roberts looked set to join from Port Vale with former Middlesbrough hit man Ben Hutchinson also in the pipe line, Nick Hegarty moved the other way departing overseas following the expiry of his deal.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Braintree (H) W4-1 1790 (52) Dempster, Meikle, Green 
Grimsby (A) D0-0 2553 (140)
Droylsden [FA Trophy] (A) L2-1 335 (away att unknown – no segregation) Green
Southport (A) L3-1 1006 (98) Dempster
York (H) D1-1 3551 (931) Green
As the New Year dawned it was off to York City for the New Years Day opener, Gary Roberts made his debut whilst Matt Green remained in attack after sealing his permanent move, marking it by opening the scoring fourteen minutes in. After the break a sensational effort from substitute Aman Verma doubled Mansfield’s lead before Matty Blair clawed one back for the hosts. With less than a minute to go the Stags were winning 2-1, however after conceding a free kick in an awful passion, York pounced and took an undeserved point, Jamal Fyfield grabbing the goal as Stags failed to clear their lines despite having three opportunities – frustrating.
With just one win in 12 outings the play-offs looked unreachable considering our form, however something clicked and things started slotting into place, two wins on home soil provided the boost we’d been searching for. Aman Verma, Marcus Kelly and Keiron Freeman had all returned to their parent clubs which meant a shuffle of the pack, Joe Kendrick made his first start at left back in 12 games against Forest Green, Lindon Meikle’s strike the final difference. Hayes and Yeading proved a tougher test than it should have been, the Stags welcomed back Adam Smith following his loan spell at league two Aldershot, he the only change from the previous weeks line up. Julian Owusu opened the scoring for the visitors before Ross Dyer finished well to level before the break. A delightful goal for Hayes hit man Louis Soares restored the visitors lead before Matt Green smashed in Adam Smith’s cross. In the final minute, Gary Roberts won a penalty which Green handed over to substitute Ben Hutchinson, who debuted the previous week against Forest Green from the bench. Hutchinson kept his cool and converted the spot kick to hand Stags a late victory.
A goalless midweek trip to Luton handed a full debut to Ben Hutchinson, it was then followed by a trip to Ebbsfleet, a match which welcomed loan signing Paul Edwards to the bench, arriving on a month’s loan from Fleetwood. Paul Cox’s side put in a classy performance and we’re unlucky not to be ahead with in the opening 30 seconds, Matt Green eventually opening the scoring on 21 minutes following a well work free kick from deep. Gary Roberts doubled the lead with a rocket before the break, wrapping things up with his second of the game in the final minute of the match capping off an assured team performance, a 3-0 victory and unbeaten January.
A reserves side was in action at Rainworth MW, a match in which Rhys Day would suffer another injury set back and subsequently retire from the game, the only real negative point in what on reflection was a month where the turnaround of fortunes began.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
York (A) D2-2 4284 (498) Green, Verma
Forest Green (H) W1-0 2008 (32) Meikle
Hayes & Yeading (H) W3-2 1872 (26) Dyer, Green, Hutchinson [P]
Luton (A) D0-0 5261 (111)
Ebbsfleet (A) W3-0 1085 (200 approx) Green, Roberts 
There’s always a part of the season when mother nature comes out to ruin things, February was the month in question seeing various games postponed with bad weather league action wouldn’t return until February 18th and even that was doubtful! Paul Cox kept the lads ticking over with training sessions on 3G pitches and a behind closed doors game at Sutton Coldfield, a match which the Stags ran out winners with deadline day signing Matt Rhead on the scoresheet. A younger side also we’re beaten heavily by a strong AFC Telford side on valentines night 5-0.
Deadline day had proved more disappointing than encouraging as a bid for John Dempster failed meaning he would have to return to Crawley at the end of his loan spell and that February was spent on the lookout for another defender. Sam Craven was brought in on non-contract terms along with Rhead, the only two to arrive on deadline day towards the end of January.
When league action did arrive the Stags seemingly returned to a lethargic, lacklustre state, falling to a 1-0 defeat at Newport County, a match which saw Paul Edwards and Matt Rhead debut as two of three half time substitutes made by a furious Paul Cox.
The Stags responded well and showed no mercy against troubled Darlington at Field Mill midweek, a sluggish start saw Darlington ahead through Marc Bridge-Wilkinson after a minute, Paul Edwards failed to close down a cross making his first full start. John Dempster, playing his final game before returning to Crawley, headed home the equaliser before Matt Green got the first of three goals to grab his first Stags hat-trick. At 3-1 Darlington somehow grabbed one back straight from the restart, however Green’s treble sealing spot kick and an emphatic Briscoe strike sealed the victory.
Wrapping up the month was a home match with Tamworth, Giant defender Exodus Geohaghon arrived on emergency loan from Darlington for the remainder of the season and settled in well, becoming an instant crowd favourite with dominant defensive play and a frightening long throw. Tamworth were first to score after a goalless first half, Jean Paul-Marna hit an unstoppable effort before a Geohaghon throw fell for Adam Smith who levelled the match. Another Geohaghon throw caused havoc and was eventually turned in by Green, a goal proving to be the winner – sealing our fourth consecutive home victory for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Newport (A) L1-0 1285 (89)
Darlington (H) W5-2 1697 (80) Dempster, Briscoe, Green [3/1P]
Tamworth (H) W2-1 2221 (134) Smith, Green
Arguably the most important month of the season, March will be remembered for a very long time, especially when you look at its importance with John Radford securing a 10 year lease on Field Mill to allow promotion and subsequently buying the ground back of Keith Haslam, finally ridding the club of the black cloud which has hung over them for far too long. To celebrate it was back to Field Mill to face Lincoln City and the return of former manager David Holdsworth. Prior to kick off there was a party with a moving speech from director Steve Hymas and the man himself, Mr Radford “Ladies, Gentleman, I am proud to say we’ve done it, we now own Field Mill” the roar which followed was simply phenomenal.
The off pitch carnival atmosphere transferred to the field of play too, Paul Edwards had departed which saw a reintroduction for Martin Riley whilst Anthony Howell stood in for injured skipper Murray. Ross Dyer and Gary Roberts netted for the Stags who we’re un-phased by a late Lincoln goal, the fans behind the goal in the Quarry Lane End continued to conga as we clocked up five consecutive home wins.
Up next was a midweek trip to Cambridge and despite falling behind to an early James Jennings free kick, there was only ever going to be one winner in another accomplished performance. Ross Dyer headed stags level for 1-1 at the break before another Briscoe belter won the game on 52 minutes, the victory taking Stags into 5th place and the play-offs from where they would not fall.
A trip to Tamworth saw a solitary Matt Green strike prove the difference, before a tough test with league leaders Fleetwood at Field Mill. A fast paced high octane fixture saw the divisions two form teams lock horns, skipper Adam Murray returned alongside Jon Worthington making a rare appearance replacing the suspended Gary Roberts – emergency loan signing Danny Andrew made the bench after arriving from Cheltenham. Field Mill was rocking and the energy electric, despite being pegged back by another Jamie Vardy strike players and supporters united in their belief and kept driving forward both on and off the pitch, the noise in the 90th minute off the scale when Geohaghon headed in Luke O’Neill’s corner to snatch a more than deserved point from the jaws of defeat.
The next game was tame in terms of tempo but so delightful to watch as Stags brushed aside Barrow 7-0, netting seven goals in a game for the first time since Boxing Day 1994, a 7-1 win over Hereford at Field Mill. Louis Briscoe opened the scoring early on before adding a second after Matt Green had seen a penalty saved. Anthony Howell made it 3-0 on 23 minutes heading in Geohaghons throw, Lindon Meikle added a fourth before half time past substitute keeper Stuart Dixon on his bluebirds debut – the visitors using all three subs before half time. After the break the Stags continued their goal scoring mission, Matt Green headed in the 5th, Briscoe rounded off his treble with an emphatic effort for six before substitute Matt Rhead grabbed his first goal late on for seven. Danny Andrew also debuted from the bench replacing Sutton, unlucky not to add an 8th with a well hit free kick.
So one game with goals a plenty is enough right? WRONG – hello Alfreton and a strange game in which Stags we’re 6-3 winners. The first half produced seven goals and with the hosts looking for a victory over the Stags at a bouncing Impact Arena, it was they who struck first through Jake Moult. Anthony Howell levelled with a tap in before Nathan Jarman restored Alfreton’s lead. Martin Riley headed home his first Stags goal before Matt Green bundled in O’Neill’s corner for 3-2, Anthony Howell hit a beautifully empathic strike for 4-2 before a free kick saw Antony Brown make it 4-3 on the stroke of half time. After the break it calmed down a little but with the score line finely balanced the hosts naturally pushed, a late header from Exodus Geohaghon made it 5-3 in the 89th minute before Matt Green teased the reds with his second of the night, rounding the keeper following a Rhead header to wrap the game up.
A 2-0 defeat at champions elect Fleetwood was expected however despite the score line the Stags did themselves proud again matching the hosts on a scorching hot afternoon. Rounding off the month was another victory, Matt Green’s strike eight minutes from time the only goal in a 1-0 victory.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Lincoln City (H) W2-1 4830 (627) Dyer, Roberts
Cambridge United (A) W2-1 1736 (165) Dyer, Briscoe
Tamworth (A) W1-0 1600 (909) Green
Fleetwood Town (H) D1-1 3132 (104) Geohaghon
Barrow (H) W7-0 2510 (70) Howell, Meikle, Green, Rhead, Briscoe 
Alfreton Town (A) W6-3 3354 (1956) Riley, Geohaghon, Green , Howell 
Fleetwood Town (A) L2-0 3106 (480)
Ebbsfleet United (H) W1-0 2630 (55) Green
The final month of the scheduled seasons fixtures and for the first time in a long while, there was something to play for as we looked to seal our play-off place. Ahead of the run in Paul Cox arranged an open to the public match with Quorn for those he made need to use at some stage, Matt Rhead scored twice as did Lee Stevenson, John Thompson back playing after a series of injury’s again kept him out netted along with Ben Hutchinson and youth teamer Adam Somes in the 7-2 victory.
A trip to Kettering Town (well Rushden and Diamonds! As it was Nene Park rather than Rockingham Road) saw the Stags kick on and relegate the hosts, Lindon Meikle headed in a Roberts cross for 1-0 at half time. Good defending and relentless attack saw Stags grab a further two goals in the second half, Matt Green was naturally on target before substitute Matt Rhead headed home Luke O’Neill’s corner with seven minutes to go – the victory putting Stags seven points clear of the chasing pack with four games remaining.
A bank holiday Monday match at Field Mill, now renamed the One Call Stadium saw Adam Murray return to the line up along with Adam Smith and Matt Rhead, the latter handed his first full start. A minute into the second half Exodus Geohaghon set yet another goal with a long throw, Adam Smith powering in following Green’s flicked assist before another Geohaghon throw led to a wonderful curling effort by Briscoe for 2-0. A late goal from Stockport made the full time score 2-1 following a defensive lapse, late goals elsewhere saw the Stags still catchable by other clubs meaning the play-off space was not yet sealed – a trip to Hayes and Yeading, well Woking to face the former, would soon sort that.
Anthony Howell set the Stags on their way to another victory, netting after five minutes however a leveller from Perio Mingoia saw the sides level at the break and Paul Cox lay into the lads during the interval loud for all to hear. The Stags responded and we’re ahead on 67 minutes when Ross Dyer netted a sweet left footed volley from the edge of the box, Matt Green wrapped up what felt at times like a pre-season friendly in front of a small crowd, made up majorly of Stags fans scattered around the ground as for a second time this season, no segregation was in place. The victory sealed the Stags place in the play-offs and also sparked a real of achievements, the victory was sour tenth away win last achieved in the 1991-92 campaign, the three points saw Mansfield break the club record for the amounts of points picked up in a season, moving onto 83 they passed the 81 point mark set in 1985-86.
Next up in the penultimate match of the season, it was a Friday night TV showdown with second placed Wrexham. Lee Stevenson came in for his first start since December’s FA Trophy exit at Droylsden on a wet night where the Stags totally outclassed their opponents, Anthony Howell headed home Geohaghon’s throw on 13minutes for 1-0 at the break. The second half provided the golden moment of the season as Alan Marriott scored a sensation goal from his own area with what can only be described as a 96 yard screamer! The full time whistle had secured third place meaning the second leg home advantage in the play-offs, with more records and feats to be added to the list, Alan Marriott’s sensational goal Mansfield’s 50th home goal of the season, the first time the 50 goal mark has been reached since the 1976-77 campaign. Rounding off Mansfield’s season at home was a 14th home win of the season matching the number of home wins picked up in 2008-09 but beating the points tally of 47 set at home that season by a solitary point.
To complete the season and indeed April it was off to Kidderminster Harriers, who needed not only to beat us, but hope Luton we’re beaten at Champions Fleetwood to get into the play-offs themselves. Paul Cox made seven changes ahead of the midweek play-off trip to either York or Luton, confirmed as York at full time – Shane Redmond debuted between the sticks, Danny Andrew was handed his first full start at left back whilst there were starts for Jon Worthington, Matt Rhead and long term injury victim John Thompson. Despite the changes the Stags showed no mercy and survived early scares to go into the break goalless. Lee Vaughn was sent off for the hosts minutes into the second half before Lee Stevenson grabbed a deserved goal, a pink nun invaded the pitch before Louis Briscoe headed home his 11th of the season for 2-0. Matt Green was handed a run out from the bench and grabbed his 30th of the season with four minutes remaining, becoming the first Stags player since Ray Clarke in the 1974-75 season to reach the big 30. The full time whistle saw the Stags finish on 89 points as mentioned above, a club record, whilst the victory was Mansfield’s sixth on the bounce, the first time since October 1991 a Mansfield side has won six on the bounce. The away win was our 11th of the season, the first time since 1976-77 and for only the third time in our history. The three goals scored propelled us to a record of sorts, the 37 away goals scored being our highest total in ten seasons – the club record of 47 away goals in a season untouched, if only some of those early season draws had been wins by the odd goal! A great season, which was far from over.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
Kettering Town (A) W3-0 1818 (877) Meikle Green Rhead
Stockport County (H) W2-1 3883 (506) Smith Briscoe
Hayes & Yeading United (A) W3-1 487 (away att unknown) Howell Dyer Green
Wrexham (H) W2-0 3665 (184) Howell Marriott!
Kidderminster Harriers (A) W3-0 3565 (674) Stevenson Briscoe Green
‘She wore a yellow ribbon in the merry month of May’ is the song we were all whistling as we headed into May, hopeful it would be the month which sealed our return to the Football League after four long seasons away. The achievements made, the ground covered and the journey had been incredible but with two games between a return to Wembley and a play-off final, everything counted for absolutely nothing.
York City had finished in fourth place following the final day of the season meaning York’s Bootham Crescent was the destination for the play-off semi-final first leg. We nearly sold our allocation and the terraces behind the goal we’re packed solid – the noise once more phenomenal. The hosts enjoyed early pressure and forced a system change early on with skipper Murray rallying the troops, Ross Dyer was the one to break the deadlock, heading home Exodus Geohaghon’s throw on 26 minutes, putting life into the Stags after they’d seen York have a goal ruled out for offside, a blatant penalty appeal turned down, Matt Green a second away from serious injury and Martin Riley substituted with injury. It was nervy and the hosts did threaten going forward but in fairness, never looked like going that extra step and scoring, it took an unfortunate own goal from Exodus Geohaghon to level the match. Matt Green then picked up a second yellow card during the second half seconds before he was due to be substituted for what looked a very silly handball – resilient defending at the back was matched by several close calls at the other end, taking a 1-1 draw back to the One Call Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday, a place where the Stags we’re unbeaten since November.
The second leg sticks in our memory like a horrid taste sticks in the back of a dry throat, a complete sell out watched on as we failed to break the deadlock in normal time and the match head into extra time. Michael Ingham kept out Lindon Meikle in the opening seconds of extra time and as the clock ticked on, it just wasn’t meant to be – the winning goal being sealed by Matty Blair in the 110th minutes as Stags switched off. Ritchie Sutton was then dismissed for a second yellow card before the clock eventually ran out and our hearts broken once more.
It took me a year to get the image of Chris Senior celebrating at Wembley after winning the FA Trophy for Darlington, the image of EVERY Stags player in tears on the pitch whilst York celebrate will probably last a lot longer, trust me when I say I’ve woken up shivering and drowned in cold swet reliving that horrid moment – we’d come so far I thought our time had come. I finish writing this on Saturday 19th May, I honestly thought I’d be sat here writing a match preview rather than season review, I though tomorrow I’d be gracing the Wembley press box once more as my team fly back to the Football League, alas no – I shall be here, on the sofa watching repeats of only fools and horses on GOLD, playing the long waiting game before our fifth season in the BSBP commences.
2011-12 was the season of dreams, but the horrid reality of a dream is that no matter how epic, how enjoyable they may be – you’ll be awoken by the harsh reality sooner rather than later. May was tough, it was heart breaking and in the end, we achieved nothing bar another ocean of tears, but do you know what? I’m so bloody proud of Mansfield Town FC and the journey that sadly, came to an abrupt end.
Fixtures, Results, Attendances, Goal Scorers
York (A) D1-1 6057 (1352) Dyer
York (H) L1-0 AET 7294 (1490)
As I say for it to end in such a heartbreaking way a second season running was difficult to take, I didn’t answer my phone for days after, I barley ate and couldn’t face going outside –eventually my numbness passed and the bigger picture had emerged. It had ended in heartbreak yes, and true in terms of promotions etc we’d achieved absolutely nothing but the truth is that was by far the best season I’ve witnessed for so many different reasons both on and off the pitch. Mansfield Town FC had before been like many other football clubs, two separate entity’s the fans and the players – Paul Cox changed that, the lads changed that – we merged into one, one team, one family, one unit with a whole lot of love and belief: that in itself is victory – and its’ that which will make this summer one of smiles rather than one of sorrow, our song isn’t ending it’s only just beginning.
Paul Cox has signed his two year deal and has already began work to strengthen behind the scenes rather than rebuild, because for once we don’t need to strip the walls bare and relay every bricks, we don’t need to paper over the cracks and be a patch work side – we just need to channel our united energy into next season and the reward will come, of that I’m sure.
Below I’ll pick a few favourite moments and highlights, but that’s just to give this blog closure – the whole season has been phenomenal, I can’t wait for the next one! May I just take this opportunity now to thank each and every one of you for reading this and indeed every blog we post, as well as listening to our shows and podcasts – together we are one, together, we are Mansfield Town FC, until next time, have a great summer!
Best Game: The obvious choices of Barrow, Newport and Alfreton for the high score lines spring to mind, however my personal favourite is Lincoln at home for the historical importance but more so, Fleetwood home. The match against the league champions was played in front of an electric atmosphere and demonstrated exactly who and what we were, ever giving up, matching the league front runners toes for toe, blade of grass for blade of grass – I could watch that game over and over.
Best Goal: Blimey there are a few to pick from, my choice may be a little controversial and get tongues wagging but apart from Howell at Alfreton, it’s the one I could watch from every angle and not get bored. Louis Briscoe against Stockport at home, the pressure from Geohaghon’s throw, the tackle and pass from Murray and then the finish, without even looking, one hit, wonderful curl straight into the top corner – wonder technique.
Best Signing: I have three that I can’t separate in honesty – Ben Futcher is the first on my list, coming in and stabilising a crumbling defence and such an early stage. Matt Green’s permanent arrival in January is certainly up there, we wouldn’t have finished where we did without his goals, that and his all round play has been a joy to watch. The third is obvious, Gary Roberts has changed the dynamic of how we play, he is something else both on and off the ball, a real asset and credit to Paul Cox’s persistence.
In the coming weeks I’ll bring you some story’s from ‘behind the scenes’ as it where plus my end of season report on all the players and try to pick my ‘team of the season’ – a tough choice!
Players used during the season: Alan Marriott, Tom Naylor, Joe Kendrick, Jon Worthington, John Thompson, Martin Riley, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Paul Connor, Matt Rhead, Matt Green, Adam Murray, Paul Bolland, Ross Dyer, Luke O’Neill, Ritchie Sutton, Matt Bell, Adam Smith, Andy Todd, Anthony Howell, Rhys Day, Shane Redmond, Lindon Meikle, Nick Wood, Adam Somes (Youth), Ben Hutchinson, Nick Hegarty and Gary Roberts
Loan players used: Paul Edwards (Fleetwood), Ben Futcher (Bury), Louis Moult (Stoke), Exodus Geohaghon (Darlington), Danny Andrew (Cheltenham), Kieron Freeman (Nottingham Forest), John Dempster (Crawley), Nialle Rodney (Bradford), Marcus Kelly (Kettering) and Aman Verma (Kettering).
Players not used: Sam Craven (on a duel registration with Hednesford Town), Neil Collett and Danny Mitchley.
Achievements/ Records matched/ broken
· 10th September 2011 (Post Newport H) Four consecutive victories for the first time since 2003
· 10th September 2011 (Post Newport H) Fourth consecutive clean sheet for the first time since April 1997 when we kept SIX consecutive clean sheets (three wins, three draws)
· 10th September 2011 (Post Newport H) Four consecutive victories AND consecutive clean sheets since May 1997 – one shy of the club record of FIVE
· 17th September 2011 (In game: Barrow A) Louis Almond’s 25th minute goal saw the Stags run of not conceding come to an end, the Stags locking the door for 397 minutes of football
· 17th September 2011 (Post Barrow A) Five consecutive victories for the first time since October 1991
· 1st October 2011 (In Game: Forest Green A) Ross Dyer scores possibly the fastest ever Stags goal after 17 seconds of play.
· 25th February 2012 (Post Tamworth H) four consecutive home wins for the first time since 2008-09 season
· 1st March 2012 John Radford secures a 10 year lease on Field Mill to allow promotion and takes full ownership of the ground the following morning
· 3rd March 2012 (Post Lincoln H) five consecutive home wins for the first time since August/ September 2008
· 11th March 2012 Barrow at home becomes the highest win recorded by a Stags side outside the football league
· 11th March 2012 Stags score seven for the first time since Boxing Day 1994 (a 7-1 win over Hereford)
· 11th March 2012 Victory over Barrow goes onto the list of highest scoring wins (seven goal margin) Rotherham H 9-2 (1932) / QPR H 8-1 (1965) / Scunthorpe H 7-0 (1975)
· 11th March 2012 – Mansfield’s first 7-0 victory since Scunthorpe at home in 1975
· 20th March (In Game Alfreton A) Matt Green becomes Mansfield’s highest goal scorer over the past nine seasons with his second of the night taking him to 26, one ahead of Mickey Boulding who bagged 25 in the 2007-08 season
· 14th April 2012 – Following victory at Hayes and Yeading United, the Stags clocked up ten away wins for the first time since the 1991-92 season
· 14th April 2012 – following victory at Hayes and Yeading, Mansfield passed their highest points total ever, moving onto 83 points, the passed the club record of 81 set in the 1985/86 campaign
· AWAY from home it was the first time since the 1994-95 season that our away WINS total was higher than our AWAY defeats total
· 28th April 2012 (In Game: Kidderminster A) Matt Green becomes the first Stags player since Ray Clarke (1974-75 season) to reach 30 goals in a season
· 28th April 2012: Victory at Kidderminster was the sixth on the bounce, the first time since October 1991 a Mansfield side has won six on the bounce (home and away)
· 28th April 2012: The three goals scored at Kidderminster propelled us to a record of sorts, taking us to 37 away goals scored, our highest total in ten seasons
· 20th April 2012 (In Game: Wrexham H) Alan Marriott’s 96 yard goal Mansfield’s 50th home goal of the season, the first time that mark has been reached since the 1976-77 campaign
· 20th April 2012 CLUB RECORD: final points total of 89
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PHOTOS: James Williamson / Dan Westwell
Craig Priest writes....
After a career spanning 15 years, five clubs and various honours, it came as a massive blow when Rhys Day announced his retirement from the professional game back in April, following another injury set back after 24 months of constant setbacks. The fatal game was back in January at Rainworth MW, a game in which Rhys was on the way back to full fitness at too his own admission, was feeling the best he had for years.
Sometimes that’s the way it goes, however to a man who always gave his all at the heart of the Stags defence no matter what the fixture, you can’t help but curse life’s fate on this occasion as a career ends before its time. Rhys, who arrived on loan from Manchester City back in 2002 during our relegation campaign, helped sure up a leaky defence and helped make the pain of relegation seem less, well painful!
Thinking back, it’s difficult define the moment that Rhys attained legendary status because of his massive contribution in over a hundred games in the Amber and Blue, however I can pinpoint the moment that marked and demonstrated his professional grace and helped the Stags onto a memorable win. The match in question is most remembered for a certain Liam Lawrence’s stoppage time winner in front of the travelling fans, yes you got it – Chesterfield away, January 18th 2003. Former Stags striker Shane Bradley had come on for the enemy and lasted 90 seconds before spitting in Rhys’ face and being shown a straight red by the referee.
It was pretty much the following season when Rhys came into his element, a regular face in the side which reached the play-off final at the millennium stadium, Cardiff, Rhys national stadium.
Moving on in 2006 to Aldershot Rhys achieved promotion and cup successes before moving to Oxford in 2009, where again he achieved promotion moving back to Field Mill in 2010 as one of David Holdsworth’s many signings, however a series of injuries saw Rhys unable to get a proper run in the side, missing our FA Trophy final and the opportunity to once again grace a national stage.
Yesterday was a really enjoyable day the One Call Stadium as former team mates and fellow team mates returned to wish the 29 year old Welsh centre half well for the future and help him say thank you to the fans that have followed his every move. Whilst Rhys remained humble in saying the game for him to say thank you, the 800+ supporters inside the stadium made sure Rhys new that the feeling was more than mutual. The applause for Rhys as he led the teams out onto the pitch holding his new born son in his arms was spine tingling, the photos say it all really, as Rhys struggled to hold back his emotions. The same can be said for what is a frankly defining image – at the full time whistle players from both the legends team and the current crop remained on the pitch to clap Rhys off whilst in the stands, every support stood to give the ovation the Welshman truly deserved. Walking down the tunnel, Rhys turned a final time and held one arm aloft looking towards the crowd, with the tears filling in his eyes, he knew that his playing days were over and that despite the lack of silverware, the days spent in the Amber and Blue of Mansfield Town had been his best, the days he’d cherish forever.
I have been privileged to chat with Rhys on numerous occasion, he talks with passion about the game and his knowledge is second to none, don’t be surprised in years to come to see Rhys in a Stags tracksuit over in the dugout, in charge of either the first team, the reserves or youth football, a place which Rhys eyes as the next step. The say great players don’t make great managers; Rhys will be the exception to the rule – a fantastic player, dominant in the air, strong in the tackle, wise off the ball and a natural born leader. A wonderful guy with excellent knowledge of the game and the banter to match.
Rhys Day defines the term legend, I feel lucky to have watched, worked with and spoken to a true footballing man on many occasion, the name and reputation of Rhys Day won’t stop in playing circles, it will blossom in the wider footballing world.
The match too was fitting of the man of whose honour it was in, a close but open encounter with serious phases of play blended in with comedy and the light heartedness for which Rhys is most known. Kevin Pilkington was on top form between the sticks for the legends, denying Lee Stevenson throughout the first half so much that Pilks actually inspired Stevenson to become a gloves man in the second half! The Notts County goal keeping coach who captained us to the play-off final in Cardiff was also busy keeping out Ross Dyer, Ben Hutchinson and Andy Todd. At the back for the legends, Tom Naylor now at Derby County slotted in like he’d never been away whilst his partner Des Walker lived up to his famous terrace chant ‘You’ll never beat Des Walker’. Down the left hand side, Adam Eaton who retired after his spell at Stags through a knee injury, defended resiliently and had Stags fans wondering ‘what if’. Wayne Corden still showed that magic on the left hand side of midfield however it was on the right where the years were rolled back as Bobby Hassell and Liam Lawrence played together for the first time since the heartbreaking defeat in 2004. The duo were on fire and helped set the opening goal on ten minutes, Bobby Hassell’s pass inside for Lawrence saw him switch play to Corden, who nipped past Todd before crossing in for Jason Lee to bundle home past Alan Marriott for 1-0.
The match remained in the legends favour for the majority of the first half with the aforementioned Pilkington denying Stevenson several times, allowing Hassell and Lawrence to combine attempting to feed Colin Larkin, Lord Barker and Jason Lee. The latter famed for his pineapple hair style back in his Nottingham Forest days soon became villain midway through the first half. The current crop won a throw in on the right and as the crowd chanted ‘Exodus’ for one final long throw, Jason Lee bear hugged the big centre back to stop him from going over to inflict certain damage on the legends team. The current crop were level with ten minutes to go before the break, Liam Lawrence upended Ben Hutchinson in the box, and the latter stepped up and converted the resulting penalty past a static Pilkington for 1-1.
The current crop of Stags star then took hold of the game with an additional two goals in five minutes, A Ritchie Sutton drive down the left hand side helped set Andy Todd up for 2-1 volleying in from the edge of the box before a Jon Worthington corner saw the ball sit for Lee Stevenson who riffled home a thunderous volley beyond Pilkington for 3-1 prior to the half time whistle.
The teams immerged for the second half with a few changes; most noticeably Lee Stevenson took to goal whilst Alan Marriott headed up front alongside Hutchinson. Marriott provided much entertainment showing close control and leaving Tom Naylor chasing a shadow with a great turn on the edge of the legends box, however the finish trickled just wide of Pilkington’s goal. Former Stag Andy White made it 3-2 with a tap in from close range after Junior Mendes had created on the left hand side; Iyseden Christie made it 3-3 with a wonderful curling effort, cutting back from the goal line to smash into the top corner with his left boot. Colin Larkin who scored at Cardiff but saw his effort chalked off for offside showed the on watching Paul Cox he’s got something to offer following his release from Hartlepool in the week, weaving past three current Staggies before drilling low beyond Stevenson for 4-3. The current crop made a few changes and those entering the field wore headbands to try and heal there hangover from the previous nights end of season dinner, it was Matt Green who levelled things with a delightful dink over Pilkington from a Meikle assist, at 4-4 Greens terrific again left Stags fans wondering ‘what if’.
The game then saw its most beautiful moment as Lee Stevenson bundled Christie over for a penalty. Rhys Day came off the bench to take the spot kick, kicking a ball for the final time in his playing career he replicated the antics of Liam Lawrence in that shootout in Cardiff, attempting to chip Stevenson but blazing over. Referee Russell Booth had other ideas and order a retake for an infringement, Day again took the spot kick, finding the top corner of the net meaning his last action was to score a goal in Stags colours, putting the legends in a 5-4 lead. Rhys celebrated with arms held wide, the Amber shirt read ‘Day 5’ as current skipper Adam Murray, playing on the legends side, leapt into Rhys arms for a celebration hug whilst fellow players from both sides, applauded Day’s final action as a professional footballer.
The comedy continued as Andy Todd and Tom Naylor enjoyed a play fight in the middle of the park, Todd was later dragged off the pitch by Pilkington as the player-coach lay down for a nap in Pilkington’s six yard box. Unbelievable misses from Andy White and breath taking plays for some of the old guard followed before the current crop of players played around with formations, wingers played as centre backs, centre backs played as strikers, you get the picture! In the end the gamble paid off, Martin Riley levelled the match to 5-5 with what can only be described as a 12 yard screwed bobbling pass into the bottom corner!
Appearing for the legends: Kevin Pilkington, Bobby Hassell, Tom Naylor, Des Walker, Adam Eaton, Liam Lawrence, Michael Brough, Colin Larkin, Wayne Corden, Jason Lee, Ritchie Barker, Jamie Clarke, Jake Buxton, Craig Mitchell, Adam Murray, Junior Mendes, Iyesden Christie, Andy White and Rhys Day
Appearing for the class of 2011-12: Alan Marriott, Andy Todd, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Ross Dyer, Jon Worthington, Paul Bolland, Anthony Howell, Ben Hutchinson, Lee Stevenson, Adam Smith, Lindon Meikle, Luke O’Neill and Matt Green
The game ended level at 5-5 and whilst it may have been fitting for Rhys’ penalty to prove the winner, in the end a level score line was fair and fitting the occasion and in a way, whether intended or not, Rhys Day had given those at the One Call Stadium sometime to smile about following the devastation and heartbreak just days earlier.
Once again Rhys, we thank you, not only for putting on a wonderful day’s entertainment but for everything down the years, you have been a fantastic servant to the club, I for one wish you well in the coaching game and for the life ahead of you.
Farewell Rhys, and thank you.
There are a few extra’s I’ve saved for last, which you can see below.
INTERVIEW: Click here to hear from the man himself, as I chat to Rhys Day prior to kick off
INTERVIEW: Blackpool centre half Alex-John Baptise chats to me about his return to the One Call Stadium
INTERVIEW: Bobby Hassell chats to me prior to kick off upon his return to the One Call Stadium.
MORE PHOTOS: Take a look at a selection of shots from the match from James Williamson....
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit an article email firstname.lastname@example.org- Photo's used in this publication are copyright James Williamson and should not be reused without direct permission of the owner
Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V York City
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier; Play-off semi-final leg two
Venue: One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Monday 7th May 2012 – 2pm
Attendance: 7294 (1490)
Match Referee: Andy Davies
Don’t you just hate it when you gain ground, begin to gather pace and momentum and can see the finishing line ahead? It’s been a long hard slog and you’ve had to fight a mental battle to get to where you are, all you need to do is take that one last jump and boom your there, on the home straight with prize in sight. You jump, higher than you’ve ever jumped before but just as you’re about to be clear, the sucker punch hits and you fall at the last hurdle, allowing you’re competitor to take the lead and progress. Hurts doesn’t it.
All season long we’ve been dreaming of promotion and, if truth be told, at some stage, wake up in a cold swet thinking it may never happen. Something magical kept the dream alive, something inside kept driving us on and we truly believed our dream would come true at last, alas no, this morning we wake up in a swet colder than anything we’ve ever felt before, tears streaming down our faces, our hearts and sighs so heavy, shocked, hurt, disappointed and once again, heartbroken.
Football is a truly beautiful game, but boy it can be ugly sometimes – a year ago today I was here writing about FA Trophy heartbreak, having pictured Chris Seniors goal over and over, this time I can barley muster the energy to write, I don’t see the point – all I can see is Matty Blair sprint of after converting past Alan Marriott, all I can hear is the York fans sing in celebration, all I can think is, will it ever be our time? It’s going to be a long hard summer – AGAIN.
I have to say though that through all this anger and pain I’ve got burning inside me after yesterday’s result, I am immensely proud – Proud of Paul Cox, his coaching staff, his players and us supporters, despite the bitter ending I think this seasons story has been a sweet one. Following Mansfield Town FC this season has not felt like a frustrating drag, instead it’s been a refreshing, enjoyable, happy and adrenaline rushing experience – I will not forget this season, even though we’ve achieved nothing in terms of silverware or accolades, we’ve achieved so much to warm our hearts and help us in the long run, get to where we want to be. This chapter of Mansfield Town FC may well be over, but I can’t help but wonder if in fact it’s not a chapter, but more an introduction for what’s to come – success.
To sell out of tickets for the game well in advance is phenomenal, as myself and Wayne Briggs were walking into the One Call Stadium yesterday, the cues were already starting to form and spirits high, everyone talking about the season just gone and what could be was marvellous, I got a much better vibe from the crowd than I did when we we’re last full, the pay what you want scheme against Gateshead a couple of seasons back. It was wonderful to see so many faces supporting MTFC, families, friends, all coming together as one – I hope that some return and back us next season as we start again, I’ll write my thoughts on that over the coming weeks.
Coming into the game we knew it’d be tough without leading hit man Matt Green following his dismissal in the first leg on Wednesday night, however the scores we’re level at 1-1 meaning it was all or nothing – 90 minutes of football between another year in the conference or another trip to Wembley and a 50/50 shot at promotion back to league two.
All the talk since the first leg was about believing; skipper Adam Murray penned an emotional blog prior to the second leg which helped build the atmosphere and again reiterate how much he and the rest of the squad wanted promotion.
Both sides man one change ahead of the second leg, Lanre Oyebanjo replaced Jamal Fyfield for the visitors whilst Louis Briscoe replaced the suspended Green as the Stags opted for a 4-4-1-1 with Anthony Howell playing just behind Ross Dyer in attack.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Adam Murray (C), Gary Roberts, Louis Briscoe (Green), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, John Thompson, Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead, Danny Andrew.
After a level first leg, the game was any ones for the taking with both sides enjoying half chances in the opening ten minutes, former Stag Chris Smith headed well wide from a deep Lanre Oyebanjo free kick after two minutes, before York keeper Micheal Ingham hung onto a forceful Ross Dyer header from a Geohaghon throw as many minutes later.
On 11 minutes the Stags grabbed there first corner of the afternoon following good work between Howell and Roberts, Luke O’Neill’s delivery caused mischief and found Martin Riley whose forceful header through the crowd was scrambled cleared through Matty Blair, stopped in his tracks by Gary Roberts who did extremely well to get back and time the challenge well. Two minutes later the duo collided again, this time York getting a corner following a strong Gary Roberts tackle on Blair, whipped in by Oyebanjo, Exodus Geohaghon headed partly away with the ball landing for Patrick McLaughlin who volleyed well over into the packed QLE from 18 yards.
Exodus Geohaghon got his side in trouble of 15 minutes when he was judged to have put his arm across Jason Walker. Thirty yards from goal the visitors were awarded a free kick which Walker smashed against the wall, sensing opportunity on the break Lindon Meikle covered ground and soon fed the advancing Adam Murray, the passionate skippers shot deflected just wide of Michael Ingham’s post for a corner which was easily dealt with.
Three minutes later Lindon Meikle excelled again down the left flank following strong interchanging play between Briscoe and Roberts, the former the man to send Meikle on his mazy run. The quick footed former Eastwood wide man stepped inside Jon Challinor but failed to beat Ingham, who watched the stinging effort safely into his hands.
Mansfield have excited over the top all season and were at it again in 26 minutes as Luke O’Neill delivered from deep. Ross Dyer had to hold play up with a lack of support but did well to win a free kick right on the edge of the box after spinning past Chris Doig. Gary Roberts’ tryed the spectacular but could only fire against the wall for a throw in, Exodus Geohaghon’s bullet plucked out of the air by the strong Michael Ingham.
As the half hour mark approached, Luke O’Neill had to be at full stretch to cut out Chris Smith’s directional pass from the York defence before two minutes later, his free kick from deep sailed harmlessly away for a goal kick after Anthony Howell was sandwiched on the left hand side.
With ten minutes of the first half to go, Gary Roberts’ attempted switch of play was intercepted by the advancing Lanre Oyebanjo, the York man upended on the edge of the Stags box by Murray who again stood his ground. Patrick McLaughlin stepped up to take the resulting free kick but curled way over the top of Marriott’s cross bar.
Lanre Oyebanjo then showed the Stags it’s not just they who have a long throw weapon, launching one into the middle. Alan Marriott plucked it out the air and immediately sent the ball down field finding Ross Dyer, his pass to put Meikle 1 V 1 with Michael Ingham was just a tad too forceful and the York shot stopper claimed the ball, the story of the first half as it ended as it began, 0-0.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 York (Aggregate 1-1)
Five minutes after the restart it was the visitors that pilled on the pressure, looking to break the deadlock. Alan Marriott didn’t look comfortable as he came to collect a left sided cross from James Meredith, the stags shot stopper spilt the ball into the path of Walker whose effort cannoned away off Martin Riley who read the situation superbly. The move wasn’t dead and it was Jon Challinor who whipped back into the box, Martin Riley was again dominant in the air but seemingly nodded towards goal, Alan Marriott plucked the header out of the air to keep things on an even keel.
Ross Dyer was then guilty of a bit of greed four minutes later as Stags stretched the game from deep. Louis Briscoe provided the chip which put Ross Dyer through, the burley front man got past one before firing straight at Ingham rather than feeding an onside, unmarked Lindon Meikle – however playing the out and out front man role in Green’s absence, you can’t blame Dyer for testing the water.
On the hour mark the game still remained deadlock, Luke O’Neill chipped a free kick from 35 yards out towards the back post for Geohaghon, his header was cleared as far as Briscoe who failed to beat an alert Ingham with the attempted spectacular from the edge of the box. Four minutes later Adam Murray sparked a delightful move on the half way line, turning three before sending the advancing O’Neill down the right, the young full back played a 1-2 with Briscoe and earned a corner with York substitute Adriano Moke making the block. O’Neill’s delivery was strong and again found Geohaghon, his thunderous headed effort from the back post was headed off the line into the path of Briscoe who then fired over on the half volley.
Matt Rhead replaced Anthony Howell as the Stags switched to 4-4-2, the ex Corby man caused trouble but his efforts weren’t matched by his team as, too their credit, the visitors defended a series of O’Neill set pieces resiliently. With 20 remaining Matty Blair did well to take the ball from Lindon Meikle on the left hand side and burst down the wing, the low ball caught both Geohaghon and Riley in a tizz and fell kindly for Adriano Moke, however the York substitute thankfully blazed well over Marriott’s goal, losing his head at the final second.
With the nerves becoming stronger and the passion becoming more and more evident, the referee had to intervene when Chris Smith went in strongly on Meikle, showing the former Stag a yellow card. Louis Briscoe failed to deliver from the resulting free kick right on the edge of the box before Adam Murray volleyed into the hands of Ingham from a Geohaghon throw.
Matt Rhead, Lindon Meikle and Ross Dyer all saw efforts blocked or saved, a final burst of energy in the last minute from Meikle earned the Stags a throw, everyone bar Marriott and Sutton went forward but nobody bar Ingham got to the throw, the minster men keeper collecting un challenged to the sound of the full time whistle, meaning the game headed into extra time, still level both in the second leg and on aggregate.
Full Time: Stags 0-0 York (Aggregate 1-1)
The opening exchanges of the first half of extra time belonged to the visitors as Matty Blair caused havoc on the right hand side, Ritchie Sutton blocked for a corner which was cleared before Blair again weaved through, getting a corner from Geohaghon’s headed clearance. Worked short the visitors tried their luck through substitute Michael Potts, however the shot lacked conviction and was easy for Marriott.
In the pick of the chances at the other end, Lindon Meikle burst clean through with 101 minutes of football played at the One Call, after beating his markers for pace and skill Meikle let a ferocious shot fly, heading towards the top corner Michael Ingham proved the hero to palm away for a corner. Luke O’Neill delivered for Martin Riley who headed agonisingly over the bar.
Lee Stevenson then replaced Louis Briscoe as the Stags again looked to change the dynamic of the game, his first action would come after the turn around – the two teams still level as Marriott palmed away Ashley Chambers’ 105th minute effort.
Extra Time – Half Time Stags 0-0 York (Aggregate 1-1)
Straight from the restart the Stags looked to take advantage as York gave the ball away, Gary Roberts provided the directional ball to Matt Rhead who held up well before feeding Stevenson 25 yards from goal, the former Eastwood goal machine who opened his Stags account at Kidderminster on the final day of the season let fly first time, his shot well collected by Ingham as Lindon Meikle and Ross Dyer both called for a pass.
With time running out legs began to become heavier and the Stags momentary loss of focus stung them as three consecutive throws for York down the left saw them break our hearts in the 110th minute. Jason Walker received Meredith’s throw and whipped in the cross which caught Stags napping, Matty Blair was the villain of the piece for us, as he bundled past Marriott from six yards.
Stags 0-1 York
Buoyed by their goal, York attacked from the restart as the Stags gave it away, goal scorer Blair was free down the right and had to be stopped, Ritchie Sutton did the job but already on a booking, he was shown the second yellow and then a red, his second of the season, reducing Mansfield to ten men, after the game on twitter, a few “supporters” (I use the term very loosely) blamed Sutton for the defeat, something totally wrong and unacceptable.
The Stags refused to take the double blow laying down and with seven to go, nearly saw a repeat of the ties opening goal back from the first leg as Geohaghon launched another throw into the mix for Dyer. This time Micheal Ingham was alert and kept out the header which was heading for the top corner, splendid goalkeeper – I know he got booed and is hated by the majority, but you have to say, he was outstanding for York.
Jason Walker then missed a guilt edge chance to seal the deal with minutes to go, Alan Marriott making a tremendous double save from the deadly striker following Moke’s through ball, Luke O’Neill cleared the third shot from the line as Stags played with just two at the back in desperate search of a leveller. However it just wasn’t to be as the clock ticked down, Michael Ingham and the York back line hung on as Geohaghon, Stevenson, Meikle, Rhead, Dyer and captain fantastic Murray all fired towards goal.
The full time whistle once again brought tears, York City had defeated the Stags, the first team to win at the One Call since November 5th to book their place in the play-off final against Luton, who triumphed over Wrexham 3-2 on aggregate.
Extra Time: Full Time: Stags 0-1 York (Aggregate 1-2)
After the full time whistle had long since blown, the City players danced in celebration in front of their supporters who we’re vocal throughout, at the other end looking back at the photos this morning the Stags players fell to the floor in disbelief, skipper Adam Murray who was phenomenal throughout couldn’t hold back the tears whilst fellow team mates also wept as they headed down the tunnel. Murray’s passion and love for the club is second to none, just looking back at the photos I started to cry again – a true leader, fights for everything with desire and passion, never gave up – a player deserving of so much more than a man of the match award. Looking through the photos, you supporters were the same, tears flowing, faces of disbelief and pain – the evening rain couldn’t hide the tears of sorrow, which on any other day would have been tears of joy. In honesty I saw nothing of the crowd as soon as the final whistle blew, I fell to the ground and again began to sob, I’ve not listened to the audio and I don’t intend too – I just know that in that moment, I couldn’t hold it anymore. To come so far and rise so high only to be dragged right back down at the last knockings is a pain becoming far too familiar – I found myself saying the same words as I did a year ago ‘How long will this misery continue’.
All the best to York City in the final, we must remember to always be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.
I don’t want to end my final match report of the season on a sour note with everyone having lumps in there throat, I want to say that I am tremendously proud of the season just gone, the players, management, staff and supporters have all pulled together to make this season really wonderful deep down, following the club this season I’ve felt like never before, it’s been frightening but bloody wonderful! Once the dust has settled and the anger has been drained from my system I’ll sit down and write once more, but until then – thanks for reading and have a wonderful summer.
Before I do go, I’d just like to express my thanks to each and every one of you for not only viewing this website and making it popular, but for listening to our podcasts and live coverage, we could not and would not do all of this without your support – you are all wonderful people, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening etc as much as I’ve enjoyed commentating and writing. A few names that I need to thank too, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs, both excellent co-commentators and good friends it’s been a privilege working with you both. Thanks also to James Williamson for his marvellous match pictures and ability to get us lost when following two sat navs, a map and printed directions! To Dan Westwell for the use of his pictures, Martin Shaw for his confirmation of stats and to all my colleagues in the press who’ve been there to share the journey, and if quick enough, steal my half time Rocky’s. To one person who shall remain nameless for her constant RT’s on twitter helping to spread the Mansfield Matters love and for keeping me entertained on those long journeys, you know who you are :) and finally, once again to you for reading.
It’s been a pleasure, until next time...
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations – to submit an article, email email@example.com
Craig Priest writes ahead of tomorrow afternoons all or nothing game as York City visit the One Call Stadium
It’s just gone noon Sunday, I’m sat at my desk shaking like a leaf, feeling sick to the pit of my stomach, unable to eat, barley able to drink – the nerves I feel ahead of tomorrow’s second leg are far worse than those I felt prior to Wednesday’s first leg. In my ten years following the Stags both in the terraces and with the press, I’ve never known a game as important as tomorrow – I daren’t think of what defeat would do to us having come so far, nor dare I think of what victory would do either, I just don’t know what to expect and that frightens me to the point of tears.
Whatever happens tomorrow afternoon, I will be proud of the boys and proud of us, the supports and the club as one – a year ago I was sat here penning my match report and blog on the heartbreaking FA Trophy, the pride I felt that day of our tired broken players giving it one last shot at glory, doesn’t even compare to the pride I feel reflecting on this season. The change of attitude towards fixtures and opponents, the change in personnel and structure, the passion and commitment is second to none – in fact I don’t think there’s a club in the world that are as together as we are right now – tomorrow we have to go and make this pay, it’s simple really – win tomorrow we have 90 more minutes to go, 90 minutes to reach the football league after a four season absence, lose tomorrow and it’s a fifth season away and 46 more games, roughly 4,140 minutes of football we’re we have to start from scratch and fight the others following their promotion dream.
It’s horrible in a way that there’s no middle ground, one team is a winner, the other a looser – a harshness for BOTH sides to face tomorrow after different yet positive seasons for the respective sides. I’m going to hold my hands up now and say this, I’d rather us lose in 90 minutes that extra time or worse, penalties – I don’t think I can take the pain again. I’m sorry that I’ve mentioned the L (loss) word, I didn’t want too but in this situation it’s 50:50 – the first leg counts for nothing now due to the final score, we must not dwell on it, we must not remain angry at Green’s dismissal, we must not reflect on the own goal and discuss who should have done what, we must not be aggrieved at decisions that didn’t go in our favour – all of that’s gone now, it’s all about the 90 minutes tomorrow afternoon – it’s about keeping our nerve, standing tall, fending off the opposing attacking and striking when we can – If we look back, we fail to see what’s in front of us, the same applies to if we look past tomorrow’s fixture – look to far ahead and you fail to see the trailing leg which trips you up prior to the finishing line.
The ball is firmly in our court, coming back home level is good and in my opinion is actually better than having a lead, I’m not crazy and I’d have loved a lead coming back to Field Mill, I just think that a lead sometimes takes your focus away and will lower your defences as the visitors go for it all guns blazes, before you know it they have one back, the focus has gone, the momentum is with them, they pull level, your shell shocked, they grab another and suddenly your doing the chasing, you’re on the back foot – don’t believe me? Ask the class of 03-04! Being level tomorrow means that we have to fight as much as York, we are on our own pitch, in front of our own, sold out, phenomenal crowd – the passion at Field Mill, the desire and belief from the fans mixed in with the players drive and ability is something the visitors won’t have on their side, it’s something we must hurt them with. Back at school (on the rare occasion I was in attendance) we had a lesson about peer pressure and loneliness once, the teacher made a square of four tables with a gap in the middle, I was made to sit on the floor in the middle looking up whilst ever class member stomped around the tables above, hurling abuse at my character, singing, chanting for their team against mine – there are what 1,500 York fans at one end at the stadium tomorrow to our 7,000+ spread around the ground, if we can vocally box York in, make them feel small and weak like my character felt that day, then we will have the upper hand and if we apply this in the correct manor we can really push on and seal our Wembley fate.
Selection wise the gaffer has a massive task on his hands tomorrow, with Matt Green suspended and Riley and Meikle with injury scares, he has to pick not only the players who have the ability, but those who have the mental strength to get us through. Also coming back home does the gaffer change formations from 4-3-3 (later a counter attacking 4-2-3-1) to a 4-4-2, if so which of the midfield trio miss out? Gary Roberts vision and range is unbelievable at this level, it’s sometime no other team has and something we need to stretch the game when the pressure is building. Anthony Howell has applied himself tremendously after arriving to many critics (myself included), his sharp tackling nature, ariel and positional strength shouldn’t be frowned upon. Adam Murray, our captain, has passion burning a lot deeper than we all think, the words he writes for his blog are not media jumble they come from the heart, he is so fired up for the challenge so ready for the fight that the love, belief, ability, skill and work ethic he leads us with is like having an extra player – games like tomorrow we’re the games Adam Murray was born to play in. He has his critics, every player does, I beg of you all tomorrow, especially those who haven’t been for a while (NOTE: This is not a dig either) there should be no criticism, no negativity, no hate – just love, support and most of all passion. Look back at our transformation, the caption on that squad photo of ‘One Team: One Dream’ is not just a caption, it’s a truth – time to honour it, with 90 minutes (more should it still be more – hope not!) of sheer noise, let’s make 7th may the date we remember for raising the roof, combining as one to reach the big final, rather than the date we lost in the dying seconds at Wembley in a cup final – those days are gone now.
There is a good possibility of extra-time and the dreaded penalty shootout, I don’t want to think about but for my notes for the commentary, I have to prepare for it – I’m not going to list who I think will take, one nor talk about stats, today stats can do one! What I am saying is, of it does head into extra time I want us all to be courageous, remain loud remain positive and keep singing – our noise is the players venom and driving force, the players venom and driving force is out noise – together we are one, together we can get through, together we are Mansfield Town Football Club, the club with a fresh spirit heading in one direction only.
I mentioned that stats count for nothing, we head into the game without a defeat at home since November and only three home defeats all season, netting 50 goals shipping exactly half. York have won 12 away games and lost just three – practically inseparable and as I said at the top of the piece it’s about keeping our nerve, standing tall, fending off the opposing attacking and striking when we can.
We are at OUR home, we have 90 minutes to keep OUR dream alive – let’s tomorrow OUR DAY! BELIEVE.
Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people – tomorrow we have to do something ordinary: win a football match, let’s make it extraordinary by being vocal, proud, passionate and TOGETHER – our time has come, let’s go and bloody take it eh!
If you can’t get tomorrow, then I urge you to tune your radio’s into 106.9FM or log onto our MM-LIVE page from 12.30pm – they’ll be extended highlights of the first leg plus unrivalled build up and extended coverage of the match itself, Wayne Briggs and Scott Rogers will be joining me throughout. I think we’re going to be stationed at the back of the west lower (next to the PA Box), so keep an eye out for us and come say hello – we’ll also be outside the west stand watching the crowd filter in, again come say hello.
Last Time we met
Stats mean nothing but it wouldn’t be a match preview without including this little section, I want to do everything as normal as possible! The sides have met 38 times at Field Mill with the Stags clocking up 21 victories to York’s 10 – the other seven have ended level including the 1-1 draw on Boxing Day. In front of goal the Stags have netted 78 to York’s 39.
Just encase the P word crops up, there have been two penalty shootouts between the sides to my knowledge with one win a piece. Both have been at Bootham Crescent, the Stags winning in the Autoglass Trophy back in 1993 whilst the minster men knocked the Stags out of the Setanta Shield 4-2 on spot kicks a few seasons ago, Jon D’Layrea and Gavin Hurren netted for the stags from 12 yards against Michael Ingham who saved from Alex Jeannin and saw Mark Stallard clip the bar after the hosts had missed the first kick in front of the travelling Stagies, incidentally this the last penalty shootout a Stags senior side was involved in, with the Youth Team winning on penalties earlier in the season at MMU Newcastle. The last penalty shootout at Field Mill I recall is Stoke City in the carling cup many moons ago, The Stags winning 3-0 in front of the QLE – the drama is all well and good as a neutral but as a fan, as a commentator whose been close to a shootout twice? No thank you!
The Team Sheet: York 1-1 Stags (Play-Off Semi-final LEG ONE 2.5.12)
York City Mansfield Town
24. Michael Ingham 1. Alan Marriott Y
20. Jon Challinor 16. Luke O'Neill
23. Chris Doig 6. Martin Riley >> (29)
4. Chris Smith (C) Y 26. Exodus Geohaghon [1-1 -OWN GOAL]
16. Jamal Fyfield Y 17. Ritchie Sutton
26. Patrick McLaughlin << (18) 11. Adam Murray (C)
6. Daniel Parslow 21. Anthony Howell
3. James Meredith Y 35. Gary Roberts Y
17. Matty Blair 15. Ross Dyer  >> (9)
9. Jason Walker 10. Matt Green YY
10. Ashley Chambers 24.Lindon Meikle >> (7)
1. Paul Musselwhite 23. Shane Redmond
7. Jamie Reed 7. Louis Briscoe >> 24.Lindon Meikle
14. Michael Potts 8. Lee Stevenson
18. Adriano Moke >> 26. Patrick McLaughlin 9. Matt Rhead >> 15.Ross Dyer
19. Scott Brown 29. Danny Andrew Y >> 6. Martin Riley
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not those of Mansfield Matters or it’s related organisations – to submit an article please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: York City V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier; Play-off semi-final leg one
Venue: Bootham Crescent
Date & Time: Wednesday 2nd May 2012 – 7.30pm
Attendance: 6,057 (1352)
Match Referee: Richard Clark
After the scheduled season had drawn to a close with a 3-0 win at Kidderminster on Saturday afternoon, our attentions soon turned to the play-off show down with York City. As the minutes, hours and days passed, nerves began to grow – I woke up yesterday morning in a cold swet, shivering and shaking like the weakest tree in a force ten gale, my stomach with more knots than a scout group’s guide rope and feeling sicker than a kid after too many Christmas Day sweats. The play-off fever had hit hard, I knew that come the end of the night we’d be closer to seeing if our remarkable run since the turn of the year would guide us to promotion – alas after a 1-1 draw we are still no closer to finding out our answers, setting up a tense second leg at the One Call Stadium on Monday and taking me, and no doubt the majority of you, to the verge of a nervous breakdown!
Last night’s game at Bootham Crescent was certainly a hotly contested one and not only do we spend the next few days wondering about the outcome of the final score line, but we wonder if Matt Green’s very dubious red card will be rescinded and also wait on the fitness of Martin Riley and Lindon Meikle, two of our most outstanding players over recent weeks.
In commentary last night, Scott Rogers myself and Wayne Briggs called the sending off of Green as silly on his part, having watched the video replay from various angles I can’t make my mind up as to whether Green did purposely handle and try to knock the ball past Ingham, or if he tried to get his hand out of the way – it looks different from every angle and as such poses the question what does Paul Cox do, risk the appeal being turned down and another game being added to the one game ban or accept footballing fate and rely on other members of his strike force such as Matt Rhead and Ben Hutchinson? Matt Green is a huge player and psychologically not having him in our 16 is a major blow, but on the flip side play-off games are unique in the fact that at any given moment, the unlikeliest of heroes can be born, it’s a tough call and one I’m glad I do not have to make.
Onto the injury worries, I have to say that when he first had a run in the side I wasn’t over impressed with Martin Riley, however since the turn of the year he’s settled in and has started the last 14 games (including last night’s trip to York), former a strong partnership with Exodus Geohaghon since his arrival at the club. If Riley is forced to miss out the dilemma is then about his replacement, is Danny Andrew the man to come in at left back with the outstanding Sutton to centre half or does Sutton remain in his now accustomed spot of left back and allow a return to centre half for John Thompson, whose torrid season of injury has limited him to only seven starts. Whoever the manager chooses will do a good job individually however they will have to learn quickly as neither Thompson nor Sutton have really played in a partnership with Geohaghon. In terms of Meikle he should be ok for Monday fingers crossed, he has proved a real key factor throughout the campaign with his attacking flare and skill but of late, I’ve been impressed with his ability to read the game which helps with the dynamic of how we play – do Smith or Briscoe offer the same, and could either of the two play as a wide striker in a forward three line which we started with last night?
Anyway the questions that are creating themselves here are just adding to cauldron of nerves really, I have total faith in our management team and indeed our squad, the depth of which sends a tingle down my spine when I compare it to previous MTFC sides – I don’t think I’ve ever seen us this strong or this powerful, that is a wonderful feeling to have in such a vital and pressurised competition.
As I wrote I my late night Chad Column straight after the game, for a while I didn’t think we we’re true to ourselves as we let the hosts dictate how we played for a while, that said when things we’re beginning to strain to much our character stepped up and our leader took the bull by the horns and got us playing on our terms, hats off to Adam Murray who defined the term captain to a tee last night, marshalling every move – on and off the ball, he’s missed a few games but has come back strong as ever fighting for the cause, fighting for the team he loves, fighting for the team WE love – following the dream of promotion.
We knew before the game that stats counted for nothing, that it would be the team that showed the more hunger, the more desire, the more aggression, passion and fight, rather than played the better football that would prevail. We knew that it would be a fight at every corner, proved with controversy and questionable decisions – it will be the same at the One Call Stadium Monday, the drama is what we live for – BRING IT ON.
Paul Cox swept the changes at the weekend and did the same again as we prepared to face York, only Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley and Gary Roberts retained their places in the starting eleven as eight changes were made. Shane Redmond, John Thompson, Danny Andrew, Louis Briscoe, Jon Worthington, Andy Todd, Lee Stevenson and Matt Rhead all missed out as Alan Marriott, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Adam Murray, Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Ross Dyer and Matt Green all returned.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray (C), Gary Roberts, Ross Dyer, Matt Green, Lindon Meikle.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead, Danny Andrew
In any game of such important nature, you’d expect the home side backed by a bumper support to come out fighting, that’s exactly what happened as the hosts grabbed the first corner of the game less than a minute in, Martin Riley the man to make an inch perfect sliding intervention followed a lofted ball from the back. Patrick McLaughlin whipped in a strong set piece from the right hand side which Chris Doig connected with, heading over at the back post.
York’s bright start continued and after a second corner on two minutes, it was Matty Blair trying to stretch the game on the right hand side a minute later, left back Ritchie Sutton had other ideas and stood firm to deny Blair. The pressure pendulum swung the other way on five minutes as Exodus Geohaghon launched in two consecutive throws from either side before Matt Green was flagged offside two minutes later.
The Stags then took hold of the game on the ten minute mark and began to play the frightening football which saw them surge into the play-offs, Luke O’Neill turned his marker well at right back to launch a directional ball over the top for Matt Green, the 30 goal front man held up on the right against Jamal Fyfield before teeing up Ross Dyer for a cross – James Meredith got a block in and the hosts cleared the resulting throw.
Four minutes later the night got its first controversial moment, Adam Murray, playing in a holding midfield role alongside Howell as Stags dropped into a 4-2-3-1, intercepted a York attack well and sent a delightful ball over the top for Lindon Meikle to chase. Minster men shot stopper Michael Ingham raced off his line to collect the loose ball, seemingly handling outside the box before stepping back inside the area. Referee Richard Clark was having none of it despite appeals from every Mansfield player and some of the York bench turning away expecting the worse.
Murray was involved again on 16 minutes sparking another attack with a wonderful clearing pass from the edge of his own box to the left wing. Lindon Meikle drove forwards against former Stags man Jon Challinor who back heeled a clearance straight to the advancing Howell who’d covered ground well. Former Alfreton man Howell whipped a ball in however the home defence regrouped and scrambled clear.
Two minutes later the Stags we’re forced into a change as the impressive Martin Riley went down injured, physio Ian Pearce signalled for an immediate change, Danny Andrew replaced a distraught Riley, slotting in at left back with Sutton moving to centre half alongside Geohaghon. At the other end on twenty minutes Lindon Meikle’s cross field ball was intercepted by Chris Smith, however the ex-stag gave possession straight to Geohaghon who in turn found Roberts on the left hand side. It was the creative midfielder that provided the assist, delivering a teasing ball into the middle for Anthony Howell who nodded marginally wide of the post.
With the Stags defence still disorganised following the loss of Riley, the hosts thought they’d grabbed the advantage on 22 minutes. Exodus Geohaghon made a silly challenge on Danny Parslow, McLaughlin floated in the resulting free kick which was bundled in by Matty Blair after Marriott had completely missed the ball, the Stags shot stopper was given a let-off as York’s joy was short lived, the off-side straight up on the near side.
Two minutes later another York corner led to a Stags chance as McLaughlin’s delivery for the hosts was poor, Matt Green cleared from the edge of his own box and ran forward before finding Meikle who covered ground at pace. Meikle then pulled play back into the middle finding Roberts who went down right on the edge of the box, Luke O’Neill hit the resulting free kick but it lacked imagination and conviction, rising over the bar and out of the ground.
The deadlock was finally broken on 26 minutes as the Stags took the lead. Adam Murray controlled play well in the centre circle before feeding Meikle, back on the right, his forceful run earned a throw which the Stags used to perfection. Changing the trajectory from a looping back spin to a flat bullet, Geohaghon added another assist to his name, his throw finding Ross Dyer at the front post, the former Forest Green man guided the ball beyond a static Ingham into the bottom corner to send the travelling support into raptures.
York 0-1 Stags
The game then saw two moments of controversy in as many minutes as the hosts looked for a response straight from the restart. Parslow’s crisp pass through the middle saw Matty Blair advancing into the area, Ritchie Sutton smashed clear before Blair auditioned for a place in the Olympic diving squad, the referee waved away the appeals but stopped the game as Sutton and Blair went face to face. Play restarted and Marriott’s lofted ball down field dropped to Matt Green just over the half way line, Chris Smith charged across and lunged in with both feet, getting nothing of the ball and leaving Green needing treatment, the former Stags man who made 15 consecutive starts and the beginning of the last campaign before being sent out on loan to his current club York, received just a booking for his challenge. Luke O’Neill floated a fine free kick into the mix, Ross Dyer headed back into the area from the left, finding Gary Roberts in the air whose goal bound header was kept out well by Ingham.
At the other end Gary Roberts was disposed by Jason Walker 30 yards from his own goal, dangerous hit man Walker found Ashley Chambers who saw his well hit effort palmed away by Marriott. Four minutes later Chris Smith looked to build from the back finding Blair who turned play quickly back into the middle for McLaughlin, it was he who opted for goal – failing to keep his effort down the ball whizzed out for a goal kick.
With five minutes to go before the break Gary Roberts launched a long ball over the top for Matt Green gave chase too, Michael Ingham raced out and the duo clashed, Green was the one penalised, picking up a booking for a high boot. Two minutes later the hosts we’re level as miscommunication again proved the Stags down fall. Jon Challinor linked up with Matty Blair down the right, the former cutting past Danny Andrew and delivering into the middle, Alan Marriott should have come to collect however he was beaten to the ball by Geohaghon who bundled into his own net.
York 1-1 Stags
The goal had shaken the Stags and rallied the hosts, who pressed on looking for a second. Geohaghon missed timed his jump to clear the quick off, Alan Marriott had to back pedal to keep out Chambers’ looping effort. With two minutes to go before the break, the hosts missed a glorious chance to take the lead, a fast paced 1-2 interchange between Walker and Blair saw the former in space inside the area, with 18 goals to his name he missed the chance to grab number 19 of his season, dragging wide of Marriott’s goal.
Into added time of the first half it was the Stags who registered two chances in as many minutes, first Geohaghon launched in another bullet which fell for Matt Green, the leading front man connected weakly and allowed the hosts to clear. Lindon Meikle then intercepted a York clearance and drove forwards down the right hand side, his attempted cross cannoned back to him, the resulting shot was over the bar for a goal kick, the two sides ending the first quarter of the two-legged semi-final on level terms.
HALF TIME York 1-1 Stags
Both sides had chances to grab the early second half advantage, Anthony Howell and Matt Green played a neat 1-2 on 48 minutes, however Howell was denied by Ingham who released play quickly allowing the hosts to counter. Matty Blair made ground but failed to finish the job, firing straight at an alert Marriott from the edge of the box. A minute later the Stags played a really smart move, again sparked by Adam Murray who was phenomenal in the middle. The Mansfield skippers low pass sent Ross Dyer on his way down the right hand side, an acute turn saw Jamal Fyfield beaten, Dyer then squared for Green who agonisingly blazed over from the edge of the box with a first time effort despite a pocket of space to his right, had he taken a touch.
Gary Roberts then slid in well on McLaughlin on 51 setting another Stags move, Matt Green picked up the loose ball finding the hungry Anthony Howell whose forceful effort was again palmed away by Ingham. Two minutes later Mansfield we’re left shell shocked at their failure to score with a truly epic goal mouth scramble. Luke O’Neill’s deep free kick was the starting flame, Ross Dyer headed down into the mix, a blur of Amber and Red followed two yards from goal before York cleared, only as far as Geohaghon who’d back peddled to the right hand side of the box. The big defender skipped the challenge of three before seeing his ferocious cross deflect behind for a corner, Luke O’Neill’s delivery was easily cleared and Danny Andrew had to take one for the team as McLaughlin burst down the left, Andrew charged across to slam the ball out of play and picked up a booking as he caught the York man.
Just past the hour mark Matt Green was piling on the pressure as he drove forward, Chris Doig stood firm and play went on despite Green’s appeal for a free kick. Jason Walker charged through the middle but failed to beat last man standing Ritchie Sutton, who made a tackle worthy of a place in the premier league.
The games goal mouth action then went quiet for a prolonged spell as the midfield battle intensified, Jamal Fyfield upended the advancing Luke O’Neill on 65 minutes but remarkably escaped a second yellow card, there were bookings for James Meredith on 69 minutes and Gary Roberts a minute later.
The card count was becoming high and there was no surprise to see a red be shown with 16 minutes remaining, there was a surprise at the player and incident however – Matt Green gave chase to a long ball and as Ingham advanced, was judged to have knocked the ball into space with his hand. TV Replays what I’ve seen since have proved inconclusive, however others that have studied the footage in more depth say that Green was moving his hand out of the way and that the referee was wrong to show the hit man a second yellow and reduce the Stags to ten men.
Naturally York with the man advantage upped the ante in search of the advantage, crosses from Matty Blair, Jon Challinor and James Meredith we’re all defended well before the Stags made a second change, introducing Briscoe for Meikle who appeared to be moving uneasily. With six minutes to go Briscoe played a huge part in a Stags move which should have seen them ahead, charging down the right flank Briscoe fed Ross Dyer who held up well looking for support. Anthony Howell made his way into the box but Dyer’s cross was plucked out of the air by Ingham ahead of Howell. From Ingham’s kick down field the hosts we’re awarded a free kick on the edge of the Stags box, Patrick McLaughlin’s delivery was headed away as far as Challinor who hit a sweet volley wide of the target from 30 yards.
With a minute to go Jon Challinor had appeals for a penalty turned down after he went down easily in the area from Walker’s reverse pass before Gary Roberts linked up with Dyer a minute into the four added. Roberts’ central sprayed the ball wide right for Dyer who, after turning pas Fyfield should have drilled one into the middle for the advancing Briscoe, however Dyer got the connection wrong and a pass intended for the penalty spot spun back to the edge of the box for an un-expecting Roberts, which in turn allowed York to clear.
Matt Rhead then replaced Dyer heading away a corner before holding play up at the other end, in the dying seconds it was York with the final say – substitute Adriano Moke received Ashley Chambers’ pass but fired straight at Marriott who held on and cleared to the sound of the full time whistle, the teams level as Monday’s second leg approaches!
FULL TIME: York 1-1 Stags Full Audio Below with myself, Scott & Wayne...
The second leg will be a tight affair and the Stags will have to wait on the fitness of Riley and Meikle plus the fate of Matt Green. Before the game I’d have defiantly taken a draw, whilst you want to head into a home game with an aggregate lead a draw is just as good, especially when you consider our home record and phenomenal support.
If you can’t get to the second leg on Monday or are going but want to listen along and calm the nerves, tune yourselves into 106.9FM or get on our MM-LIVE page, myself, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs are live from 12.30pm with extended highlights from Wednesday’s first leg plus lots more!
I’m feeling nervous again, but hey that’s part of the fun right?! These next few days will be interesting to say the least – let’s keep believing, keep that support coming and not let the occasion get the better of us, it’s time to be brave, it’s time to be heroes.
COME ON YOU STAGS
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Craig Priest writes ahead of tomorrow night’s crunch battle with York City...
The wait is almost over, the first leg of the play-off battle is just one sleep away – are you nervous yet? I am, I can barely keep a steady hand as I type this preview, my head is pounding trying to keep out the visions of what could be and my heart rate beating faster than a bullet train – a nervy feeling but one I’m delighted I’m experiencing as after years of nothingness, this season is coming ever closer to being the one which see’s our promotion dreams come true.
Since starting these match previews on the request of you the readers to help provide more content for our Mansfield Matters show, I’ve included stats on both sides and tried to balance the scales when it comes to information and thoughts of my inner fan – today I shall include some stats to keep the continuity going however, this won’t be the first time I say this either, I write them with a half heartedness because stats, achievements etc count for absolutely nothing now. The next two games will be settled on the pitch, regardless of rank, it’s about who keeps there nerve, who shows the most desire, who keeps running when the tank is empty, who keeps on believing to the death and ultimately as the storm comes – stops waiting for it to pass and learns to dance in the rain. The story book has reached its next chapter and the ending will depend on what we do from here on in – if our time has come as folk have predicted, it’s time to go and prove it.
I know that many of you will look back down the years and try to compare this play-off battle to those from the past, the most recent being 2003-04 when we faced Northampton. I’m not going to do that, for one it’s a football conference play-off rather than football league and for two, who and indeed what we are now is totally different to anything we’ve been before – this something which scares me to the point of joyful tears.
We all have our reasons for watching Mansfield Town FC and we all have our reasons for coming back week in week out to experience the highs and the lows, whether it be a long standing family tradition to follow the Stags, a parent/child activity or maybe just chance – I believe that we we’re drawn to Mansfield Town for a purpose, like destiny. As a Stags fan, at some point we have all experience the bad, just like in life nothings perfect, but for some reason we haven’t walked away when everything’s gone wrong, we’ve kept coming back believing that something goods going to happen. In fairness we thought it had happened with the FA Trophy final last year, I think that despite everything said at the time, we all knew it wasn’t our true piece of good fortune. This year’s play-off achievement could be, so long as we keep believing and keep supporting like we have been doing – looking at the bigger picture things have slotted into place to guide us to this point – two games away from a shot at a return to the football league after four long seasons away.
I feel very privileged to have the job I do, something I would never have had, had I not been bullied at school, dived into some mud and discovered the joy of the beautiful game thanks to saving a penalty: Destiny. I was asked earlier today if I miss being in the away end for games, the answer is without a doubt yes, it will torture me not being able to stand amongst my fellow fans, smiling and singing loud, friends I’d never have met and experiences I’d never have tasted if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mansfield Town FC: Destiny. A sentence or so I mentioned by job, in truth media work is the only thing I’ve ever been half decent at and feel totally happy with wanting to pursue it as a career, something that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for those friends, met through Mansfield Town FC because of that one moment: Destiny. I miss the terrace experiences but at the same time, every week I get to do what I love and get inspired to do so by looking across to the masses of Stags supporters, laughing, smiling, singing and having a good time following the club that destiny brought them too – it’s a beautiful sight and when those songs start, a wonderful feeling. My point, so not to ramble on in an arrogant nature, is that for whatever reason we are preparing for a trip to York City tomorrow night following the one collective dream: Promotion and success.
We may be the best team home and away over the last six games, we may have scored 87 goals and set a record points total on the pitch this season but players and managers come and go, records will eventually be broken and the bar raised higher but only ONE thing remains constant: US, the supporters – that’s what truly defines Mansfield Town FC and that’s what will go half of the way to seeing us achieve our dreams – Stats, frankly, can do one!
When I speak about how privileged I’ve been this season, it’s less about the football, although there have been many spectacular moments, but more about the support. After years of hurt and in some ways hate, we’ve finally come together as a club getting behind the boys and letting the footballing cancer of politics and off field issues wither away. Yes there were some nervy moments when ground lease deadline day approached and some split opinions when there was a proposed move to Rainworth but in the end the chairman, CEO and legal team did their job to allow us to enjoy the football and give the lads a push. The atmosphere at the Lincoln game was unbelievable, nothing was ever going to ruin that – the emotion, the noise, the result all merging together into one core – one team. The Fleetwood home game which won the listeners game of the season last week is another that sticks in my mind, against the seemingly unbeatable we believed and with the lads on the pitch maintaining the pace and matching the league champions inch for inch, pass for pass, shot for shot – in the stands the noise, the passion and emotion never stopped and eventually our reward came through Exodus Geohaghon’s last minute header.
Tomorrow night I will be privileged to hopefully whiteness such support again, so long as you, the travelling 1,600 are in full voice our Mansfield Town will give their all and play with the belief and desire which has been present throughout this magnificent run. Now more than ever we need to prove why MTFC are where they are, it’s going to be emotional, it’s going to be nerve wracking and difficult to watch, but as long as we keep believing, keep singing, keep smiling, we CAN get to where we want to be – power to achieve comes from within the heart, the heart to Mansfield Town FC is on the terraces.
I could write all evening about what being in the play-off means but I know if I do I’ll trail off into some emotional mush which nobody wants to read! I think I’ve said what needs saying and no doubt tomorrow, when it arrives, will be magical in so many ways.
I said at the top the stats are irrelevant and to me personally they are, as it’s two games, two battles we need to win before we can face the final war on the big stage, however for those who want to see what each team offers and how they’ve finished where they are, this bit is for you.
In reality the outcome of tomorrow’s opponents teetered like a sea saw on Saturday as Luton, under the fresh impetus of Paul Buckle, condemned champions Fleetwood to their second successive defeat after so long without defeat. Prior to the game a 1-0 win for Luton plus a draw for York would have seen York finish fourth on goals scored with goal difference level, however when Luton grabbed a second on 70 minutes they moved ahead of York in live table on goal difference. Over at Bootham Crescent the game against Forest Green Rovers looked to be heading for a goalless draw that was until Adriano Moke popped up to score the winner eight minutes from time, sealing a fourth placed finish by two points, setting up a two legged play off semi-final with ourselves.
Like us at Kidderminster, the minster men rang the changes with six players including goal scoring trio Jason Walker, Matty Blair and Ashley Chambers who have 44 goals between them being rested after a long run in which has seen them not only achieve a play-off slot, but replicate our FA Trophy run of last season, defeating Luton over two legs to reach the Wembley final, which will take just five days after the play-off second leg at the One Call Stadium on Monday! The hot shot trio’s goal have played a massive part in earning York 5th place in the seasons average goal scoring table, netting an average of 1.76 goals per game. Whilst the minster men’s attack is impressive, being the 7th best attacking team and home and 2nd best attacking team away – it’s bettered by our own record – we finished second in the overall average goals attacking table, netting an average of 1.89 a game, bettered only by champions Fleetwood – an omen? At the back both teams have a similar record, York finished 4th in the overall defensive table worked out on average goals conceding, whilst Stags finished two places below in 6th conceding an average of 1.04 goals per game to the minster men’s 0.98goals per game.
In terms of the last six games, the Stags having only the league to focus on has worked wonders, seeing them finish top of the last six overall form guide with six consecutive victories, the impressive feat matched by the last six home and away form, finishing top of both with five wins and a draw from the last six at home, away it’s five wins and one defeat.
Despite how impressive that is and how impressive OUR season on a whole has been, it’s the same for both now – STATS COUNT FOR NOTHING!
With only 1,600 tickets on offer for the first leg tomorrow night and at the last count, only 500 left, I imagine it will be a sell out and as such an awesome atmosphere. Some of you will be disappointed to miss out and of course be eager to know what’s happening. As we have done since pre-season, we make it our aim to deliver you the best coverage around and can promise a passionate, honest and emotional account of the evening live on 106.9FM and our MM-LIVE page from 7pm. We’ve got unrivalled build up followed by full match commentary, with youth team player of the season Scott Rogers and pundit Wayne Briggs sitting alongside me in the commentary box.
As always we encourage you to get involved with the chat as Mansfield Matters is the show for the fans by the fans – tweet us @mtfcmatters or text 07982 865 624 (costs your standard network rate).
Last Time We Met
It was Christmas and New Year when the sides last did battle in a festive double header, with both games ending level, Matt Green’s 11th minute strike was cancelled out by Liam Henderson just past the hour mark at Field Mill on Boxing Day whilst on New Year’s day, goals from Green and loanee Aman Verma put Stags two ahead, however Matty Blair and Jamal Fyfield completed a late comeback for a 2-2 draw.
The two sides have a lengthy history which began with a 4-3 York City win back in September 1932, with a total of 86 league and cup fixtures played, not including the now defunct Setanta Shield tie which the Stags lost on penalties back in 2008 – tomorrows hosts have clocked up 38 wins to our 32, the other 16 matches ended level. At Bootham Crescent York have racked up 24 victories to just seven defeats against the Stags, only seven games have ended level, The Stags last win at York was during our last play-off run in 2003-04 when we won 2-1. In terms of goals at York’s home, the minster men have bagged 83 to a reply of 49 from the Stags.
To add to the spice of the fixture, during their time in the conference York have twice finished in the play-offs, a 4th placed finish in 2006/07 saw them beaten over two legs by Morecambe who finished in third place and went onto win the final – an omen? More recently in the 2009/10 campaign York finished 5th and saw off Luton over two legs, winning 2-0 on aggregate to reach Wembley where they faced Oxford United, who finished in third! Current Stags players Rhys Day, Skipper Adam Murray and on fire Matt Green were all part of the promoted Oxford squad, with the latter netting the opening goal at Wembley to send Oxford on the way to a 3-1 victory over York in their famous yellow shirt – an omen?
26.12.11 Stags 1-1 York Line Up: [4-3-3] Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Dempster, Freeman, Verma, Murray (C), Howell, Dyer, Green  (Briscoe), Meikle SNU Redmond, Stevenson, Day, Kelly
Click here for audio highlights
1.1.12 York 2-2 Stags Line Up: [4-3-3] Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Sutton, Freeman, Roberts (Stevenson), Murray (C), Howell (Verma ), Dyer, Green  (Worthington), Meikle SNU Redmond, Briscoe.
Audio highlights can be found via our MM-Extra page
Well that’s it for this extended preview, thank you all for reading; I hope you’ll join us tomorrow from 7pm if you can’t get to Bootham Crescent – ladies and gents DARE TO DREAM!
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