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Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write...
Fixture: Mansfield Town FC Vs Wrexham AFC
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #46
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Time & Date: Saturday 20th April 2013 – 5.15pm
Match Referee: Nicholas Kingsley (Wickford, Essex)
Attendance: 6,394 (142)
Tears now are becoming a bit of a habit for a Mansfield Town supporter, in recent years they have been tears of sorrow, but yesterday at last they were tears of joy as our beloved Stags were crowned Champions and made it back to the football league.
The memories of Tuesday 29th April 2008 have finally been banished, no more remembering the rain and the heartbreak, no more nightmares of that ball floating over Jason White’s head. What we have now is a cherished picture, in front of over 6,000 Stags fans with the sun beaming onto the One Call Stadium pitch and champagne flying – Adam Murray held a loft the Blue Square Bet Premier trophy, dreams do come true!
From that very first game back in 2008 at Ebbsfleet to the full time whistle yesterday the journey has been incredible and has taught us so many lessons and has given us a wide variety of experiences. On reflection winning the way we did is more precious and more valuable than ‘smashing the league’, that phrase frustrated us in the summer as its arrogant and if we’ve learnt anything from this experience, arrogance gets you nowhere. Our success will be remembered for the hard work, desire, willingness and all round enthusiasm to defy the odds and be the best. It just goes to show that no matter what situation you find yourself in you should never give up – Mansfield Town never gave up and by doing so have delivered a precious moment never to be forgotten.
You have to take your metaphorical hat off to the Chairman John Radford for keeping faith in Paul Cox, who now arguably is our greatest ever Manager. Back when we were getting battered by Grimsby, Ebbsfleet, Dartford etc it looked like last season was a one off, however the Chairman seemed to believe as did the hardened supporters deep down. Upon accepting the Mansfield job Cox gave a message to the fans which said ‘success is built on strong foundations’ by sticking with Cox during that turbulent spell Mansfield have got solid foundations and in the space of 703 days since his appointment success is in the bag.
We are both in agreement that last term’s tough to take defeat in the play-off semi final has actually been of benefit, the players who still remain at the club have used the game as inspiration to go that one step further whilst those that have come in have bought into the philosophy and have helped us take that definitive step.
At some point something clicked within that dressing room and we went from the side which nobody gave a second glance to, to the side which made everyone stand up and watch in awe. Nobody knows what that magic formula is except for Paul Cox, thank goodness he’s feeding it to Mansfield Town Football Club. From all at Mansfield Matters a heartfelt thank you.
Last time we were in the Football League we were a side with so much hate and so many dark clouds hanging over us, in some ways we were a laughing stock – this time around thanks to John Radford, Paul Cox and his players we are coming back a club full of love, full of hope and desire, there isn’t a dark cloud in sight.
It was a tough decision for Paul Cox yesterday however he stuck with his guns and fielded the same side which dramatically beat Hereford mid week.
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, Jake Speight, Anthony Howell, Matt Rhead, Junior Daniel.
Adam Murray led out the Stags to a momentous roar from the Mansfield Town supporters and within the opening two minutes the whole of the UK could have heard the delight had one of the early chances gone in. Adam Chapman’s long throw from the right put a young Wrexham side under considerable strain which saw keeper Andy Coughlin palm away John Dempster’s powerful header for a corner. The Stags defender was close again from Murray’s resulting corner but was this time blocked by the visiting defence.
Lee Stevenson has been like the constant flame in Stags’ fire and five minutes later registered two chances in as many minutes, his first snap shot blocked by Leon Clowes before keeper Coughlin was positioned well to keep out the lively midfielder’s left footed belter following a delicate Adam Murray clip.
The Stags captain knew exactly what promotion meant for the Mansfield fans and came close to breaking the deadlock himself on 13 minutes as Chapman’s long throw sat up nicely for him on the edge of the area, Andy Coughlin again on hand for the visitors.
After a short spell of pressure from the welsh side Mansfield came close again on 16 minutes as Green sent the ball into Lindon Meikle’s path, despite good footwork the wide man was unable to get his shot on target and the ball went astray for a throw. Stags weren’t done though as Beevers and Briscoe combined to win possession back, the Latter’s dangerous cross saw former Stag Dave Artell clear practically on the line.
The early atmosphere was beginning to take a nervy twist however the players remained calm and confident as they searched for the opener, Murray’s 22nd minute free kick nearly saw an own goal before runs from both Stevenson and Green broke down.
The offside flag spared Stags’ blushes on the half hour mark as Dele Adebola blocked Greg Taylor’s attempted clearance on the edge of the Stags box, James Colbeck dragged wide from ten yards however he was in an offside position anyway.
Ten minutes later and the deadlock was broken as Louis Briscoe was tripped inside the area by Robbie Evans, Matt Green kept his cool to convert the subsequent penalty and ultimately put Mansfield Town back in the Football League.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-0 Wrexham
It mattered little about the score at Aggborough with Mansfield ahead however one goal could change everything, Stags defending well in the opening exchanges to keep Adebola and Cieslewicz quiet.
Mansfield weren’t content with the one goal and searched for a second, Chapman came close inside the area on 54 minutes however the hungry Stags had the ever reliable Lee Beevers to thank two minutes later as he bravely challenged the advancing Rob Ogleby as a Murray corner painfully broke down.
Another Murray corner on the hour saw Dempster nod across the area for Stevenson, he was twice blocked before firing wide from a narrow angle – no matter what Mansfield tried the penny just wouldn’t drop a second time.
Wrexham shot shopper Coughlin then saved well from a lively Briscoe on 66 minutes, Alan Marriott also called into action seconds later holding on to a free header from Declan Walker following a deep freekick.
Time ticks slowly on and Stags kept the tightest of grasps on that critical one goal lead, Marriott again made a crucial contribution on 76 minutes with a sublime challenge on Wrexham substitute Bradley Reid outside of the Stags shot stoppers box.
Each minute seemed like an hour but Stags battled on through soaking up everything Wrexham could throw at them those final few seconds, despite the fact they were down to ten men following the sending off of Dave Artell. The brave challenges and desire to never stop running was rewarded as Nicholas Kingsley brought his whistle to his lips ending the game and indeed Mansfield’s time in the conference.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 Wrexham – MANSFIELD TOWN ARE PROMOTED BACK TO THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The noise after the whistle was phenomenal, we were sat apart for this one but both watched on through tears of joy having witnessed a dream come true. As the various chants of Yellows, Champions and Paul Cox is our king bellowed out we watched with smiles wider than the Channel tunnel as the players and staff collected their winner’s medals.
The last man up was Adam Murray, the skipper and Player Assistant boss has Amber and Blue blood running through his veins. It’s no secret that Murray’s career has been turbulent especially in those early days at Derby County – his story has been an incredible one as has Mansfield’s, there really is no other player, person or man that we would of liked to see hold that trophy aloft.
Congratulations to all the players and all the staff it has been an honour, a privilege and a pleasure to follow and share the journey with you. Remember the time and remember the day for the rest of your lives – MANSFIELD TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB: BLUE SQUARE BET PREMIER CHAMPIONS 2012/13.
Thanks for reading, see you in pre-season when we begin our next chapter...all together now WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS MY FRIENDS...
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