Craig Priest writes….
When you take someone to their first ever football match, you hope for thrills and drama – yet nine times out of ten, you get a 0-0 draw. Well any football debutants yesterday will now be screaming for more in a dramatic game which had everything as the Stags, somehow, ran out 3-2 winners of Cheltenham.
Three straight red cards, a penalty, a manager being sent-off, numerous near brawls and a 94th minute winner – seriously what more can you ask for?
For the long-term fan the above is the recipe for a heart attack, and if Mansfield had finished with 11 men on the pitch I’d be highlighting the holes in the performance, but cards change games and sometimes you come up against teams who’s game plan is not on the pitch. The Stags, well Hayden White to be precise, fell into the trap but above all else we FINALLY showed some spirit to bag three points rather than settle for one.
With Lincoln being held by bottom placed Barnet, the come from behind victory has given us a bit of breathing space to build upon in terms of putting distance between the chasing pack, whilst up the other sleeve of chasing the automatics, it’s kept the pace.
Above all else however within the dressing room, such a victory will no doubt have created a buzz of energy and adrenaline, and with just one defeat in 15 league games [unless I’ve got my maths wrong] that can only be a good thing going into next weekend’s trip to Morecambe who are hovering dangerously closer to the drop zone, thus putting them on edge.
Some will be critical of the referee for a stop-start game, yet I think he got all three sending’s off correct and the penalty – I’ve said for months that Hayden White is clumsy, he’s also mouthy – every time the referee stops play, he wants to be involved in giving verbal to the officials and oppositions, often sprinting from one side of the pitch to the other to get involve and then fails to get back leaving us exposed.
His hands were all over the Cheltenham player for the penalty, it was obvious what was going to happen when White allowed the visiting front man to get goal side, Pearce’s lunge is irrelevant for me here as the player was already on the way to ground – and as for the sending off, there is absolutely no need to lunge in two footed there – stand up and force the player out, it was a horrible tackle.
As I said above though, the collective spirit never died – it wasn’t our greatest afternoon football wise but it doesn’t matter, it’s not saying die, it’s not giving up. We have to channel that energy and fight into next weekend now and continue to progress.
Steve Evans made just the one change to the side which were beaten by Cardiff in the FA Cup in midweek as Alfie Potter replaced Paul Anderson on the right hand side, leaving MacDonald in the free role behind Rose.
The opening exchanges saw neither team create anything clear cut on a bitterly cold afternoon at The One Call Stadium where for the first time the season the pitch was starting to show some wear and tare, which is credit to the pre-season investment as by now, it’s usually sheer mud!
It wasn’t really until 20 minutes in where the Stags created half a chance as Hayden White flashed an effort wide of Scott Flinders’ goal from long range, however three minutes later he’d be heavily involved at the other end as Mohamed Eisa got around back of the Stags right back before, with arms flailing, going to ground to earn a spot-kick for the visitors – Harry Pell drilling down the middle to open the scoring.
Jacob Mellis then went down injured on 28 minutes replaced by Lee Angol as the Stags dropped into a more familiar 4-4-2 with MacDonald dropping deeper to partner Byrom in the centre of midfield, a minute later Angol involved as Benning crossed from the left – Angol cushioned well for Rose who saw his effort from 14 yards blocked.
Mansfield looked more feisty in the 4-4-2 and were back on level terms on 34 minutes as White release Potter down the right hand side, the former Northampton man skipped beyond his marker to square the ball for Angol – his shot was deflected straight to the feet of Hamilton who bundled home from close range.
Danny Rose was then on the end of a nasty elbow from Taylor Moore on 40 minutes who was sent down the tunnel by the referee Darren Handley – there was just time for Rose to nod a Byrom corner into the mix which was cleared, before the referee had to send Robins’ boss Gary Johnson to the stands, after his assistant appeared to strike Paul Raynor in a confrontation which, it has to be said, Raynor started by marching straight into the visitors technical area.
Another lengthy stoppage followed as Mohamed Eisa had to be carried off on a stretcher before the half time whistle blew after an eventful first half.
After the restart more drama would unfold as the half went on, MacDonald the closest to bringing some normality with a pulsating run through the middle on 47 minutes before seeing a shot held by Flinders.
The Stags midfielder then picked out Angol six minutes later with a pin point ball from deep, Lee Angol rising high to connect with his head, Flinders however well placed to deny the Stags number nine.
Hayden White was then given his marching orders on 67 minutes for a heavy and late challenge on Ilias Chatzitheodoridis which resulted in White squaring up with three Chelentham players before taking an early bath.
At 10 v 10 the game became more balanced again and to shore things up, substitute Lee Angol was replaced by Zander Diamond – moving Bennett across to right back whilst many were left bemused as to why Rose, who’d be kicked, punched, elbowed and ran into the ground wasn’t replaced – or Byrom whose legs were tiring.
Mansfield were all over the place and were pegged back on 74 minutes as the visitors retook the lead, Robins’ sub Danny Wright flew down the left hand side and delivered for fellow substitute Elijah Adebayo who finishes with a high shot over Conrad Logan who arguably could have done better.
With 12 minutes do go the Stags threw on Kane Hemmings for Joel Byrom opting to go with just MacDonald in the middle with Potter drifting in where needed, Potter picked out Benning on 79 minutes who drilled narrowly wide.
Mansfield then levelled things up two minutes later as Pearce did well to hold the ball up for MacDonald – his weaving run saw him square into the middle for Hemmings, who did well to spin and convert amid a crowd of players six yards out.
The drama didn’t stop there as on 83 minutes Danny Wright saw red for an elbow on Potter after being awarded a free-kick which was spotted by the linesman, with nine men and all substitutions made, the visitors were all over the place and you just sensed more drama – CJ Hamilton grabbing what proved to be the winner four minutes into six added on, the tricky winger sweeping in as the ball fell to his feet at the far post.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-2 Cheltenham
Hayden White [SENT OFF STRAIGHT RED 68] Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Jacob Mellis (Lee Angol 28, Zander Diamond 71) – Joel Byrom (Kane Hemmings 78) – CJ Hamilton
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Paul Anderson, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer
Attendance: 3,483 (149)
Referee: Darren Handley Assistants: Richard Wild, David Benton Fourth Official Michael D’Aguilar
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