Craig Priest Reports...
Fixture: Cambridge United v Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #37)
Venue: R Costing’s Abbey Stadium
Date & Time: Tuesday 6th March 2012 – 7.45pm
Attendance: 1736 (165)
Match Referee: Justin Amey
Another ‘morning after the night before’ and yet another ponder on the previous nights events , however this time it’s not one of those ‘why on earth did I text her that’ moments, for Stags fans it’s another beaming smile, wider than the channel tunnel, as our charge towards the play-offs continued with a 2-1 victory of Cambridge last night.
Over the past few seasons, league included, there has very rarely been a constant feeling after a game, it’s either been disappointment, anger or half hearted hope – but as each game goes by this season, especially at the moment, the feeling that we can actually achieve something and the feeling that we have a good, strong (both physically and mentally) side, just grows and grows. Last night for me was the tip of the iceberg and with 11 games now left to play, could well be the one which make the final difference in the end – as we showed we’re capable of not only exploiting others weakness for our own advantage (with Cambridge only able to name four substitutes) and did what was asked of us, gained our ground and won OUR game.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I continue to echo the words of Paul Cox, one game at a time concentrating solely on us – I believe focussing on just ourselves with be the key factor to success, as subconsciously we begin to understand that what we achieve will be down to what we do from here on in, rather than what others do for us. I remember relying on another team to help us once before, where did that get us? Oh yeah, the football conference! We are on a fine run at a fine time, what will keep us progressing is deep breathes and walking pace, one game after another. Next up its Tamworth away Saturday, but first let’s look back at last night’s victory, as Stags completed the U turn, to take home the points.
Paul Cox was forced to make one change to the side which saw off Lincoln on Saturday, injured Adam Smith was replaced by Lindon Meikle, Anthony Howell kept his place in the middle with skipper Adam Murray still recovering from his ankle injury – Alan Marriott again retained the armband.
Line Up: Alan Marriott (C), Luke O’Neill, Exodus Geohaghon, Martin Riley, Ritchie Sutton, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, Gary Roberts, Lindon Meikle (Smith), Ross Dyer, Matt Green.
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Jon Worthington, Lee Stevenson, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson.
Despite Mansfield coming into the game on the back of three consecutive victories and Cambridge on the back of three consecutive losses, it was surprisingly the hosts who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, a number of lofted balls from U’s right back Kevin Roberts we’re collected by Alan Marriot with Geohaghon, Riley and Sutton respectively clearing the rest with easy headers.
The hosts were not deterred by their early failings and continued to attack, getting a prime opportunity for an opener on five minutes. A throw in from the Cambridge right was easily dealt with however Kevin Roberts’ lofted ball on the return saw Cambridge get a free kick 22 yards from goal as Luke O’Neill was judged to have fouled Jack Eades during the ariel battle, U’s skipper James Jennings lofted the resulting kick over the wall and into the back of the net, a blessing really for the hosts as match referee Justin Amey had prevented former Stag Tom Shaw from taking the quick quickly, A fine individual goal.
Cambridge 1-0 Stags
The hosts then looked to double their lead on seven minutes with a strong passing move from left to right, goal scorer Jennings set it with a fast paced ball across to Kevin Roberts. The right full back drove forward with intent but failed to beat Alan Marriott who easily held the left footed effort.
The Stags then looked to respond themselves with an Exodus Geohaghon throw on eight minutes, the Darlington loan man’s bullet throw sailed out for a goal kick, however the Stags kept pressuring and moving the ball well, getting their reward on ten minutes after Exodus Geohaghon was fouled by Mustafa Tiryaki on the half way line whilst jumping to clear a Naisbitt goal kick. Luke O’Neill took the set piece and weighted the ball beautifully towards the back post, finding Ross Dyer who, after making a superb run to lose his mark, sent a looping header over the keeper and into the back of the net for his second goal in as many games.
Cambridge 1-1 Stags
A minute later Stags looked to repeat their leveller as Geohaghon was fouled in the air again, this time it was Marriott who took the kick from just inside his own half – his lofted effort was initially headed away by Jennings. Gary Roberts picked up the loose ball and sprayed wide right for O’Neill who got booed by the home faithful, who we’re soon cheering as the Stags full back over ran the ball giving the hosts a goal kick.
Mansfield kept the ball well but often found themselves moving narrowly into the centre, they looked more dangerous when the stretched the game wide, something which nearly worked wonders on 26 minutes as the Stags broke forward. After another prolonged spell on the ball in which every Stags player bar Marriott had a touch, the ball was eventually played up to Matt Green. The leading front man did well to hold it up against the challenge of Blaine Hudson before laying off Anthony Howell, the former Alfreton man perhaps had opportunity for a shot but playing a low ball into the feet of Briscoe who’d dropped off the flank and just to the right of the area, controlled well before blasting the ball towards goal drawing a good save from Danny Naisbitt.
With ten to go before the half time break, the Stags broke in numbers and should have really grabbed the lead. A left footed corner from Cambridge was easily dealt with and Stags got the ball away to Green on the half way line, the former Oxford man drove forward and covered some real ground, bursting into the area before letting fly despite having Ross Dyer and Louis Briscoe in support – however had it not been for the last ditch intervention from the hastily back tracking James Jennings, Green’s venomous effort may well have trickled into the bottom corner.
As the half entered its final five minutes or so the pendulum fell back in the hosts favour as they troubled the Stags with two late set pieces’ the second of which in the minutes added time was more dangerous. A free kick 35 yards from goal was this time lofted in by Jennings, Stags failed to pick up the run of former Stag Tom Shaw, who rose highest but failed to get his header on target, nodding wide of Marriott’s far post.
Half Time: Cambridge 1-1 Stags
Mansfield started the second half with a real ferocity about their play, eager to take the lead and climb towards the play-offs. It was a tactical switch from Paul Cox which made the difference Lindon Meikle moved to the right flank with Briscoe on the left, where the latter began to thrive. Initially trying to switch play on 50 minutes, the low pass deflected kindly into the path of O’Neill who picked up and drove forward, eventually playing in Ross Dyer to the left of the area. The Stags goal scorer, who now has eight in Stags colours, kept the ball alive feeding Briscoe on the edge of the box, who then turned his way neatly inside before seeing his effort blocked by Hudson’s leg.
Three minutes Briscoe was hunting again, bursting down the left playing in Matt Green, whose shot was deflected away. However on 52 minutes the Stags did find the back of the net as they completed the U turn in the score line. Ritchie Sutton was the only man back bar Marriott as Stags penned United in, his long ball over the top was flicked on by Ross Dyer who found Green in a pocket of space just inside the box. The former Oxford man weaved his way through with nifty footwork before finding Dyer again, his low central pass from the edge of the box was the final piece of the jigsaw as Briscoe latched onto it, opened up space for a left footed effort and belted into the roof of the net to put Mansfield ahead.
Cambridge 1-2 Stags
Four minutes after the restart a half claim for a penalty was turned down when Matt Green took a tumble under the challenge of Rory McAuley, the duo continued to battle throughout and after a spell of prolonged pressure in the middle, Green got the better of McAuley with 11 to play. A lofted ball over the top from the Stags midfield saw Matt Green leave McAuley static and bear down on goal, however as the ball bounced twice, Green failed to keep his shot low and blazed over the target from 8 yards out.
Gary Roberts was next to test the water on 84 minutes when substitute Matt Rhead, who replaced Lindon Meikle a minute before, was awarded a free kick following a push in the back by James Jennings. Gary Roberts and O’Neill stood over it but the former tested the water 35 yards from goal, a thunderous free kick beat the wall and was heading in until Danny Naisbitt sprung across to push the ball away for a corner. Luke O’Neill then took the set piece duty, his right footed in swinger in front of the 165 travelling Stags fans was headed away but only as far as Roberts who, leaning backwards, fired well over with his left boot.
Ben Hutchinson was then introduced for Matt Green in the last minute, four minutes of added time came and went before the referee blew his whistle confirming Stags’ climb into 5th place, two points clear of now 6th placed Southport and four clear of Kidderminster and Gateshead who sit 7th and 8th respectively. Above the Stags sits York City in 4th but only on goal difference following a 0-0 draw at home to Tamworth, whilst in third it’s Luton who are four points ahead of Stags with a game in hand, as they take on second placed Wrexham tonight.
Full Time: Cambridge 1-2 Stags << Click to listen again to the full match, commentary from Craig Priest and guest Stephen Thrikill.
Next up its Tamworth on Saturday, if you can’t get be sure to join myself and Scott Rogers for full match commentary via our MM-LIVE page from 2.50pm – build up starts on 106.9FM only at 2pm.
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