Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Wrexham
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game#45)
Venue: One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Friday 20th April 2012 – 7.30pm (Live on Premier Sports TV)
Attendance: 3665 (184)
Match Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
I’ve witnessed some things in my time as a broadcaster and indeed as my time as a support of my beloved Mansfield Town – I’ve seen Tyrone Thompson sensationally put the ball into the back of his own net and become a YouTube phenomenon, I’ve seen Liam Lawrence demonstrate how NOT to take a penalty, I’ve seen a world cup star influence the game from the bench, I’ve seen horrific tackles, stupid refereeing, bribed linesman, and much more, but one thing I’ve never seen live, is a goalkeeper become goal scorer – that was until last night when the Stags defeated second placed Wrexham at the One Call Stadium, Step forward Sir Alan Marriott.
The Stags shot stopper and joint longest serving current player, netted his first career goal with 61 minutes on the clock, his launched ball downfield towards Ross Dyer caught the wind and sensationally bounced over Joslain Mayebi’s head and trickled into the back of the net sparking mass celebrations. Making his 126th league appearance for the Stags last night, the former Lincoln and Rushden gloves man is always reliable at the back, grabbing his 47th clean sheet of his Stags league career last night – it’s rather fitting really that his efforts should be rewarded with a goal, the Stags’ 50th home goal of the season – even more impressive when you consider it’s the first time a Stags side have reached the 50 league goal mark on home soil since the 1976-77 old division three title winning campaign, when we netted 52, going unbeaten at home throughout the campaign.
Along with the Marriott magic, we should add the Mansfield magic to the mixing bowl – last night’s 2-0 victory saw us stretch out unbeaten home run to 13 games, having last lost on home soil to Cambridge on November 5th. In the home season over all, we’ve taken our win tally to 14, matching the number of home wins picked up in 2008-09 but beating the points tally of 47 set at home that season by a solitary point – our home record for 2011-12 reads played 23, won 14, drawn six lost three – impressive.
I honestly thought both sides would field “weakened” sides last night with both having secured a play-off spot – however Paul Cox certainly didn’t do so, making only three changes to the side which saw off Hayes and Yeading last Saturday. Skipper Adam Murray, wide man Louis Briscoe and attacking midfielder Lee Stevenson came in, the latter making his first start since our FA Trophy first round exit at Droylsden. Missing out we’re Gary Roberts, Ben Hutchinson and leading front man Matt Green as Stags opted for a flexible 4-3-3 moulding into a 4-4-1-1
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley, Exodus Geohaghon, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe (Green), Adam Murray (C) (Roberts), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Lee Stevenson (Hutchinson), Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrew, Gary Roberts
The Stags made a bright start, registering their first opportunity with the clock barley past a minute. Exodus Geohaghon sparked the initial move with a long punt down field; Ross Dyer won the flick on finding Lee Stevenson – the former Belper Town midfielder controlled well before being fouled on the edge of the box. Luke O’Neill stepped up for the resulting free kick but saw his effort cannon back of the Dragons’ wall, Louis Briscoe chipped the already soaked ball back into the box but got a little too much on it, as the ball floated out for a goal kick.
Four minutes later it was second placed Wrexham on the attack with Rob Ogleby driving down the right hand side before being disposed by a final tackle from returning skipper Adam Murray, Lindon Meikle was then fouled picking up the second ball at left back and was awarded a free kick for his trouble. Wrexham keeper Joslain Mayebi caused a stir a few weeks back against champions Fleetwood with his risky touches, on six minutes his miscommunication with Nat Knight-Percival saw the latter have to slam away for a throw as Ross Dyer began to advance following a delightful Luke O’Neill lofted pass from right back.
On 11 minutes Mansfield won a throw down the right hand side which Exodus Geohaghon launched in to mix – Ross Dyer headed down for Murray on the edge of the area however the Stags captain failed to find an amber shirt with his pass allowing Wrexham to scramble away the initial danger, Ritchie Sutton mopped things up on the half way line and sent Lindon Meikle on his way down the left hand side. Charging forward the Stags wide man found Anthony Howell but again Wrexham forced Mansfield back to the half way line, this time Ritchie Sutton failed to deliver a pass to an amber shirt, his deep ball finding the grateful arms of Mayebi.
Two minutes later the Stags did deliver as the grabbed the lead, Anthony Howell did well on the right hand side to win a throw in against Dean Keates – Howell made his way into the box and timed his run well, rising at the near post to connect with Geohaghon’s swirling throw, heading into the bottom corner to grab his fifth goal of the season and break the deadlock.
Stags 1-0 Wrexham
From the restart the Stags we’re pushing on again and were a whisker away from doubling their lead. Luke O’Neill’s wonderful cross park ball found Ross Dyer bursting down the left channel, cutting back inside the burly front man fired into the side netting on his left foot. The visitors then had a small spell of pressure themselves on 15 minutes as a Stags attack broke down and allowed Neil Ashton to cover ground down the left wing, cutting inside the Wrexham wide man failed to keep his shot on target and blazed over Marriott’s bar, moments later the Stags number one held on to Jay Harris’ 30 yard drive following a deep Wrexham free kick.
Alan Marriott then pumped a goal kick down field sparked another attack on 27 minutes, Ross Dyer won the ariel battle against Knight-Percival and played a neat little 1-2 with Lee Stevenson. Central to the goal Dyer completed the link to the advancing Lindon Meikle who danced his way past his marker before earning the Stags’ first corner of the night via the boot of Stephen Wright. Luke O’Neill’s delivery was headed away but only to Louis Briscoe who struck venomously wide on the half volley from the edge of the box with the pace and angle of the ball against him.
On the half hour mark Alan Marriott had to be quick to race off his line to deny former team mate Jake Speight, however this was pretty much all Wrexham could muster in attack as Stags kept their foot on the gas, continuing to attack in numbers. With 11 minutes to go before the half time oranges and numerous towels to dry of from the pouring rain, Lindon Meikle again frightened Stephen Wright as he broke forward from the half way line. Cutting inside, former Eastwood man Meikle held up the ball well allowing Ritchie Sutton to make an advancing overlapping run from left back, picking the ball up from Meikle’s pass, Sutton turned inside onto his left but saw his driven low effort held by Mayebi.
Two minutes later Jake Speight saw his attacking run halted by Luke O’Neill, the Stags right back who scooped two awards prior to the game, moved into space before chipping forward for Anthony Howell. The defensive midfielder cut inside but saw his strike teasingly trickle the wrong side of the post.
Exodus Geohaghon then stretched the game with a throw from the half way line to the edge of the box down the right hand side on 39 minutes. Ross Dyer showed good composure and neat control before spinning round and letting fly – Joslain Mayebi palmed away and the loose ball found Skipper Murray on the edge of the box, wrong footed the Mansfield captain blazed well over, still in search of opening his Stags account for the season having not scored since bagging a brace at Boston United in pre-season.
Three minutes later there was controversy as Luke O’Neill sent Ross Dyer on his way with another ball over the top. Dyer charged through and had beaten the onrushing keeper before being upended by Mark Creighton, the referee blew his whistle but remarkably awarded Wrexham a free kick and flashed a yellow card in Dyer’s direction for simulation – an awful call.
On the stroke of half time there was time for one final Stags effort, Exodus Geohaghon launched in a long throw from the right finding Ross Dyer in the air, the front man headed wide with his back to goal.
Half Time: Stags 1-0 Wrexham
After the break the Stags wasted no time in putting the visitors under pressure, earning a corner after 43 seconds after good work between Dyer and Stevenson. Luke O’Neill’s ball in was headed away only as far as Howell who combined with Geohaghon and then Briscoe, who fired wide after cutting in from the right.
On 47 Luke O’Neill was again lively on the right hand side, sliding in winning tackle after tackle, the second of which saw him shoot into the side netting after Briscoe’s hold up on the right. At the other end two minutes later Alan Marriott made easy work of collecting Danny Wright’s long range effort.
Adam Murray then sent Ross Dyer on his way with a wonderfully weighted pass on 53 minutes, Dyer held up well before allowing Briscoe to take over on the right hand side eventually switching play to Lindon Meikle on the left. Meikle sent Lee Stevenson through on goal, his effort cannoned off the back tracking Wrexham defender and away for another Geohaghon throw. After the visitors mopped up the throw, Luke O’Neill was on hand to keep the pressure on the North Wales based side, controlled on the half way line and pinging the ball to the right hand side for Briscoe, who via a neat touch from Dyer, pushed play onto Stevenson – his left footed drive was well saved by Mayebi.
On the hour mark Wrexham briefly came alive down the left hand side, former Stag Jake Speight, who was leading scorer at Field Mill with 17 in the 2009/10 campaign, played a neat 1-2 with Jay Harris, the latter shot straight at Marriott from Speight’s return pass. Bizarrely and somewhat emphatically, this led to Mansfield’s second.
The Stags were far from happy to settle for a two goal lead in the pouring rain and continued to sail through the visiting defence. With 69 minutes on the clock a Luke O’Neill corner caused all sorts of trouble, Anthony Howell somehow saw his effort frantically scrambled away in a goal mouth scramble, before Louis Briscoe was unfortunate not to beat the on rushing Mayebi to Adam Murray’s excellent long range pass two minutes later.
With ten minutes to go the visitors pressured with two successive corners, the second of which the Stags counter from as Anthony Howell embarked on a fine run down the left hand side, playing in the on rushing Meikle who’s first time driven cross saw Stevenson flagged offside.
Matt Rhead came on for the final eight minutes replacing Louis Briscoe and was involved almost immediately. Another O’Neill corner was pumped back into the box by Murray, Joslain Mayebi raced out to collected ahead of Meikle after Matt Rhead had flicked the ball on. Anthony Howell was then named man of the match and was replaced to a standing ovation by Danny Andrew, the Cheltenham loan man slotted into left back with Ritchie Sutton moving into a five man midfield alongside Murray and Stevenson in the centre to shut up shop.
With a minute to go Matt Rhead was so unfortunate not to grab his third of the season and Stags’ third of the evening. Adam Murray did the hard work in the centre, sending Luke O’Neill on his way down the right hand side. The young full backs cross fell kindly for Rhead who, through a crowd of red shirts, fired agonisingly wide with his left foot for six yards.
Into added on time and Wrexham pilled on a half hearted bit of pressure which inevitably led to nothing and allowed the Stags to counter, Lindon Meilkle was upended by Creighton right on the edge of the box central to goal – Luke O’Neill’s free kick hit the wall quickly followed by the full time whistle – sealing the Stags’ 14th home win of the season and ensuring the all important home advantage for the play-off second leg. With the rain continuing to hammer it down, supporters wisely stayed off the pitch and just continued to sing late into the night as the beautiful season continued to give.
Full Time: Stags 2-0 Wrexham << Listen again, full audio uploaded whilst writing, commentary from myself and Wayne Briggs
There is now ONE game to go before the play-off battle will commence, in the week I’ll open my thoughts taking a look at who we could play etc, next up it’s a tricky trip to Kidderminster which posses more dilemmas for Paul Cox – home and away we’re now unbeaten in five with five consecutive victories for the third time this season, we’ve also lost just twice in our twenty fixtures from and including New Years Day – our momentum is outstanding, do we keep this going which means keeping the core of the squad out there and not resting legs, or do we risk defeat to rest legs for the play-offs? It’s a tricky one and the more I type and think about the battles to come, the nervier I get! But do you know what? I absolutely love it!
I’m sure you like me will be keeping an eye on the other results from the BSBP this afternoon and will hate the excruciating pain the next week will bring as our next game awaits! If you can’t get to Kidderminster then be sure to join myself, Wayne Briggs and youth team player of the season Scott Rogers for full match commentary and build up from 12noon on 106.9FM and MM-LIVE!
I mentioned their Scott picking up the youth team player of the season award last night, as a friend, colleague and youth team correspondent for the club – I can honestly say it’s well deserved. On the pitch Scott always gets stuck in and reads the game very well and despite myself and James Williamson ribbing him about the one own goal he’s scored, is an excellent player with a very bright future. Scott’s a very polite lad whose knowledge of the game is second to none, from all at Mansfield Matters – congratulations on your award mate.
That’s it for today, as ever thanks for checking out Mansfield Matters – have a great week and we’ll see you next Saturday - don't forget to keep the votes coming for player of the season, goal of the season and game of the season via our MM-Awards page.
PHOTOS: James Williamson an Dan Westwell
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