Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Barrow AFC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #39)
Venue: Field Mill
Date & Time: Saturday 17th March 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 2519 (70)
Match Referee: Karl Evans (Wigan)
Cloud nine or seventh heaven? Where ever we are this morning it’s certainly a good place as once again the beautiful game bathes over the Stags. Tuesday night it was a close, tight, passionate encounter which saw us demonstrate our battling qualities – yesterday’s game at Field Mill, or the supposedly soon to be named ‘One Call Stadium’ (I don’t mind), was one which demonstrated our ruthlessness as we sent the traveling bluebirds home empty handed, smashing Dave Bayliss’ side 7-0. Ouch.
I remember being beaten 7-2 at Grimsby on New Year’s Day last year, even though we scored twice the pain of conceding seven was one I never care to experience again and so this morning I write, excited that we’d won by such a margin, but respectful to the 70 supporters who made the journey to Field Mill and no doubt the long journey home questioning why on earth they bother. Real champions, real winners, are humble in victory and gracious in defeat – we won 7-0, but in truth, we’ve won nothing yet.
Sorry that’s a bit defeatist, especially after such an empathic win, my reasons will become clear tomorrow when I pen the Alfreton match preview, I guess I should get on record now that I, like you and indeed hat-trick hero Louis Briscoe, have a smile wider than the channel tunnel right now. I am buzzing! The atmosphere was again spot on, every time Geohaghon picked up the ball for a throw, the drum started beating. The roar of yellows was spine tingling whilst the performance was, as mentioned, ruthless. Over the past four-five games or so, we’ve shown so many signs that we’re coming back, these baby steps are turning into gallops whilst the dream comes ever closer, it’s difficult to think that only a year ago I was sitting here writing about reaching Wembley following a 1-1 draw at Luton, the lightest shade of colour in an otherwise bleak season. Now we couldn’t care less whose in the final (It’s York V Newport for those curious!) as we focus on the one thing we desperately crave – promotion.
Paul Cox made one change from Tuesday’s midweek draw with league leaders Fleetwood, Jon Worthington was moved to the place for Louis Briscoe as Mansfield reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe (Worthington), Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Jon Worthington, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrew.
In fairness it wasn’t as ferocious a Tuesday, but the Stags still came out of the drops brightly and should have been ahead with just two minutes on the clock. Luke O’Neill started the move with a looping ball to the far side, Matt Green did enough to force a deflection from the light blue shirt of a Barrow defender, with Louis Briscoe doing well to hold off former team mate Paul Edwards to gift the Stags a throw. Exodus Geohaghon launched in the first of the afternoon with Ross Dyers connecting header cannoning back out of the post before the hosts scrambled away for a second throw. Big Ex again launched one in, this time Lindon Meikle took control of the ball on the far side, cutting in and combining with Green, however Barrow again scrambled clear.
Four minutes later it was a sharp ball through the middle from Murray that sent Stags into the final third after a sustained spell of pressure, however Lindon Meikle was flagged marginally offside.
Mansfield kept pushing and we’re soon rewarded on the eight minute mark. Adam Murray’s fine switch of play from a low Meikle ball inside stretched the game wide to Luke O’Neill, it was his deep cross that caught the visitors in a tizz. Ross Dyer won his battle flicking the ball to the left of the box for Green who proceeded to round the keeper and drill across the face of goal with the angle against him. Louis Briscoe did the rest, charging through the crowd to fire into the roof of the net, bagging the 190th goal between the two sides in the 54th meeting between the two sides.
Stags 1-0 Barrow
On thirteen minutes the Stags broke in numbers, Lindon Meikle picked up the ball in the centre circle and charged forward with Dyer and Green the two supporting runners. Paul Edwards got a block in but the loose ball ran from Green whose acute touch sent Meikle racing through, an awfully timed challenged from Edwards, who three weeks ago was in the Stags side which edged past Tamworth at Field Mill, saw Meikle go to ground and the referee point to the spot for Mansfield’s fifth spot kick of the campaign. Matt Green stepped up having scored his last three from the spot, Ben Hutchinson took the other, The Stags leading front man failed to maintain his 100% record, seeing his tame penalty saved by Shaun Pearson, who sprung down to his left.
Pearson was soon picking the ball out of his net a second time though, as three minutes later Matt Green showed his confidence hadn’t been dented with a fine charge. Latching onto Ritchie Sutton’s direction ball via the head of Howell and Dyer, the Stags front man picked up the ball on the left and drove at Barrow full back Kevin Lomax, before spotting the opportunity to shoot central – a crowd of bodies made this difficult but did create space for Briscoe, who Green spotted and picked out with a crisp low pass. Briscoe took one touch to set himself, leaving Edwards cuddling the pitch as he cut inside, before firing a beautiful effort left footed into the top corner.
Stags 2-0 Barrow
Mansfield had three more chances in quick succession to further extend their lead, on twenty minutes Ross Dyer held up play well in the centre circle before setting O’Neill free on the right. The Stags full back drove forward, cut past Edwards and fired a shot towards goal – Matt Green was the one Barrow players thanked as he couldn’t get out of the way, deflecting O’Neill’s goal bound shot wide of the target. A Paul Edwards slip then saw Lindon Meikle fire over from 18 yards on the half volley before Louis Briscoe was denied a hat-trick by Pearson, who made a fine save to keep out the thunderous drive following more creative play in the final third.
The third goal soon arrived as Paul Edwards slammed another ball out of play for a throw in, clearly he didn’t learn from his time at Field Mill that giving Mansfield a throw is more dangerous than a corner! Exodus Geohaghon made him pay, his 23rd minute rocket throw in found Anthony Howell at the front post, who glanced his header into the back of the net for his first goal in Mansfield colours.
Stags 3-0 Barrow
Three minutes later Howell could have had a second in a carbon copy move, Paul Edwards was again at fault and started an argument with Barrow skipper Phil Bolland and fellow defender Danny Hone before being promptly substituted along with striker Adam Boyes in a shock double change, which saw the blue birds go to five at the back. The defensive addition failed to work and Stags were on the charge once more, Lindon Meikle’s run down the left saw him play a low ball into space for Matt Green to run onto. The Stags leading front man blazed forward and pulled the trigger, hitting his off balance shot into the crowd of travelling supporters.
Barrow’s club motto ‘spatiari ut progrediaris’ translates as ‘Strive to attain progress’ – the only progress they were making was back towards their own goal. A foul on Matt Green gave the Stags a free kick 30 yards from goal, Luke O’Neill’s cross was cleared however the Stags kept putting on the pressure and eventually heaped more misery on the visiting keeper, who after colliding with Geohaghon and Dyer, had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken collar bone. Stags fans and players alike gave Pearson a warm round of applause as he headed off the pitch and to Kings Mill. No mercy was shown on Pearson’s replacement Stuart Dixon, Barrow’s third and final sub, who was picking the ball out of the net on 41 minutes, moments after denying Greens dominant run forward. Lindon Meikle was the one on the score-sheet collecting the ball after Ross Dyer, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray and Louis Briscoe had all moved play to the feet of Matt Green on the edge of the box – Green’s lay off to Meikle saw the wing man cut in and curl a looping shot beyond the 19 year old shot stopper, two minutes into his bluebirds debut.
Stags 4-0 Barrow
Five minutes of stoppage time followed but Mansfield failed to add a fifth, heading into the dressing room four goals to the good.
Half Time: Stags 4-0 Barrow
The intention to find a fifth was clear from the second half’s starting whistle, Geohaghon’s left sided throw was hurled into the box and found Ross Dyer who smashed a fine effort wide from 10 yards, the ball certainly took a deflection but at the speed of light, it was impossible to tell who from – the referee awarded a goal kick.
A minute later Luke O’Neill’s set piece was again spot on, Ross Dyer was again in the mix and his header back across the face of goal was scrambled clear as Geohaghon lurked, at the other end a rare Barrow canter saw Andy Cook stripped of the ball by O’Neill after the front man had turned past Geohaghon.
A throw in on the left from Barrow then posed no real threat as Louis Briscoe hammered clear to Matt Green who earned the Stags a throw, Geohaghon’s bullet was towards Howell but headed away into the path of Meikle, whose cross come shot was well held by young keeper Dixon. On 51 minutes a neat passage of play saw Mansfield a whisker away from a fifth, Ross Dyer’s low pass to O’Neill saw the Stags right back chip neatly to Briscoe on the right who burst past Alex-Ray Harvey and drill a fine ball across the face of goal – nobody could get a touch and Barrow survived, but it was only a matter of minutes until goal number five did arrive as the Stags struck once more.
Exodus Geohaghon’s 15th throw in Barrow territory created the goal, with the bullet throw launched towards Rhead. Rhead rose above three markers to cushion the ball to the chest of Louis Briscoe on the edge of the area. Given miles of space due to the tight marking on Rhead, Briscoe controlled with his chest, knee and then let the ball drop, smashing home on the volley into the top corner – grabbing his second five days shy of a year since his first at Histon and giving Mansfield a 6-0 score line for the first time since the 2003/04 season when a Neil MacKenzie treble helped dump Bishop’s Stortford out of the FA Cup.
Stags 6-0 Barrow
Barrow did have the ball in the net on 71 minutes when Andy Cook bundled home, however there was no point even celebrating as the flag was up for offside on the far side well before the ball trickled in. The Stags then added a seventh as Barrow’s afternoon got worse. A charge through the middle saw Lindon Meikle with a sight of goal, the winger had acres of time and space on the ball and eventually played Matt Rhead into the area, who after controlling with a yawn, drilled underneath the teenage shot stopper to open his account for the Stags
Stags 7-0 Barrow
The bluebirds had given up and in all honesty, the Stags didn’t have to get out of second gear to create more chances, not contempt with seven as chants of ‘we want eight’ roared out from the stands. Luke O’Neill’s 81st minute corner saw Matt Rhead and then Exodus Geohaghon denied after Dixon had dropped the ball to the formers feet.
A half late scare followed as a low cross from Paul Rutherford awoke Alan Marriott who was more than happy to have a touch! Normality was restored late on as substitute Ben Hutchinson, on for Ross Dyer, earned numerous free kicks with nippy runs. O’Neill delivered on from deep with four minutes left, Anthony Howell’s header was well saved by Dixon. A minute later smart play between Briscoe and O’Neill saw the latter steaming down on goal, the full back failed to find an 8th to match Mansfield’s biggest ever win, firing into the side netting.
Debutant Danny Andrew, on at left back for Ritchie Sutton, then showed his dead ball quality in stoppage time, curing a beautiful effort into the keepers grateful hands after Matt Rhead was fouled.
The full time whistle soon blew to end Barrow’s afternoon of misery, the stags netting seven for the first time since Boxing Day 1994 (a 7-1 victory over Hereford at Field Mill) and their first 7-0 victory since beating Scunthorpe by the same score line at Field Mill on the 21st April 1975.
Full Time: Stags 7-0 Barrow << Click here for all the goals to an obvious backing track - see below for extended audio!
My records show that one more goal would have made the game Mansfield’s highest “League” victory and indeed matched the Stags biggest ever win in a competitive fixture, a 8-0 victory away to Scarborough in the FA Cup, back in 1952. The score line adds to a list of three highest scoring wins (all a seven goal margin) 9-2 Rotherham home 27/12/1932, 8-1 Queens Park Rangers home 15/3/1965 and the aforementioned 7-0 victory over Scunthorpe. The victory does take two records though, not only is it the highest amount of goals I’ve seen Stags score, but it’s Mansfield’s biggest victory outside the football league.
The goals don’t quite do this one justice, so as a special treat I’ve uploaded around 10minutes of audio from yesterday’s game in two parts (first half second half) – commentary from myself and Wayne Briggs.
PART ONE (first half) - PART TWO (second half)
Next up it’s the trip to Alfreton on Tuesday night, join myself and Scott Rogers for full match commentary on 106.9FM and on MM-LIVE from 7.30pm!
Before I end this blog, on behalf of all the Mansfield Matters team, I’d like to send best wishes to Fabrice Muamba, his friends and family following the Bolton mans collapse on the pitch yesterday. As Stags fans we have witnessed some tragic moments down the years (and I’m not talking about our defending), incidents like the one which happened yesterday are often unnoticeable and it’s at times like these that clubs should have no rivals or any thought of results – lets all come together and hope Muamba pulls through, I often dread to think of what would happen if this kind of thing happened at a lower level – in fact the thought scares me as I recall something similar happening to former Stags defender Matt Gadsby whilst he was playing in the conference North for Hinckley, he sadly passed away shortly after the match. RIP Matt and once more, best wishes to Fabrice Muamba and those affected.
Pics: Dan Westwell and James Williamson
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