Craig Priest writes….
Approaching a local derby with a manager at the helm who was yet to win a game of football, coupled with the fact that our rivals were rock bottom of the football league in desperate need of victory to mount a survival bid – it’s fair to say that yesterday could have gone very badly indeed in the eyes of a Mansfield Town supporter.
Alas no, Mal Benning had other ideas and not only wrote himself into folk law with his second half goal and knee slide, but also etched his name onto our hearts with the comment post-match we needed to hear after weeks of agonisingly watching our heroes capitulate “I don’t know how I’m feeling at the moment, I don’t know what to think – but first of all – that’s for the fans” Yes Mal, we know what you mean my friend, and from us all – thank you!
Over recent week we have all questioned the Stags players commitment to the cause and just last weekend, I sat at this very desk not knowing how to write my feelings after we fell apart without a care in the world at home to Crewe, but yesterday they put their bodies on the line and didn’t stop until the final whistle was long gone – boy did we need that.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t as comfortable as it should have been, the strange over-turn of the Chesterfield red card added to the anguish as had the free kick gone our way, the final second would have played out in front of us – miles from our goal! What matters most is the victory and what psychologically that can do to the players going into three massive games.
The victory coupled with results elsewhere has put us back into the play-offs but only just – Lincoln are breathing down our necks and, thanks to their Checkatrade Trophy exploits, have two games in hand. In my personal view, they have momentum on their side where as we are once again the target to be shot at.
Of the teams below us, I’ll never discount the maths but I think some strange goings on would be needed for Cambridge or Newport to sneak in with their games in hand whilst Carlise, I don’t think they have enough about them to do it. Which then makes it between us, Lincoln and Swindon for the final play-off place – add in Coventry if we want to aim for 6th – but for me, 7th will do – let’s just get in there and see what happens.
Can we do it? My heart will always say YES, my head says no – I’m useless at following either so let’s just let the drama play-out!
One thing I want to credit from ON the pitch yesterday is the fact the players finally tried to play Flitcrofts way a little more and that reflected in the goal – get us out to the half-way line and then play, pass and move, drag defenders out with you if you can and exploit the gaps which we did to devastating effect.
I’d have liked us to defend a little higher and take some of the pressure off; sometimes I do think we’re the masters of our own downfall, but we stood firm enough to get the job done and lifted a massive weight off of our shoulders and helped the sun to peak through the clouds, and in doing so put a nail into the coffin of our rivals – a decade after the revelled in joy at our own demise, whose laughing now eh?! Cheers Mal!
Skipper Zander Diamond returned to the line-up in the place of Rhys Bennett whilst Mal Benning returned from suspension to replace Johnny Hunt – Alfie Potter also got a start in place of CJ Hamilton on the left hand side, whilst completing the four changes from Stevenage, Jacob Mellis replaced Joel Byrom.
Backed by a loud vocal support, it was the Stags who nearly struck first as Alfie Potter found a way through to latch onto a rebounding ball after a parry from Ramsdale in the home goal, Potter shot though was always rising – Kane Hemmings also dragged one wide during the opening exchanges with the Stags in control.
The pendulum swung in the hosts favour as Logan had to be alert to a cross, he also watched on as Jacob Brown fizzed an effort wide, before at the other end Danny Rose saw an effort palmed away by Ramsdale as the game hit the twenty minute mark.
Seven minutes later Logan was the hero as Chesterfield came on the charge, he then had Potter to thank as he slid away to prevent Zavon Hines from turning home the rebound.
Rhys Bennett replaced the injured Hayden White on 32 minutes before Logan was again on hand to rescue the Stags three minutes later – diving through a sea of bodies to claim the ball.
After the break the Stags had the better start with a freekick which just evaded the head of Zander Diamond, Danny Rose was also unlucky to not connect with Hemmings’ cross on 57 minutes, just after CJ Hamilton had been introduced for Mellis, with MacDonald going back into the middle and Potter switching to the right.
Hamilton was the pace the Stags needed to stretch the hosts and it nearly paid off on 62 as he romped down the left hand side, his cut back to heavy and quick for anyone to convert as the Stags looked to break the deadlock.
Four minutes later a hero was born and a left back knighted as fluent play saw Mal Benning able to drive into box and hit one, his effort zipped beneath the keeper and into the bottom corner to give the Stags the lead they deserved.
On 70 minutes Danny Rose squandered the chance to make it two-nil as his effort cannoned off a blue shirt, four minutes later it was Potter who weaved his way through – again a blue shirt made the block to deny a second goal of the afternoon for the Stags.
Hearts were in mouths on 79 minutes as Kristian Dennis poked an effort through the crowd, fortunately it landed wide of Logan’s post – Jak McCourt hit a volley 10 minutes later as the hosts went in search of a goal to pull the match level – the referee bringing the game to a close after overturning his own decision to send off Louis Reed for hacking down Rose – the Stags stood firm as Chesterfield pumped forward the resulting free-kick for offside against Rose, the away end erupting to the sound of the full time whistle as FINALLY, David Flitcroft sealed his first win, as Mansfield Town manager.
FULL TIME: Chesterfield 0-1 Stags
Hayden white (Rhys Bennett 32) – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Sir Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Will Atkinson – Jacob Mellis (CJ Hamilton 53) – Alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Adam King 85)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Lee Angol, Johnny Hunt, Joel Byrom
Referee: Darren Drysdale Assistants Marvyn Amphlett, Kevin Mulraine Fourth Official Nick Greenhalgh
Attendance: 7,967 (2,617)
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