_ Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town Vs Lincoln City
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #36)
Venue: Field Mill
Date & Time: Saturday 3rd March 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 4830 (627)
Match Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
The classic TV show ‘Noels House Party’ was relived yesterday as 4,830 filtered into Field Mill with the majority celebrating Thursday’s news that John Radford had reclaimed Field Mill from the dark lord. The 627 travelling fans where metaphorically gunged at Full Time as Stags claimed their 5th successive home victory, whilst a youth team defender, who shall remain unnamed, ran around acting as Mansfield’s very own Mr Blobby – Sammy the Stag! Ok so the comparisons are grasping at straws but in all seriousness, yesterday was just beautiful – one Stags fans will never forget, I feel so privileged that I was there to whiteness it.
Opening the curtains in the morning saw an overcast type skyline with several puddles on the floor, however nothing could dampen the mood as several fans made their way to Field Mill early to take advantage of the ‘two for one’ ticket offer. By 12.30pm the weather had brightened up and although Field Mill seemed relatively quiet as myself and Wayne made our way up to the press box, 10 minutes later as we went back outside, the place began to flow and even then you could sense the party atmosphere. Kick Off time drew ever closer and by 2.45pm empty seats we’re few and far between and the QLE drum was beating louder than ever.
I’m no politician and I’ll be the first to admit even the slightest bit of politics in the beautiful game makes my skin crawl, I try to steer away from them mainly, so forgive for not including even a brief look back at Mr Haslam’s ties with the club which lasted just under 20 years. In looking back, the beauty that was yesterday would be tarnished – I refuse to let that happen.
_ Back to yesterday, around 2.50pm the scenes that took place then will no doubt have brought a tear to the eye of many a Stags fan and will again as you re-live them again, as director Steve Hymas and Sir John Radford made speeches to rival Martin Luther and Winston Churchill.
First Steve Hymas took to the pitch alongside the other club directors, with the unbeaten youth academy side standing behind, holding aloft a banner which read ‘The future is Amber – 1st March 2012’ armed with a bunch of Amber and Blue balloons to release into the then bright afternoon sky. Field Mill fell silent as Steve Hymas read with passion
“What a momentous day for Mansfield Town Football Club, 1st March 2012 will be remembered forever and we would like all the fans to remember it as Amber Day. We are joined today by our academy side, unbeaten in 15 competitive games, this season the future is defiantly Amber. John Radford joining Mansfield Town Football Club has elevated us to another level and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for clearing the black cloud and ridding us of the dark lord. The best way the fans can thank John is by turning out in numbers for the rest of the season and backing the team in our quest for promotion. I’d like everyone to stand for a minutes applause for one Mr John Radford.” The most glorious sentence was then spoken on the Field Mill pitch as every fan stood waving scarves and applauding as Chairman John Radford took to the microphone... “Ladies, Gentleman, I am proud to say we’ve done it, we now own Field Mill” – The roar which followed made the hairs on the back of my neck stand tall and my eyes begin to fill with a few tears, I am a firm believer that in football as in life, success and true destiny is strong when you control the reigns, whenever you find yourself out of control at the top at the core, you begin to slide and falter – just look at the Stags over the past ten years, the fall is been big and very painful, but all it takes is another man’s vision to put you back on track and send you in the right direction.
That man was John Radford, no doubt I am one of many to thank him now for rescuing Mansfield Town, picking them up and handing them the key to success – control. As Steve Hymas poinently said – the future is Amber, as the cheers of yellows belted out yesterday my heart beat trebled, faster than any machine could beat a drum, right there right then, I knew that my beloved club we’re back and that the story was not ending, it was just beginning – from there on in, the football, the beautiful game would be the story to tell.
The Amber & Blue balloons we’re still flying around town as the teams came out of the tunnel with the atmosphere rocking. Paul Cox made three changes to the side which came from behind to beat Tamworth last weekend, Martin Riley replaced the now departed Paul Edwards, Adam Smith was re-introduced for Lindon Meikle whilst Anthony Howell was handed his first start since New Years Day, taking the place of injured Skipper Adam Murray. Alan Marriott took the captains duties for the afternoon, also donning a black armband in memory of former Lincoln manager and Mansfield coach & player, who sadly passed away two years ago.
Line Up: Alan Mariott (C) – Luke O’Neill – Martin Riley (Edwards) – Exodus Geohaghon – Ritchie Sutton – Louis Briscoe – Gary Roberts – Anthony Howell (Murray) – Adam Smith (Meikle) – Ross Dyer – Matt Green.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond – Jon Worthington – Matt Rhead – Lindon Meikle – Ben Hutchinson
With the atmosphere electric, Paul Cox’s players started in rampant fashion threatening David Holdsworth’s Imps three times in the opening five minutes. The now traditionally expected Exodus Geohaghon throw in was first up on two minutes, the arrow like throw found Ross Dyer in the middle who’d made a fabulous run to shake off his marker, however the former Forest Green man nodded wide of the target. Slopping passing from Tyrone Thompson and Alan Power in the centre of the park a minute later saw Adam Smith pick up the ball, a powerful drive forward penned the visitors in their own box, however the Stags failed to get a cross in and the flowing passing movement eventually broke down on the right hand side. It was on five minutes when the fast paced hosts grabbed their first real opportunity, Ross Dyer kept the initial ball alive from O’Neill’s strong pass before playing in Adam Smith, who constantly switched flanks with Briscoe, Smith drive forward before being upended for a free kick. Luke O’Neill whipped a delightful ball in to the middle, met by Matt Green who made a great run to the front post, heading marginally over the bar.
Two minutes later the Stags we’re forceful on the attack once more as Luke O’Neill sent a ball low down the right channel. Ross Dyer was their first and did well to turn his marker inside out before again linking up with Adam Smith, this time the Stags wing man teed up O’Neill who then provided the cross. Ross Dyer had made the run to the far post and prevented the ball from going out for a goal kick, knocking the ball off for Briscoe who showed neat vision to set the advancing Ritchie Sutton rather than whip a ball in. The former Crewe Alexandra youngster playing in what seemed a new role for him at left back, controlled well before cutting inside and letting fly, his looping effort unfortunately failed to dip in time and was eventually well over Joe Anyon’s cross bar.
The Stags continued to dominate in the Lincoln half and despite a ninth minute corner which was easily claimed by Skipper Marriott, Lincoln never stepped into the Stags half. Disappointment struck for Adam Smith on 17 minutes as he fouled receiving a Ritchie Sutton throw right on the edge of the box, Smith continued after treatment despite Lindon Meikle being told to warm up quickly but soon pulled up again as he tried to control the ball on the edge of the box after O’Neill’s free kick had gone away for a throw, which Geohaghon launched in. More treatment followed for Smith, who was a target for Lincoln after returning from a loan spell with Aldershot, however once more he continued, watching on as at the other end a poor clearance by Martin Riley on 19 minutes, allowed former Stag Jefferson Louis to charge down on goal; however Louis failed to hit the target hitting tamely wide. Smith lasted until the 22nd minute, when he again pulled up on the half way line – being immediately replaced by Lindon Meikle.
_ Four minutes later the Stags thought they’d finally broken the deadlock as more patient play led to Matt Green smashing home. Ritchie Sutton marshalled the half way line well and collected a tame clearance from Lincoln, his directional ball was flicked on by Geohaghon to Louis Briscoe who provided the perfect cross to Green, who controlled well and hammered into the roof of the net, the offside flag cut celebrations short for the third time in two games.
On the half hour mark Mansfield dug deep to search for the opener once more, a short free kick on the half way line by Gary Roberts saw Ritchie Sutton provide a chipped cross into the middle for Green. A cushioned header from the leading hit man saw Briscoe pick up the ball on the edge of the area, his rasping effort was well held by the Imps shot stopper. Briscoe then turned provider with seven to go before the break, a dominant run down the right saw a driven cross find Green, who connected wonderfully with the side of his boot, thwarted only the visiting keeper who was in the right place at the right time.
A minute later a rare Lincoln chance arose as Louis Briscoe was booked for his challenge on Tyrone Thompson, the free kick into the middle by Simon Russell was met by the head of former Stag Richard Pacquette, however he failed to find the target, nodding wide.
Smooth play on the left hand side saw Lindon Meikle cut inside and curl an effort wide with a minute to go before half time, neither side troubled in the remaining minute plus stoppage – heading in for the half time oranges on level terms.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 Lincoln
The Stags made a delightful start to the second half, taking the lead a minute in. Louis Briscoe deserves credit for a dominant charge down the right which helped spark the goal, sending the ball through the legs of Nutter the wing man’s driven cross was screwed out of play for a Stags throw by Joshua Gowling. Exodus Geohaghon played a blinder in throwing short to O’Neill who had acres of time on the ball, delivering a delightful cross into the path of Dyer who shrugged off his man wonderfully, he smashed towards goal and squeezed the ball past Joe Anyon for his 7th of the season.
Stags 1-0 Lincoln
Three minutes later Lincoln had a golden chance to level proceedings as a long ball over the tip saw Jefferson Louis get in behind the Stags back four, despite having time for a touch and a string finish, the former Stag embarrassingly dragged his shot wide of the target, much to the disgust of the 627 travelling Imps behind the goal.
The Stags then upped their momentum as they searched for a second, strong passing movement across park had Holdsworth’s side gasping for breath and really stretched in key areas, a few corners we’re scrambled clear after good build up between Green, Meikle, O’Neill and Roberts, however it was Briscoe and Howell who combined on 55 minutes that really had the visitors on the back foot. An attempted chip over the top failed to beat Howell in the air, it’s fair to say that Howell was one of David Holdsworth’s 62 Stags signings that failed to flourish during his first spell at Field Mill, however under Paul Cox the former Alfreton man has done well when called upon – showing his presence with a dominant header down to the feet of Briscoe, Holdsworth’s second signing as Stags boss, who drove forward and smashed over from 16 yards despite having Matt Green unmarked just to the left of him.
_ Mansfield we’re disciplined in their build up and could sense a second goal, which eventually arrived on 58 minutes. From a Ritchie Sutton throw Matt Green and Lindon Meikle played a 1-2 on the edge of the box, with the latter calving his way through the defence like a knife through melting butter, Meikle was eventually forced backwards but kept the ball and turned well to play a low crisp pass to the feet of Roberts, who from 35 yards drilled a venomous effort into the bottom corner to send the crowd delirious.
Stags 2-0 Lincoln
Jefferson Louis was again on hand to try and restore some hope for Holdsworth’s side, knocking the ball wide for Peter Bore, whose low cross was easily collected by Marriott, allowing the Stags to buzz forward again. With eight minutes left to go The Stags we’re a whisker away from a well deserved third, Louis Briscoe’s ball from deep saw Ross Dyer in behind enemy lines, he held up play well before linking up with Meikle on the right, Lincoln scrambled clear but Luke O’Neill picked up and cantered forward, playing in Meikle who then thread in Dyer. The Stags striker who put in a great shift as ever up top, unleashed a fiery shot, which tipped behind by Anyon, only for the match officials to award a goal kick. A minute later Matt Green also saw his shot saved after a neat turn inside the box, with Dyer again chief tormentor.
Jon Worthington was then introduced for Roberts as the Stags looked for closure, however with a minute left on the clock, Exodus Geohaghon got in a tizz at the back with his cushioned header going in the wrong direction, landing perfectly for substitute Mark McCammon, who somehow volleyed wide.
_ The stags fans in the Quarry Lane End had started to do the conga, led eventually by Sammy Stag as the party atmosphere continued, Lincoln then played party pooper two minutes into the four added on. A prolonged spell on the ball saw the Imps move the ball inside to Tyrone Thompson, who after turning Jon Worthington was free on the edge of the box, Thompson let fly tamely and saw the ball trickle beyond Marriott, with McCammon taking the credit for the final touch – the deadly silence from the travelling fans told the story, and as Stags fans continued to conga, nobody really noticed that Thompson had actually managed to find the right net for his team...
Stags 2-1 Lincoln
The game restarted and Stags kept the ball well again stretching the game, with the ever vocal fans taunting their former manager with ‘Holdsworth Holdsworth what’s the score’ – As the former Stag downed another bottle of water in the dugout, you sensed that he would not find the answer at the bottom of a bottle, as his side we’re out classed for 85 maybe 90% of the game.
The full time whistle then blew to another loud cheer; the victory propelled the Stags up to 6th place, a point off the play-offs with a game in hand. The victory was also the Stags 5th consecutive home win, something last achieved August-September 2008 under Billy McEwan.
Full Time: Stags 2-1 Lincoln << Click for Match Highlights
Next up it’s a trip to 12th placed Cambridge on Tuesday evening, if you can’t get be sure to join myself and Scott Rogers from 7.30pm on 106.9FM and live on our MM-LIVE page from around 7.40pm for full match commentary.
A glorious day where, as Field Mill empted – I sat back in my seat and watched the events again in my head – The Stags are back! Let’s just now take our breath and continue one game at a time, we are still in many ways delicate – let’s do our best to ensure a second trip to Wembley in as many years is on the cards.
Mansfield Town Football Club – Re awoken 1/3/12, Re born 3/3/12 .... The rest, will write itself.
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