As Clipstone’s Worksop Van Hire Stadium plunged into darkness at half-time last night, there was certainly some irony because despite the sheer blackout like I’d been on take me out, there was light in what was a phenominal display of community spirit.
The hearts of the community sank a year or so ago when it looked like Clipstone as a club we’re finished, yet as the set-up from Blidworth moved across – the cobras we’re given a second chance.
And then just over a month ago, mindless vandals ransacked the Clipstone club-house, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage – deflating the clubs soul once more. Mansfield Town had no obligation whatsoever to offer to help, but did as Steve Evans picked up the phone and arranged a fixture – promising to send a first team along.
He stuck to his promise, as would 90% of managers to be fair – but one thing the other 10% wouldn’t do is instruct the players to put on a game, it was clear to see that the instructions from the kind-hearted but firm scot were ‘Full pace, we’re not here to make the numbers up, go and get yourself into the side to play in the cup.
Mansfield’s players responded to the instructions and on a freezing cold Tuesday evening where many players would show a total lack of professionalism, the Stags went out and played if they we’re playing a competitive cup final. It was humbling too see.
The blackout at half-time which also knocked out a neighbouring street was of course a disappointment, over 400 fans had paid through the turnstiles to support Clipstone and not ONE person complained that the game had to be abandoned due to a lights failure, which didn’t just effect the floodlights, but dressing rooms etc – staff we’re holding phone lights so both sets of players could change into warmer clothes, whilst as the pitch plunged into darkness with a local set of children’s clubs playing during the break, spectators did the same so that they could be safely escorted off - it was a real community effort and showed one message: no matter what you throw at us, you will never break us.
On the pitch, the Stags started 11 senior players and named a further three on the bench with a couple of the more senior youngsters and it showed, against a team to be fair, who are competing one or two levels higher than expected due to the club move.
Clisptone could have taken a very early lead but drilled into the side netting of Bobby Oljenik’s goal as Mansfield struggled to find their feet, and to be fair had a good amount of chances and did themselves no disservice whatsoever in between Mansfield’s goal glut, which statistically reads a goal every 6 and a half minutes – any chance we could have that Sunday?!
With Zander Diamond and Rhys Bennett in fine form in the league, Kyrstian Pearce has been kept out of the side since serving a games ban for five yellows, yet he sent a message to boss Evans watching, and bellowing, on from the stand – anything Zander can do, I can do too – opening the scoring from Alfie Potters 12th minute corner.
Calum Butcher then made it 2-0 as he trapped Mal Benning’s deep cross well inside the area before powering into the roof of the net from eight yards, before Paul Anderson staked a claim for spot-kick duty, dispatching a penalty after Benning was tripped to make it 3-0.
The best was yet to come from both Butcher and Anderson though, Butcher made it 4-0 with a well struck dipping half-volley before Anderson showed Danny Rose how to properly score an over-head kick, the skipper for the night chesting the ball down inside the box with his back to goal, flicking the ball up before doing a full flip to hammer in from 14 yards out for 5-0.
Alfie Potter made it 6-0 with a mouth watering cut in and curl effort before Butcher completed the hat-trick right on the stroke of half-time, smashing the ball in from around the penalty spot after a left sided cross.
7-0. Lights Out. Game Off. Job Done.
Paul Digby – Krystian Pearce – David Mirfin – Mal Benning
Jack Thomas – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alfie Potter
Paul Anderson © - Jimmy Spencer
Unused Substitutes: Lee Angol, Omari Sterling-James, CJ Hamilton [YOUTH] Wilson, Healey, Wilder
A huge congratulations to Clipstone for staging a really enjoyable night, obviously they’ll be gutted not to have completed the game, but I’ve no doubt that if not this season, than certainly in pre-season they’ll be another game with a strong stags side. Football is more than just about winning and losing, it’s a community and as last night proved, there’s light – even in darkness.
Craig Priest writes…
All the warning signs were there, but frankly ignored. All the questions were there, but Mansfield just swerved giving an answer, thinking winging it would be enough – it wasn’t and isn’t.
A 2-2 draw against what the league table suggests is a struggling Chesterfield is far from good enough, and actually completely undeserved.
Mansfield had improved and started to click but failed to show any desire to play in a midweek run out at Rainworth let alone a local derby, during the first half that’s slightly unfair as they created a plethora of chances – but the second half in particular Chesterfield could have run up a Cricket Score and were by far the better team, that’s the luckiest point we will earn all season.
The Stags allowed Chesterfield far too much of the ball and completely disrespected their neighbours, I know a few will shoot arrows at me for saying this but Chesterfield were the better team and whilst they’ve turned their form around of late, they were bottom for a reason – and when you have no hunger, no clinical touch and no zest against a side in their position, regardless of if it’s a rival or not – I find that far from acceptable.
The form book naturally goes out of the window on Derby Day and it was lovely to have extra faces in the crowd and a bit more noise, but to not step up to that I find disheartening – it was like playing Shaw Lane again in some respects, all the pressure was on us and we cracked like a nut in a vice.
Fortunately, Zander Diamond’s later goal straight from the training ground rescued us – in a similar way to what it did in midweek against Port Vale when we we’re massively below par, we have to now kick on and start to use the entirety of our squad if we are to push on into December which see’s many a tricky fixture – I guess we’ll see whose left standing in the end.
As for yesterday, I think it answered some questions over certain departments – we’ve a break now over the next week with a friendly at Clipstone, FA Cup showdown with Cox and Murray and a Checkatrade Trip to the seaside – I’ve no doubt every player will be used during that period, basically if I were Steve Evans, I’d be saying – do what you failed to do against Chesterfield, get out there, stand up and be counted, or pack your bags.
The Coal train is still chugging along, but it has no room for those not willing to push it up the hills.
Steve Evans made two changes from the side which beat Port Vale 4-0 in midweek, Jacob Mellis returned to the midfield for Anderson whilst in-form Kane Hemmings missed out through a calf strain, meaning a start for Omari Sterling-James.
The Stags started well and in the third minute, won a free kick as Rose was tripped by Hird, the ball deflected out to Hamilton who delivered a teasing cross, which former Lincoln Man Joe Anyon palmed out, the ball fell to Rhys Bennet who, with his back to goal, could only loft the ball high and over.
Two minutes later Sterling-James outpaced his man and drilled a right sided cross in for Rose who was whiskers away from connecting, Referee Andy Woolmer turned down appeals for a Stags spot-kick as MacDonald went to ground whilst Jacob Mellis also sawa grass cutter from range held by Anyon – all inside the opening 10 minutes.
Sterling-James and Mellis both tested the water before Chesterfield opened the scoring in the 14th minute, a move you could see finishing in a goal as Joe Rowley made a fine run to connect with a cross, cut onto his left foot and curl beyond Logan.
Two minutes from the restart Alex MacDonald saw a shot headed over by Binnom-Williams, before Sterling-James again picked out Rose – the Stags leading scorer unmarked and out-stretched at the far post from the right sided zipping-cross, but again couldn’t connect.
On 26 Minutes, Hayden White got into the hall of fame with his first goal of the season – levelling things up. Initially it was he who lost the ball on the half way line, but after somehow winning the ball back – a neat give and go saw White advance onto Sterling-James’ assist, sit Anyon on his back side and fire into the back of the net – which at that point, was nothing short of what Mansfield deserved.
The visitors had the chance to re-gain their lead on the stroke of half-time as Kellett lined one up from 20 yards, but saw his set play land wide of Logan’s post.
After the break, Mansfield had dropped off the boil and Chesterfield began to stamp their authority on the match – Kristian Dennis’ 25 yard effort rattled the bar on 48 minutes, before Logan had to get low to keep out Reed’s swirling effort on 53 minutes.
Five minutes later, the visitors were back in front as Dennis provided the assist in front of the visiting support – his lofted cross looped over Logan, allowing Kellett to nod the ball across the line as Stags loved all over the place.
Logan then had to deny Chesterfield a third as Dennis pounced on a loose ball and hammered a fierce shot towards goal on 65 minutes.
Mansfield introduced Alfie Potter, Jimmy Spencer and Will Atkinson to the action to try and relight the fire and were finally rewarded with two minutes to go, Atkinson picked out the tenacious MacDonald who, after a give and go with Sterling-James whipped in the cross, which Zander Diamond was first too, nodding home his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.
Four minutes of added time following during which the relatively quiet Rose vollied over as Stags tried to nick it, Alfie Potter also went on a wild run into the box, but fired over as the sides shared the spoils.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-2 Chesterfield
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom (Jimmy Spencer 72) – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 69) – CJ Hamilton (Alfie Potter 65)
Danny Rose – Omari Sterling-James
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Krystian Pearce, Paul Anderson, Claum Butcher
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 7,525 (1,646)
It’s the first fixture every single Mansfield Town fan looked for when the fixtures were released, and now after months of waiting – the big day has arrived, our rivals Chesterfield come to town.
For years the team who play in the shadow of the crooked spire have escaped the drop from league one by the skin of their teeth, denying us the opportunity for a showdown – but Agents Wilson and Caldwell finally delivered last season, as the enemy finished bottom of League One and fell through the drop.
This season agent Caldwell was discovered and sacked, but was doing such a wonderful job in guiding Chesterfield towards the likes of Braintree and Sutton in the divisions below! Since, one of their own Jack Lester has been poached from Forest’s youth set-up to, to be fair, spark a revival.
Lester knows the importance of a local derby, he will drill that 10000000000000% into his players, telling them that if they lose – their season will be over and they’ll lose the backing of the fans, who for a long while now have been getting frustrated as Chesterfield fall from grace.
Steve Evans and Paul Raynor have managed derby games, but non as fiery as Mansfield V Chesterfield – they have to be on it and understand the passion, the history, the hatred – this isn’t two bickering neighbours over a borrowed and not returned lawn mower this goes back decades, they need to understand that.
With extra fans packed into the One Call Stadium the atmosphere will be electric and tense – Mansfield must NOT start on the pitch how they have in recent games, because if they do and concede, the atmosphere will turn sour and the minority of blue dribbled across the North Stand will sense a third successive victory.
This is a match between two in form teams, the enemy are unbeaten in four, a run which includes three wins and one defeat in six – whilst the Stags are watertight, three consecutive clean sheets coupled with a four goal haul in midweek at Port Vale to boost the confidence.
We all have our reasons as to why tomorrow’s game and getting the bragging rights means so much, so much more than three points, so much more than another digit in the win column – but please, let’s let the battle unfold on the pitch, not off it.
There will be the odd few who have no intention whatsoever in watching football nor particularly care about the result – but the majority are there for a game of football, let’s be loud and passionate, but in the right way.
Calvin Andrew was the last hero for the Stags, writing his name into folk law – who will step up tomorrow, all we ask is 10000000000% commitment, basically a team of Jamie McGuire’s how we’d love him in that side tomorrow!
I want to see a team who throw themselves at everything, I want the Mansfield Town who are watertight, and please Hayden White, don’t go into silly challenge mode! I want a Mansfield Town who take no prisoners and who are clinical.
This time around it’s the Stags who are there to be shot at, the Stags who are there to be killed and taken down a peg or two – let’s not let that happen, remembering that there is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance, and that the latter, coupled with under estimation, will forever be our downfall.
Away from matters on the pitch on rivalry, in the 12th minute – no matter your alliance, applaud together in memory of a little girl who was taken too soon, and before the match, support us in putting one foot in front of the other – for a charity who support people who dream of being able to see the Derby Matches, but can’t because there life is in darkness, and also for a charity which supports people who have fading memory of them – donate here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/MTFCWalkers
Match day is creeping ever closer… Get out there, run your hearts out, bleed amber and blue, get three points and arise sir…. Insert name here.
Craig Priest writes…
What's that old saying about watching football, something about not fancying a cold and wet Tuesday night in Stoke and playing out dull 0-0 draws? Well what about midweek trips on the outskirts of Stoke? The Stags wrote their own saying on that one.... turn up, shine like Diamonds and win 4-0.
Alright so that doesn't quite roll off the tongue but who cares, what matters is one hell of a victory for Steve Evans and his players to snowball that momentum towards the play offs.
One saying that does ring true is ‘a game of two halves’ or a performance of two halves in truth. The first half, Port Vale came out fast, strong and quick, they practically suffocated Mansfield.
Yet a ‘Smash and Grab' from Zander Diamond provided a platform to build upon and with some zest and hunger- Mansfield made Port Vale pay. We have been so guilty of not being clinical and I 100% believe that had it stayed 1-0 we would have faced a battle for a point, it’s so refreshing to see us be ruthless.
The plaudits will always go towards to the attack but you have to stand up and applaud the defence, a third consecutive clean sheet is obviously a plus but can we take a moment to applaud Rhys Bennetts excellent first half challenge at 0-0. He is a pure diamond at the back, if that chance is put away – Port Vale have momentum and Mansfield capitulate ala Cheltenham.
Mansfield Town being controlled, disciplined and ruthless from back to front, that is how you climb tables and make progress. There is something about us at the moment that just clicks, we’re starting games slowly which is a concern but we are digging our heels in and stopping the flood, which then allows us to go up the other end and do the damage.
Port Vale, out of all the November fixtures, was the toughest for me and yet we’ve come out of it buzzing – no matter if its football or everyday life, doing well breeds confidence and that can only be a good thing if it is managed in the right way, which I think at the moment it is – on and off the pitch.
That’s in no small part due to having captain Zander Diamond back in the fold – Pearce is a good defender and a solid choice for a leader, but he’s not a vocal leader where as Diamond is, even over the bellowing cries of ‘YEEEEELLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWSSSS’ you could hear the Stags skipper talking his side through the game, even at 4-0 up when it would be so easy just to power down with the damage done, the skipper marshalled the troops onto a clean sheet.
Let's savour last night, but keep our heads now, and round off November with derby day win – there’s no place for arrogance or complacency.
Steve Evans made two changes from Saturday’s 1-0 win over Stevenage – Danny Rose was back from suspension so went straight in for Spencer, whilst Paul Anderson took the place of Mellis, moving MacDonald to the central midfield role where he performed so well at Coventry in the Stags’ last away trip.
The hosts enjoyed the early spells as Neil Aspin looked to continue his turn around after taking the reins at Vale, Mansfield stood firm to hack away a dangerous early free kick by David Worrall on two minutes, before seven minutes later a real opportunity opened up for Vale as Stags were flustered at the back – Anton Forrester got between Johnny Hunt & Rhys Bennett inside the box, but dragged wide of Logans post.
Mansfield were struggling with the wet and cut up pitch and couldn’t get a foot on the ball, but did win a corner on 19 minutes as Anderson’s cross towards Hemmings was headed behind – the resulting set-play saw Rose nod just wide, as Byrom swung in a dangerous ball.
Rhys Bennett then made the challenge of the game on 27 minutes as MacDonald lost his footing on the half way line to see Vale nip in and try and counter, Forrester cantered forward but from nowhere, Rhys Bennett showed excellent pace and tenacity to slide in and halt Vales charge.
A free kick for the hosts on 33 minutes saw Logan have to palm away Danny Pugh’s effort as the ball zipped across the floor, but with three minutes to go before half-time, Mansfield did a ‘Smash and Grab’ routine to open the scoring.
Danny Rose won the initial free kick on the half way line and a quick give from Byrom released White down the right hand side, his cross from deep nodded in by skipper Zander Diamond, after Anderson had nodded the ball into the mix.
Tom Pope then looked to burst into the area, but a tremendous burst of pace from Anderson saw the wing man get back and goal side of Pope, smashing the ball away as Mansfield threw on the ankers as the half time whistle blew.
After the break, Pope tested Logan with a teasing header but it would be Mansfield who well and truly sunk the Vale ship in Port, grabbing the second goal on 52 minutes as MacDonald delivered a pinpoint corner – skipper Zander Diamond peeling away from his man to hammer the ball home in front of the travelling support.
Two minutes later, Danny Rose scored another belter as Mansfield hit their third, credit must go to White for the directional pass, Rose holding off his marker well allowing the ball to run across to his left foot where he kept his footing, to fire beyond Boot in the Vale goal via the post, a wonderful strike on the half volley.
At the other end Paul Anderson made a goal line clearing header to protect the clean sheet on the hour, before three minutes later, the Stags made it four. Alex MacDonald this time made the assist with a splitting ball down the right hand side, Kane Hemmings was first too it and controlled well, keeping his footing to fire beneath Boot to seal a terrific second half attacking display from Mansfield Town.
A spell of resilient defending following from Stags with Logan, MacDonald and Anderson all on hand to keep the Vale at bay, with nine minutes to go – CJ Hamilton nearly made it five for the night, MacDonald and Hemmings combined before the latter played in Hamilton, who cut inside before curling wide of the Vale goal.
In the games final minute Logan produced a fine save from Pope as Mansfield protected the clean sheet and took home all three points to the bellowing sound of ‘YEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWSS’ – a tremendous scene as all the Stags squad and staff celebrated on the pitch infront of the travelling fans, the only ones left in the ground.
FULL TIME: Port Vale 0-4 Stags
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Paul Anderson – Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom (Will Atkinson 70) – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 77) – Kane Hemmings (Calum Butcher 86)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Krystian Pearce, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James
Referee: Trevor Kettle Assistants Joe Simpson, Nigel Smith Fourth Official Richard Bartlett
Attendance: 3,878 (537)
Mansfield Town are in good form – it could be better had we turned draws into wins, but with two league wins and two clean sheets on the spin in our last two matches, there’s no room for rest as we head for Port Vale tomorrow.
The Stags have games coming thick and fast, a fiery show down with Chesterfield and then a welcome return for two club icons in the cup, to name but two – Steve Evans men have a real chance to progress but have to remain focussed.
Port Vale on paper should be an easy game, after being relegated last season, they’ve hardly set league two alight – but since the appointment of Neil Aspin a month or so ago, they are starting to turn a corner.
Tom Pope is firing again and Vale are putting together some momentum of their own, so it will be a far harder game than many anticipate – the Port Vale legend Aspin and former FC Halifax boss has the club at heart and I think that goes a long way in getting a club out of murky water.
With the games coming quickly, it’s key to rotate legs – Danny Rose has served his suspension so will surely be back in, however following good performances from Hemmings and Spencer, Rose may have to settle for a place on the bench.
A big thing may be the difference in atmosphere, the last two matches in particular we’ve had a very vocal following but on a Tuesday night away from home, the numbers may be less – however it’s not like a trip to Barnet so as away games go, a vocal support may be on the cards after all.
On the pitch, let’s pick up where we left off and continue with the same control and determination we had on Saturday and we’ll be just fine – small steps, one game by one, and three points by three points – the rest, is just a bonus!
Craig Priest writes…
Another Sunday morning with blue skies and sunshine must mean another three points, as Stags beat Stevenage by a goal to nil – the only complaint Stags fans will have this morning is the fact the score-line didn’t reflect the match at all.
I read the Stevenage managers comments of ‘we deserved a draw’ – what game was he watching?! Besides the opening five minutes and the odd free kick, Conrad Logan was practically unemployed whilst Mansfield remained in control.
There were murmurs around me of frustration at 1-0 up that we were doing nothing with the ball – actually we were knocking it side to side, running Stevenage into the ground and allowing our back line to steadily push higher – in some games you don’t need rapid fire, you need concentration and control in possession. That’s exactly what Mansfield had yesterday and the important thing is – another three points and another clean sheet which builds momentum for two very tough fixtures over the next week in League Two.
Kane Hemmings did well yesterday to get into goal scoring areas and linked up well with Jimmy Spencer, who I thought showed why he was very highly rated at Plymouth – holding the ball up, making little runs to pull defenders out and create space, anyone thinking he’s going to score you goals need to look elsewhere although he was very unlucky to see one palmed away, he will however GET you goals.
Rhys Bennett was a huge part of why we kept another clean sheet, he was solid at left side centre back with Diamond – Pearce will find it difficult to get back in if the two continue to be as solid as they have been over the last few games, Bennett for me was man of the match – he was miles above Mellis performance wise, but sadly not everyone watches the pitch when watching football, they go with the ball and therefore don’t see the hard work of others.
Had the disallowed goal stood it may have looked more convincing but that will come, I want to watch the incident back again to be sure but my initial thought before all the drama was a foul on the keeper, however for the referee to give it and then overturn it is very strange – Evans however needs to be careful with his post-match comments.
Tuesday is a tough place to go, obviously minds will want to skip that and head straight for Saturday – especially given the atmosphere that’ll come with it, but whilst a journey taken through small steps and giant strides are the same – those who take tiny steps, appreciate the prize more and are less likely to be tripped along the way.
You can have that one Stags for your growing wall of quotes – some of which make no logical sense, but hey ho… isn’t it good when all I can rant about is quotes and not football!
Steve Evans made two changes to the side which beat Coventry last weekend, one enforced as Danny Rose served a one match ban after picking up his 5th booking of the season last weekend, Jimmy Spencer the man to replace him – whilst Paul Anderson made way for Mellis following his suspension last weekend – Pearce, who also served a one game ban, was on the bench.
The Stags started well with Jimmy Spencer winning a free kick inside the opening minute, Joel Byrom’s delivery was headed away but only as far as CJ Hamilton, who curled an effort into the arms of Stevenage Shot Stopper Joe Fryer.
At the other end Stevenage saw a rare flash of goal on three minutes as they applied pressure, Chris Whelpdale’s cross put the Stags under pressure with the dangerous Matt Godden hitting over on the half volley.
The Stags won a corner on 10 minutes which nearly saw Spencer open the scoring – MacDonald’s delivery found skipper Diamond at the far post – he nodded it across to the Stags front man who looped his header over from eight yards - five minutes later another corner for the Stags following a quick give and go between hunt and Hamilton down the left – saw MacDonald fizz one down Fryer’s throat – as the lively wing back tried a neat short corner with Byrom.
Danny Newton was lucky to avoid a straight red car for a very late challenge on Hunt on 16 minutes, two minutes later the stags were in once again, Spencer brought the ball down well and held play up before releasing MacDonald – the wing man had an effort deflect wide after a mazy run into the box.
Mansfield were then rewarded on 24 minutes in a moment the visiting keeper will want to forget – as Fryer came to collect a routine free kick from the half way line from Byron – the completely missed the ball and it dropped six yards out for Hemmings, who had the simple job of sweeping the ball home to open the scoring.
On the half hour it was nearly 2-0 as a training ground corner saw Mellis tare into space from the edge of the box – MacDonald rolling the ball hard and low into his feet – Stevenage scrambled to get a block on what looked a certain goal.
At the other end, Stevenage had a free kick on the edge of the Stags box following a foul by Byrom, despite the Stags not being awarded a free kick just seconds earlier for a carbon copy foul on Bennett – Joe Martin stepped up and beat the wall, and also the goal as the ball kept on rising.
Jimmy Spencer was then denied a goal as Mellis picked out Spencer, a neat spin on the edge of the box saw Spencer turn his man and fire left footed at Fryer who did well to beat the ball away with ten minutes of the first half remaining.
The Stags remained in control as the clock ticked down towards half time, and after the break showed no signs of taking their foot off of the gas, Spencer seeing a header palmed away by Fryer on 48, before Hunt nearly got lucky with a dipping effort from distance on the follow up – Fryer reacting well to push the ball over the bar.
On 57 the Stags had a second, at least that’s what they thought. Byrom again delivered a free kick and the keeper once again spilled the ball into the path of Hemmings who swept in his second of the afternoon, as both sets of players and the referee and lines man trotted back towards the half way line – the referee did an amazing u-turn, awarding Stevenage a free-kick and disallowing the goal. Was there a foul on the keeper? But if so, why take so long to over rule it.
Matt Godden sent an effort fizzing over for the visitors on 66 minutes, but the Stags remained in relative control – Zander Diamond heading over from a free kick on 72 minutes, Spencer smashing wide from a Mellis cross a minute later.
With eight minutes to go Alex MacDonald provided a nice cross for Hemmings, this time Hemmings unable to get a clean connection before in the final minute, a real chance to seal the game as CJ Hamilton showed lightening pace on the counter attack down the left hand side – he cut the ball across the box to substitute Will Atkinson, who somehow missed the target!
FULL TIME Stags 1-0 Stevenage
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 85) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings (Calum Butcher 90+3) – Jimmy Spencer (Omari Sterling-James 81)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Krystian Pearce, Paul Anderson, Alfie Potter
Attendance: 3,353 (141)
Referee: Tom Neild Assistants Michael D’Aguilar, Michael Denton Fourth Official Robert Merchant
After such a well-earned victory at Coventry last weekend, the Stags return home to the One Call Stadium to face Stevenage tomorrow – in a game for my money, they must show the same endeavour and determination in.
Looking through our results thus far it’s fair to say Steve Evans’ side have been guilty of turning up for the bigger more appealing matches, your Lincolns, Luton’s, Coventry’s and Notts County’s – but have failed to have the same appetite against your Cheltenham’s, Barnet’s and Colchester’s.
After one year in charge Evans has overhauled the squad and made a lot of changes to life behind the scenes, now is the time to show the desire to take the club to another level on the pitch – and the way to do that is by keeping our focus against a side who are bobbing along quietly in mid-table in Stevenage.
It’s a good time to show too that we are not a one man team – we we’re guilty of that when Matt Green was the leading front man, and in my opinion clung onto that for far too many seasons – we need to avoid that with Danny Rose, as much of a talent he is, we do not need to be putting that weight on his shoulders.
With Lee Angol not quite fit, the only choices really are Sterling-James and Spencer, the latter has got goals in his game and can be a key player for us, whilst the former came to us with a good goal scoring record – but has yet to show it, or have the chance too – perhaps tomorrow could be that opportunity he’s been waiting for.
Krystian Pearce and Jacob Mellis are back from suspension and could come straight back into the fold, both having played 90 minutes in the reserves 2-0 win over Notts County in midweek, if I were Evans I would be tempted to play MacDonald further forward and accommodate Mellis in the middle – even though Bennett is a tremendous centre back, Pearce you’d think would get straight back into the side alongside skipper Diamond.
Stevenage shouldn’t be under estimated – they’re a side who like to get balls into the box and are often first to feed on the scraps, they were very unfortunate to not beat Notts County recently, and when they find their stride, can really punish you with creative players such as Ben Kennedy in the side.
Mansfield did the hard work at Coventry – they now have to come out and match that once more and build some real momentum ahead of a tough few weeks – Port Vale isn’t an easy place to go on Tuesday, then you’ve the big one next weekend following by a cup double. Games and points availability are coming thick and fast, we’ve the squad to manage that, collecting as many points as possible – let’s get out there and do it!
Craig Priest writes....
On the seventh day, it’s always a wonderful feeling to wake up, draw back the curtains and see a clear blue sky. What makes it better is knowing that, on the previous day, your beloved football team grabbed what many said would be an unlikely victory.
Well as I drew back the curtains this morning to see blue-sky on the seventh day, I couldn’t help but raise a wry smile at the irony that our number seven had broken down the sky blues barrier to send the doubters to Coventry as the Stags beat the aforementioned by a goal to nil.
For those who don’t get the phrase ‘Send them to Coventry’ basically to send someone to Coventry is an English idiom meaning to deliberately ostracise someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist. Victims are treated as though they are completely invisible and inaudible – aka SILENCED!
Heading into the game we knew Coventry had the best defence in League Two, if not the football league in its entirety and that they would come at us early and fast. We we’re up against a storm and given how our predicted start of winning the league had seemingly disappeared, many predicted that bang-average Mansfield would be sent home from Coventry with no coal to show for it.
Alex MacDonald’s 84th minute sensational strike however put pay to that, in what was a commanding and disciplined [bar Hayden ‘Chopper’ white] display from start to finish – giving us three deserved points and another pivotal clean sheet with a central defensive pairing that hadn’t played together in a competitive match.
Conrad Logan was in fine form once again and thoroughly deserved his fourth clean sheet of the season whilst I thought Alex MacDonald, the ultimate hero, was tremendous in a central midfield role – filling in for the suspended Jacob Mellis.
A tremendous vocal backing from the Stags fans, just shy of 1,600, gave Mansfield the edge on the pitch as whilst the Ricoh Arena is a lovely stadium – in league two it’s empty and soulless, if you can come and pack out a stand – the players can take one look at that and it lifts them and they’ll dig in a little harder to deliver the rewards.
What really won the game however was the substitution of Will Atkinson for Paul Anderson on 82 minutes, Atkinson moved central meaning MacDonald moved wide – but his markers didn’t go with him and allowed him that extra pocket of space around him – which he exploited expertly, what is it they say? Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
The only negative to the match is the booking of Danny Rose, meaning our leading scorer will be suspended for next Saturday’s face off with Stevenage who are enduring an indifferent season – unbeaten in three games in all competitions, but in League Two, are without a win in three and have won just once in their last six league games – it’s games like that, especially at home, where you need your top scorer really – but like yesterday, when key players are missing through suspension (Pearce and Mellis) it’s an opportunity for others to step up.
As a whole, I’ve no complaints with yesterday, we we’re patient enough to break down the league’s toughest backline and at the other end, remained focussed and got the job done – some critics may question the fact that we’re not taking that many chances – but play them MacDondalds goal, remind them that points mean momentum and ultimately – send them to bleeding Coventry!
Steve Evans made three changes to the side which beat Shaw Lane live in front of the nation last week, two enforced – as vice captain Krystian Pearce and Jacob Mellis both picked up their fifth yellow card of the season, meaning a one match ban. Rhys Bennett and Hayden White replaced the suspended duo, White to right back pushing Anderson to right midfield with Bennett at his more natural centre half position – Mal Benning also lost his place to Johnny Hunt.
After a minutes silence the Stags got the game underway and were quickly defending, as Liam Kelly clipped in Stags summer target Marc McNulty but Conrad Logan was quick to pounce – Rhys Bennett also hacked away an early corner from the hosts before on six minutes, captain Diamond slid in well on McNulty as Jodi Jones tried to unlock the Stags.
Conrad Logan then pulled off a fine save from point blank range on ten minutes as Jordan Ponticelli found space in the Stags box, fortunately as the ball cannoned back into the home front man’s feet, he fired wide, before a minute later – Logan tipped one over from McNulty…. And got awarded a goal kick!
The Stags had a sight of goal themselves on 16 minutes as Danny Rose looked to find Hemmings, the on loan Oxford man swung his left boot at the ball and was unfortunate not to see the ball find the net – firing narrowly wide of Lee Burge’s goal.
Two minutes Burge pulled off a fine stop after Alex MacDonald’s free kick cannoned back to the feet of Byrom, his volley towards goal deflected off Hamilton towards goal, Burge sprang well to palm the ball away.
The Stags then had two chances in as many minutes, Paul Anderson fired down the throat of Burge on 21 minutes after scintillating footwork from Hamilton on the left – before Danny Rose kept his balance inside the area and curled a left footed effort beyond Burge – denied his 11th of the season by the woodwork.
Joel Byrom put the Stags in trouble on 27 minutes as his back header to Logan fell short – McNulty nipped in but couldn’t break the deadlock as Logan made himself big, dived to his left to palm the ball away – unleashing a volley of expletives towards Byrom as Hunt swept the ball to safety.
Hayden White was then a lucky man to stay on the pitch on 42 minutes as he wiped out former Stag loanee Peter Vincenti with a two footed challenge which got nothing of the ball – a ridiculous challenge that he didn’t need to make.
After the break, the Stags started brightly and CJ Hamilton turned on the rockets to romp down the left hand side to chase a directional pass in the 50th minute, he beat his marker with ease and flashed a cross across the face of goal, all it needed was a boot but the ball was so fast – nobody got near it!
Two minutes later it was Alex MacDonald, who thanks to a slight tactical tweak had been given more of a free role, who caused havoc – free flowing football saw MacDonald drive into space before curling an effort narrowly over.
Byrom then made up for his first half error with a well-timed challenge on 58 minutes to stop Michael Doyle driving into the Stags box – Danny Rose then went to ground at the other end on 64 minutes but the referee judge the incident to be a dive, Rose collecting his 5th yellow of the season thus far and will now miss next weekend’s match.
A Coventry corner with ten minutes to go saw Kane Hemmings head a goal bound ball off the line as the hosts put on the pressure, but rather than implode – the Stags rallied and pushed forward, Paul Anderson being replaced by Will Atkinson on 83 minutes moved MacDonald wide and just a minute later – with nobody picking up the wide man, Danny Rose cushioned a ball into his path some 30 yards or more from goal – MacDoanld set himself and drilled beyond Burge to send the Stags fans into raptures as he opened the scoring – breaking the divisions toughest defence.
The Stags weren’t content with one and in the final minute of the 90, Rose outmuscled Ryan Haynes squared the ball for Kane Hemmings who was denied by Burge – straight at the other end, Logan made another fine stop to deny Ponticelli one vs one.
Into five minutes of additional time and Mansfield were then denied a clear cut spot kick – Calum Butcher, who replaced rose just moments earlier, burst forwards and fed Hemmings who was floored by the challenge of Citys Rod McDonald - the referee waved away the protests, booking Hemmings for descent.
With the final kick of the game, Conrad Logan proved to be the hero – a free kick was awarded to the hosts right on the edge of the box – Jodi Jones fired under the 165935241876241689 man wall…. But Logan shifted himself across well and clung on to the ball, destined for the bottom corner - smashing the ball into the abyss to the sound of the full time whistle.
FULL TIME: Coventry City 0-1 Stags
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Paul Anderson (Will Atkinson 83) – Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Calum Butcher 90+2) – Kane Hemmings (Paul Digby 90+4)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Jimmy Spencer, Alfie Potter, Omari Sterling-James
Attendance: 8,410 (1,565)
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley Assistants Natalie Aspinall, Marc Wilson Fourth Official Christopher Sarginson
With the distraction of the FA Cup behind us and the lorry load of banana skins avoided – the Stags attention turns back to Sky Bet League Two and the tricky trip to Coventry City, a game for which the need to adapt and prepare for battle.
Having played on a very bobbly and narrow pitch last weekend at a ground open to the elements with hollow shipping containers for dressing rooms, the Stags make the trip to the polar opposite in Coventry’s Ricoh Arena – a venue with over a 32,000 capacity.
Mansfield must be prepared for a wide, big pitch – with varying atmosphere – however with over 1,600 Stags fans making the trip, the vocal backing of the yellow and blue army will only help to encourage.
Coventry are a difficult side to break down, despite a poor home record – they are very difficult to break down, and having conceded just eight all season have the divisions best back line.
Mansfield’s patience isn’t great but if they can stay fairly solid themselves and show the same determination as they did at shaw lane, calling upon the creativity of Joel Byrom, they could well put a blot on Coventry’s defensive record.
The sky blues who fell from league one last term have, like us, a very big squad with a lot of talented players – it will be one of the most evenly matched contests I believe that City have faced thus far – however Mansfield will have to adapt quickly, with both towering defender and vice captain Krystian Pearce AND creative midfielder Jacob Mellis suspended following five bookings.
Steve Evans is also without front man Lee Angol and defender David Mirfin, both injured, meaning the back-line especially could be a bit of a gamble. Paul Digby is the natural choice for me to play alongside Zander Diamond at centre-back – he’s tall and commanding and has the edge of the impressive Rhys Bennett as he’s paired Diamond in a competitive match [Vs Everton U23s in the Checkatrade Trophy].
Coventry, like Mansfield, are backed by many for promotion this season and following our ‘false start’ we really need to send a message to the rest of league two that we are serious contenders and not in the mix by virtue of Steve Evans’ promotions record.
Beating Coventry is the perfect way to do that and set ourselves off on a run which can help us climb, hopefully by turning draws into wins – it’s a tough place to travel for sure, but with backing from the Stags faithful in big numbers, it’s a challenge that must be risen too and three bags of Coventry coal that must be collected!
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Craig Priest writes…
In the surroundings of Yorkshire, the biting November wind mixed with the blinding winter Sun made for a strange setting for Mansfield Town FC – as an afternoon’s cup drama nearly played out in the predicable ‘David beats Goliath’ manner, which the FA Cup is designed for… that was until Barnsley born and Barnsley based Danny Rose stepped forward with a BAFTA worthy performance, to break the hearts of his own people. Now THAT is drama.
As supporters arrived at Sheerian Park and crammed into the car park, stories emerged of how the catering van – intended for inside the ground, had got stuck in the mud! It was a chilling reminder if where Mansfield once were, as five or six seasons ago – visiting grounds such as Sheerian Park was part of the story every week.
That’s no disrespect whatsoever to Shaw Lane who played their part tremendously in a day I’m sure they won’t forget in a while – but as I watched supporters walked down the muddy path to the away end where a temporary stand had been put up specially, the memories kept flooding back and I couldn’t help but worry what would happen if our attention slipped and focus faltered.
At the half time whistle, my fears were confirmed – despite a very well worked opening goal from Pearce, a mixture of sloppiness and sheer determination from Shaw Lane had pulled them level and had it not been for a tremendous last ditch challenge from Danny Rose, the hero of the day, Football League Mansfield would have been losing to Non-League Shaw Lane… and rightly so.
In the first half, and probably until Roses’ header in the second to be fair, Mansfield were the worst team – they didn’t look up for the fight and had no idea how to play the pitch, which had more diverts than a field infested with randy moles (which is non-league, it’s not a criticism, the One Call Stadium pitch was the same but a few seasons previous).
Fancy touches and finesse passing wasn’t going to work until the legs were tired, and running on adrenaline Shaw Lane were going to battle for as long as they could, even with each other! They had players with vast experience and in front of the nation were not going to roll over – something I think the Stags half expected them too.
To Mansfield’s credit, they woke themselves up at half-time – Evans’ voice no doubt bellowing around the hollow container dressing rooms ten times louder than normal, but still didn’t find it easy – the penalty miss, a poor hit well read by the keeper, was very nearly the final nail in the coffin.
For once, the heads didn’t drop which – had that happened in a league fixture, they would have done and we’d be well beaten as a consequence! Danny Roses’ brace was a finishing master class – everything from the anticipation of the movement around him to the athleticism and execution was a joy to be hold, and as he made way off the pitch late on, his white kit drenched in mud and the standing ovation painted a picture of a hero, and in dramas such as yesterday – heroes win BAFTAS.
As always the bigger picture comes into play now, that’s now six games unbeaten in all competitions with three wins, two of which are back to back – momentum for Saturday’s trip to Coventry where once more the surroundings will be very different.
I wish Shaw Lane all the best with their future, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever with this – yesterday was a stark reminder of how far Mansfield have come and the battles we’ve faced, I’ve no desire to see us return to that place – it’s time to kick on and climb.
Skipper Zander Diamond was the only survivor from Tuesday’s checkatrade victory over Everton U23s, he replaced Rhys Bennett as Evans switched back to the side which drew with Exeter a week ago.
The hosts started brightly in the opening minute as the cup fever set in, Nicky Walker tried to slot in the home front pair but Conrad Logan was on the ball like a duck to water, and it was soon the Stags who knocked on the door.
Mal Benning swung in a third minute cross from the left but saw Jon Stewart claim the ball high, a minute later – tricky from Mellis opened up some space – his effort from just inside the box, bravely blocked by home skipper Ryan Qualter, before Alex MacDonald and Mellis again had pop shots, which the ducks scrambled cleared. Rose also was unlucky not to grab a goal, after Kane Hemmings’ effort was palmed up into the air by Stewart, Rose steamed in and connected but saw the ball hit the post and go out of play.
A tremendous burst of pace from Rose to tackle the advancing full back Ryan Serrant stopped the hosts from opening up the Stags – Conrad Logan also had to get down low to a poked cross from the attacking left back on 25 minutes.
Eight minutes later, the Stags worked one straight from the training ground as Byrom was tripped by David Norris – the hosts claimed it wasn’t a free kick, and having watched the game back since – thyey may have a claim, although a foul on Rose a split second before the one on Byrom, just about balances things out.
Byrom stood over the free kick and as Macdonald pulled away into space, Byrom clipped the ball into his path – after setting himself, Macdonald delivered into the mix – the ball deflecting straight into Pearce’s path who struck cleanly on the half volley into the bottom corner to put Mansfield ahead.
The Stags lead was then taken away from then with four minutes to go before the break as they didn’t deal with a scramble inside the box – a blocked effort from Lee Bennett saw the ball fall kindly for him and at the second attempt – drilled low and hard beyond Logan to silence the Stags supporters packed behind the goal and give Shaw Lane, their moment in the spotlight.
The hosts should have been ahead on the stroke of half time, as fuelled by their goal, they came forward again – this time a left sided ball into the box wasn’t dealt with and Nicky Walker turned an effort against the post – before Danny Rose, from nowhere steamed in to challenge the Shaw Lane man who had the goal at his mercy – Roses’ tackle saved the game for the Stags at a critical moment.
After the restart with the Stags attacking towards their own supporters, Jon Stewart was on hand to thwart CJ Hamilton who attempted to lift the ball over him, at the other end ex Alfreton man Paul Clayton was fouled by Pearce – the resulting free kick on 51 minutes curled over the bar by Alex Byrne.
On 64 minutes after knocking on the door, the Ducks were sent Quackers (Sorry!) as Jacob Mellis twisted his way through and was fouled inside the box. The tricky midfielder who scored the Stags last spot kick after a frustrating run of misses from Rose, Spencer and Hemmings, stepped up.
However the story of the FA Cup should make it obvious to what happened next, as Mellis saw his spot kick saved by the towering figure of Stewart in the Ducks goal – a good height for him to be fair but a good solid save.
Zander Diamond nodded over Alex MacDonald’s resulting corner as the tension rose.
The battle continued as the Stags came forward but failed to find a way through, until Danny Rose netted a sublime header on 73 minutes to put Mansfield ahead. Rose’s movement was a pleasure to watch, spinning away from his marker as the cross swung in from the left.
On 77 Rose nearly added his second but hit the ball into the side netting, not that he’d have to wait much longer as just seconds later – Rose pulled off the finish of the round who started and finished the move.
Rose on the edge of the box swept the ball to Mellis and made his run – in the meantime, Mellis swept the ball wide right to MacDonald whose first time cross hung beautifully in the air for Rose, who at the far post hit a sweet volley almost with his back to goal into the back of the net. You’ll struggle to see a better piece of movement all season.
With five minutes to go, Jimmy spencer who replaced Rose just two minutes earlier, should have sealed the win – MacDonald again the man to create as he pulled the ball back across the box – spencer wrong footed got it all wrong.
The Stags then held on with good possession football through five minutes of added time, to kill the dreams of Shaw Lane and make it into round two.
FULL TIME: Shaw Lane 1-3 Stags
Paul Anderson – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Paul Digby 90+5) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 82) – Kane Hemmings (Will Atkinson 90+2)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Rhys Bennett, Alfie Potter, Omari sterling-James
Attendance: 1,576 (560)
Referee: Ben Toner Assistants: Steven Rushton, Richard Ward
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