Craig Priest writes....
Fixture: Stockport County Vs Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #20 (Re-Arranged)
Venue: Edgeley Park
Date & Time: Tuesday 15th January 2013 – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Darren Handley
Attendance: 2,647 (139)
As I begin to write today’s blog I breathe a huge sigh of relief, three points in the bag with a controlled performance to match – exactly what was called for following Saturday’s defeat at home to Kidderminster.
Changes were made by Paul Cox and the response was a professional one, once we got hold of the game anyway – one thing that shines for me is something that lacked on Saturday, desire & professionalism. On reflection it could have been a different game entirely had Stockport taken their early chances however sometimes you need that bit of luck to take stock of the situation and deal with it, Stags certainly got that and reaped the rewards, they must ensure they do the same on Saturday at Southport and deliver me a belated birthday present!
If I’m going to write with honesty here it wasn’t the greatest game to watch, if truth be told it was quiet for prolonged spells but the Stags put the ball in the net when it mattered – in terms of performance I felt we looked stretched at times and didn’t move the ball quick enough, Stockport to their credit closed down well and defended from the front, they broke with intensity too but things just didn’t drop when they needed too which eventually helped Stags onto the points.
It was certainly nice to see Jones, Sutton, Daniel and Stevenson back in the fold, the latter two suit the 4-2-3-1 formation with Daniel giving that natural balance of a left footer whilst Stevenson looked hungry when he found himself forwards. My only worry would be that early on we looked disorientated as players dropped too deep, for example our attacking midfielder seemed to be on the edge of our own box rather than that of our oppositions which in turn dragged us as a unit a little too deep – that will change though should this selection be repeated and be allowed to develop further.
All in all I felt last night was a deserved victory for Stags in below freezing conditions, credit to those 139 travelling fans who made the journey too, their near constant singing certainly kept Stags’ focus – everyone together, it’s a warming feeling.
Paul Cox made four changes to the side which were beaten by Kidderminster at the weekend, defender Exodus Geohaghon missed out through injury whilst John Thompson was dropped to the bench in favour of Ritchie Sutton. Lee Stevenson made his first start since the 2-2 draw at AFC Telford in mid-September at the expense of Chris Clements whilst Junior Daniel came in to replace Louis Briscoe.
Line Up [4-2-3-1] Alan Marriott, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster, Luke Jones, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray (C), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel, Matt Green
Substitutes: John Thompson, Louis Briscoe, Nick Wright, Chris Clements, Matt Rhead
Relegation threatened Stockport began well as they looked to steer away from the drop-zone, with Stags looking out of shape and wobbly Stockport wasted a real chance on five minutes as Danny Hattersley climbed unchallenged to meet Danny Whiteheads corner, however the hatters’ leading marksman nodded wide of the target.
Hattersley would get another stab at grabbing the opening goal three minutes later as Whitehead’s low cross struck the hand of Sutton as the hosts came away on the counter attack, referee Darren Handley showed no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Hattersley stepped up but failed to hit the target, hitting wide of Marriott’s right hand post although in fairness, had the shot been on target Marriott may well have kept it out after guessing correctly and diving low – the penalty miss relieving Stags of conceding first, so far this term they’ve won just one match when conceding first, that back in August at Kidderminster.
John Dempster then collected a booking on nine minutes and despite being on thin ice, made a sublime challenge seconds later on Connor Jennings inside the Stags box.
Lee Stevenson registered Stags first effort of the game on 17 minutes and was mightily unlucky not to give Stags the lead. Flowing football from Stags saw Matt Green and Junior Daniel combine, the latter feeding Stevenson clean through only for the former Eastwood man making only his tenth full start in just over 18 months at Stags to be denied by a solid save from debutant Hatters keeper Richard O’Donnell.
Nine minutes later Danny Hattersley again was guilty of lacking the killer touch for the hosts as Alan Marriott comfortably held his tame header following a deep cross from the impressive Sean Newton, the hosts best player on the night with a series of well timed challenges and attacking runs.
Newton then sparred his sides’ blushes on 34 minutes as Adam Murray swung in a testing corner for Luke Jones to connect with, Newton converting the goal bound ball behind for a second corner, from which Jones headed wide.
Four minutes later marked the start of a tremendous 15 minutes in front of goal for Stags as they found the first of three goals. Lee Stevenson combined with Anthony Howell who was fouled right on the edge of the visitors box, Junior Daniel stepped up to riffle in an unstoppable free kick which pretty much destroyed the Stockport wall.
Three minutes from the restart the Stags doubled their lead as Lee Beevers deep free kick caused trouble for the hosts. Flicked on by Jones on the edge of the box Matt Green made the final assist, his cross-cum-shot taped in at the far post by Stevenson.
In the second minute of as many added at the end of the first half, Adam Murray’s corner proved the catalyst for another Stags goal, this time John Dempster was bundled to the ground by Andy Halls and the Stags awarded a spot kick of their own, Matt Green stepped up to powerfully convert the penalty, netting his tenth goal of the season in the process.
HALF TIME: Stockport 0-3 Stags
Hatters boss Jim Gannon made a double swap at the break as he looked to rescue the game, Tom Collins who replaced the miss-hitting Hattersley seemed to follow suit as he missed two early efforts for the Hatters, turning two low crosses from Newton wide of the mark.
Stags had to wait until the 66th minute for the next real opportunity to add a fourth, Adam Murray’s clipped free kick nodded down in space by Dempster saw Anthony Howell free inside the box, the Stags central man failed to find the target though as he screwed a right footed effort wide from eight yards, four minutes later a solo run from Dempster saw him go box to box before feeding Meikle, his pass into space saw Stevenson crowded out just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Louis Briscoe then replaced Lindon Meikle as Stags looked to prevent Sean Newton from straying too far forwards, Briscoe enjoyed a decent enough run and helped earn a free kick on 73 minutes – Howell curled over left footed after the set play had been worked short.
Four minutes later Junior Daniel had another opportunity from similar range to his opening goal, his forceful effort this time cannoned back off the wall before the hosts cleared.
Connor Jennings then fired over for the visitors on 78 seconds after Alex Meaney had replaced Jon Nolan, the hatters sub was involved in some threatening play, collecting a booking for a late challenge on Lee Beevers before tapping home what proved a consolation goal with nine minutes remaining. The goal came as Newton sent Whitehead on his way into the box, his effort thundered back off the post into the path of Meaney who in truth, couldn’t really miss from half a yard.
Alan Marriott then held onto a tame curling effort from Jennings before Briscoe, Green and Stevenson all saw chances go narrowly wide at the other end, the full time whistle soon arrived to a chorus of Stockport boo’s and, whilst Stags collected all three points, County Director of Football Jim Gannon collected his marching orders, being dismissed from his post as Hatters slipped into the drop zone.
FULL TIME: Stockport 1-3 Stags
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