Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write....
Fixture: Mansfield Town Vs Dartford FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #32
Venue: One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 2nd February – 3pm
Match Referee: Peter Bankes
Attendance: 2,598 (104)
In all honesty we think we’d wait two weeks between games if we were to win 5-0 every time, no were only joking the point is that for once an enforced break hasn’t rocked the Stags boat – yesterday’s 5-0 victory over Dartford a deserved one and one in which could be the springboard to a play-off pushing run.
The score line doesn’t tell the whole story and may well flatter Mansfield a little as in truth, Dartford pressed well and allowed Stags little opportunity in the first half – had Alan Marriott not pulled off an excellent save on four minutes and had Lee Beevers not made numerous goal line clearances it could have been a different story altogether.
Ahead of a tough February the victory moves us within a place of the play-offs with numerous games in hand, credit has to go to the side for defending resiliently throughout the match and, especially in the second half, controlling the run of the midfield – we sat in different areas of the ground yesterday but at the start of the second half both of us heard Paul Cox criticised for replacing Meikle with Briscoe, the move in some ways won us the game as Briscoe helped bring some muscle to the right hand side where in the first half we were getting nothing.
Another positive from the match was that the defensive re-shuffle did minimal damage, Lee Beevers eventually settled into right-back which is a difficult trait after such a prolonged spell on the left, debutant James Jennings had a fairly decent game and seemed to fit in well despite only a day’s training with his new team mates, his delivery of set pieces is of a high quality and will certainly add another dynamic to the side – the decision to stick with Jones rather than Geohaghon was the right call too, hopefully this continues as we look to build on this big victory.
Paul Cox made one change from the side to beat Southport 14 days prior, transfer deadline day acquisition Jennings made his debut at the expense of Ritchie Sutton.
LINE UP 4-2-3-1: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, John Dempster, Luke Jones, James Jennings, Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel, Matt Green
SUBSTITUTES: Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Nick Wright, Chris Clements, Matt Rhead.
The visitors Dartford began brightly and pressured well during the opening exchanges, as they looked for an early goal full back Adam Green played a neat ball down the left which saw Nathan Collier allowed space inside the area. Searching for his fourth goal of the season the Dartford front man struck well but saw his effort blocked by the chest of Marriott with four minutes on the clock.
Having survived an early scare Stags went up the other end in search of an opener themselves, it came a minute later after Lindon Meikle and Matt Green’s interchange on the right broke down. Skipper Adam Murray remained strong in the challenge to win possession back, he then riffled in an effort to bag his second goal in as many games to put Stags ahead.
From the restart Stags should have netted a second as Matt Green weaved his way through however the leading front man saw his path blocked by Tom Bonner. On ten minutes Green was again involved this time linking up with Junior Daniel and debutant Jennings, whose testing cross was eventually cleared.
Visitors Dartford came close to finding a leveller on 15 minutes as Jack Evans latched onto Lee Burns’ pass to find space ahead of Jennings, however his cross-come-shot was wide of Marriott’s target. The Darts then clung on as Luke Jones headed over from a Jennings corner before testing the water themselves through Adam Green and Danny Harris.
Lee Beevers came to the Stags rescue on 26 as he cleared Lee Noble’s dangerous corner off the line, Jack Evans then wasted the follow up as he fired over from the edge of the area. Lindon Meikle then shot narrowly wide 11 minutes later following Junior Daniel’s clever cross.
Alan Marriott came to the Stags rescue on the stroke of half time as he pulled off a strong double save, Mansfield taking Murray’s vital goal into the break.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-0 Dartford
Mansfield were pressed throughout the first half and prior to the start of the second opted for some brawn down the right hand side as he replaced Lindon Meikle with Louis Briscoe. The wide man had an instant impact as he flicked into Green’s path with the half just 18 seconds old, Green showed wonderful skill to flick the ball over the defenders head before seeing a venomous left footed effort blocked.
Stags were looking rampant in their search for a second goal, Junior Daniel volleying narrowly over on 47 minutes following Green’s right wing assist, Green involved two minutes later as he earned the Stags a corner which was easily claimed by Bettinelli in the Darts goal.
On 53 minutes Stags came close again as Jones riffled a header just over from Lee Beevers’ right sided throw, from the resulting goal kick Anthony Howell won possession but saw his final shot blocked. A minute later Howell had better luck as he tucked home Mansfield’s second, James Jennings deep free-kick nodded into Howell’s path by Murray, the creative midfield man remained composed to slot home from eight yards.
Five minutes later Lee Stevenson fired narrowly wide after he linked up with Jennings on the left the Stags remained in control and soon found a third goal on 65 minutes. It all stemmed from three consecutive Jennings’ corners, the last of which clipped back into the box beautifully by Daniel from the half way line – Luke Jones completing the job as he glanced an acute header beyond the static Bettinelli.
From the restart Dartford had an opportunity to pull one back as Lee Noble swung in another dangerous corner, four minutes later James Rogers flick sure Nathan Collier in space however the Darts forward curled an effort well wide of goal.
The Stags showed determined attitude in their quest for another goal, Matt Green was a whisker away on 72 as he saw a thunderous effort blocked by the legs of Bettinelli after another Lee Beevers’ throw, two minutes later Louis Briscoe’s driven cross saw Daniel denied by Bettinelli as the wide man hit a venomous curling effort.
The fourth goal finally arrived on 79 minutes when Louis Briscoe sent a defence splitting pass into the path of Green, the leading marksman grabbed his 11th goal of the season with a cheeky finish from the outside of his right boot.
Four minutes later Stags made a double change as Nick Wright and Matt Rhead replaced Junior Daniel and Matt Green respectively, Rhead’s first touch led to Stags completing the rout – Lee Stevenson latching onto the loose ball before being felled inside the area and winning a Stags penalty. The attaching midfielder took on the challenge and grabbed his third goal in as many games, smashing home the most fierce and technically accurate penalty you will ever see.
Dartford offered little in the closing minutes and were fortunate not to concede a sixth as the impressive Briscoe saw a fierce shot held by Darts keeper Bettinelli following a forceful run – the full time whistle soon followed, the victory continuing Mansfield’s fine recent form and ending a tiny baron run on home soil.
FULL TIME: Stags 5-0 Dartford
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