Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write...
Fixture: Luton Town Vs Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #36
Venue: Kenilworth Road
Date & Time: Saturday 23rd February 2013 – 3.00pm
Match Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset)
Attendance: 5,968 (410)
The number seven shirt must hold some sort of magical power for a Stags player at Luton, especially when it comes to last minute winners. Ok so Louis Briscoe’s goal in 2011 may well have been an equaliser but it still won the tie for Stags on aggregate – yesterday the man who took the infamous number seven shirt at the start of the season from Briscoe, Lindon Meikle, came from the bench to grab the Stags winner in what was a tense game and a brave performance from Paul Cox’s players.
Not only did Stags soak up everything Luton threw at them individual’s also put their bodies on the line for the cause – Lee Beevers for instance put in a man of the match display despite dislocating his shoulder mid way through the first half. The former Walsall and Lincoln man was in clear pain and needed oxygen from the paramedics as physio Simon Murphy popped the shoulder back in to its socket. The decision to continue was certainly a brave one but once more it highlights the character within our dressing room to succeed – we take our metaphorical hats off to the Stags right back who didn’t let the injury phase him as he continued to keep the Luton wingers quiet.
Luton are always a team that will always cause you problems, even without a Manager –the every hostile atmosphere always adds to the spice of the game and once more yesterday the travelling fans made sure they made themselves heard. It wasn’t just Beevers injury that Stags had to contend with as roughly 15 minutes before kick-off Paul Cox was dealt a blow as Anthony Howell’s training ground injury picked up on Thursday couldn’t be shaken off. Naturally that meant the constant team selection which had held Stags in fluent and confident form had to be altered.
Victory yesterday saw a Mansfield side collect their first win at Kenilworth Road since 2002, in collecting all the three points, Stags stretched their impressive run to seven wins from the last eight and again tighten the point’s gap on both the play-offs and the much sort after title. With Grimsby and Wrexham both reaching the FA Trophy final they have an added distraction and may well be tempted to rest legs when the big day approaches, hopefully this may work in Stags favour should league results stumble for the aforementioned sides as they set their sights on trophy glory.
The original team sheet saw Stags again unchanged however the pre-match injury to Howell saw a late re-think as Chris Clements came into the midfield to partner Adam Murray – striker Ben Hutchinson filled the vacant space on the bench.
LINE-UP [4-2-3-1]: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, James Jennings, Adam Murray (C), Chris Clements, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel, Matt Green
SUBS: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Nick Wright, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson
A teasing Louis Briscoe cross had Luton scrambling early on as the Stags won an early corner however James Jennings’ delivery failed to really test the Luton defence. On eight minutes Luton thought they had the lead as debutant Wayne Thomas headed Ronnie Henry’s deep free kick past Alan Marriott, Mansfield’s saving grace arrived as the referee blew for a foul by Thomas on Luke Jones.
Seconds later at the other end Matt Green and Lee Stevenson interchanged down the right hand side, a well timed tackle from Wayne Thomas earn Stags another corner which Luke Jones headed into the hands of Tyler.
Usually games between these two sides are full of chances however this encounter failed to match up with recent meetings, Luton dragged a team effort wide on 19 minutes through Jonathan Smith, Louis Briscoe dragged an effort wide at the other end two minutes later following good work between Stevenson and Clements.
Moments later Stags saw a penalty claim turned down when Matt Green was bundled over by Steve McNulty however on the half hour mark they were awarded a spot kick as Wayne Thomas tripped Junior Daniel – Matt Green drove the penalty underneath Tyler to open the scoring.
More than two minutes later play was stopped as Lee Beevers pulled up injured on the half-way line, the referee initially allowed play to go on before the ball went out of play for a Luton throw. Beevers received lengthy treatment on the pitch to what was clearly a dislocated shoulder and eventually had it put back in position by physio Simon Murphy who was surrounded by paramedics. With Beevers off the pitch play continued and Luton equalised as Stags failed to clear their lines, Luton front man Scott Rendell driving home on 37 minutes.
Buoyed by their goal and attempting to pressure the fragile Lee Beevers, Luton registered an effort on 39 minutes as David Martin curled an effort side into the hands of a grateful Marriott.
On the stroke of half time Stags restored their lead as Junior Daniel drove home a left footed effort following determined work between Stevenson and Green down the right hand side in what proved to be a real pacey attack.
HALF TIME: Luton 1-2 Stags
Stags would have loved to have started the second half with a goal to kill off Luton, however they wasted an opportunity with an early corner and soon dragged level on 46 minutes. It came with a lapse in concentration as John Dempster underestimated the pace of Andre Gray – the former Kettering skipper saw the ball taken off his toes as he attempted by clear by Gray who made no mistake inside the area to thunder beyond Marriott.
Again chances on goal were few and far between as both teams enjoyed prolonged spells on the ball but did little with it, on 58 minutes Wayne Thomas nodded over an Alex Lawless corner before a spirited solo charge down the left hand side from Dempster nearly grabbed a Stags goal with 65 played.
Luton continued to pressure and had two shots in three minutes as substitute Jake Howells curled a free kick over Marriott’s bar on 68 minutes before volleying well wide from 40 yards two minutes later.
Dempster then atoned for his earlier error with eight minutes remaining as he cleared a stray hatters shot off the line, seconds later Alan Marriott was well positioned to save from substitute Stuart Fleetwood as he look to convert Ronnie Henry’s driven cross into the back of the net.
With four minutes remaining Lindon Meikle replaced Louis Briscoe and after yet another prolonged series of Luton pressure sparked a Stags counter attack. Charging forward at a canter with fellow substitute Ben Hutchinson, Matt Green and Chris Clements in support, he released the ball on the edge of the box to Clements. The restored Stags midfielder saw his shot saved expertly by Tyler, however the Luton custodian failed to prevent the loose ball landing at the feet of Meikle who made no mistake firing home the winner in front of the 410 travelling Stags fans.
With four minutes added on Stags threw on Nick Wright for Matt Green as Luton attempted to grab another leveller, however time was against them and Stags defended well and fully deserved the points as the referee blew the full time whistle.
FULL TIME: Luton 2-3 Stags
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