Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Fleetwood Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #40)
Venue: Highbury Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 24th March 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 3106 (480)
Match Referee: S Duncan
After two huge wins over Barrow and Alfreton, yesterday’s trip to league front runners Fleetwood was always going to be difficult. I had a feeling I would be sat here writing about a defeat which for me is quite defeatist which I hate, however I write disappointed not in defeat, but in the fact we took our finger off the pulse and stopped playing to our heartbeat. In the first half we had chances and didn’t take them, in the second it was the same – Fleetwood’s two goals weren’t out of this world, in my opinion they were nothing great they just read us well and played to OUR strengths, using them as our weakness. Fair play to them and I have no doubt we will hopefully meet again next season in League Two, yes I’m disappointed with losing, I always am – but with six games to go, we are still in a great position and despite failing to our first defeat in eight and second in 15, I’m in a positive frame of mind as in defeat, comes victory.
Some of you may now be thinking I’ve spent too much time in the sun, as how on earth can there be victory in defeat? Technically there can’t be, you wither win, lose or draw – however successful teams, successful people, look to find the positives, build on and learn from the negatives – the difference between winning and losing is not in being best on the day, it’s about those who have desire and belief to go and find the dreams rather than those who sit and wallow in self pity, those who refuse to even give it a second go, those who let confidence and ability go to waste. In the past Mansfield Town FC have been guilty of doing just that, but not now – there are six games to go, we are in a strong position and after all the work we’ve done so far, there is NO WAY ANYONE will take it from us. Defeat will keep us grounded, it will create freshness to our play so not to feel the pain again – in actual fact being beaten yesterday could prove to be a blessing.
Again I know your sat reading this thinking I’m an idiot, maybe I am – whatever, inside I feel that whilst others will say ‘we’ve been beaten by the best therefore we are not worthy of matching them’ Paul Cox, his players and staff will be saying ‘yes we’ve been beaten by the best, but we can highlight, analyze and put right WHY – plus we matched them for a fair chunk of two games and if we use that as a starting block, we can raise the barrier and achieve the dream’
At the end of the day, tomorrow is gone – we can’t change the result, we can only learn from the game and ensure that the un-doings of us can’t be replicated by others. Time is on our side, our destiny is in our hands and time is on our side. We are Mansfield Town FC, we know what we want and we WILL get it – what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Paul Cox opted for just the one change from Tuesday’s midweek madness at Alfreton, surprisingly it was Louis Briscoe who missed out, and unsurprisingly it was Gary Roberts who came in as 4-4-2 became 4-5-1.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Ross Dyer, Adam Murray (C), Gary Roberts (Briscoe), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Jon Worthington, Louis Briscoe, Matt Rhead, Danny Andrew
Opening the curtains yesterday morning I noticed the thick fog, initial thoughts suggested a murky horrible day weather wise – how wrong I was, the sun burnt brightly and the heat just a touch above spot on, the first game this season (bar Forest Green away) where I’ve been able to ditch the warm hoody scarf and coat, the ‘lucky clean sheet’ cap made a re-appearance but a monumental error saw me leave my sunglasses in the car! Still, I managed to squint and see the game, one which as predicted would be tight, but due to the heat wouldn’t be played at the velocity and speed of the reverse fixture 10 days ago.
It was the Stags who started the brighter side, looking to take an early lead, creating there first real chance of the game four minutes in. A directional ball down the right saw Ross Dyer win the ball in the air, a neat headed flick saw Matt Green in behind Nathan Pond, Green opted for a belting shot which caught Scott Davies off guard, expecting the cross Davies was forced to push the ball up into the air, Lindon Meikle was first to connect but he knew little about it, allowing the Fleetwood shot stopper to claim the ball and avert the danger.
The Stags were then fortunate to keep 11 men on the pitch on eight minutes, Dyer and Green again combined on the right hand side to earn Mansfield a corner which was headed away. Gary Roberts steamed across to cover ground and prevent a counter attack, lunging in on his man but fortunately to no avail, the ball trickled out for a throw and good refereeing saw Roberts get a very stern word rather than any card.
A minute another O’Neill corner nearly gave the Stags the lead, initially headed away the Stags picked the ball up through skipper Murray whose ferocious drive from 40 yards would have smashed the back of the net, had Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies not bailed his side out with a fine tip over the bar.
The hosts as expected moved the ball well but they failed to anything in possession and came up against a resilient Stags back line, which in turn allowed Mansfield to push on in search of an opener. Creative play between Dyer, O’Neill, Green and Howell eventually saw Meikle flagged offside before Matt Green missed a glorious chance on 14 minutes. Alan Marriott’s launched ball forward was again flicked on into the right for Green by Dyer, a neat ball back to Dyer then saw Roberts take over. On the edge of the area, Roberts' poked ball through to Green was well read by Nathan Pond however his clearance was poor and fell for Luke O’Neill on the edge of the box, his perfect cross was headed down at the far post by Howell, Matt Green raced through and somehow poked over from six yards.
It was only a matter of time before free scoring Fleetwood created chances of their own, a neatly worked quick free quick on 18 minutes saw Peter Cavanagh chip one into the area, Jamie McGuire headed over from close range after the Stags failed to track his run before four consecutive corners had the Stags penned into their own box.
On 22 minutes it was the third of the four quick fire Goodall corners which proved most dangerous, after dealing with the initial corner, Fleetwood picked up the second ball on the left hand side and switched neatly to the right hand side, again the quick play created space to put Gareth Seddon 1 v 1 with Alan Marriott, the Stags shot stopper produced a fine save to tip the ball behind for the fourth and final corner which was taken short and in turn, drifted harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Alan Marriott again had to be at his best on 34 minutes when a hesitant piece of defending by the otherwise solid Martin Riley gave the hosts a free kick on the left. Whipped in right footed by Lee Fowler, it was Gareth Seddon who connected first at the front post, sticking out a leg to divert the ball towards go, but fortunately – also straight into the hands of a grateful Marriott.
Ole style football, or testimonial style football from the Stags three minutes before the break saw Stags make over twenty passes back to front before Anthony Howell’s eventual pass go out for a goal kick, the hosts then had half a shout for a penalty a minute before the half time whistle when Peter Till took a tumble following Alan Goodall’s drilled low cross, however the referee was having none of it and eventually brought the goalless first half, to a close.
Half Time: Fleetwood 0-0 Stags
After the break it was again the Stags who registered an early chance, Gary Roberts’ teasing chip over the top saw Ross Dyer get in behind, however Dyer was unable to get his powerful effort on target as the ball trickled away for a throw. On 49 minutes an Exodus Geohaghon long throw from the right excited the Mansfield travelling faithful, however the travelling 480 would soon be left cursing their luck as for the first time ever, the Stags conceded from Geohaghon’s bullet on the counter attack.
In fairness the throw in was well researched and well read by the hosts who after heading away the initial ball, broke free through Goodall’s pass followed by a Cavanagh charge, his pass on the edge of the box found the advancing Shaun Beeley, who drilled a shot through the legs of Marriott to open the scoring.
Fleetwood 1-0 Stags
On 54 minutes, a tremendous tackle from Martin Riley prevented Jamie McGuire from breaking free, however the ball did go out for a corner, from which the hosts was unfortunate not to get a second. Alan Goodall’s corner was strong towards the back post finding Gareth Seddon, his thunderous header cannoned off the bar and behind for a goal kick.
The hosts should have then been pegged level a minute later, Lindon Meikle came alive in the middle and threaded a delightful pass into the path of Dyer just to the right of the box. The burley front man failed to add to his tally of eight Stags goals, firing into the side netting much to my disbelief as I thought it’d gone in. Another Craig Priest blooper!
Fleetwood then introduced Richard Brodie and Jamie Vardy on the hour mark, whilst Stags introduced Briscoe for Meikle, sticking with the 4-5-1 with Briscoe on the right and Dyer on the left. Mansfield’s change made no real impact compared to Fleetwood’s as Jamie Vardy bundled in Alan Goodall’s left sided cross four minutes after coming on, doubling his sides lead.
Fleetwood 2-0 Stags
Louis Briscoe then fired wide after charging forward down the right before the Stags made their final two changes, Ritchie Sutton was replaced by Danny Andrew at left back shortly after Skipper Adam Murray limped off, replaced by Matt Rhead, handing captaincy over to Martin Riley whilst the Stags finally went 4-4-2 with Rhead partnering Green up top.
Jamie Vardy then earned his side a corner on 77 minutes, despite a strong ball from Gooadall it was dealt with well allowing the Stags to attack, Gary Roberts drove forward before sending Anthony Howell on his way down the left, Shaun Beeley got back to clear for a throw which materialised into nothing.
Matt Rhead and Steve McNulty were enjoying a very physical heavyweight battle which worked in Mansfield’s favour with nine minutes to go, Rhead’s presence saw McNulty take his eye off the game allowing Briscoe to drive forward and win a corner from the boot of Beeley. O’Neill’s delivery was spot on for Rhead who beat McNulty in the air, heading back across goal for Geohaghon who saw his dominant header well saved.
Intricate work between Roberts, O’Neill and Briscoe earned Mansfield another corner three minutes from time, Luke O’Neill again provided this time for Dyer who headed wide.
Excellent defending from stand in skipper Martin Riley prevented Richard Brodie from getting his name on the score sheet in additional time. At the other end a Danny Andrew free kick from the half way line was headed down to Matt Rhead who struck venomously on the volley, earning the Stags a final corner, however the clock was against Paul Cox’s side who were prevented taking the corner by the sound of the full time whistle
Full Time: Fleetwood 2-0 Stags << Listen again to full audio, with commentary from Craig Priest and Scott Rogers
As I wrote at the top of the piece, a defeat is never nice but this one could stand us in good stead ahead of the final six fixtures. With no game midweek it’s now an ideal time to rest a few legs before hitting the ground running once more, ahead of next weekend’s fixture against mid table Ebbsfleet. If you can’t get to Field Mill, join me for regular updates on 106.9FM only, build up starts at 2pm.
Let’s not be disheartened, let us be Mansfield Town, humble in victory gracious in defeat, safe in the knowledge that our destiny can still be controlled by us. Buckle yourselves in, the rollercoaster still has a few twists and turns to go.
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