Craig Priest & Emily Sykes write
Fixture: Mansfield Town Vs AFC Telford
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #38
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 2nd March 2013 – 3pm
Match Referee: Charles Breakspear (Walton-On-Thames)
Attendance: 2725 (67)
Stags again got another three points yesterday as they condemned AFC Telford to their 22nd game without a win, in the process Paul Cox’s men moved up to third and are now just two points behind leaders Wrexham with them to play twice – buckle yourselves in the title chase IS ON!
With 13 games to go until the end of the season, whilst they’ll be many twists and turns still to come, there is still everything to play for which in turn makes the seasons climax such a thrill to watch.
It may not have been a thrilling game to watch yesterday however at this critical stage we will gladly take the points over an entertaining afternoon. In a way we guess that you could class the last couple of games as below par performances but on the positive side the points have still been adding to our total. The crunch time will be in the next couple of weeks when we face Grimsby and Forest Green Rovers in the space of four days.
For now though we focus as ever on each game as it comes and not worry ourselves with the results of others, out of all the sides fighting for the title we have the least distractions and the ability and experience throughout the dressing room to achieve what at one point looked the impossible.
It is not greedy or arrogant to aim for the top especially with the league being as tight and well contested as it is, we will certainly be a tough competitor and no matter if it’s play offs or automatic promotion with every game that passes the plot thickens and the chase moves up another gear – how long have we waited for a climax like this?
Paul Cox was forced into one change yesterday as John Dempster made way for Ritchie Sutton, the Stags defender and un-official vice captain will be out for roughly two weeks with an ankle injury. There were a few changes to the bench too as Jamie Tolley became involved with the squad for the first time since August.
LINE UP [4-2-3-1]: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, Ritchie Sutton, James Jennings, Adam Murray (C), Chris Clements, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel, Matt Green.
SUBSTITUTES: Lindon Meikle, Nick Wright, Matt Rhead, Jamie Tolley, Exodus Geohaghon.
Stags began brightly as they searched for a goal inside a minute, Lee Beevers’ sparked the move with a long ball down the right hand side before Matt Green and Louis Briscoe combined to set up Chris Clements, the former Hednesford man shooting wide of the target from 20 yards.
Mansfield kept the pressure on and registered three efforts in as many minutes, Matt Green and Junior Daniel both saw efforts blocked by Will Salmon and Ryan Valentine respectively either side of Louis Briscoe’s rasping effort which thundered back off the bar on six minutes.
Ten minutes after Briscoe’s thunderous strike, the visitors enjoyed a rare chance of their own as Ian Crainey delivered a deep free kick which Jordan Rose nodded wide. Interim Bucks boss Graham Hyde was then forced into a change just past the half hour mark as leading hit man Steve Jones collided with Marriott, the Stags keeper doing well to deny the on-rushing front man as the Stags defence temporally switched off.
Whilst the Telford man received treatment the Stags again rattled the bar as Marriott’s deep free kick, awarded for Jones’ high boot, saw skipper Adam Murray connect perfectly with Karlton Watson’s defensive header and crash the left footed effort off the bar.
With ten minutes of the half remaining Watson upended Lee Stevenson on the edge of the box but blocked Junior Daniel’s resulting free kick, two minutes later Luke Jones clipped a half volley narrowly over following a Jennings corner.
Stags were relentless in their search for an opener and did everything but score as Telford clung on with 41 played. Matt Green’s right sided cross provided the assist as Daniel slammed an effort against the post, the follow up then tipped onto the bar by Bucks shot stopper Ryan Young.
On the stroke of half time Telford substitute Bagasan Graham flashed a cross-come-shot across the six yard box before, on the counter, Stevenson saw a tame effort held by Young as the sides went in all square.
HALF TIME: Stags 0-0 AFC Telford
At the break Paul Cox switched Lindon Meikle with Louis Briscoe, the latter watched from the bench as Matt Green grabbed his 17th of the season of 50 minutes, closing down a slow Karlton Watson before clipping beyond Young to open the scoring.
Six minutes later Luke Jones saw a soft header held by Young from another Jennings corner before Telford registered their only shot of the second period on 58 minutes as Jordan Rose let fly from the edge of the box, denied by a well positioned Alan Marriott.
Chris Clements was next to strike on 66 minutes following fluent work on the half way line from Stevenson and a delightful pass from Green, the restored midfielder however failed to find the target as he again drove wide.
Six minutes later Matt Green saw a second goal unfairly chalked off for a foul on the keeper following a teasing Jennings corner before Karlton Watson was given his marching orders on 75 minutes, collecting his second booking of the match as he hacked down Adam Murray.
The numerical advantage helped little, three minutes from full time substitute Nick Wright teed up Green who was then denied by a wonderful save from Young, the Stags were forced to defend in the final stages but did enough to ensure the points remained theirs and close down leaders Wrexham, held at home by Alfreton.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 AFC Telford
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