Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Kidderminster Harriers V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #46)
Venue: Aggborough Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 28th April 2012 – 1pm
Attendance: 3565 (674)
Match Referee: Jez Simpson
I must admit to a degree of difficulty in writing this blog this afternoon, as I have no idea where to start. The talk around the house, on facebook, twitter etc has been all about the play-offs and the trip to York on Wednesday night, comparing the two’s form guide, discussing team tactics etc it’s starting to make my head throb and my heartbeat faster than normal, in fact with every minute that goes by yesterday’s final game at Kidderminster fades away – it shouldn’t as, despite its irrelevance it’s another story worthy of a couple of pages in the Mansfield Town story book!
Forgive me for not talking about the play-offs straight away, there’s so much I want to write my head seems like it’s about to explode! I guess I should start reflecting on our season just gone and the outcome of yesterday’s wonderful trip to Kidderminster. It’s fair to say that this season has been outstanding, I was sitting on my sofa last night thinking back and I can honestly say that never have I felt so proud to be a Stags fan or so privileged to be able to report on such a remarkable adventure. I know we are yet to win anything and the reality could be that we are still a blue square bet premier club in a few weeks time, but watching the progression of our squad and the way they’ve not only gelled together in the dressing room, but have fused together with the supporters – we have achieved so much already.
Stats wise the class of 2011-12 will be remembered for a long time in history, amassing 14 home wins, netting 50 home goals for the first time since the 1976/77 campaign, and also finishing with the highest home points total for many a year. Add to that our impressive away form; victory yesterday saw us reach 11 away wins for the first time since 1976/77 and for the third time ever in our history, we also set a new high number of away goals scored over the past ten years, finishing on 37 away goals scored, beating our previous high of 35 set in 2009/10 – the club record of away goals scored remains unbeaten, having scored 47 in the 1962/63 season, but still a great achievement. In terms of goal difference away from home, having conceded only 23 on the road we’ve finished with an PLUS away goal difference for the first time since 1994/95 and with our final away goal difference being +14 I’d be inclined to put money on it being one of the best away goal differences Stags have ever finished with. Back at Field Mill, conceding just 25 we’ve finished with a PLUS home goal difference of +25, meaning this season is the first time since the aforementioned 1994/95 campaign, we’ve finished with both a PLUS home and away goal difference.
Not only have we achieved all of the above, we’ve all set the highest points total ever achieved by a Stags side, finishing one shy on 90 with 89! Twice this season we’ve been close to grabbing six consecutive wins for the first time October 1991, yesterday’s victory means we’ve done this at the third time of asking and a win at York on Wednesday (PLEASE!) would see us grab a seventh consecutive win for the first time the 1991/92 season and for only the third time in our history – wins over York in both legs would see us with eight consecutive wins which would be a new club record, DARE TO DREAM! Onto individual feats, Matt Green became the first player to grab 30 goals in one season since Ray Clarke in the 1974/75 season. (thanks to Martin Shaw for the information)
This really is the season that has kept on giving, without tempting fate, let’s hope it continues and accumulates in the ending we’ve all be dreaming off. Away from the pitch our support has been outstanding, I can’t stress enough how much of a factor this could prove to be on May 7th in the second leg, yesterday I believe that Paul Cox gave us all a wonderful reward for all our support by winning, when all we asked for was a game in which we escaped with no injuries and no suspensions. Understandably with the hosts needing to win and Luton to lose to get into the play-offs themselves, their support was vocal at the start but was soon silenced by noise created by the pink nuns, the arrobas, the Flintstones, Spiderman, the bananas in pyjamas and various other costumed Staggies along with those who went in normal attire! The banter from our crowd is great, the drumming never stopped, the love never stopped – just wonderful, I think every player in the squad got a song in their name yesterday, great work! The pink nun on the run was hilarious, as we’re several other things – on the pitch things have been wonderful, it’s been the same off it too, it’s such a great feeling to support a well loved, well supported, good footballing club, I’m getting a lump in my throat just thinking about it.
As I say, all we asked for was a game in which we got through without suspension or injury – to go on and win it its brilliant, especially when you consider Paul Cox made seven changes ahead of the play-offs. The fact we can change so many and still put in a performance on a par to the run we’ve made to get into the play-offs is phenomenal and just goes to show how strong we are not just as an eleven but as an entire team.
The team sheet threw up no surprises to me, I knew deep down we’d make changes and rest players. I was delighted to see Shane Redmond handed a debut between the sticks, Alan Marriott has been outstanding this season and has limited the Irish Gloves man to appearances in friendly’s only, fortunately I’ve been lucky enough to watch them and I’ve always been impressed with Redmond who, with more football under his belt (possibly with the Reserves next season) will develop into a very good goalkeeper. Cheltenham loan man Danny Andrew was handed his first full start following four appearances from the bench, he replaced the exceptional Ritchie Sutton. Exodus Geohaghon was handed a rest having made 13 consecutive starts, John Thompson made his first start since December’s FA Trophy trip to Droylsden having suffered a relapse on that horrific pre-season injury. In midfield there was a return for Jon Worthington, his last game being the 1-1 draw with Fleetwood last month – the former Huddersfield skipper took Anthony Howell’s place whilst Gary Roberts replaced skipper Adam Murray. On the left hand side there was a surprise return for player coach Andy Todd, making his first November when he came off the bench at Fleetwood in the FA cup hammering, he replaced Lindon Meikle. Creative midfielder Lee Stevenson rightfully kept his place in the line up but this time was placed just behind Matt Rhead, who made only his second full start at the expense of Ross Dyer. Martin Riley was rightfully handed the skippers armband after several impressive performances at the heart of defence.
Line Up: Shane Redmond (Marriott), Luke O’Neill, Martin Riley (C), John Thompson (Geohaghon), Danny Andrew (Sutton), Louis Briscoe, Jon Worthington (Howell), Gary Roberts (Murray), Andy Todd (Meikle), Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead (Dyer)
Substitutes: Alan Marriott, Matt Green, Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Ben Hutchinson.
With the hosts needing a win, understandably they we’re first out of the traps and had a free kick on the left hand side after just 28 seconds. Shane Redmond was alert and punched Marvin Johnson’s powerfully away for a corner. Worked short and quick the Stags were caught off guard, Tom Marshall headed narrowly wide from Johnsons cross.
Three minutes later it was the hosts turn to defend as Mansfield pressured, Jon Worthington provided a chipped assist which saw Matt Rhead nip in as Tom Marshall and Tony Breeden failed to communicate, Rhead hit a stinging effort but Breeden was able to recover and palm away. With the move still alive, Lee Stevenson put a cross in from the right which Matt Rhead headed wide, having taken a suspicious knock from Lee Vaughn, Rhead required treatment before being able to carry on.
On the five minute mark it was again Mansfield who cantered forward, a neat pass this time from Roberts saw the athletic Andy Todd on the edge of the box, the player coach was tugged down by Marshall and the Stags awarded a free kick. Cheltenham loan man Danny Andrew stepped up but stuck the 22 yard central dead ball straight against the wall.
The seven Stags changes began to find there rhythm on nine minutes, building from the back. Danny Andrew attacked down the left hand side before finding Lee Stevenson some thirty yards from goal. The former Eastwood man let fly with a strong hit but failed to beet Tony Breeden who did well to hand onto the forceful effort. A minute later the hosts worked a free kick well down the left hand side with Kyle Storer passing low down the left for Mike Williams’ the Harriers captain’s cross was easily collected by debutant Redmond who then sent Stevenson on his way with a strong kick. The creative midfielder teed up Rhead who struck venomously on the volley from thirty yards, his effort though landed wide.
Shane Redmond was then called into action on 15 minutes as Ryan Rowe drove his way down the right hand side, skipping past the challenge of Danny Andrew, Rowe whipped into the middle for Kyle Storer whose shot was kept out well by Redmond. Two minutes later Gary Roberts split play with a crisp low pass from the half way line to the edge of the box finding Andy Todd, the player coach saw his left footed effort held by Breeden.
The hosts then enjoyed a spell of pressure and registered two shots in as many minutes with 22 on the clock. First Anthony Malbon drove a shot wide from the edge of the box following Rowe’s flick on, before Jon Worthington made a fine tackle on Marvin Johnson to concede a corner as the latter drove his way down the left. The resulting was headed wide by Kyle Storer who made a fine run after former Stag Luke Jones perfected the role of decoy.
Another attack for the hosts on 26 led to a Stags goal kick, from which they looked to press. Redmond’s ball down park found Matt Rhead in the air, the former Corby hit man nodded play wide for Louis Briscoe who upped the pace to drive forward and earn a corner via the boot of Mike Williams. Luke O’Neill, voted Mansfield Matters Listeners’ Player of the season before the match, whipped in a great corner but play was soon stopped as the returning John Thompson was judged to have fouled his marker in the air.
On the half hour mark the Stags powered forwards once more, Gary Roberts was influential as ever starting the move in the middle playing a 1-2 with O’Neill. From the return pass Roberts stretched the game with a delightful pass for Louis Briscoe whose first time cross was headed powerfully into the keepers hands by Matt Rhead at the back post.
Five minutes later the Stags should have really taken the lead with another flowing move. Gary Roberts had the hosts back peddling as he slipped play through to Andy Todd in the box. The player coach should have been greedier in a wonderful goal scoring position and taken the shot on himself, instead he found Lee Stevenson who was denied twice by Tony Breeden. The hosts scrambled the second ball away but only as far as Rhead on the edge of the box who again volleyed wide of the target. Two minutes later Andy Todd again provided for Stevenson this time chipped a ball down the left hand side, Stevenson held up well before finding Briscoe who hit a disappointing effort well wide of the target.
A minute later the 674 travelling Stags fans, team and visiting press nearly all suffered heart attacks as Shane Redmond landed himself in hot water from Martin Riley’s back pass. Unable to pick the ball up Redmond took too much time on the ball and quickly found Ryan Rowe in front of him, turning well Redmond had opportunity to slam away for a throw but chose to turn back inside and again found Rowe scrambling for the ball. The Irish shot stopper whose last start was over two seasons ago, was forced down to his hands and knees to shield the ball in what was described by Alan Marriott on twitter after the game as the spider dance, Martin Riley eventually waded in to slam away the danger!
John Thompson made a phenomenal siding challenge on Kyle Storer as Shane Redmond’s goal kick was headed back into Stags territory by Luke Jones at pace, James Vincent picked up the loose ball and fired harmlessly wide from 40 yards with three to go before the break, a minute later Lee Stevenson fired wide as the teams headed into the break level.
HALF TIME: Kidderminster 0-0 Stags
With Luton ahead at the break, the harriers needed some luck in the second to stand a chance of the play-offs, three minutes into the second half their task became increasingly difficult as Lee Vaughn was showed a straight red card for elbowing Matt Rhead. Two minutes later the burly front man nodded down O’Neill’s directional ball for Stevenson who was denied at the last millisecond by Breeden who collected the loose ball.
On 56 minutes the Stags took full advantage of the man advantage to take the lead following an excellent spell on the ball inside the Harriers half. First Luke O’Neill drove the Stags forward down the right hand side before passing inside the Jon Worthington, his drive from the edge of the box cannoned away off Marshall as far as Roberts on the half way line. Turning his man well Roberts linked up with Andrew who played a fine low pass into Rhead.
The burly hit man made a great dummy and may have got the faintest of touches inside for Stevenson who did the rest. To the left of the area, the former Eastwood man who arrived at the club with a fine reputation of 90+ goals over the past three seasons, kept his composure and tucked the ball beneath the legs of Breeden into the empty net to open the scoring and get the goal he truly deserved.
Kidderminster 0-1 Stags
From the restart the hosts looked to get back on level terms, attacking down the left hand side Marvin Johnson hit a nice volley drawing Redmond into a smart save.
Four minutes later the hosts came forward once more, Anthony Malbon’s left sided cross fell to substitute Jack Byrne on the edge of the box, his effort was diverted away for a corner which was headed wide at the back post.
Gary Roberts then began to push forward on 62 minutes, finding Matt Rhead on the edge of the box – his thunderous effort was well held by Tony Breeden. A minute later there was a lengthy stoppage as Louis Briscoe collided with Anthony Malbon as the latter attacked down the right wing. In a 50/50 tackle Briscoe came out on top but play was stopped as Malbon remained grounded, he was eventually stretchered off and needed the aid of an Oxygen mask after he was knocked unconscious. Louis Briscoe rightly received a booking which saw the home faithful furious as they demanded a red card. After the game, the ground was quickly cleared with the press being told to leave the ground, a compromised was reached allowing the press to get the post match interviews outside the near bye Staff loos, allowing an air ambulance arrived to take Malbon to hospital – he was later released given the all clear, great news.
Once the game got back underway some ten minutes later, the resulting free kick was tipped over by Shane Redmond after the intended cross had caught the wind.
There was another stoppage moments later as the game took a light hearted turn, the aforementioned pink nuns we’re all enjoying a nice sing song on the terrace communion before one of them had enough and escaped from the convent, storming the pitch running from corner flag to corner flag before “blessing” the home faithful at the other end and eventually being escorted from the ground to church for a confession!
With Jesus having spare food to hand out with the 5000 going down to 4999, he was on the lookout for a new person to share his kindness with, on 77 minutes brother Todd’s effort from distance was blocked before a delightful move saw Brother Briscoe blessed with his 11th goal of the season a minute later – Ritchie Sutton also took the pitch replacing O’Neill at right back, and with that, the puns end too!
Matt Rhead started the move holding up well on the edge of the box before sending Lee Stevenson on his way down the right, a first time cross from the opening goal scorer found Louis Briscoe unmarked in the middle, he completed the job by heading home the Stags second of the game. The wide man was then replaced by Ben Hutchinson as Stags moved to a 4-4-2 with Todd on the right and Stevenson on the left.
Kidderminster 0-2 Stags
Two minutes after the restart Kidderminster looked to reduce the deficit, James Vincent’s low ball down the right saw substitute Nick Wright get in ahead of skipper Martin Riley, Shane Redmond got down low to keep out Wright’s curling shot. Moments later Lee Stevenson was disposed on the half way line and Nick Wright again looked to attack, this time the Harriers hit man was stopped by john Thompson who made an excellent sliding challenge, the resulting corner came to nothing.
Leading hit man Matt Green was given the final eight minutes plus additional time to shake off the cobwebs after missing last Fridays 2-0 win over Wrexham, he surprisingly replaced Danny Andrew as the formation switched once more, this time a 3-1-4-2 with Jon Worthington in front of the back four, Andy Todd back to the left as a wing back, Stevenson to the middle with Hutchinson on the right.
Leading front man Green then hit the 30 goal mark as Stags wrapped up the win with four minutes to go, quick thinking from Matt Rhead sparked the goal. Taking a quick throw from the right hand side, he found Gary Roberts to the right of the box; Roberts delivered a first time low pass to Green who turned his man before firing at goal, the shot bobbled up and was scrambled away by Jones, however the linesman judged the ball to have crossed the line and the celebrations began.
Kidderminster 0-3 Stags
With nine minutes added time, the game failed to produce any more chances until the final minute. Good work from Hutchinson on the left from Todd’s pass saw him find Green. The on fire hit man held up well before teeing up Stevenson who fired over from the edge of the box.
The resulting goal kick signalled the end of the game and as news filtered through, it was confirmed that an 82nd minute strike from York City saw then seal 4th place and set up a tasty two legs with the Stags, which starts on Wednesday night.
FULL TIME: Kidderminster 0-3 Stags << Full audio and build up with myself and Scott Rogers
With the scheduled season over, the Stags finish in third having played 46, won 25, drawn 14, lost 7 scored 87 conceded 48 – points 89. Beaten just twice in 2012 in the 21 fixtures played, the Stags have clocked up 16 wins three draws and just two defeats – stats which may give us a psychological edge, but realistically count for nothing ahead of two mightily tough games.
Join myself, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs from 7pm on Wednesday on MM-LIVE and 106.9FM as the Stags face York in the first leg of the play-offs, we’ve full match commentary and unrivalled build up. Keep an eye on the website for previews etc in the coming games.
DARE TO DREAM!
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