Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Mansfield Town FC V Slough Town FC
Competition: The FA Cup, Sponsored by Budweiser, First Round
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 3rd November 202 – 3pm
Match Referee: Jumpei Iida (Japan)
Attendance: 1686 (250)
The FA Cup is notorious for creating memorable matches, for Mansfield Town however yesterday’s game against Slough will be one they will be eager to forget. For weeks results have been inconsistent at best with supporters calling for the manager’s head after football which has been frustrating to watch. In the midweek fans forum Captain, assistant and now youth team boss Adam Murray admitted the boys have failed to find a pass and that after the Dartford game there was a dressing room bust up – yesterday I personally don’t think you can be angered – there were passes, movement, attacking opportunities, 99% defensive sturdiness and team cohesion, we did everything right but score.
Our open play was like a multi-firing firework, all the pretty colours and all the noise – our finishing on the other hand was like an unlightable sparkler brought from the back of Del Trotters three wheeled van: Frustrating.
Does this mean Cox should be sacked? Not in the slightest, he’s put out a team that have done everything they’ve been asked to do bar put the ball in the back of the net, in my opinion we’ve come out of that shy bubble and have dictated a good 80% of the play – the only negative is the fact we still aren’t ruthless enough to kill teams off. I often speak about arrogance and guarding against it, well I believe there’s a line – yesterday we went in the opposite direction attack wise – we were far too nice! I think at one point I was about to jump onto the pitch and have a shot myself, nobody else seemed to want too.
Heading into Tuesday’s game for Nuneaton I pray Cox fields the same team, maybe introducing Speight for Green who, let’s be honest, is only a quarter of the player he was last year – you can tell Ross Dyers missing. Of the seven changes I was impressed with everyone of them, especially Lee Beevers, Chris Clements and Ben Hutchinson – why the latter was taken off for Wright and not Green is beyond me though. The bigger for me see’s a vastly improved display and again a platform to build upon – let’s break this frustratingly strong barrier at Nuneaton and ride the waves as undoubtedly the flood gates open.
Slough, to their credit, deserve applause for keeping Stags at bay, going to their place will not be easy, we have two league games prior to that to concentrate on though – once there out of the way we can concentrate on banking that £18K and travelling to either Lincoln City or Walsall in Round Two – a winnable tie.
Following last Friday nights defeat at Dartford Paul Cox again rang the changes as seven fresh faces came in. Shane Redmond returned between the sticks for Liam Mitchell who wasn’t allowed permission to play from Notts County, Ben Hutchinson replaced Jake Speight in attack as the latter began his one game suspension – these the only enforced changes. Elsewhere Ryan Tafazolli, Andy Todd, Gary Roberts, Junior Daniel and Matt Rhead missed out in favour of Ritchie Sutton, Lee Beevers, Chris Clements, Louis Briscoe and Lindon Meikle, Stags dropping the 3-4-1-2 in favour of an attack minded 4-2-1-3.
Line Up: Shane Redmond, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster (C), Exodus Geohaghon, Lee Beevers, Chris Clements, Anthony Howell, Ben Hutchinson, Louis Briscoe, Matt Green, Lindon Meikle.
Substitutes: John Thompson, Nick Wright, Matt Rhead, Gary Roberts, Andy Todd, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel.
With the thought of a cup upset and the matching adrenaline running through their veins, naturally it was Slough who started brightly however Shane Redmond was equally to Stuart Swift’s early cross.
Louis Briscoe who was on target for the reserves midweek came close to a freak opener on nine minutes when his right wing cross threaten to creep underneath the bar, James Warrington clung on in the Slough goal. Three minutes later flowing football between Lindon Meikle and Matt Green created an opening for Lee Beevers, the former Walsall man’s cross found Green in an offside position.
Slough rarely ventured into Stags territory as the hosts’ dominated, a 14th minute free kick floating away for a goal kick was about as good as it got as Mansfield came agonisingly close to an opener. On 19 minutes Matt Green looked his old self as he showed tremendous pace to latch onto Suttons long range pass, beating the keeper to the right of the area Green crossed into the middle where Hutchinson miss kicked his effort into the path of Meikle. The England C man managed to get a shot away only to be superbly blocked by the back tracking defender a yard from goal.
Moments later another long range pass, this time from the instrumental Chris Clements, put Howell free inside the area. The defensive midfielders’ effort was thunderously blocked by a crowd of Green shirts before Matt Green’s follow up was again blocked by the visiting defence.
Howell was certainly enjoying an attack minded spell and on 23 minutes went on a one man mission to get the opening goal, charging through the midfield before being halted by Nathan Bowden-Haase – Hutchinson was on hand to pick up the second ball but was in possession for milliseconds before the Slough defender went through him. Chris Clements hit the resulting free kick against the wall before spurning the deflected follow up effort wide.
A succession of Stags corners on 26 minutes saw Geohaghon and Howell caused the Rebels trouble, however they survived and saw a rare sight of goal themselves seven minutes later. David Deeney was the creator in the centre of the park sending a crisp pass forward, Exodus Geohaghon miss timed his clearance and missed the ball completely, thus allowing Ed Smith into the area. A Policeman by day, Smith this time was found guilty of missing a golden chance, Shane Redmond demonstrating how good a goal keeper he actually is with a fine finger tip save.
The first half then fizzled out with a number of Geohaghon throws failing to spark any real chance, the half time score goalless much for the want of Stags trying.
HALF TIME: Stags 0-0 Slough
After the break Mansfield stepped up a gear in their efforts to grab an opener, a dominant surge from Hutchinson on 47 saw Alex Brown get booked for deliberate handball on the edge of the box. This time it was Hutchinson rather than Clements to step up, the front man fired over but not by much.
Two minutes later Hutchinson was again involved interchanging with intricate ouches to Louis Briscoe, the Stags wide man showing speed and strength to get into the box, however the left footed finish was less impressive as he fired over from ten yards.
Mansfield finally beat the keeper on 56 minutes as Clements drove down the right hand side, clipping back into the box left footed Lindon Meikle rose at the far post only to be denied by the cross bar. The Stags then forced four corners in two minutes but failed to do anything with them.
Ben Hutchinson was then withdrawn on 65 minutes in favour of Nick Wright with the Stags switching to 4-4-2, six minutes later Matt Green nodded agonisingly over after the keeper had flapped at a Clements corner.
Troubled then brewed for Mansfield on 75 minutes as John Dempster failed to get enough power on a header back to Shane Redmond who’d come out of his area to support the Stags skipper. The Irish shot stopper threw himself into an excellent challenge to avert the danger, Geohaghon and Briscoe then mopped up the mess. The duo sparked a Stags attack too with Big Ex launching a long pass down the right challenge to Green, the lively front man squaring the ball but finding nobody much to the agony, dismay and annoyance of the crowd.
Six minutes later with nobody having a shot, Ritchie Sutton took it on himself to shoot, getting booed as he shot over from the edge of the box – the subsequent abuse is totally wrong at least he ago when nobody else would. A minute later Chris Clements saw his deep free kick headed away into the path of Meikle, once more he was blocked as Slough’s determined defence stood strong.
With four minutes of time added on it was all Mansfield as they looked to avoid a replay, numerous corners and Exodus throws were all wasted – Nick Wright getting the last chance of the game driving forward after an excellent tackle from Clements in midfield, James Warrington the hero as he palmed away Wright’s goal bound effort to earn Slough a replay a week on Tuesday and the opportunity to net another £18K and set up an away trip to either Lincoln City or Walsall.
FULL TIME: Stags 0-0 Slough << Audio Highlights
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