Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Stockport County
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game#43)
Venue: One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Monday 9th April – 3pm
Attendance: 3883 (506)
Match Referee: Amy Fearn (Leicestershire)
Another game passes by and another three points are in the bag for our beloved side and even with some three games left to go – the season is still not over as, despite our rapidly widening points gap, we still have to battle for our end of season play-off spot as a late hat-trick from Kidderminster substitute Nick Wright and a late Southport penalty ensured they collected points, keeping Stags in their mathematical sites.
The drama will get going again on Saturday however by my workings out so long as Stags pick up another win Southport will be unable to catch us regardless of their result away at Tamworth, wins for both would put Southport nine points behind with only six more available. A win for Kidderminster (with a win for Stags too) would put them seven behind with six points left to play for – with us also to play). Luton are they only other team to really affect us, with two games in hand wins for both on Saturday would put them 10 points behind us with 12 left to play for – however I think that regardless of any results, Luton included, a win for us at Hayes & Yeading on Saturday would cement our deserved place in the play-offs, don’t quote me on it though! I’ll find out for certain for Friday’s match preview.
Away from permutations etc, yesterday was another fixture where we did what we had too, if I was to make one criticism it would be our miscommunication and sloppiness at the back allowing Stockport the late goal – we need to be focused from start to finish, at this vital point of the season you cannot afford to rest on your laurels, yes it was a tough pitch to play on in difficult conditions – cold and wet, no doubt Mez (Stags kit man) will be ordering some extra strong washing powder to get rid of all that mud! I thought we handled ourselves well against a Stockport side who, despite numerous counter attacks, offered very little in attack – there’s no doubt in my opinion that they came for a draw. That said we should have been more clinical in front of goal and need to be cautious at the space our own attacks create for others – no that it matters now, three points are in the bag and as ever Paul Cox and his coaching staff will be reviewing the match DVD and working hard on the training ground to ensure we end strongly and are in a good position for the play-off battle.
With two games in three days Paul Cox made three changes to the side which relegated Kettering with a 3-0 win at Nene Park. Skipper Adam Murray returned after being left out to avoid a booking and a suspension, surprisingly it was Gary Roberts the one replaced. Adam Smith replaced the outstanding Lindon Meikle on the wing whilst Matt Rhead was handed his first full start replacing Ross Dyer following a string of impressive cameos from the bench.
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C) (Roberts), Anthony Howell, Adam Smith (Meikle), Matt Rhead (Dyer), Matt Green.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Ross Dyer, Lindon Meikle, Danny Andrew, Gary Roberts.
The Stags were out of the traps like Usain Bolt, unlucky not to be ahead after 34 seconds. Luke O’Neill cleared a Stockport directional ball over the half way line finding Anthony Howell who played a sublime crisp pass down the right channel for Matt Green. The leading hit man, who’s got his eye on that 30 goal mark last achieved by Roy Chapman (30) and Ken Wagstaff (34) in the 1962/63 campaign, charged down the right and delivered a delightful cross towards the back post finding Adam Smith who headed into the side netting.
Luke O’Neill picked up the Stags first booking of the afternoon on three minutes following a face to face confrontation with Matty Mainwaring as the Stockport winger looked to nip past O’Neill on the left hand side. A minute later it was the hatters’ wide man who looked to create the first chance for the visitors, charging down the left of the counter attack. After over running the ball Mainwaring was forced back to Paul Turnbull whose cross from deep failed to threaten, drifting harmlessly away for a goal kick.
Anthony Howell again proved why he was worthy of another start on six minutes, sparking another prolonged spell of pressure. Howell’s low pass again saw Green in down the right channel; this time the leading front man cut inside and opted for a driven shot which was saved well by Sunderland loanee Lewis King. The black cats’ keepers defence scrambled away the loose ball for a throw which Exodus Geohaghon launched in towards Matt Rhead, whose header was deflected behind for a corner. Luke O’Neill stepped up and whipped in for Martin Riley, who headed wide at the back post.
Two minutes later it was Louis Briscoe who tested the water from distance. Alan Marriott’s directional ball was flicked on by Matt Rhead to no avail, Stockport’s scrambled clearance fell to Briscoe 30 yards out, the wing man skipped into space and drove just wide of the target.
Adam Murray then took one for the team on 11 minutes as Stockport looked to counter through the middle, the resulting free kick from the half way line was easily cleared. Three minutes later the heat turned up as two dangerous tackles from both sides left players down injured. First Adam Smith bulldozed Sam Sheridan in the Mansfield half as the winger looked to pick up the second ball; referee Amy Fearn deemed the tackle legal and waved play on – Adam Murray then took control on the left hand side before being flattened by Paul Turnbull, eventually getting Mansfield a free kick after two groups of players came together, debating the Smith tackle in the middle and the Murray tackle on the near touchline.
Once the handbag had been put away and tempers calmed, the game continued a series of half chances followed for both before Exodus Geohaghon required lengthy treatment for a facial blow with twenty gone.
Six minutes later the Howell-Green combination worked once more, midfielder Howell sent Green on his way this time down the left, gaining ground hit man Green cut inside and fired tamely into the side netting with very little option in support. On the half hour good football between Murray and Rhead saw the Stags advance, Louis Briscoe earned the first of two corners with a deflected cross, however O’Neill’s set pieces came to nothing.
Mansfield had strong appeals for a penalty turned down on 34 minutes following another strong counter attack, this time sparked by Luke O’Neill, launching one down the right hand side after mopping up a half hearted Stockport attack. Matt Green was first to the ball and raced forwards into the area, sending the ball through the legs of AFC Telford loanee Sean Newton after turning back inside from the goal line. With Green about to pull the ball back across the face of goal, he was bundled down by Newton who cleared the loose ball – as appeals for a spot kick were turned down the second ball fell to Howell on the edge of the box, who blazed over left footed.
Three minutes prior to the break three Stags corners had Stockport on the back foot, the third and final corner was so close from finding the net, Martin Riley nodded the wrong side of the post from O’Neill’s right footed in swinging delivery.
A minute later Mansfield we’re furious as Amy Fearn stopped a clear advantage following a flowing move between Murray and Rhead from right to left. Matt green was ghosting in on goal about to pull the trigger when Fearn blew the whistle pulling play back for a free kick after Rhead was fouled. Luke O’Neill delivered the kick from deep, Anthony Howell nodded wide at the back post.
On the stroke of half time the Stags broke with venom once more, Adam Smith intercepted play on the right, bursting into space before seeing his cross sail out for a goal kick rather than find the four Stags bodies cueing up in the middle.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 Stockport
The Stags again came out flying for the second half and took the lead on 46 minutes, pressuring with two consecutive Exodus Geohaghon throws. It was the second of which that led to the goal, the bullet throw found its way to the back post where Green jumped high to head down into the mix – Adam Smith nipped in and smashed goal wards beyond King, grabbing his second of the season.
Stags 1-0 Stockport
Five minutes later Geohaghon provided once more with a strong clearance down the right hand side, Matt Green was first to the ball and held up for Adam Smith who delivered into the middle. Matt Rhead rose above the rest but headed wide of the target at the back post.
The Stags doubled their lead in empathic fashion a minute later with Geohaghon’s throw again proving vital. Launching one in from the right hand side the bullet was initially headed away however the excellent work rate and persistence from Adam Murray ensured Stags remained in possession. Murray provided the pass left and it deflected perfectly off the leg of hatters captain Joe Connor to land in space for Briscoe. The wing man bagged his tenth of the season with an outstanding first time shot which bent around the keeper, cushioned off the post and nestled into the bottom corner.
Stags 2-0 Stockport
The visitors looked for a response but saw two corners come to nothing but Alan Marriott plucked a dangerous Matt Mainwaring cross out of the air as the hatters crept forward once more. At the other end Luke O’Neill was unlucky not to get on the score sheet on the hour mark. Ritchie Sutton’s throw led to the kick, finding Anthony Howell who sent Green on his way before the front man was upended 30 yards from goal. O’Neill stepped up and beat the wall, however he failed to beat King who watched the ball into his grateful hands.
On 65 Adam Murray switched play with a beautiful cross park ball, Adam Smith picked up and drove inside before firing over – moments later the combining duo were replaced as Lindon Meikle took the park for Smith and influential midfielder Gary Roberts replaced Murray, who handed captaincy over to Martin Riley.
With 74 on the clock a Geohaghon throw on the left led to one on the right, despite it being cleared strong defensive play between Sutton and Riley sent O’Neill on his way down the right hand side, earning the Stags another corner. The delivery from O’Neill was pitch perfect finding Exodus Geohaghon in the middle, his forceful header was scrambled off the line. Three minutes later Louis Briscoe’s charge down the right hand set up a change for Green, heading Briscoe’s cross into the air, the front man connected with a midair volley but couldn’t believe his luck as the effort smashed into the side netting.
Alan Marriott was booked as he raced off his line and slid into clear the Stockport danger with ten minutes to play, two minutes later he was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch as Jon Nolan chipped the ball back into the box after a corner had broken down finding Tom Elliott. Marriott made himself big and got very little of the ball as the two collided, the whistle had already gone though as the flag was raised for offside against the Hatters joint leading goal scorer.
With two minutes to go Mansfield totally switched off at the back and allowed Stockport to clear one back. A tame ball down field should have been dealt with by either Sutton or Riley, the duo both expected the other to clear and so stood static, Tom Elliott nipped in and drove forward, passing to Nolan on the edge of the box who in turn found substitute Jordan Rose, who curled beyond Marriott into the top corner.
Stags 2-1 Stockport
End to end action saw the game eventually draw to its conclusion with four minutes added on. First the Stags broke in numbers over the half way line with a five v two attack – Matt Green sent Ross Dyer on his way through the middle, the front man who’d replaced Matt Rhead around five minutes earlier, was about to pull the trigger before being dispossessed by Paul Turnbull, who covered some 50 yards to get back and make a wonderful last ditch challenge. At the other end Luke O’Neill slid in on Stockport Sub Danny Rose to concede a corner which was eventually cleared to the sound of Amy Fearns full time whistle.
Full Time: Stags 2-1 Stockport << Audio highlights, commentary from Craig Priest and Wayne Briggs
As the Stags game ended Southport, Kidderminster and Gateshead we’re all losing – had things remained the same in the Southport and Kidderminster matches a play-off space would have been sealed, but as I mentioned at the top of the piece, late goals for the duo mean our fate is not yet sealed.
Next up it’s the long trip to Woking to face Hayes & Yeading United – if you can’t get be sure to join myself, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs for full match commentary and extended build up on 106.9FM and MM-LIVE from 2PM.
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