Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Tamworth FC V Mansfield Town FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #42
Venue: The Lamb Ground
Date & Time: Saturday 30th March 2013 – 3pm
Match Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 1,968 (1,172)
Mansfield Town’s remarkable season continued yesterday as Paul Cox’s men grabbed their eleventh win on the spin curtsey of Luke Jones’ 61st minute goal at Tamworth. As the final furlong of matches approaches, Stags remain a point behind leaders Kidderminster with three games in hand and now eight points ahead of Wrexham on the same amount of games and them to play twice – to say Mansfield have a firm grip on the title reins is an understatement, all they have to do is keep winning.
Naturally I’ll play the same ‘keep focused’ record but sitting here this morning and looking at the record pages for the club, it’s a successful season and you’d say that on paper – promotion as champions is ours. Yesterday’s victory as mentioned extended our consecutive win record to 11, beating the pre-war record of ten and eclipsing our post-war record of seven. Away from home we collected our 11th victory yesterday, equalling the club record last achieved in the 1976-77 campaign, outstanding when you consider in mid-November we held the poorest away record in the division this term, no we hold the best.
Paul Cox has rightly been awarded manager of the month for March, there is no curse so don’t let that one do the rounds! Yesterday’s performance wasn’t spectacular, but champions defend, champions fight and champions never give in – I think that’s a fair reflection for yesterday’s game, played out to a tingling audio back drop of 1,172 Stags fans who outnumbered the home support two to one!
I’m holding back a lot of things I could write here to be honest; a winning run such as this brings such a burning emotion the task of keeping focussed is difficult, with that in mind there’s little else left to be said to be fair, with another match tomorrow against Gateshead, preview to follow at roughly 5pm, Mansfield have to re-focus and make it 12 wins from as many games – April showers, but does it shower good fortune for our beloved side at long last!
Paul Cox made two changes to the side which saw off Nuneaton midweek – Louis Briscoe was brought into the line up after bagging the winner from the bench, Junior Daniel made way after four below par games. Also coming in was new addition Greg Taylor, the Luton loan man slotted into left back replacing the injured James Jennings.
Line Up [4-4-1-1] Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, Greg Taylor, Louis Briscoe, Adam Murray (C), Adam Chapman, Lindon Meikle, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green.
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Anthony Howell, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Junior Daniel.
Up against a tough Lambs side, Mansfield were forced to defend in the opening minute as former loanee Marcus Kelly whipped in a dangerous deep free kick, Alan Marriott however was untroubled and collected with ease as the afternoon weather faded between blowing snow, darkness and burning sunshine.
Stags then enjoyed tremendous pressure on the hosts with a series of close calls, kicking off on three minutes as Lee Stevenson swept the ball for the left hand side for Lindon Meikle. The wide mans tricky left Richard Tait chasing snow drifts and shadows as Meikle combined with Green and then finally Stevenson, whose shot cannoned off Tom Marshall and behind for a corner. Adam Chapman clipped the ball in and at the far post, John Dempster's thunderous header was well saved by former Stags keeper Liam Mitchell.
Four minutes later another Stags corner caused a few problems before Kelly took it upon himself to go on a rampaging run. Charging over the half way line, Kelly played the ball left to the advancing Danny Lloyd, his cross trickling away for a throw however it was half a mile-meter away from connecting with the on rushing Darren Byfield’s boot.
On the stroke of ten minutes Tamworth rightly saw a goal chalked off as Adam Cunnington pulled back Dempster on the edge of the box, Three minutes later Tamworth’s first corner caused a few problems but Mansfield ultimately survived.
Stags then came agonisingly close twice within the space of a minute as Stevenson swivelled well on the edge of the box to tee up Green who was again denied by the excellence of Mitchell in the Lambs goal. From the resulting corner Luke Jones’ bullet header was half a yard wide but did have Tamworth scampering and arguing as to who was picking up what runner.
Kelly, Cunnington and Hendrie all registered half efforts for the Lambs as the half progressed however Stags were the more frequent in their attacks, knocking on the door but sadly, to no reply as a series of Chapman long throws teased the home defence – Chapman too registered an effort before Matt Green got in the way of Louis Briscoe’s rasping effort on the stroke of half time.
HALF TIME: Tamworth 0-0 Stags
The second half took a remarkable three attempts to start but when it eventually did, Tamworth came out fighting and saw an early cross from Danny Lloyd held before Alan Marriott got down low to prevent a driven shot from the same player.
John Dempster then collected his fourth post-Christmas booking on 55 minutes as he upended the advancing Cunnington on the edge of the box – Marcus Kelly’s excellent resulting free kick called Marriott into action, the joint Stags longest serving player palming the ball away.
Stags finally found the breakthrough on 61 minutes from a free kick, awarded on the left hand side as Lee Beevers got a face full of arm from Danny Lloyd as they tussled for a loose ball. Debutant Greg Taylor delivered from deep to the head of Substitute Matt Rhead into the path of Matt Green, his initial effort was blocked and the loose ball fell for Jones who made no mistake in driving the ball into the bottom corner from eight yards out – an excellent finish from the impressive centre half.
Seconds after the restart it could have been a carbon copy, however Rhead was this time judged to have fouled his marker and the move came to an abrupt end. Tamworth then had a sight of goal themselves on 68 minutes as Duane Courtney’s long throw wasn’t cleared, Michael Wylde hit the bar from close range before Junior Daniel cleared the ball, pretty much his first tough since replacing Briscoe early on in the second half.
Two minutes later Stags should have wrapped things up as Adam Chapman sprinted box to box with the ball at feet, eventually he found Meikle wide right and the ball was quickly swept from right to left with Rhead linking up with Daniel. The former Macclesfield mans cross sat up perfectly for Green whose header was saved by Mitchell before the Notts County loan man again denied Green’s bullet shot from point blank range.
With eight minutes to go a series of Courtney long throws threatened to rock the boat but Stags stood firm and were somewhat ferocious in their efforts to clear their lines. Several late free kicks had them on their toes but the impressive Jones headed pretty much everything to safety as Stags fought their way through six additional minutes of added time to collect another precious three points, they’ll go again tomorrow as they welcome struggling Gateshead to the One Call Stadium.
FULL TIME: Tamworth 0-1 Stags
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