Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write....
Fixture: Mansfield Town vs Woking FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #6
Venue: One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 1st September – 3pm
Match Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria)
Attendance: 2,061 (86)
Despite only making one signing on transfer deadline day it felt like we had several new additions yesterday as the Stags saw off Woking 3-1. The return of Exodus Geohaghon on deadline day from Kidderminster was the one fans were all excited about however I can think of several other returns which saw the Stags in good stead yesterday, the reversion to a 4-4-2 formation, last season’s solid midfield, Adam Murray back in the aforementioned midfield and oh yeah, a win! The latter important after a miserable bank holiday Monday defeat at Grimsby.
Of course the signing of Exodus Geohaghon has fans split down the middle, personally I’m never one for the ‘looking back whilst walking forward’ method, that said Big Ex just brings with him a certain ora which is moped up by our supporters something with yesterday especially we could feel flowing through the stands. The 27 year old defender is dominant in the air, a menace from set pieces and has that ruthless long throw the only down side being his defensive play can sometimes strain under pressure whilst on the ball with it to feet. Moving in to the midfield you could just tell that Adam Murray was back yesterday as all of a sudden the Stags found their energy, desire and most importantly their discipline. The now player assistant boss completed 90 minutes for the reserves on Wednesday night you could tell then that he’d be returning yesterday, as after the game when we spoke to him we could see that little glint in his eye and that little spark almost as if to say ‘I have a responsibility to turn things around and nothing’s going to stop me!’ It’s clear that in our first five games we lacked a bit of heart in our ranks, anyone who doesn’t think Murray provides that needs to take a look at who we are with Murray and who we are without Murray. There’s no denying that he was tired towards the end of yesterday’s game, however he never gave up trying playing a key part in substitute Jake Speight’s winning goal.
The 4-4-2 formation was also a refreshing return for some reason we just don’t click in a 4-3-3, the three games we have won this term have all been built around a 4-4-2 whilst the games we’ve lost have seen us set-up in a 4-3-3. The four across the middle just provides a more solid platform and flexibility, it was pleasing yesterday to see last season’s midfield continue to maintain their solid understanding.
Performance wise there was spell during yesterday’s game where Alan Marriott had to be at his best as complacency began to creep in. A special mention should also go to Ritchie Sutton who again had a solid game at right back.
Paul Cox made four changes to the side which were beaten on Monday, new signing Geohaghon replaced John Dempster at the heart of the defence, Adam Murray replaced suspended Gary Roberts and again took the captain’s armband, Louis Briscoe replaced Chris Clements with Matt Rhead replacing Speight in attack.
LINE UP: [4-4-2] Alan Marriott – Ritchie Sutton – Luke Jones – Exodus Geohaghon – Junior Daniel – Louis Briscoe – Adam Murray (C) – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle – Matt Rhead – Matt Green.
SUBSTITUTES: John Thompson – Jake Speight – Nick Wright – Chris Clements – Lee Stevenson.
It took Mansfield a while to settle with the visitors going in search of an early opener. The move started with Kevin Betsy looking lively down the right hand side, Luke Jones diverting behind for a corner, Matt Rhead heading away Gavin McCallum’s in-swinger.
On six minutes the Stags fans got to see what they had been waiting for as Big Ex launched in the first of 17 long throws inside the working half over the course of the game. Unfortunately for the Stags the first attempt didn’t have the desired effect as Mike Cestor headed clear ahead of Matt Rhead.
Two minutes later solid defensive play between Meikle and Howell saw Matt Green nearly break free down the left. The talismanic front man was stopped in his tracks with the Stags awarded a free-kick. Adam Murray’s delivery from deep was headed out for a throw from which Stags gained the initiative. Initially Geohaghon’s throw was headed away by the Cards but a combination of Murray and Howell saw the ball go back into the box towards Rhead, it was he who shielded the ball into the path of Louis Briscoe who then drove home his first of the season.
Stags 1-0 Woking
Nine minutes later an acute chip saw Matt Green holding up just to the left of the area. Skipper Murray then delivered a teasing cross with Woking goalkeeper Aaron Howe collected under pressure from Matt Rhead. The visitors built from the back and looked to attack down the left hand side, Ritchie Sutton there to mop up for the Stags.
Yet another Geohaghon throw caused trouble on 21 minutes which Stags forcing a corner. Murray’s delivery may have been a little bit too deep however quick feet from Meikle saw to ball go back into the mix, Anthony Howell then headed down at the back post where Luke Jones scooped over from close range.
On half an hour it was yet another Murray corner causing the problems with Anthony Howell’s effort cannoning into the path of Geohaghon, his shot with venom was scrambled off the line and eventually cleared.
Four minutes later the visitors had a prime opportunity to level things up after Luke Jones and Junior Daniel were judged to have fouled Lee Sawyer on the edge of the box. Joe McNerney stepped up to strike the set piece, Alan Marriott equal to it. The Stags shot stopper then had to be alert twice in as many minutes with five minutes of the first half remaining to keep out a swirling effort from McCallum and Loick Pires respectively.
The Stags remained consistent in their attacking movement doubling their lead on the stroke of half time. Sometimes with a Big Ex throw it’s not the first phase of play which is affective it’s the second, this proving the case hear as Junior Daniel thrice battled to win the ball as Woking looked to counter from the big Ex’s rocket launch type throw. Daniel put the ball in the path of Anthony Howell who weighted a lovely pass into the path of the unmarked Rhead, the Burley hit man stroked calmly underneath the on rushing keeper for his second goal in as many games.
Stags 2-0 Woking
There was barely time for Woking to restart the game before the referee called n end to the first half.
HALF TIME: Stags 2-0 Woking
The Stags began the second half lively and nearly added a third a minute in, a wonderful counter attacking move saw Louis Briscoe play a delightful cross park ball to Lindon Meikle who, after skipping past his marker, saw his dipping shot pushed over for a corner. Adam Murray’s out-swinger sat perfectly for Jones whose dominant header was scrambled off the line.
Seven minutes later Briscoe and Meikle were again lively in the second phase of play from a Geohaghon throw, Meikle played a deep cross up towards Rhead however the visitors scrambled the danger clear.
On 62 minutes Woking we’re looking dangerous after Mike Cester got the better of Briscoe, bursting forward to find McCallum who fired straight at Marriott. Split seconds later McCallum had another bite of the cherry from distance after dispossessing Geohaghon, Alan Marriott sprung across well to tip the goal bound shot onto the bar before Junior Daniel raced back to clear.
A minute later the Stags got their feet firmly back in the footholds as Matt Rhead crossed for Green. The hit man held up well before feeding Murray on the edge of the box, The Stags skipper blazed over the bar before Aaron Howe twice denied Briscoe from another Rhead tee up.
The pendulum then swung back Woking’s way with Alan Marriott at full stretch to keep out a long range Jack Parkinson effort before denying Cards substitute Brett Williams from a corner.
Paul Cox then made a double switch on 75 minutes as Jake Speight and Chris Clements replaced Briscoe and Rhead respectively, Clements involved in the Stags next golden chance on 80 minutes as he found Ritchie Sutton on the half way line. The composed right back turned a challenge well before clipping a pass towards Matt Green, the front man beat the offside trap and lofted over the on rushing keeper – with the net gaping fans and players were left ultimately disappointed as the ball bounced over the keeper and over the cross bar.
Woking then set up a tense finish with seven minutes remaining as sluggish defending saw centre half Joe McNerney tuck home a loose ball after Marriott had twice prevented a goal with fine blocks.
Stags 2-1 Woking
The Stags were falling apart following the goal and Marriott and Sutton we’re both on hand to keep Mansfield’s lead intact, the former making a critical save from Dean Sinclair with four minutes to go before Nick Wright replaced Green in attacking a minute later.
Right at the death Nick Wright got it right as he helped seal the victory. Adam Murray started it all from the half way line with a wonderful swivel and pass to send Wright down the vacant right channel. The former Kidderminster man turned inside before splitting the Woking defence into a million pieces with a low crisp pass. Jake Speight latched onto it to the left of the box, taking one touch before curling beyond the hopeless keeper to seal the points.
Stags 3-1 Woking
Woking were dejected by the goal and offered little in terms of a response, the final whistle arriving almost immediately.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-1 Woking << Click here for audio highlights
Next up for Stags it’s a tough test against a strong Tamworth side at the One Call on Tuesday, let’s hope again we can build on the foundations laid.
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