Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Dartford FC V Mansfield Town FC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #16
Venue: Princess Park
Date & Time: Friday 26th October 2012 – 7.45pm (Live on Premier Sports TV)
Match Referee: Mike Bull
Attendance: 1713 (100 Approximately)
First of all let me appologise for the lateness of this post following Friday night's 2-0 defeat at Dartford. I've had a break with Em and as such haven't had chance to upload things. I sit typing at 12.30 on Sunday as Em drives us home up the A1(M), watching the white lines come flashing by gave me food for thought, isn't it funny how the outcome of something can change in the slimmest of margins?
For example on Friday night had we kept our concentration in the dying embers of the first half, I believe I'd be typing about a Stags win. Again I know there will be few that agree and have begun to stitch Paul Cox's face into their guy faulks doll for next weekends bonfire, however if you look back at the DVD (which I fully intend too as i'm bound to face a barrage of arguments about this) I think we we're the better side, just, and played some of the best football we have done all season.
The home keeper has kept out Rhead with a good save early on and we've got some quality passes into key areas, the downside is we didn't keep our focus and against a team like Dartford who have such a proud home record, it was bound to cost us and did - TWICE. A hopeless punt down the wing set Dartforfd's first, Tafazolli doing well to cover and put the ball out for a throw but unsure what to do from the second phase of play as he team mates failed to track back and be alert to the quick throw.
From the kick-off after the well hit goal, Gary Roberts plays a suicidal pass wide left to Daniel who was expecting a long punt forward from central, it get's intercepted with all credit to the Dartford man Hayes but again nobody goes back and we're left chasing shadows and picking up the wrong people - there's nothing you can do about the finish.
If we are insistent of playing the three at the back then we have to be consistent in knowing our passions, roles, who to pick up and how to deal with them. The three works against certain teams but as time goes on it’s becoming simple to play against – mainly because we are making it so. This is my only real critique of Cox and his coaching staff, they have told hold their hands up and take some responsibility because what may have been working on the training pitch hasn’t transpired on the pitch away from home – they’ve had time to figure out why but have done little to change this.
Onto personal performances I am pleased with a good 95% of those out there as there was a commitment and willingness to fight for the cause rather than take the blows, something we’ve fallen into far too easily on the road this term. The damage was done in that two minute gap we’re it went from 0-0 to 2-0 and once more we pick ourselves up and move on – the focus now surely has to be putting things right rather than blaming each other.
I don’t believe there is a rift in the dressing room but its clear the harmony of last term isn’t there – I beg of the players and management to do whatever is needed to fix it – we are not true to ourselves anymore.
Paul Cox made three changes to the line up which grabbed Mansfield’s first away win since August 18th last weekend at Workington in the FA Cup, Liam Mitchell returned between the sticks for Redmond whilst Jones and Sutton we’re both dropped in favour of Exodus Geohaghon and Ryan Tafazolli.
Line Up: Liam Mitchell, Exodus Geohaghon, John Dempster (C), Ryan Tafazolli, Andy Todd, Gary Roberts, Anthony Howell, Junior Daniel, Jake Speight, Matt Green, Matt Rhead
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Louis Briscoe, Chris Clements, Ben Hutchinson.
Both sides enjoyed early chances in front of the TV Camera’s at Princess Park, Liam Mitchell producing an excellent save on three minutes to deny Ryan Hayes from the edge of the box before Matt Rhead saw his header plucked out of the air by Marcus Bettinelli two minutes later following an Andy Todd right sided cross.
Junior Daniel and Matt Green were looking lively in the Dartford half and the latter was fouled on twelve minutes getting the Stags a free kick a step or so in from the corner flag. Gary Roberts delivered well into the mix with Dempster and Tafazolli both pressuring enough to allow defensive partner Geohaghon a free shot from twelve yards, the burley defender unable to keep his effort on target.
Dartford’s attempts to attack were snuffed out by a series of excellent Mitchell collections allowing Mansfield to focus on their attacking play, doing so in forceful fashion with twenty-eight on the clock. Jake Speight was heavily involved linking up with Rhead and Todd, the latter cutting in from the right hand side to fire into the side netting with his left boot.
A minute later the Darts had their best chance as a former Stag nearly haunted his former employees. A long ball from Bettinelli saw the impressive Hayes get the better of Daniel, his pass found Adam Birchall on the edge of the Mansfield box, the former Stag who departed in 2007 drilled narrowly wide of the target.
Bettinelli then produced the goods for the Darts as Stags nearly hit the bullseye, Matt Rhead drove forward after a cleaver move between Speight and Daniel, the former Corby hit man had a go from 20 yards and saw his goal bound effort tipped over for a corner however Roberts’ delivery failed to reach Geohaghon at the far post.
A minute later Dartford surged forward and nearly got a shot away, however John Dempster demonstrated his leadership qualities as he expertly tackled the on rushing Hayes inside the box. With three minutes remaining in the first half, Adam Birchall again came close, this time drawing another fine save from Mitchell.
A minute of time was then added, by far the worse minute of Mansfield’s season as the conceded twice. A hopeful ball down the right saw Tafazolli put the loose ball out for a throw to allow his team mates time to get back and defend, the thing is nobody did as Hayes took the quick throw finding Birchall on the edge of the box, he then teed up Darts skipper Elliott Bradbrook who drilled beyond Mitchell to open the scoring.
From the restart an atrocious piece of decision making from Roberts saw him try and play across the half way line to an un-focussed Daniel rather than play short to Howell and go long – Ryan Hayes intercepted and broke forward at lighting speed, cutting inside onto his left foot past Daniel before curling an unstoppable effort past Mitchell to double the darts lead in the space of 30 seconds.
Mansfield looked broken and a furious Paul Cox huffed off down the tunnel to lock the dressing room door as the half time whistle blew, his Stags side were a minute away from going in comfortably level at the break, instead lack of effort to see things out had seen them concede twice and pretty much lose the game.
Half Time: Dartford 2-0 Mansfield
Ritchie Sutton and Lindon Meikle were then introduced before the half kicked off, Tafazolli and Rhead withdrawn as 3-4-1-2 became a flat 4-4-2 with Sutton to right back, Daniel to left back, Todd right wing, Meikle left wing and Speight up top to partner Green.
Within seconds of the second half getting underway Richard Rose was a whisker away from being Dartford’s third, Mitchell again on hand to palm over the top of the bar for a corner, from which Birchall headed wide.
Dartford continued with there barrage of attacks, Liam Mitchell very much the Stags saviour as he denied Hayes a second of the evening blocking a driven effort on 54 minutes. Three minutes later the same player was again denied by the Notts County loanee who could only push the ball up into the air, Birchall rising highest to head towards the looming net, Mitchell rising like a phoenix from the ashes to claim the forceful header.
On the hour mark Louis Briscoe replaced Junior Daniel, Andy Todd moved to left back to slot Briscoe into his natural right sided role. Seconds after his intorudiction Jake Speight wsas prodded through the middle by Roberts, however he could only blaze over the bar from 10 yards out.
Two minutes later Louis Briscoe suffered the same fate as Gary Roberts played an drilled ball to the edge of the box following a corner. A half effort from Meikle five minutes later pretty much wrapped up Mansfield’s night in front of goal, only calm collections from Mitchell plus excellent defensive work from Dempster, Sutton and Geohaghon kept the score at 2-0, the full time whistle condemning Stags to their fourth away defeat in their last five away league outings – yet another evening which suited the weather, bitterly cold and bitter.
Full Time: Dartford 2-0 Stags
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