Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Braintree Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #9
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 15th September – 3pm
Match Referee: Wayne Barratt (Bromsgrove)
Attendance: 2049 (32)
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t yawn at least twice during yesterday’s game, I’d also be guilty of fibs if I dressed up yesterday’s performance as outstanding an eye catching – there’s no doubt what so ever that yesterday’s match with Braintree was a dull encounter with a lack of flare or exciting incident – but do you know what? I don’t care – we won the game, two scored two very good counter attacking goals, kept a clean sheet, kept our shape in a new formation and most importantly, picked up three points to climb the table – above all else it’s this that matters.
At this stage of the season all I care about is results, whatever you achieve in football is always based on results, and it’s a stone cold fact. Give me the choice between entertaining football or boring yet guaranteed, wins – I’d take the latter every time. After nine games, moving into our next batch of fixtures, I don’t want us to be pretty, I don’t particularly want to watch slick passing, show-off turns and thunderbolt goals – I want to see grit and hunger to keep a clean sheet at the back with flair and finish up top – that’s pretty much what we got yesterday as we saw of Braintree 2-0, that’s fine by me – We can do the pretty stuff when we’ve won something or are in a more comfortable place.
Obviously this is something I’ll touch more upon in my next match preview, however it’s worth noting that whilst our home form is pleasing, the third best in the division, our away form is less impressive, we’re ranked 21st in the away table – with three away games in our next four fixtures, we need to be addressing this issue and taking our home form with us on our travels.
Yesterday we employed a system the Reserves have been using so far, a 3-4-1-2 which mainly accommodates Lee Stevenson in the hole behind the front two – there are obvious questions about if this formation would work against better teams, no disrespect intended to Braintree, however that’s the point of the reserves – get players fit, keep players happy and provide a platform for experimentation, I’m sure that on Monday in the friendly against Rainworth, Paul Cox will be looking at different formations to counter that of AFC Telford and ensure our away form begins to turn a corner.
Matt Green began the first of a three match ban yesterday so Paul Cox was forced into at least one change, in the end he made five – resting Lindon Meikle after a midweek trip with England C, dropping Luke Jones, Louis Briscoe and Anthony Howell, in came Ryan Tafazolli for a debut whilst Lee Beevers, Chris Clements and Lee Stevenson we’re restored to the line-up, Jake Speight completed the five changes as he replaced the suspended Green.
LINE UP [3-4-1-2]: Alan Marriott, Ritchie Sutton, Exodus Geohaghon, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray (C), Chris Clements, Junior Daniel, Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead, Jake Speight
Substitutes: John Thompson, Luke Jones, Lindon Meikle, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell.
The Stags started well and registered their first effort of the game after 31 seconds, a bright run from Junior Daniel saw the Stags got a throw in which naturally Exodus Geohaghon bulleted into the box. A clearing header from Matt Paine cleared the initial danger however Chris Clements lurked on the edge of the box and fired narrowly over the bar after tight control.
A third minute cross from Lee Beevers deflected off Lee Stevenson for a goal kick following a dominant passing move, however four minutes later it was again the Stags who came within a whisker of opening the scoring. A delicate Adam Murray chip from the centre saw Jake Speight bursting through the middle, a double slip from Braintree’s Matt Paine saw Speight free inside the box, the dangerous front man dragged wide of the target.
On 12 minutes the visitors had Mansfield’s hearts in mouths as a lively deep Daniel Sparkes free kick was fumbled by Marriott to James Mulley on the edge of the box, the Braintree man screwed wide through the crowd however the Stags were cushioned by the fact the linesman had flagged for a foul on Marriott. Four minutes later, skipper Adam Murray was strong in the challenge inside the centre circle allowing Lee Stevenson to nip in and win the second ball – the creative man sprayed the ball wide left to Junior Daniel who skipped two challenged before surging forward. The left sided utility man failed to create further danger however as his cross was plucked out of the air by Danny Naisbitt.
A minute later Jake Speight earned the first corner of the game from a Lee Beevers throw, Chris Clements delivering wonderfully for Matt Rhead who rose unmarked on the penalty spot to head dominantly down the throat of the keeper who, to his credit, got his positioning spot on.
On the half hour mark it was Braintree with a corner, the Stags cleared the initial danger but Bradley Quinton was on hand to clip back into the middle towards Adam Bailey-Dennis who was free inside the box, Alan Marriott was on hand to save for a second corner. A minute later it was the Stags who were left cursing their luck as an offside flag ruled out a stunning Jake Speight half volley.
It was then hearts in mouths again for Stags with 11 to go before the break, a rare slip from Ryan Tafazolli saw Braintree attacking in a 6 v 2 situation, fortunately for the stretched Stags Sean Marks wasted the opportunity firing horribly wide of the target from 18 yards.
With five remaining before the break, Jake Speight was stopped in his tracks by Ryan Peters however a minute later, Braintree were mere spectators as Stags grabbed the opener. Chris Clements should take the plaudits as he collected the ball on the edge of own box, one look up saw Speight free, Clements delivered a truly stunning long range pass for the former to latch onto. Weaving his way into the box, Speight saw a shot blocked by the legs of Paine however the ball ran loose, Lee Stevenson cantered forward to thunder a low drive into the bottom corner.
Stags 1-0 Braintree
The clock soon ticked down and as the half time whistle blew, the Stags had a narrow but deserved lead.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-0 Braintree
A bright start to the second half was made by Stags, especially by Matt Rhead who had two efforts in as many minutes, the first on 48minutes when Lee Beevers took a quick throw down the right, Rhead latching onto the ball, beating Bailey-Dennis before crossing into the keepers hands, second later a poor pass from Ryan Peters saw Rhead intercept play and curl wide of the target from the edge of the box.
Adam Bailey-Dennis then came close for the visitors on 53 minutes as he was given far too much space to attack, his shot from 20 yards sailed over the bar, three minutes later at the other end the Braintree full back could only watch on as Naisbitt palmed away a ferocious Speight after following fine interchanging play with Rhead.
Chris Clements was next to have a go for Stags on 76 minutes following good work from Stevenson and Beevers down the right channel, Clements again preventing a full clearance cantering forward and dragging wide from just inside the box.
With ten remaining Anthony Howell was introduced for Matt Rhead up front and five minutes later, the Stags sealed the points with another counter attacking move. Junior Daniel made the eventual pass after good work from Murray and Clements, the former Macclesfield man clipped through the centre and found Jake Speight in acres of space. The lively front man had Howell in support inside the box as the goal came closer, the hit man remained calm and finished the job himself, clipping over Naisbitt delicately to seal the game.
Stags 2-0 Braintree
Immediately after the goal Jake Speight made way for England C star Meikle, his partnership with Howell was surprisingly fresh and something I’d personally like to see again, in the dying embers of the match, there was time for Chris Clements to again register an effort before a late Braintree corner fizzled out into nothing and the full time whistle.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-0 Braintree << Click here for audio highlights
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