Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Barrow AFC Vs Mansfield Town FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #44
Venue: The Furness Building Society Stadium (Holker Street)
Date & Time: Saturday 6th April 2013 – 3pm
Match Referee: Anthony Blackhouse
Attendance: 1,114 (300)
After defeat in Wrexham on Thursday, Stags needed to regroup quickly and get back on track, it’s pleasing to say that they’d did yesterday in beautiful Barrow, running out 4-0 winners. It was a tough game and on any other afternoon could have been an entirely different outcome now, but whilst that is a true and fair statement, it’s also firm and stern fact that we came out of the match with three vital points and now our canvas is primed to portray a somewhat beautiful image.
Four games remain for Paul Cox’s side, defeated twice in their last 19 matches; they are a point behind Kidderminster, level on goal difference with two games in hand. The Harriers have Wrexham and Stockport left to play whilst Stags have Macclesfield, Braintree, Hereford and Wrexham left on their schedule – working on assumptions here and going on recent form – Stags need three wins from their final four games to take the crown.
In more simpler terms, a win against Macclesfield on Tuesday evening terms will move Stags TWO points clear at the tables top, should Stags then beat Braintree after that they’ll be FIVE points clear before Kidderminster have kicked off, in my opinion whilst there’s pressure on us to win the two fixtures, Kidderminster not playing gives us room to relax and focus. We’ll talk about the importance of beating Macclesfield etc later in the week but the way the brush is poised, this time next week out painting could be complete – how scary is that thought.
Yesterday was a battle in which heroes were needed, played out to a picturesque back drop of sprinkled snow covered fells and the reflecting suns’ beam on Lower Ormsgill Reservoir, the players eventually stepped up to the place, non-more so than Alan Marriott. The Stags shot stopper’s 27th minute penalty save and heroic rebound block could well prove to be the pivotal point in the title race and season’s outcome. There were flash-backs of Stockport away back in January, Stags hanging on in the early stages before a missed penalty changed the games course and in actually fact, Stags’ long term ambitions and fortunes – same again please!
It wasn’t a pretty game to match the breathtaking backdrop, but give me points over perfection performances any day of the week right now – league titles are won on the points you collect, not by judgement of pretty football!
Yet again records were broken, the four goals netted against a Barrow side who now seemingly cry at the thought of playing Mansfield takes this season’s total to 12 to a reply of just one. The twelve goals scored is the highest goals for total achieved in a season against one team home and away since the club joined the football league in 1931 – the more impressive record broke is for the amount of away wins in a season, the Stags now have notched up 12 away wins this term which beats the previous record of 11, amazing when you consider our away record was the divisions worse prior to Christmas – Paul Cox and his team deserve a huge pack on the back.
Going into the match against struggling Barrow Paul Cox opted for a few changes following defeat in Wrexham less than 42 hours prior to kick-off at Holker Street, Adam Chapman and Lindon Meikle went out for Lee Stevenson and Louis Briscoe respectively – the side fielded was one player different to the previous meeting with Barrow, the 8-1 mauling, Greg Taylor at left back instead of James Jennings who is of course absent with injury. On the bench, Cox named player-coach Andy Todd, the fittest man in the universe probably. Some are critical of Todd but at this stage of the season, a player with his influence, tactical know how and adaptability is most welcome for those certain sticky patches – I’ll say it now even if nobody agrees, Todd’s name should be the first on the team sheet whether it’s in the starting line up or on the bench, at some stage – we’ll need him.
Line Up [4-4-1-1] Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, Greg Taylor, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Junior Daniel, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green.
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Matt Rhead, Andy Todd, Adam Chapman.
It was a balanced start at Holker Street on a beautiful afternoon which saw chances for both sides in the opening minutes, Junior Daniel’s forceful run in the early seconds lacked any finishing conviction as Gary Hunter cleared well before Alan Marriott was well positioned to keep out an effort from Richie Baker at the other end.
On five minutes Junior Daniel showed speed to try and create for Stags however it was Barrow that would go onto enjoy the better of the chances, Adam Boyes firing over from just outside the area before further efforts from Baker and Danny L Rowe called the likes of Marriott, Jones and Beevers into action.
Stags then had a golden chance to open the scoring on twenty minutes as Sean Hessey the Barrow skipper made a timing error and allowing Green to pick his pocket on the edge of the box, however despite Green’s reputation in front of goal he failed to beat Danny Hurst, placing his over-run effort wide of the mark once inside the box.
The Bluebirds continued their fight for an opener and had further opportunities through L.Rowe and Rutherford before they were awarded a 27th minute penalty, following a handball by Luke Jones after Hunter’s long throw. Richie Baker took on the responsibility but failed to outwit Marriott who saved well with his legs before excellently denying the on rushing Adam Boyes who hit a venomous rebound. The move wasn’t over as Stags cleared and countered, Anthony Howell’s dominant muscle power surge took the ball over the half way line and eventually into the path of Green, dishearteningly for Stags Green failed to keep the ball alive and the sting, went quickly out of the tale.
Two minutes later Stags atoned for their failure to net on the counter attack as they opened the scoring in fluent fashion. Adam Murray started the move sweeping the ball into the direction of Daniel who, despite having opportunity to shoot, pulled the ball back to Green who had the simple task of clipping into the bottom corner with Hurst not in sight.
To Barrow’s credit they were relentless in search of an equaliser and came close to finding one on the half hour mark as L.Rowe stroked the ball into the path of Boyes. With space inside the area, Boyes’ let a sweat effort go which had beaten Marriott all ends up but not the post – the Barrow hit mans effort thumping back off the frame before being cleared.
The pendulum then swung back in Mansfield’s direction as they came close twice in three minutes, John Dempster’s assisting header close to reaching Green on 35 before a terrific solo run from Stevenson following Daniel’s poke through, saw him denied well by the on rushing keepers legs in a one verses one situation ten yards from goal.
Stags were then fortunate not to concede as Sean McConville delivered a powerful corner, Dempster headed the initial ball away but Stags failed to react to the second ball, Barrow skipper Hessey driving a thunderous left footed effort narrowly wide of the target.
With four minutes of the first half remaining Stags were given some breathing space as Louis Briscoe was tripped by the back-tracking Danny L Rowe, the Barrow players pleaded their case for only a free kick however the referee and his assistant had a long look before pointing to the penalty spot. Matt Green took responsibility and netted his third spot kick of the season against Barrow, again sending Danny Hurst the wrong way to make it 2-0 to the travelling Stags.
Seconds after the restart Green squandered the chance to take home the match-ball as he slotted wide of the target following Daniel’s assist, on the stroke of half time Alan Marriott remained well positioned to keep out McConville’s driven shot, ensuring Stags held a healthy two goal lead at half time.
HALF TIME: Barrow 0-2 Stags
Mansfield began the second half with the opportunity for a third goal, however it didn’t quite come as Stevenson nodded over from Adam Murray’s left sided free kick with barley a minute played. Two minutes later Alan Marriott made yet another superb stop to deny Adam Boyes after he pounded onto a tame backwards header from Luke Jones.
The bluebirds again came close on 55 minutes as Anthony Howell went into the book for fouling Danny L Rowe. The same player stepped up from the edge of the box and sent his free kick thundering against the bar before, much to the Stags relief, the ball bounced clear.
Five minutes later Stags found their feet again and grabbed their third goal of the afternoon. Three players will lay claim to the goal which the dubious goals committee will deliberate on – Adam Murray will claim his free kick went straight in whilst Lee Stevenson claims a header which he says crossed the line before John Dempster plainly smashed in. The press association credited Dempster, as did we however in the end, we’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter, what does is the fact Stags held a solid 3-0 lead.
Adam Boyes headed over another chance for Barrow on 65 minutes before either side of two Stags changes, Rhead for Green and Meikle for Briscoe, Danny L Rowe fired straight at Marriott.
Lee Beevers then delivered a deep free kick for Stags on 76 minutes which Rhead headed into the path of Stevenson, denied only by a block on the line as the lively midfielder searched for a goal.
In the latter stages the game went fairly flat, James Owen registered another effort for the hosts with ten minutes to go before Andy Todd entered the fray for Daniel with two minutes to go. A series of Murray corners saw Howell scuff an effort on 90 minutes before Stevenson added the fourth goal a minute to added time.
Lindon Meikle sparked the move sending a defence splitting pass into Rhead who could have taken the shot on himself, instead he drilled towards the back post where Stevenson clipped in half a yard from goal, soon after followed the full time whistle to the delight of the 300 travelling fans.
FULL TIME: Barrow 0-4 Stags
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