Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Mansfield Town FC V Gateshead FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #43
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Monday 1st April 2013 – 3pm
Match Referee: Graham Horwood (Bedfordshire)
Attendance: 3,472 (82)
Stags ensured they were no fools yesterday as they put in an accomplished and professional display to brush struggling Gateshead aside and collect their 12th straight win, equalling the Football Conference record set by Burton and Hereford respectively.
Goalkeeper Alan Marriott also collected his 50th clean sheet for the club on an afternoon which kept the on watching Stags fans entertained as Mansfield registered chance after chance after chance, showing exactly why they are the favourites to take the league title.
Despite putting the points on the board in recent games, it’s no secret that the wins have been scrappy – the players needed that injection of confidence and certainly got it yesterday ahead of a tough trip to Wrexham on Thursday evening, Mansfield’s first of three games in hand on Kidderminster who remain a solitary point in front and now level on goal difference – cheers Luton!
Wrexham have no dropped from third to fourth and are ten points behind Mansfield now, however only a fool would write them off as being able to dent your season – in realistic terms there title hopes are over, that won’t stop them wanting to beat a rival and gather momentum after falling from top spot, with just one win from their last five league outings. I might get slated for evening mentioning the play-offs but there is still a long way to before now and the final curtain, it’s positive news then that Stags are guaranteed to finish in the play-off places, no lower than 5th and as such, will have that comfort blanket and allow them to focus on clinching that title.
Paul Cox had a tough decision to make going into the game in resting legs for Wrexham, arguably a bigger game than yesterday – no disrespect to Gateshead. Adam Chapman and Lindon Meikle were rested for Anthony Howell and Junior Daniel, the former putting in a solid man of the match display and making it tough for Cox ahead of Thursday.
Line Up [4-4-1-1]: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, Greg Taylor, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Junior Daniel, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Adam Chapman.
On a cold, yet sunny afternoon at the One Call Stadium, Stags began well creating three opportunities inside the opening five minutes. Adam Murray sparked the first chance on three minutes as his deep free kick saw Anthony Howell head into Adam Bartlett’s hands, fluent movement between Murray, Stevenson and Briscoe saw the latter earn a throw with a driven cross seconds later, however the throw lacked any real threat. Luke Jones then intercepted play on the half way line to spark another quick break, Briscoe again earned a throw which saw Gateshead under immense pressure before Junior Daniel’s clip back into the middle faded away.
The visitors then registered an effort on nine minutes as Ryan Donaldson beat home debutant Taylor on the right hand side, cutting inside Donaldson failed to beat a well positioned Alan Marriott.
Two minutes later Taylor swung in a deep left sided cross which saw Matt Green head tamely at the keeper before seconds later, Stevenson curled horribly wide from Murray’s short free kick after Green was felled by James Curtis.
Lee Beevers showed solid defensive work as James Brown looked to pounce down the left hand side on 17 minutes, four later Green was again upended on the edge of the box – a free kick which sparked the games opener. Adam Murray was again on set piece duty and put in a delightful ball which forced Bartlett to palm the ball onto the bar, Anthony Howell was first to react to the rebound and belted in his fourth of the season from close range.
Brown then attempted to level almost immediately with a long range effort which Marriott was comfortable too, Stags soon picked up the pace in their attempts for a second and four minutes later, had a cast iron penalty turned away when Louis Briscoe’s 20 yard one man charge was brought to an abrupt end by Liam Hatch’s two footed challenge on the bye line – the linesman and referee both ignoring Stags appeals.
Stevenson was next to try his luck on 29 minutes as he and Beevers exchanged numerous passes down the right, resulting in Green being the final linkup between Beevers and Stevenson’s right footed rasping effort which nestled in the side netting. Four minutes later Gateshead survived another powerful attack as Jones’ thunderous header was palmed away from a Murray corner, Matt Green then blasted straight at the legs of the keeper who made a fine block to deny Stags a much deserved second.
With nine to go before the break, Stags’ onslaught was nearly undone as Junior Daniel hand balled on the edge of the area as he looked to start a box to box charge, Micky Cummins stepped up to take the resulting free kick and fired just a whisker over the bar.
Louis Briscoe and Luke Jones both had further efforts for a second but the best, and most clear cut of the chances, fell on the stroke of half time as Murray’s volleyed clearance saw Briscoe & Stevenson combine to send Green clean through the middle. You’d back the hit man to score, but of late the striker’s lacked confidence and conviction in these situations and did again hear, opting to drill the effort low and ultimately, straight at, Adam Bartlett rather than clip the ball lightly over the on-rushing heed shot stopper and into the back of the net.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-0 Gateshead
It took Stags under 30 seconds to register their first chance of the second half as Gateshead wasted the kick off, Alan Marriott allowed to easily collect. The Stags shot stopped launched a long ball finding Junior Daniel on the left, a quick poke inside found Stevenson whose curling effort was narrowly over the bar from 22 yards.
Gateshead rarely touched the ball as Stags cranked up the pressure, Another Marriott ball forward on 48 minutes saw Green tee up Briscoe for a ferocious effort which was dragged narrowly wide.
The visitors saw another sight of goal on 51 as Josh Gillies kept the ball alive on the goal line, cutting back for Liam Henderson who lifted over Marriott, but also over the bar. Matt Rhead then replaced Lee Stevenson five minutes later as Greg Taylors deep free kick was swept away after Luke Jones downward header.
Junior Daniel then teetered between frustrating and delighting the fans as he wasted numerous crosses in excellent positions but did twice test out Bartlett, hitting wide on 64 minutes before seeing a long range effort palmed away on 66 as fluent football continue to spray across the one call pitch.
Seven minutes later Stags doubled their lead in fine fashion as Greg Taylor hurled in a long throw, the ball fell for Briscoe on the edge of the box and he thumped in another ‘Briscoe Belter’ driving into the bottom corner with his left boot.
Junior Daniel had another effort go wide on 75 minutes, a shot which proved his last action as Lindon Meikle entered the fray, two minutes later Stags made it three as Matt Green finally got his reward, latching onto a long ball to the left of the box, cutting inside to fire beyond Bartlett.
Green then trotted off to be replaced by Ben Hutchinson, Stags maintained their pace and saw Briscoe, Murray and Meikle all come close as the game progressed. As the game entered its final minute Stags were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box which saw the game sealed, if it wasn’t already. Ben Hutchinson stepped up and saw his free kick handled inside the box, Hutchinson took responsibility for the spot-kick and tucking home via the post.
The Stags weren’t done and in the last second, Hutchinson whipped in a corner which saw Jones’ dominant header hacked off the line, as the heed cleared their lines the final whistle then sounded.
FULL TIME: Stags 4-0 Gateshead
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