Craig Priest writes....
Fixture: Mansfield Town Vs Liverpool
Competition: The FA Cup with Budweiser, third round.
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Sunday 6th January 2013 – 4pm
Match Referee: Andre Marriner (Birmingham)
Attendance: 7,574 (1,433)
Do you know what, I have absolutely no idea where to start or even what to write about yesterday’s FA Cup encounter with Liverpool, there’s so many ways this could go it’s confusing, I guess the best place to start is with a fact: whatever the outcome and the opinions of others – I am bloody proud of Mansfield Town Football Club.
Luis Suarez naturally is taking the national media headlines at the moment for his hand-ball goal which ultimately won Liverpool the game, my take on it is a short and sweet one – at that pace there wasn’t much he could about it and it was accidental, the officials saw it and failed to act upon it therefore it’s there error and not Suarez’s – we’d have said nothing if it was Matt Green at the other end: MOVE ON!
Frankly it annoys me that the incident is dominating the press because it’s starting to over shadow our day, I don’t wish to remember the game as the day which Suarez handled, I want to remember it as the day which our beloved Mansfield Town stood toe to toe with a giant and had them hanging on for dear life, why? Simply because it’s a fact.
I said it at the top of the piece and I’ll say it again, I am proud of Mansfield Town – the performance, desire and energy was a joy to behold – I firmly believe if we continue at that level across the board for the remainder of the season, achieving a play-off finish will be no bother whatsoever. What I will say may offend some people here, I apologise in advance – if yesterday was your first game, if you’ve been a ‘plastic supporter’ etc I ask you to think back on yesterday’s events. Did you enjoy sampling the atmosphere, did you make new friends, were you impressed by the football and, most importantly, did you find yourself falling a little bit in love with Stags and taking them too heart? If so, come back on Saturday when we take on Kidderminster Harriers, come back week in week out and join us – the players thrive on positive support and get great results, those of us that have followed the journey over time are begging for more than just one day in the spot light, were begging for promotion and long term success – if you come along and support in the way you did yesterday we can do it, nobody will judge you – we’ll welcome you.
I take my hat off to every single player yesterday fighting for the cause, we deserved at least a draw and a trip to Anfield – that never give up attitude is one we need to remember and demonstrate for the rest of our league campaign now. The financial rewards will undoubtedly strengthen us both in the back room and hopefully on the pitch, one or two transfer movements would stand us in good stead for the remainder of the season and into the next, it’s important not just too use yesterday as a memory, but as a platform to build upon.
I’ve eluded to this elsewhere, it’s going to be extremely difficult, even for the best of writers to tell the story, so remember your own personal story and the moments which touched your heart – football clubs should not be judged on the trophies in their cabinet or the amount of zeros on their bank balance, they should be judged by the way they are supported and by the moments on the pitch – yesterday we had just one of our many moments down the years, we are rich in that regard. I hope you enjoy my take on how the match unfolded...
Paul Cox made just one change from the side to breeze past Alfreton on New Year’s Day, man of the match Junior Daniel was dropped to the bench in favour of Louis Briscoe as the newly wedded Stags boss and birthday boy, looked to pack the midfield.
Line Up [4-5-1]: Alan Marriott, John Thompson, Exodus Geohaghon, John Dempster, Lee Beevers, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C), Chris Clements, Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green.
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Jake Speight, Nick Wright, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel.
Naturally it was Liverpool who began well, with an abundance of talent including £12M debutant Daniel Sturridge in their side they were always going too however did Stags give them a little too much respect, I certainly think so as they pressed but allowed Liverpool to attack with pace and huge pockets of space.
Stuart Downing, who was a used substitute for Middlesbrough in Stags’ last FA Cup outing against a premier league side, started well for Liverpool and his third minute shot earned the visitors a corner via the legs of John Thompson.
A minute later Suso was next to have a go, cutting in from the right hand side past Lee Beevers his effort was high and wayward and didn’t trouble Alan Marriott in the Stags goal. Stags did briefly scare the seven time FA Cup winners on five minutes, Meikle and Green combined before skipper Adam Murray clipped a great ball over the top which Green was agonisingly close to latch onto, keeper Brad Jones got there first for Liverpool.
Two minutes later the opening goal came in cool fashion for Liverpool, Jonjo Shelvey was allowed far too much space for the last season’s FA Cup runners up and the promising youngster played an exquisite cutting pass through the Stags defence. Daniel Sturridge was the recipient and he slotted a cool first time finish underneath the on rushing Marriott who could do nothing about the crisp and expert finish of the former Chelsea front man.
With Liverpool 1-0 up, it could have been a totally different outcome to what I’ve already written about, however there were key factors which help shape the game and the way in which Mansfield performed, none more so than a minute after the restart when John Dempster played a nervy back pass to Marriott, goal scorer Sturridge pounced and rather arrogantly in my opinion, tried to dance his way around Marriott and double Liverpool’s lead – his decision to be flamboyant rather than clinical helped the Stags as Marriott made himself big and made a splendid block with his chest and keep Mansfield in the game.
The chances didn’t stop and a minute after Marriott’s game-saving stop, Stags grabbed their first opportunity of the game. Inspired by Marriott’s save Stags began played some fluent football, Lindon Meikle cut inside from the left flank and drew a foul from Andre Wisdom. Chris Clements’ resulting free kick cannoned back off the wall to the half way line where John Thompson pumped back into the area, however his delivery was too strong for Meikle and the ball drifted out for a goal kick.
Liverpool then played a sloppy midfield pass on 13 minutes which Anthony Howell collected, his splitting pass was too strong for Green who again, was just beaten to the ball by the keeper. Seconds later Marriott again denied Sturridge in what proved a carbon copy move of the opening goal.
Three minutes later it was Liverpool’s turn to test the water with a free kick, Suso’s drive cannoned back off the wall before Shelvey scuffed the rebounded shot wide of the mark. Despite Liverpool coming close in quick succession the Stags again kept the pressure on in front of the Reds goal, John Dempster flicked a Geohaghon throw into the hands of Jones before on 28 minutes, Mansfield broke with such pace it looked like they were the premier league side, Briscoe launched long down the right hand side for Green who held up well but saw a penalty appealed turned down after a strong challenge from Jack Robinson.
Stags again came close on 32, Matt Green was so unfortunate as his shot from 20 yards seemed destined for the net, Brad Jones pulled off an expert save to maintain Liverpool’s lead. Stags final chance of the half came on 39 minutes, Exodus Geohaghon’s throw was pumped back in expertly by Clements. Louis Briscoe’s drive through the crowd was blocked much to Stags dismay.
Liverpool ended the half as they began it, in strong fashion – on the strike of half time Sturridge spurned a chance to double the Reds lead, dragging wide of the target after skinning Lee Beevers with relative ease.
HALF TIME: Stags 0-1 Liverpool
Mansfield completely shocked Liverpool as the dramatic second half unfolded, 43 seconds in and Stags were so unfortunate not to be on level terms as Meikle and Green combined on the left, the latter sent Howell clean through and his shot brushed off a combination of Jamie Carragher and Brad Jones for a corner.
Seconds later Sturridge fouled John Thompson and collected a debut booking, Alan Marriott’s resulting deep free kick was flicked on by Dempster to Howell who again saw a thunderous effort blocked.
On 48 minutes the action and barrage of Stags attacks continued, Lee Beevers showed determined defensive work to dispossess Sturridge who looked to break, great skill then followed to turn Shelvey before Anthony Howell took over, his final pass to Briscoe saw the wide man win yet another corner.
Briscoe and Green both again came close before Sturridge dragged an effort wide for Liverpool on 52 minutes, two minutes later he was replaced by Luis Suarez whilst Jordan Henderson also took to the pitch. The former doubled the visitors lead in controversial style on 58 minutes as Liverpool again broke with pace. Suarez’s initial shot was saved by Marriott however as the ball cannoned back, the controversial front man controlled with his arm before firing home, the officials admitted the handball but stated the accidental nature of the incident the reason for allowing the goal to stand.
Stags were dented by the goal and it took a while for them to readjust, however on 64 minutes Junior Daniel replaced Briscoe out wide as Stags searched for fresh legs in their adopted 4-2-3-1 formation.
Chris Clements linked up with Meikle on 68 minutes but failed to test Jones, three minutes later Stags had another appeal for a penalty turned down, Green’s clipped cross appeared to strike the hand of Coates however the flag was already raised against Howell.
Jonjo Shelvey hit an effort wide for Liverpool as they looked to kill the game off, his 57th minute miss may have again spurred Stags on as a minute later Green struck goal, thundering in from Lindon Meikle’s cut back, now 2-1 the ground was rocking and Stags sensed an upset.
With ten to go Rhead replaced Clements as Stags looked for some extra muscle in attack, five minutes later Green was flagged offside from Dempster’s flick. Four minutes were added on and a minute into stoppage time, Brad Jones denied Stags a dream replay, Matt Green again hitting a belter from distance.
The pressure stayed until the final second, the referee’s final whistle a relief for Liverpool whilst Stags were applauded off in the heroic status they deserved.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-2 Liverpool
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