Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Kettering Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game#42)
Venue: Nene Park
Date & Time: Saturday 7th April 2012 – 3pm
Attendance: 1818 (877)
Match Referee: John Hopkins
For the first time in a very long time I’m sat penning this match report on the evening of a match, I’ve tried to put off writing it until tomorrow if truth be told but with the way today’s results have gone and the fact that we’ve another game on Monday, I can’t stop the writer in me from grabbing the laptop and tapping away at the keys.
Firstly commiserations to Kettering who after today’s result are now relegated, relegation is a horrible feeling and I felt really bad watching grown men cry as they exited Nene Park whilst me and Wayne sat there beaming from ear to ear as Stags moved seven points clear of the chasing teams with four games left to play. I wish them all the best for next season and hope they pull away from the financial difficulties and appoint a manager who can deliver – a certain trip to Kettering (Rocking Road not Nene Park) will always be remembered.
Anyway, onto us – four games left to go, 12 points left to play for, seven clear of the chasing pack, and ten clear of Luton and Gateshead in 7th and 8th respectively – a win on Monday would surely be enough? That’s a great feeling isn’t it.
Today we had to be wary of a team fighting for their lives and had to respect them, we did and then we had to be clinical, which we were. You could argue we should have grabbed a few more goals and been more ruthless but we did what we had to and didn’t really put a foot wrong, I just hope the gaffer bottles up this momentum and ensures injected ahead of a key final four fixtures.
Skipper Adam Murray’s ankle injury proved to be too troubling and was rested whilst Adam Smith was left out entirely, Anthony Howell and Lindon Meikle we’re the two too come in whilst Alan Marriott donned the skippers armband.
Line Up: Alan Marriott (C), Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell (Murray), Gary Roberts, Lindon Meikle (Smith), Matt Green, Ross Dyer
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Jon Worthington, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrew
As you’d expect from a team fighting for the lives, it was Kettering who looked for the early opening, a first minute long throw launched in by Max York had the Stags back peddling however Martin Riley and Anthony Howell combined to get clear before Mansfield registered their first effort on the five minute mark.
Luke O’Neill’s throw down the right flank led to a second throw which was predictably launched in by Geohaghon. The throw was initially headed away but Geohaghon soon had the ball back at his feet, moving inside to Louis Briscoe who then provided the final link to Gary Roberts, who fired over the bar and out of the ground with his left boot.
Stags then registered three attacks in as many minutes as they stepped up the pace, Lindon Meikle danced his way in from the left on seven minutes but saw his shot held by Kelvin Jack, a minute later he provided a fine lay off for the advancing Ritchie Sutton on the left wing but the Stags full back crossed into the side netting before an Exodus Geohaghon throw saw Ross Dyer penalised for climbing above his marker.
Matt Green then tested the water on 11 minutes, hitting a venomous shot from just inside the box after Anthony Howell had provided with a well weighted chip. After strongly palming away Green’s shot, Poppies shot stopper Jack collected Luke O’Neill’s following corner with ease.
Two minutes later Jack was picking the ball out of the net as Mansfield broke the deadlock. A determined surge down the right hand side saw Gary Roberts hold off three markers to cross into the box, Lindon Meikle made a fine run to arrive from nowhere to head in at the back post.
Kettering 0-1 Stags
Matt Green should have had added a second Stags goal two minutes after the re-start, Exodus Geohaghon fooled everyone with a short throw to O’Neill, who provided with an excellent cross which Green headed narrowly wide. A minute later it was former Stags loanee Marcus Kelly who nearly levelled, a deep free kick from the right hand side from Max York saw Kelly flick the ball into the mix towards goal, Anthony Howell got clear to Meikle who then showed an electrifying burst of pace starting a counter attack. With Dyer to the left, Briscoe screaming for a pass on the right and Matt Green through the middle, Meikle opted for the later who was flagged offside just as he danced round the onrushing Kelvin Jack.
On 18 minutes it was again a counter attack which left the Stags frustrated with the final outcome. After Luke O’Neill had headed behind for a Kettering corner, Louis Briscoe picked up play on the edge of his own box and sprinted unchallenged to the edge of the Kettering box, feeding Ross Dyer who made a sublime run down the left, arriving in time to smash Briscoe’s pass into the side netting.
A delightful Roberts chip saw Green offside again before Marcus Kelly made a fine challenge on Anthony Howell following a 4 v 2 Stags charge on 23 minutes. The resulting throw was headed towards goal by Kettering left back Nathan Ralph forcing Kelvin Jack into action – two minutes later no Kettering player could do anything as Stags with real venom once more. Lindon Meikle read the game superbly on the half way, chipping a cross towards Anthony Howell on the edge of the box, his flick on found Green who thundered a volley against the bar, his beautiful strike would have been ruled out had it found the net, as the offside flag was once again at action stations.
Good work on the left hand side between Kettering’s Nathan Ralph and impressive Danny Mills earned a corner which was easily cleared with 29 minutes on the clock, five minutes later the hosts had Kelvin Jack to thank making a wonderful double save. Lindon Meikle created the quick fire double attack, cutting in from the left hand side and firing a driven shot towards the bottom corner. Kelvin Jack got down well to palm away, however he had to be tall to block the follow up as Ross Dyer steamed up to smash towards goal, only the poppies keeper will know how the ball stayed out, but it did – fine goal keeping.
On the stroke of half time, Kelvin Jack was again at his best, keeping out Louis Briscoe’s drive after Matt Green’s cheeky heel flick had allowed Dyer to pick out Briscoe from just inside the box.
Half Time: Kettering 0-1 Stags
A half time switch from Kettering again saw them start brightly, Marcus Kelly kept Alan Marriott on his toes a minute in to the second half, dominantly heading Max York’s deep free kick towards goal from the edge of the box. Two minutes later it was Kelvin Jacks turn to feel the ball in his hands as he collected Martin Riley’s header following another Big Ex throw.
The well travelled shot stopper then blotted his afternoon with an extremely poor throw, Gary Roberts nipped in to pick up possession, however his ball through to Matt Green was over hit and went harmlessly out for a goal kick. On 55 minutes Exodus Geohaghon connected with one of his own throw in's, well kind of! After seeing his bullet throw headed away, the former poppies defender saw the ball land at his feet and smashed a long ranged effort just wide of the target.
On the hour mark Matt Rhead was introduced for Louis Briscoe and three minutes later it was his presence that drew defenders away from leading front man Matt Green, allowing the deadly hit man to double Mansfield’s lead. Anthony Howell set it with a wonderful chip from just over the half way line, Green ghosted between the static defence, took the ball into the box, turned away from the back tracking Ashley Westwood and calmly tucked home to grab his 28th strike of the season.
Kettering 0-2 Stags
An immediate reply was attempted from the hosts whose relegation fate was fast approaching, Martin Riley made two well timed sliding tackles on half time sub James Gray, the second of which led to a free kick just outside the box with 64 minutes on the clock. Marcus Kelly stepped up and struck with perfection, only a fine save from ‘vice captain’ Marriott kept the hosts at bay.
Gary Roberts then looked to get on the score sheet with two efforts in quick succession, Lindon Meikle’s weaving ways provided the first of the two chances on 68 minutes, Roberts struck wide off balance from just inside the box. A Luke O’Neill free kick on 61 minutes created Roberts next chance, the creative midfielder drilled over from distance after Ashley Westwood had headed away the set piece.
On 74 minutes a fine flowing move saw Ross Dyer come within inches of grabbing a third. Lindon Meikle was again creator in what was an outstanding performance, collecting in the centre circle a neat burst of pace followed before spreading the game to the left hand side for Green who returned almost immediately. The former Eastwood wide man bobbed and weaved before finding Roberts with an excellent low pass into the middle, Roberts poked through for Green who then flicked to Dyer who fired narrowly over from the edge of the area.
Greens assist proved his final action as Ben Hutchinson came onto partner Rhead upfront, Jon Worthington also replaced Gary Roberts who headed off for some rest ahead of Monday’s home clash with Stockport County.
Seven minutes from time Mansfield wrapped things up, finally striking after a sustained spell of pressure. Luke O’Neill’s deep free kick was the start of the prolonged spell, Ross Dyer held play up on the right before finding Lindon Meikle central who in turn sent Matt Rhead into the box on the left hand side. Rhead battled past Max York but his drilled cross was turned away for a corner. O’Neill’s delivery was then headed out for a throw, which he took and then earned a corner, sending a shot through the crowd when the throw fell back kindly for the young full back. It was from the resulting corner that Mansfield struck, O’Neill’s ball in was perfect – finding Rhead who smashed his header powerfully into the top corner, sending the 877 travelling Staggies into sheer joy, sparking another conga.
Kettering 0-3 Stags
Kettering caretaker player manager Ashley Westwood picked up a booking for something he said to the referee when two Kettering free kicks lead to nothing, he was then heading for an early shower a minute into the three added on, picking up a second yellow following a foul on the advancing Ben Hutchinson. Luke O’Neill’s free kick was flicked into the middle by Rhead, Geohaghon couldn’t wrap thing up though as his back heeled effort was scrambled away.
The Stags did a fourth moments later as Alan Marriott’s long ball down park found Hutchinson in behind the static back four, Hutchinson converted past the keeper but his effort didn’t stand as the offside flag was up and the full time whistle blown, condemning the hosts to relegation and putting the metaphorical Mansfield boot firmly in the play-off door.
Full Time: Kettering 0-3 Stags
Former Stag Luke Jones’ actions for his currently employers Kidderminster saw Stags’ play-off rivals Southport drop to 6th, seven points behind the Stags with four games to play. Richard Brodie's goal for League Leaders Fleetwood prevented York from gaining any ground on us whilst Luton crashed to a 3-1 defeat at Braintree, Billy Gibson’s last minute penalty ensure the Hatters couldn’t grab a late leveller and snatch a point. All round it was a great round of results for Paul Cox’s men whose season just keeps getting better, Monday cannot come quick enough!
As it stands:
Next up it’s Stockport on Monday at Field Mill, join myself and Wayne Briggs for regular updates on 106.9FM only from 2pm – be sure to check out the match preview tomorrow!
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