Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Alfreton Town V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #32 Re-arranged)
Venue: Impact Arena
Date & Time: Tuesday 20th March 2012 – 7.45pm
Attendance: 3354 (1956!)
Match Referee: Darren Bond
Seriously I have no idea how to describe last night’s events, I’ve thought about comparing it to when you put FIFA on ‘easy’ mode and set each half to 12 minutes, I’ve thought about comparing it to a defensive massacre and a front line romp – but none of these comparisons even come close. Last night was just weird, wonderful yes, but horribly weird!
The score line suggests the Stags once again crucifying their opponents like on Saturday, this wasn’t the case, if it hadn’t been for too late goals from Geohaghon and Green it would have finished 4-3, which suggests a tight affair – that’s probably the best way to describe it, tight and mightily tough.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t good too watch, there we’re many heart in mouth moments and in turn many moments where I didn’t know what to say (never good for a commentator!). Parts of the game probably highlights the need for fresh legs for our trip to Fleetwood on Saturday, more defensively than anything as if we perform like we did at the back last night, we’ll get a pasting! On the whole, whilst there we’re mistakes we again demonstrated the qualities of a successful side, we went behind twice and fought back to get a two goal lead and despite conceding another, pulled together and dug deep to finish the job in the end, with a sigh of relief. Previous Stags sides would have crumbled and would have left the Impact Arena empty handed, credit to Nicky Laws side for putting up a fight I think they’ll just about survive the drop, however when you look at the two sides and the qualities demonstrated in the second half especially by Stags – you get the difference between a winner and a loser.
Sometimes in football it’s not about playing the pretty stuff, pass after pass goal after goal – it’s about character, desire, work ethic and ultimately about those who want to sink, or swim. This morning I accept the fact that in the first half, we were struggling to swim the red sea, in fact for 40 out of the 45 minutes, I’d say we were on the verge of sinking even with the two goal lead, however I am again proud of our boys. I’ll no doubt write during the week about how the game will be a wakeup call with seven now to play but in life as in football, I take my hat off to anyone who, even in the roughest of tides, can still keep swimming to follow their dreams – so Stags, my hat is off to you...
Paul Cox had a selection headache going into this one, with creative midfielder Gary Roberts back from a two game ban, did he reintroduce him to the line up or stick with the same 11 that put seven past Barrow on Saturday. In the end it was the latter with Roberts settling for a place on bench – sparking rumours that Roberts is unhappy at Stags and has had a falling out with the management, have a day off rumour mill!
Line Up: Alan Marriott, Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, Adam Murray (C), Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Ross Dyer.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson, Danny Andrew, Gary Roberts
Alfreton’s starting plans we’re rocked five minutes before kick off as Seamus Connelly took ill, he was replaced in the line up by Theo Street who proved vital for his team two minutes in preventing Mansfield from an empathic start. Luke O’Neill’s right sided throw saw Louis Briscoe head on into the middle, Matt Green looked to burst through but the leading front man was thwarted by Street’s tackled which was timed to perfection. Moments later the Stags we’re on the charge again and should have taken the lead. It was the hosts who had the initial pressure on the edge of the Stags box; Paul Clayton’s shot cannoned off a Mansfield leg falling perfectly for Briscoe on the edge of his own area. The Stags wing man who bagged a hat-trick on Saturday burst free with real intent, cantering over the half way line before stretching the game wide left to Matt Green who then found Lindon Meikle. The former Eastwood wingers cross from the bye-line was strong and found Dyer at the back post, his shot was clawed away by Jon Stewart in the Alfreton goal, who could only watch as the ball fell to Briscoe six yards from goal. Briscoe unleashed a venomous effort but fired into the packed crowd rather than the top corner.
Supporters didn’t have to wait much longer for a goal however as Alfreton took the lead on six minutes. Poor defending from the Stags gifted the hosts the opener, failing to deal with Josh Law’s deep cross park ball before failing to stop the forceful run from Anthony Wilson and the resulting cross from Nathan Jarman. Nobody had picked up the run of Jake Moult, brother of former Stags loanee Louis, who ghosted in at the far post to bundle home from half a yard.
Alfreton 1-0 Stags
Seconds after the restart the Stags lost possession on the half way line and were extremely fortunate not to go further behind, Luke O’Neill lost the ball and allowed the Reds to punt one over the top. Exodus Geohaghon failed to hold off his man and the reds nipped the ball to the edge of the area, where Paul Clayton’s tame shot bobbled away off Martin Riley. The ball looped and then dropped for Moult who, twenty yards from goal, unleashed a venomous volley towards the bottom corner only to be denied by Marriott who made an excellent save to palm the dipping, spinning ball away from danger.
Alfreton continued to push in search of a second but resilient defending from Martin Riley prevented any further early danger, allowing Mansfield to regroup and go in search of a leveller. A series of Geohaghon long throws failed to trouble to hosts however the towering centre half did have a part to play in Mansfield’s equalizer on 16 minutes.
The Stags had penned Alfreton into their own half but failed to penetrate, a scrambled clearance fell to Geohaghon on the half way line who turned his marker with ease before sending O’Neill on his way down the right flank. The young full back covered ground before drilling a teasing low cross into the middle. Matt Green, Ross Dyer and Lindon Meikle all saw efforts blocked before the ball fell for Anthony Howell, who smashed home for his second Stags goal in as many games.
Alfreton 1-1 Stags
The Stags goal proved to be petrol to Alfreton’s fire rather than a sucker punch for an old terrace favourite as four minutes later, they led once more. A sustained spell of pressure saw Mansfield try everything to get clear, Adam Murray thought he’d done enough but his riffled volleyed clearance cannoned back into the final third via the face of Jake Moult. Anthony Wilson was first too it as Marriott and Geohaghon failed to communicate but Wilson found himself forced wide by the covering Martin Riley. Wilson went down under the challenge of Riley but failed to win a penalty as the ball bounced into the path of Nathan Jarman who powered an effort beneath the legs of Marriott.
Alfreton 2-1 Stags
On 22 minutes Mansfield we’re denied a second leveller by Jon Stewart, Matt Green was the one who let fly, turning past Reds Skipper Kempson on the edge of the box before drilling a shot towards the bottom corner, only to be denied by Stewart down to his left. The resulting corner failed to trouble and Alfreton came forward once more, however it was Mansfield looking more the more likely to score, Martin Riley headed wide from Geohaghon’s 29th minute throw before being in the mix two minutes later as the Stags finally levelled.
Exodus Geohaghon’s throw from the right hand side provided the assist, thundering over everyone before Martin Riley nipped in to head home his first Stags goal from six yards. In commentary we said it was Briscoe as did the press association, in all honesty it happened in a blur and I didn’t see who got the final touch, fans behind the goal said Riley and on his twitter after the match, he seemed miffed as to why the goal was given to Briscoe – so putting two and two together and hopefully making four, I’ll say it was indeed Riley who got the final touch – not that it mattered as Stags we’re level.
Alfreton 2-2 Stags
The lead then switched elegance, falling in Mansfield’s favour two minutes after the hosts had restarted the game. Luke O’Neill’s bullet throw down the right touchline was scrambled away by Theo Street for a corner, O’Neill’s out swinging delivery was inch perfect, finding Geohaghon at the far post who nodded town for Green who poked home his 25th goal of the season from half a yard.
Alfreton 2-3 Stags
The reds refused to crumble and troubled Mansfield on numerous occasions. On 34 minutes Nathan Jarmans testing cross from the left hand side was pushed onto the bar by Marriott before Geohaghon headed the danger behind for a corner. The Stags dealt with Jake Moult’s set play with ease and then looked to get further in front. A tactical switch saw Briscoe and Meikle switch wings, the latter earned a free kick on the right on the half way line which O’Neill floated across to Briscoe. The wing man left Josh Law in a spin and drilled a low cross across the face of goal which Matt Green was half an inch away from connecting with.
With three minutes to go before the break Mansfield found a fourth with the best goal I have ever seen from a Stags player. Matt Green provided the assist holding up play on the right before playing a low crisp pass to Howell. 25 yards from goal Howell was inches away from being taken off the ball by Kempson who dived in with both feet, former Reds midfielder Howell saw it coming and not only knocked the ball away from Kempson who proceeded to tackle fresh air, but made him pay with what followed. In space Howell swung his boot at the ball and curled home a beautiful ball into the top corner beyond Jon Stewart who could do nothing bar pick the ball out of the back of the net to the loud celebrations of a mammoth 1,956 travelling fans.
Alfreton 2-4 Stags
Games with goal rushes are like buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once, unfortunately for the Stags the evenings seventh goal wasn’t one which put the game beyond doubt before break, it was one which made the second half even more of a tight affair.
Alfreton we’re fighting and looked to break free to get the killer blow, after Exodus Geohaghon was turned 30 yards from goal by Nathan Jarman, Martin Riley had to take one for the team fouling the on rushing midfielder for a free kick 22 yards central from goal. Riley escaped a booking but was made to pay with what followed, Jarman’s low free kick bent around the wall and was palmed away by Marriott who should have really kept hold of the ball. Anton Brown rushed in and smashed home, colliding with Marriott in the process.
Alfreton 3-4 Stags
The Stags shot stopper was down injured for a good few minutes before getting back on his feet, play eventually went on before the referee brought an epic first period of football to a close
Half Time: Alfreton 3-4 Stags
Alan Marriott was fine to continue in the second half and so Mansfield came out unchanged and raring to re-find the two goal cushion they held literally seconds before the break. They would have to wait for goal mouth action though as it was the hosts who started the brighter, former Stags winger Nathan Arnold created on the right hand side, playing a low ball into the feet of Paul Clayton who spun past Geohaghon before firing wide of the target just a minute in. Moments later it was Alfreton again with Arnold surging down the left, however Lindon Meikle stopped the former Stags wingman in his tracks and sparked a Mansfield counter with a fine first time ball down the right for Green. The Stags goal machine burst through into the area and was just about to pull the trigger before half time substitute Greg Young made a fine covering tackle, the ball stayed in play and Green got there first, however his ball back into the middle was far too heavy for Dyer and trickled out for a throw.
The Alfreton centre back, who was dismissed in the reverse fixture at Field Mill, soon picked up a booking as he collided with Anthony Howell following Ross Dyer’s fine header back inside from Marriott’s looping ball forward. Luke O’Neill stepped up to whip a ball into the box from the resulting free kick but saw his kick headed away by Young, despite several attempts to poke the second ball forward the hosts cleared their lines with ease.
A good move between Murray, Briscoe and Meikle then saw Green caught offside, however the next real chance fell Alfreton’s way as Nathan Arnold looked to get one against his former employers just past the hour mark. Twisting and turning his way through central Arnold found himself with space to shoot just inside the box, a fine covering challenge from Ritchie Sutton got the ball away before Adam Murray and Luke O’Neill combined to clear the potential danger which followed.
A double change by Nicky Law for Alfreton was matched by the introduction of Matt Rhead for Lindon Meikle. Ross Dyer went across to the right with Briscoe remaining on the left and Rhead up front for the final twenty minutes or so.
Luke O’Neill then thought he’d provided a fifth for the Stags with a corner, Martin Riley flicked the ball on from the middle but Briscoe’s cross back in was poor. At the other end Paul Clayton also saw a tame effort kept out.
Alfreton perhaps sensed a late come back to extend their unbeaten run to four games as they aim to survive the drop, however three minutes from time it was the Stags who struck in dominant fashion. It all started with an attempted long throw for the hosts in line with the edge of the Stags penalty box, Connor Franklin’s throw was poor and easily cleared – Matt Rhead held up in the centre circle before finding Ross Dyer on the right who sent Green through the middle. His effort on goal was bundled behind for a corner which O’Neill whipped in, a goal mouth scramble saw Exodus Geohaghon get the final touch, blasting home before sprinting away to reveal a t-shirt in support of Fabrice Muamba.
Alfreton 3-5 Stags
The party was far from over; however this time it wasn’t the reds who responded. In the 90th minute the Stags were awarded a free kick on the left hand side, Alfreton were fooled as rather than hold the ball up and run down the clock, Matt Rhead laid an excellent weighted ball inside for Briscoe, who drive to the edge of the box before firing narrowly wide through the crowd.
From the resulting goal kick Rhead was involved again, heading Jon Stewarts poor kick back into Alfreton territory for Matt Green. The leading marksman ghosted past the static duo of Kempson and Young, tucking firmly beyond the onrushing keeper for Mansfield’s 6th of the evening and his 26th of the season – the late strike see’s Green become the clubs highest goal scorer in the last 9 seasons, moving a goal ahead of Mickey Boulding who bagged 25 during the heartbreaking 2007-08 season.
Alfreton 3-6 Stags
The game got back underway but was soon over again, the referee’s full time whistle barley audible over the sounds of the partying Stags fans.
Full Time: Alfreton 3-6 Stags << Listen again to full audio with Craig Priest, Scott Rogers and Stephen Thrikill
Like I said at the top of the piece, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy and there were several moments were we could have fallen into even deeper waters, however in the end we remained strong and continued to swim towards the promise land with a gritty, determined, scrappy win.
Next up it’s a trip to league leaders Fleetwood who we held to a 1-1 draw at Field Mill a week ago. Be sure to join myself, Scott Rogers and Wayne Briggs for full match commentary on that one – commentary gets underway on MM-LIVE from 2.50pm whilst build up on 106.9FM starts at 2pm.
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