Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Tamworth v Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #38)
Venue: The Lamb
Date & Time: Saturday 10th March 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 1600 (909)
Match Referee: S Martin
A lot has been said about the importance of yesterday’s trip to Tamworth, Paul Cox labelled it as ‘the biggest game of our season so far’ – a statement we all agreed with considering play-off rivals Luton and York were not in league action. The task was a simple one – get a win and give us some breathing space ahead of Tuesday’s home game with champions elect Fleetwood. It wasn’t pretty by any means yesterday but as the Mansfield boss has said on many occasion, sometimes you have to win ugly – that’s exactly what we did, with Matt Green’s 13th minute strike being the difference between a point and all three.
Waking up yesterday morning I noticed that once again I had a spring in my step, a little extensive research found that it was not only me that walked around the house whistling cheerfully – it was other Stags fans too. There’s certainly a difference about supporting the club at the moment, an uncontrollable energy of, not confidence or arrogance, but happiness. You get up and go to work during the week and may well feel drained on Friday night, but come Saturday morning you’re up way before the alarm wide awake and excited like a kid on Christmas morning – even the dog’s stopped with her early morning grumpiness and said ‘come on you stags’ with an affectionate bark. Your showered and dressed in record time, in fact you’re in the car for 8am ready to go, such a shame Tamworth’s only an hour away!
Eventually you hit the road and arrive in Tamworth, the sun is shining and the sky is clear blue – is this the setting for another Mansfield victory, or does the nagging voice of ‘this is all too perfect’ spoil your day?
Myself and returning co-commentator Scott Rogers arrived at The Lamb ground with time to spare, after passing a house holding a phone box convention on their front garden, normality was restored entering the ground, well after Scott had remembered how to spell his own name anyway. Greeted by photo friend James Williamson the chat flowed about the afternoon’s fixture and how many traveling Stags would grace the Tamworth terrace, it’s fair to say that our predictions on the numbers were well out – it was a glorious feeling at 2.55pm watching the terrace fill thick and fast as the teams came out, as the PA man screamed the lambs rallying call of ‘COME ON YOU LAMBS’ expecting a mighty roar from the home faithful all that responded was the bellowing sound of ‘YEEEEELLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWSSSS’ – it was clear that the travelling support had outnumbered the home faithful and throughout the backing track would be the voices from the away terrace – it was literally silence of the lambs.
After killing time ‘borrowing’ James’ camera and trying our hand at photography, and scoffing Jaffa Cakes (and in Scott’s case two sausage rolls: footballers diet eh!) – the show began and team sheets soon arrived, unsurprisingly Paul Cox stuck with the same 11 that saw off Cambridge, reintroducing skipper Adam Murray and coach Andy Todd to the bench for Jon Worthington and Lee Stevenson, new signing Danny Andrews missed out having only met his team mates at lunchtime at the pre-match meal.
Line Up: Alan Marriott (C), Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, Gary Roberts, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Matt Rhead, Adam Murray, Andy Todd, Ben Hutchinson.
It was a case of corners in the early exchanges with Mansfield again pressuring from the off against a Tamworth side which was barley unrecognisable from the game two weeks ago. Two minutes in it was Luke O’Neill that began Mansfield’s canter forward being allowed acres of space to pick up the ball on the right hand side just over the half way line, his switch of play found Lindon Meikle on the left, who weaved around Richard Tate to earn the Stags a corner. Luke O’Neill’s right footed in swinger was poor but was cleared for a second corner, which despite being another poor delivery, fell for Roberts 30 yards from goal who drove wide through the crowd.
A minute later it was the hosts who looked to pressure after Exodus Geohaghon had put the ball behind for a corner, worked short between Danny Thomas and Kyle Nix the former Stags midfielder delivered a testing ball into the middle which initially caught Mansfield napping, before Luke O’Neill smashed clear.
On nine minutes the Stags tested the water again building from the back. Martin Riley’s chip over the top found leading scorer Matt Green in space, tight control followed before Louis Briscoe took over spreading the game wide to Meikle. The former Eastwood man checked inside and was upended by Tait, gifting Stags a free kick 22 yards from goal. Luke O’Neill stepped up and beat the ball, however the ball failed to dip on time and went over Jonathon Hedge’s bar for a goal kick.
Four minutes later the ball did find the back of the net as Stags took the lead. Matt Green did well to hold up play on the left hand side earning the Stags third corner of the afternoon again off the boot of Tait. Luke O’Neill lofted in a fine ball towards the middle which was headed powerfully towards goal by Dyer, Jonathon Hedge palmed up into the air where Exodus Geohaghon then connected, his thunderous header somehow stayed out but fell for Green who, with his back to goal, stretched out his right boot to steer home from a quarter of a yard out – grabbing his 23rd of the season to put Mansfield in front.
Tamworth 0-1 Stags
A free kick to Tamworth on 16 minutes gave them the ideal opportunity to bring the game level, Kyle Nix’s perfectly weighted kick was inviting however up from the back Francino Francis miss-timed his jump and failed to connect, fortunate for Mansfield who we’re flat footed and failed to pick up the defenders run.
It was then Mansfield who couldn’t believe their luck at the other end when an Exodus Geohaghon bullet throw caught the hosts unaware on 19 minutes. Gary Roberts was key to earning throw defending well against Danny Thomas in his own half, after winning the ball the former Port Vale man lofted over the top to Green who held off his marker well to find Briscoe. Mansfield’s joint longest serving player drive forward before playing a beautiful ball through the middle to Dyer, who was denied at the last knockings by Lambs skipper Paul Green who smashed the ball away for a throw. Exodus Geohaghon unleashed a rocket which found Dyer unmarked at the front post, his goal-bound header was saved wonderfully by Hedge, palming over for a corner which in turn caused the hosts more problems. Luke O’Neill’s out swinging ball found Geohaghon at the far post, his header down found Green who this time saw his effort blocked, the ball then feel into the path of Dyer whose thunderous effort from two yards cannoned away. The Stags picked up the ball through Howell and then O’Neill again, before Danny Thomas nipped in to scramble clear.
Both sides then enjoyed half chances as the game went a little flat, two Tamworth corners from Thomas saw Francis head wide before Louis Briscoe fired narrowly wide at the other end on 23 minutes following Meikle’s lay-off. With six to go before half time it was Tamworth that nearly took advantage as a back pass to Alan Marriott saw the stand in skipper mishit hit his clearance, Connor Taylor picked the ball up but barely had time to control before Geohaghon steamed in to clear, Kyle Nix picked up possession but saw his path blocked by Riley and then Meikle, who cleared the danger. Two minutes later a counter attack down the Tamworth right saw Kieron St.Aimie squeeze the ball to Kyle Nix, Ritchie Sutton bravely blocked the creative midfielders’ effort with his face.
The half ended with Mansfield on a dominant charge, Ross Dyer held up well 35 yards from goal before sending the ball wide from Briscoe. It was Briscoe’s forceful charge that earned the Stags a corner, O’Neill’s delivery was again spot on finding Meikle at the back post who chipped back into the middle, where Martin Riley headed narrow over from 8 yards.
Half Time: Tamworth 0-1 Stags
The Stags began the second half as they started pressuring well, two minutes in intricate work between Dyer and Meikle saw the Stags awarded another free kick on the left hand side. Luke O’Neill’s cross come shot dropped just wide of the far post.
On 53 minutes it was free kick to Tamworth that both pressured the Stags and sparked their next attack. Paul Green’s deep ball was headed wide to Danny Thomas who opened up some space for himself, delivering a low cross. Exodus Geohaghon got it away but only as far as Nix, who’s chipped ball back in was plucked out of the air by Marriott. A quick throw left then saw Briscoe sent on his way, tight play between Briscoe and Howell saw the former play a defence splitting ball through the middle which was just a little too strong for the advancing run of Dyer.
On the hour mark two Tamworth corners offered little allowing Alan Marriott to punch clear, Tamworth recouped and fed the ball back to the goal keeper. However as in the reverse fixture the pass was slack and sparked a race between Green and the keeper Hedge, Matt Green managed to battle past Hedge but the Lambs shot stopper had already smashed away for a throw.
Two minutes later a crisp central pass from Lindon Meikle saw Ross Dyer through on goal, his shot deflected into the path of Briscoe who smashed a left footed half volley wide of the target, in front of the 909 travelling Stags fans who never stopped signing.
The hosts enjoyed a prolonged spell of pressure, seven passes saw the ball played wide left however Danny Thomas’ cross was uninspiring and drifted out for a goal kick. Thomas then looked to cut inside on 68 minutes, however two fine challenges from man mountain Geohaghon saw that move come to an end. Two minutes later Lambs substitute Scott Barrow provided a testing cross from the left, the Stags again failed to pick up Francis who’d stayed up from the back, fortunately the centre back failed to get his header on target and headed well over.
Paul Cox then introduced Matt Rhead for Louis Briscoe, the former Corby man again made an instant impact heading Anthony Howell’s chipped pass into space. No Tamworth defender was there to mop up and Lindon Meikle steamed forward, taking the ball left before rounding the goal keeper and with the shooting angle against him, chipped the ball back into the middle. Ross Dyer was there but by the time Dyer had unleashed a shot, the hosts had bodies back to get a vital block in.
On 77 minutes the Stags drove forward once more, Gary Roberts covered ground at a canter and was stopped by a late tackle from McKoy, who escaped a booking despite his challenge being much more forceful than the one at the other end moments early which saw Roberts get booked. 30 yards from goal Roberts took over free kick duty from O’Neill and came a whisker away from finding the Stags second, his driven free kick was going into the bottom corner but took the faintest of flicks from the wall to see the ball bounce straight into the keepers grateful hands.
Late on Tamworth again pressure and a wayward left sided cross nearly caught the Stags napping, however Alan Marriott was alert and made sure he sniffed out any potential danger. In the final minute it was Tamworth who attacked once more, substitute Kyle Patterson waved through before O’Neill and Geohaghon combined to clear – Gary Roberts picked up play on the half way line and sent the ball low beyond the covering Paul Green to Lindon Meikle. The lively wing man had ground to cover as he trotted forward unchallenged, before turning Green to shoot – however off balance Meikle’s effort curled the wrong side of the post, much to the beaten keepers relief.
Ben Hutchinson was introduced for Matt Green a minute into the three added on, he had two touches which both saw the ball go out for throws, which Geohaghon cleared and slammed away, putting the ball in the corner for Meikle, Howell and Sutton to hold up – running down the clock before the referee blew the full time whistle sealing Mansfield’s 5th successive victory and there first clean sheet since Ebbsfleet away in January.
Full Time: Tamworth 0-1 Stags << Click to listen again to full audio
An ugly performance but a vital victory, moving us up into fourth place, a point behind Luton in 3rd and three clear of 6th placed York, both of whom now have a game in hand over us because of the FA Trophy, where they took each other on with York running out 1-0 victors and Luton having two men sent off. Southport sit below us in 5th two points behind having played the same amount of games. The next game will be a tough one as we play host to league leaders Fleetwood who are now 22 games unbeaten, with 20 wins at 2 draws. However I have full confidence in our belief, desire and ability – as a unit we have the capabilities to get victory. Keep an eye out for my match preview tomorrow and don’t forget to tune into regular updates throughout the night on 106.9FM only, with myself and Wayne Briggs from 7.30pm.
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