Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Workington Reds AFC V Mansfield Town FC
Competition: The FA Cup, Sponsored by Budweiser, Fourth Qualifying Round
Venue: Borough Park
Date & Time: Saturday 20th October 2012 – 3pm
Match Referee: Seb Stocksbridge
Attendance: 721 (100 approximately)
Over the hills in a land far away lies a place called Workington. Scenic views on the way are matched by a gruff looking exterior and a ground and pitch which has stood the test of history, just about anyway. Over the bridge and near to the sea, I guess those writers, poets, artists etc could dress the place up to be something of a mystery, as it is Mansfield’s trip yesterday in the FA Cup consists of a story which involved grit, determination and work as our Staggies battled it out with Blue Square North outfit Workington for a place in round one of the FA Cup, a competition famed for its magical powers.
A seriously long trek, a tricky pitch and our opponent’s chance at a cup scalp could have all been contributing factors to a nightmare day for Stags, however they just managed to edge their way into Round One, where they will face a home tie with either Slough Town or Gosport Borough a week on Saturday.
Yesterday there could be some criticism over our performance, at times I think we welcomed the hosts onto us and were rather fortunate not to concede early on whilst collectively our 3-4-1-2 formation had more holes than a broken-siv, credit to Paul Cox for changing things into a flexible 4-3-3/4-4-2 which gave us some stability in key areas. The substitutions were spot on too, Ben Hutchinson the right player for the occasion and they way to unlock the hosts, Lindon Meikle and Chris Clements too both the correct choice. In all honesty Workington deserved a replay as we we’re shaky and the hosts creative, however football isn’t about nicety’s is about winning and that’s what we did – on a further positive note, we actually won away from home for the first time since August plus we managed to win in a 4-3-3 which was the formation used for a good 75% of our attacks. Let’s build from it now and let our season chug along fittingly rather than let it fade over the hill tops with the evening sun, a nice view at first but metaphorically a horrible feeling once its dark and cold.
Paul Cox made three enforced changes to his side yesterday, Liam Mitchell was replaced in goal by Shane Redmond due to Notts County not wanting him cup tied, skipper Adam Murray reverted back to his assistant boss duties as he served his one game ban, Anthony Howell his replacement in the line up whilst Luke Jones came in for the injured Exodus Geohaghon – John Dempster became the fourth person to were the skippers armband as he deputised for Murray.
LINE UP [3-4-1-2]: Shane Redmond, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster (C), Luke Jones, Andy Todd, Gary Roberts, Anthony Howell, Junior Daniel, Jake Speight, Matt Green, Matt Rhead
SUBSTITUTES: Lindon Meikle, Louis Briscoe, Nick Wright, Chris Clements, Lee Beevers, Ben Hutchinson, Lee Stevenson
The Stags started well with two corners inside the opening three minutes; however neither Luke Jones, Matt Rhead nor John Dempster could connect with Gary Roberts’ deliveries. Shane Redmond was then called into action on five minutes when Gareth Arnison took control of play on the left flank, cutting past Sutton well the Workington hit man curled an effort towards the top corner however it was comfortable for Redmond to collect in the air.
Roberts then tried to create for Speight however the long range pass was collected by the home keeper Aarron Taylor who, for the next five minutes or so could simply watch as his sided pressured the Stags, Redmond twice collecting headers from Arnison following two successive Niall Cowperthwaite crosses.
Taylor was finally called into action on 12 minutes when Speight connected with Roberts’ right sided cross, the lively hit mans shot palmed away expertly by Taylor before Cowperthwaite got back to prevent the corner. Seconds later it was Workington’s turn to threaten, Shane Redmond beaten all ends up by Johnny Wright whose effort clipped the bar on its way out for a goal kick.
Mansfield then spurned a fine chance to take the lead on 15 minutes after excellent controlled build up play. Gary Roberts’ let the ball run wide for Junior Daniel who crossed wonderfully for Green, his header down was cushioned into the path of Anthony Howell who screwed horribly wide of the goal with a left footed half volley from 10 yards out.
The hosts then enjoyed a ten minute spell of pressure which saw Redmond get down low to keep out efforts from Wright, Boyd and Arnison with John Dempster and Luke Jones both dominant in the air to keep out looping crosses from Workington’s attack minded full backs Cowperthwaite and Rowntree.
It was clear Mansfield weren’t comfortable with three at the back and so, rather loudly, Paul Cox told Junior Daniel and Ritchie Sutton to slot into left and right back roles respectively whilst Jake Speight alternated between the left wing and a left sided forward role as 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 alternated like a sloshing wave. On 32 minutes Mansfield finally broke the resistance after another pressured move from Workington which saw Luke Jones and Dempster collectively toe poke the ball to Andy Todd on the edge of the Stags boss. The player-coach whose reserve team smashed Bradford 7-0 midweek launched a directional ball over enemy lines, Matt Green winning a header in a Kyle May/James Bolton sandwich – the loose ball finding Speight who cut onto his left before slotting beyond Taylor to open the scoring.
On the stroke of half time Mansfield somehow survived a Workington bombardment from a deep free kick, Shane Redmond punching away twice before blocking a forceful effort from Will Vaulks, the same player seeing a driven effort cleared off the line by Junior Daniel.
HALF TIME: Workington 0-1 Stags
Again the early stages of the second half saw the hosts’ pressure, on 51 minutes Shane Redmond could only watch on as a flowing move saw Vaulks spray wide for Cowperthwaite, his cross a hairs width away from being turned in by the advancing Phil McLuckie at the far post.
On the hour mark Cox withdrew Andy Todd for Chris Clements, two minutes later Ben Hutchinson and Lindon Meikle replaced Matt Green and Matt Rhead respectively. Hutchinson made a difference straight away as he flicked inside for Speight who fired over. The duo combined again on 66 minutes, Hutchinson acutely touching a directional ball inside for Speight who made no mistake in firing in both his and the Stags second of the game.
On 73 minutes there was real danger for Mansfield as captain Dempster was judged to have fouled Arnison on the edge of the box, Gari Rowntree stepped up to squeeze the free kick through the wall however he was denied by the brilliance of Redmond who sprung down well to palm the spinning ball out for a corner.
Two minutes later Redmond again denied Workington, this time it was Will Vaulks who was denied from distance. The resulting ball forward nearly saw Speight grab his hat-trick as Hutchinson headed down into Speight’s path – the hit man hitting agonisingly high and wide on the half volley from twenty yards out.
Chris Clements then curled wide on 78 minutes following good work from Hutchinson, two minutes later Mansfield had Redmond to thank as he brilliantly denied Substitute Joe Mwasile who got goal side of Dempster and Jones following an expert pass from Vaulks.
With five minutes remaining Workington were handed a life line, a long ball over the top from Cowperthwaite saw Redmond rush out to close down Johnny Wright, the Irish gloves-man fouling him as the pair fought for the ball. The lively Gareth Arnison stepped up to convert the resulting spot kick, stetting a tenser finish than Stags would have hoped for.
Naturally chasing the game the final five minutes were all Workington and with two minutes to go could well have pulled level however Shane Redmond proved the hero. Wright clipped over a tired back line for Arnison who pulled the trigger, Redmond blocking with his body well before Mansfield scrambled clear, serving numerous crosses before the full time whistle eventually blew to put Mansfield into round one and end Workington’s cup dream for another season.
FULL TIME: Workington 1-2 Stags << Audio Highlights
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