Football can sometimes be a very cruel mistress, and Mansfield felt the full force of Football's cruelty as they got thumped 5-0 by league one Charlton.
The scoreline completely flattened the hosts as they ran out winners of the match which should never have been, the FA and referees apology for awarding Charlton a goal which was clearly offside in the original tie is nothing more than another bitter pill for Stags fans to swallow.
On a freezing Tuesday with the rain pouring down on a soulless and practically empty Valley, the Stags were extremely hard done by and I imagine that David Flitcroft will be majorly biting his tounge where the referee is concerned, as another poor and frankly strange decision ruined the game.
The Stags were 2-0 down and to be fair had conceded two soft goals, however they were largely dominating play and had been caught and punished by a team pushing for promotion back to the championship.
Time may well have been against them but I felt we had a goal in us to set up a tense finish, yet the referee had other ideas and after initially awarding the Stags a free-kick, seemingly changed his mind and seconds later - the hosts had a third, after which, with Stags pretty much baffled, bemused and deflated, the hosts scored twice more to inflict what on paper looks like a battering.
I dont think that I've ever felt like the Stags could get back into the game with practically ten minutes to go when losing 2-0 Away from home and the fact, prior to that ridiculous free kick, that I felt like we could is testament to the way David Flitcroft has got us playing.
The defeat is hard to take and given our solid record and good form is a massive sucker punch, yet in some ways it could be a blessing in disguise as it gives us a sharp slap across the face and asks us if we are up for the fight together as one.
We have to go and respond on Saturday in a hostile and charged environment at Lincoln who will want to maintain their good form and get their own back from earlier in the year in the checkatrade game, we can not let two ridiculous refereeing decisions affect us, nor can we dwell on them.
Yes it is disappointing to bow out of the competition at this early stage, and of course winning games is a good habit to have, but we've lost no points of slipped down any tables. It's one game, one blot on a much bigger canvas.
Come on you Stags as David Flitcroft aptly said “we are a squad, we are a team and I won’t allow any victims – that [game] has gone now.”
The Stags made four changes from Saturday’s win over Port Vale, reverting back to a 3-4-1-2 with the introduction of Calum Butcher in the attacking midfield role, Will Atkinson came in at right wing back, whilst there were also starts for Danny Rose and midfielder Timi Elsnik.
Click here to read the clubs report of the game
FULL TIME: Charlton 5-0 Stags
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Bobby Oljenik, Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Will Atkinson, Jacob Mellis (Hayden White 22), Timi Elsnik, Mal Benning, Calum Butcher, Danny Rose (Jordan Graham 61), CJ Hamilton (Tyler Walker 61)
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Logan, Jason Law, Lewis Gibbens, Nyle Blake
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 1-1 Charlton Athletic
Competition FA Cup – First Round
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) CJ Hamilton
Attendance 3,240 (392)
Craig Priest writes…
The FA Cup carries with it a certain magic, however no spell will ever turn our 2018-19 first round tie with Charlton into a classic, as the teams drew 1-1 meaning a replay will be required to see who progresses.
The visitors could only name five substitutes due to injury but still put out a side oozing with quality, many of whom should be playing at Championship manager, and as such – Charlton’s apparent injury problem played no part in a game which was by far a classic.
Mansfield, switching to a more expressive 3-4-3, should have won the game and would have, had it not been for a questionable second half goal from Charlton which the cameras later proved offside – however David Flitcrofts men didn’t have it their own way and should be commended on their defensive play.
Ryan Sweeney was particular impressive for me in the back three and really stepped up his game, whilst at the other end CJ Hamilton impressed with his eagerness to run and capped off a good afternoon’s work with a well taken goal.
The 3-4-3 system had its floors as it allowed Chalrton space to move the ball across the park and there were times we were a little too exposed in the middle for my liking, however a lack of zip and energy from the visitors was enough to counter balance the gaps.
Mansfield’s performance wasn’t as dominant as it has been for the last two matches (second half!) but all in all they matched a good league one side and didn’t look disinterested, a replay is not something we really wanted given our backlog of matches but momentum can be built from it, so let’s keep this run going and progress!
Two changes were made by Flitcroft as he moved CJ Hamilton up front in a 3-4-3, bringing in Craig Davies for Danny Rose, and Hayden White for Elsnik, who missed out with a knock.
Mansfield held on after early pressure from the League One visitors and had three chances of their own inside the opening ten minutes, CJ Hamilton hitting the outside of the post following Pearces’ sublime through ball, Mal Benning then nodded towards goal – denied by Dillon Phillips in the Charlton goal, before Mellis rasped one over the bar, following Walkers cut back.
Bishop, Pearce, Walker and Hamilton all had efforts as the game remained firmly deadlocked before on the stroke of half time, the latter put the stags in front – driving into the box before drilling into the bottom corner.
After the break Hamilton should have had a second but was denied brilliantly by Phillips who kept Charlton in the game, before Danny Rose was introduced on the hour to spice up the Stags attack with Davies withdrawn.
On 73 minutes Charlton levelled the match though Toby Stevenson, the referee gave the goal despite protests of offside, protests replays proved accurate.
It proved to be the final goal of the game as neither side could produce another, the Stags had Olejnik to thank moments after the goal as he denied Ajose, whilst at the other end half chances for Mellis and Rose weren’t enough to find a winner – meaning the Stags are off to the Valley a week tomorrow (Tuesday) to see who will progress.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 1-1 Charlton Athletic
STAGS [3-4-3]: Bobby Olejnik, Matt Preston Krystain Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Hayden White, Neal Bishop, Jacob Mellis, Mal Benning (Calum Butcher 78), Craig Davies (Danny Rose 61), Tyler Walker (Jordan Graham 94), CJ Hamilton,
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson, Alistar Smith
Referee: Ollie Yates
Craig Priest writes…
The funny thing about dreams is, just when you picture the perfect ending, the plot line twists in a completely random direction and within the blink of an eye – the perfect dream is gone.
A 4-1 score line in favour of Championship side Cardiff City completely flattered the visitors and looks very harsh on Steve Evans men who exit the FA Cup with the bitter taste of what could have been, however for my money – they can be very proud of their efforts and endeavours.
For 65 minutes the Stags really held their own and in fairness, they should have been comfortably leading at half-time as they outplayed the visitors with some promising football which, if they can replicate it consistently, will set league two alight at last.
Yet as has been Mansfield problem far too frequently, the energy ran short and the cracks began to show – cracks which sides like Cardiff are going to exploit and did so with two playground goals and one hit and hope wonder from slack marking when Mansfield, disappointingly, had long since gone home mentally.
Obviously not playing Manchester City and gaining the riches which accompany it is a bitter, bitter blow – but on the flip side, we have practically packed out the One Call Stadium and showed some of the “non-regular supporters” what we can deliver for the most part, hopefully enticing them to return and back the boys to a play-off and possible promotion charge, in a similar way the Liverpool defeat did back in the conference days.
Looking at the game out of isolation and you could tell how much we have missed Joel Byrom’s set-plays and his creativity in midfield, I’m not particularly a fan of compacting midfield with a five but having Byrom sit alongside Mellis and MacDonald really worked and opened Cardiff up.
The pedantic will say that at no point was it an out and out midfield five, but with MacDonald having pretty much free reign – there were times we prevented Cardiff from punishing us in the first half by MacDonald sitting deeper, thus becoming a five.
MacDonald continues to flourish in that central role too his tenacity and energy is the driving force to Mansfield Town right now, he didn’t top running from start to finish yet again and plugged a lot of gaps – allowing the likes of Byrom, Melliss and Hamilton to have space to work and attack – he thoroughly deserved his man of the match award.
If I were being pedantic myself and picking the holes out of it, I’d lambast our defending for allowing simplicity to unravel it – but it’s the FA Cup and in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter one little bit, a team from a higher level will have that extra bit about them to exploit us – we learn from it and ensure those mistakes don’t spill into the league.
It’s disappointing to exit the cup so close to getting a dream tie – but overall I look back with pride rather than frustration, as we matched a very good Championship side for the best part of 150 minutes of football.
We learn, we move on and we do NOT for a second think ‘Manchester City this and Manchester City that’ – we simply focus on the bread and butter and complete a longer, but more satisfactory dream – Project Promotion.
Steve Evans made two changes from Saturday’s goalless draw at Cambridge as Hayden White returned to the back four in place of Alfie Potter pushing Paul Anderson forward, whilst Joel Byrom replaced Lee Angol, taking up a spot in the centre of midfield with Alex MacDonald given a more higher and free role in supporting Rose.
It was a nervy start from the Stags as Cardiff looked to establish their dominance – a miscued volley from Junior Hoilett on two minutes gave the Stags the wake up call they needed as they clicked into gear with some neat football.
Twelve minutes in saw Mansfield test the palms of Neil Etheridge as CJ Hamilton weaved his way through, however the end shot was tame after such a good bit of movement from the tricky wing man.
A minute later Joel Byrom brilliantly picked out Hayden White who nodded into the path of Pearce, the visiting back line scrambling away as the Stags skipper looked to pull the trigger – the hosts then had Logan to thank at the other end on 18 minutes, as Hoilett was allowed too much space on the right hand side, Logan palmed the ball away as the Bluebirds front man cut inside and pulled the trigger.
Mal Benning then missed a golden chance to open the scoring on 26 minutes as MacDonald was fouled 25 yards from goal to the right. Byrom sent a square ball into space for Benning who charged forwards unmarked, but side footed the ball over the bar, rather than drill into the bottom corner – a move straight from the training ground which richly deserved a goal.
Five minutes later Mellis found Hamilton who cut the ball across for Danny Rose, the Stags leading scorer saw his effort deflected wide as Mansfield continued to turn up the heat.
The visitors then grabbed an undeserved lead on 34 minutes as Logan failed to claim a corner on his line – Steve Evans claimed a foul from the dugout, but as the ball dropped to Manga, the referee ignored the claims and allowed the ball to crash into the back of the net and put Cardiff into the lead.
Mansfield responded immediately as the Stags pilled on pressure, a cross into the box wasn’t dealt with by the visitors and as the ball dropped for Rose, there was only one place that was ending up – in the back of the net, a well-executed left footed finish to reignite the crowd.
Despite the Stags then dominating the majority of play before the half-time whistle, after 45 minutes of football – it was all square between the two sides.
After the break the visitors stepped things up a level but Mansfield stood firm as Pearce blocked Anthony Pilkington’s effort inside the area, Mal Benning also got in the way of a Zohore effort as the hour mark approached.
Simple football then undid the Stags as two goals inside five minutes put the Stags out of the tie, first a simple ball into the box saw Hoilett peel away from his markers for an easy tap in following Patterson’s low cut back on 66 minutes, before the Stags failed to deal with the second ball from a throw in on the left hand side on 71, Anthony Pilkington this time exploiting space to convert beyond Logan for 3-1.
With two minutes to go, the game was put beyond doubt in style as the Stags practically stopped dead, allowing Hoilett to pick up the ball 25 yards from goal in what seemed like a huge gap of space – he fizzed past Logan who stood no chance.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-4 Cardiff City
Hayden White – Krystian Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Paul Anderson (Alfie Potter 79) – Jacob Mellis – Joel Byrom (Lee Angol 74) – CJ Hamilton
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Zander Diamond, Will Atkinson, Jimmy Spencer
Referee: Geoff Eltringham Assistants Duncan Street & Wayne Grunnill Fourth Official Peter Banks
Craig Priest writes…
Resilience is a quality which many under estimate, for example a small thing like being able to resist that extra biscuit with a brew is practically nothing – but we all know that eating just one is never enough, so that resistance is actually pretty powerful over a larger scale – and that is practically the story of Mansfield Town FC of late, whose goalless draw with Championship Side Cardiff City proved Evans’ side are serious.
In all competitions, Evans men have lost just one in 19 matches (Crawley away, Blackpool in the Checkatrade being a draw across 90 minutes) and are slowly building momentum and belief that success can be achieved, something the goalless draw against the Championship high-flyers will only boost.
In truth the Stags are very unlucky not to be in the hat for round four by themselves, as they had opportunities to win the game – no doubt Paul Anderson will have been awake all night wondering how his late effort didn’t find the back of the net.
They certainly didn’t deserve to lose and Conrad Logan must take a huge amount of credit for his heroic save in the dying seconds of the game, as must Jimmy spencer who was the hero of round two – he again showed what a pivotal player he is, bringing life to Mansfield’s attack after his introduction late in the first half for the injured Kane Hemmings.
Spencer showed tremendous strength and link up play to create a number of openings for the Stags, holding up the ball against a string Cardiff back line to bring other players into play such as MacDonald, who continues to flourish in that central midfield role.
Backed by over a thousand supporters, the players could really see that we were behind them – Evans right to praise that during his post-match interview, however his petulant dig of ‘one defeat in 19 isn’t good enough’ completely took away the fact of what we’d just achieved – a draw against a side who many back to be playing in the Premier League next season despite their winter slump in form.
I could write an entire article on the perspective between management and supporters, but why tarnish what was another good FA Cup memory, five years since the Stags narrowly lost to Liverpool and the hand of a cheat, and a day shy of 12 years since Alan Shearers history levelling goal.
Take the positives out of yesterday and inject them into next Saturday’s league two encounter with Cambridge United – we must turn league draws (six in the league in the run of 19 games as mentioned) into wins, as I believe at least four, possibly five of them should have been wins – but hey ho!
The cup draw should mean nothing and shouldn’t even be addressed until the replay with Neil Warnocks side, we just take one game at a time and make progress, remembering that a journey of a million miles starts with a single step.
Steve Evans named the same starting 11 that beat Carlisle on New Years Day, brining Jimmy Spencer back onto the substitutes bench to bolster attacking options with leading scorer Danny Rose still side lined with injury.
Cardiff named a relatively strong line up as they attempted to break a baron spell of four consecutive defeats, but neither side could create any real opening within the opening exchanges, skipper Krystian Pearce coming out on top in the early battle with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
The hosts saw their first real sight of goal on 15 minutes as the ball ran free for Rhys Healey but the bluebirds man failed to get a real connection on his volley and the Stags were able to clear – ten minutes later, the Stags nearly opened up city as Mellis sent Hamilton on his way down the left hand side – the tricky winger cut inside and sent a teasing cross in – which nobody could connect with.
Conrad Logan had to be alert on 36 minutes as the ball zipped into the path of Callum Paterson, a deflection took the sting out of it and the Stags regrouped, four minutes later Logan again beating away an effort as MacDonald was dispossessed in the middle by Healey, Logan equal to the effort.
Jimmy Spencer replaced the injured Kane Hemmings on the stroke of half time, Spencer creating the Stags best chance of the half during the two additional minutes as he held the ball up well in the corner following a splitting central pass, Spencer then picked out Anderson whose looping cross found Hamilton, who at the far post, nodded over the bar.
The Stags were fired up as the second half began as Lee Angol won an early corner, swung in by Potter, the winger got the ball back and found the run of Bennett at the far post who was very unlucky to be second in the race to the inviting cross.
On 51 minutes Alex MaxcDonald nearly repeated his goal at Coventry, cutting inside past three – before curling narrowly wide of Brian Murphy’s goal – two minutes later the Stags were very nearly behind, Healey firing a volley just over Logan’s bar following Lee Tomlin’s fizzing cross.
The Stags should then have taken the lead on the hour as Jimmy Spencer did really well to hold up play from Potter’s feed, Spencer squared into the middle for Angol who agonisingly saw his goal bound effort blocked by a combination of Brian Murphy and Cardiff skipper Sean Morrison, who both wondered how on earth the hosts were not behind after an excellent Mansfield move.
Both sides played check mate for a while before with 11 minutes remaining, the Stags again nearly had the breakthrough, Alex MacDonald played a sublime ball through the middle which was acutely flicked into the box by Spencer, Paul Anderson made a hidden run from right back, rounding the keeper before seeing his effort painfully turned away for a corner, eventually taken and cleared after Anderson picked himself from the floor, laying in disbelief at how he handed found the back of the net.
In the dying seconds of the game, Conrad Logan pulled off the heroics, somehow turning the ball away as a scramble inside the area saw the ball head towards the bottom corner – the stags number one showing real agility to push the ball away to safety, keeping his ninth clean sheet of the season and adding another fixture to the calendar in the process, as after 90 minutes of well balanced football – Mansfield held Championship Cardiff to a goalless draw.
FULL TIME: Cardiff City 0-0 Stags
Paul Anderson – Krystain Pearce © - Rhys Bennett – Mal Benning
Alfie Potter – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 90+2) – Alex MacDonald – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings (Jimmy Spencer 45) – Lee Angol (Omari Sterling-James 75)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Paul Digby, Hayden White, Calum Butcher
Attendance: 6,378 (1,063)
Referee: Lee Probert Assistants R.Merchant C.Taylor Fourth Official R.Lewis
Craig Priest writes….
Mansfield Town booked their place in the third round of the FA Cup with a professional display against non-league Guiseley on an afternoon filled with cup heroes and villians, as former managers Paul Cox & Adam Murray received a lovingly-warm welcome home.
The club legends, now manager and assistant respectively of Guiseley, received an extremely warm standing ovation as they made their way to the visiting dug-out prior to kick-off – but for themselves in the here and now, endured an afternoon they’d love to forget – as two red cards allowed the current Stags crop an easy afternoon.
Full credit to the visitors who didn’t lie down resigned to defeat, even at 3-0 with nine-men I still felt they could have caused us a problem if they got half an opening – sadly for Cox & Murray, the instruction to go out and be physically was taken far too literally and it cost them in the end. Playing with ten men and mounting a comeback is achievable but with nine against an in-form and hungry Mansfield – it was never going to end well really.
Credit too should go to Mansfield as a unit for their professionalism, there’s no doubt the idea to go physical was to try and provoke a reaction from the players – they we’re wise to that though and just got their heads down and accepted it for what it was, a cup match where they were there to be shot at.
It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Steve Evans who I felt disappointed with again, as an experienced manager in non-league who went on giant-killing cup runs he most of all should have known the tactic to come, there’s no need to act like a petulant child and kick-off every time a player got breathed on – especially when you consider the fact the referee had it in hand, aka the two red cards and several bookings. The players got on with it, he should too.
I’m delighted to see Jimmy Spencer grab the headlines too, he’s a splendid hold up man who is capable of scoring goals and takes a lot of flak from supporters, but yesterday showed just how good he can be with smart touches and good movement. Yes you can argue two came at a time where space opened itself up with the numeric difference, but in truth had it not been for Jonny Maxted in the visitors goal, it could have been way more for Spencer, his team mates and the Stags.
The FA Cup draw awaits, a money spinner would be great or a big day-out somewhere, but let’s just enjoy the journey and first and foremost, stay focussed – we’ve a big game at Blackpool on Wednesday (which many don’t see as such) where players can stake a claim for a start at Crawley and where the club can not only earn a few extra spends, but also gage where they are against a League One side.
What is it they say? You can look back – but don’t stare.
Three changes were made by Evans following last weekend’s disappointing 2-2 derby-day draw, Joel Byrom and Jacob Mellis both missed out on a start with knocks, replaced by Atkinson and Anderson with MacDonald moving central – whilst Omari Sterling-James was replaced by Jimmy Spencer, who performed very well in the 45 minute run-out at Clipstone during the week.
The visitors had the first opening of the game as they looked to pull off another league-two scalp after beating Accrington in the previous round, Kayode Odejayi let fly from 16 yards but saw Logan equal too it, before on three minutes – visiting hearts were in mouths as Danny Rose went to ground under the challenge of M’Boungou – the referee awarding a corner.
Jimmy Spencer then tested the water on five minutes as he dragged an effort wide of the post from Hamilton’s cutting cross, a minute later Spencer again letting fly from twenty yards but firing wide.
Jonny Maxted was the Guiseley hero in round one and appeared to be so again as the Stags had two attempts inside a minute with 15 minutes played – first Alex MacDonald’s clever free-kick was beaten away after Rose was tripped on the edge of the box – before the visiting keeper threw himself at Paul Anderson’s shot, following a neat charge down the right hand side from Hayden White.
A minute later the post rescued the visitors as MacDonald volleyed a cross into the box – Rhys Bennett was first too it, but saw his header cannon off Maxted onto the post.
The visitors saw sight of Mansfield’s goal as the half progressed, Bennett on hand to prevent the run of Mike Fondop-Talom before at the other end, Maxted to the rescue once more – this time denying Anderson who struck on the half-volley from Rose’s neat cushioned header.
Spencer then had a shot blocked on the half hour but a minute later, finally got his reward as Mansfield romped forwards playing back to front – Paul Anderson providing the assist following a powerful right sided run – his cross met by the head of Spencer who thundered beyond Maxted.
Eight minutes later after several physical challenges, the visitors were reduced to ten men as Darren Holden lunged in on Jimmy Spencer – the straight red card had been coming as was the Stags second, Maxted however making the Stags wait – palming away another Spencer effort right on the stroke of half time.
After the break the visitors game plan was torn up on 50 minutes as, following an arm to the face of Spencer – Chris M’Boungou was given his marching orders with a second yellow card of the match, leaving Cox’s side with nine-men.
It took Mansfield a mere two minutes to make it pay, Jimmy Spencer again the man on the score-sheet, this turning in a left sided cross from Hamilton as Mansfield broke with intent.
On the hour Anderson nearly added a third but saw his shot deflect wide, before five minutes later as Spencer was fouled inside the area – he had the chance to seal a hat-trick from the spot and redeem his spot-kick miss from earlier in the season, which he duly did – sending Maxted the wrong way and rolling the ball into the bottom corner.
Alfie Potter replaced Anderson on 69 minutes and won the Stags a free kick within two minutes of coming on, MacDonald drove this one low but Maxted was equal to it, before moments later – he could only stand a watch the ball fizz narrowly wide, MacDonald smashing towards goal from 25 yards from Spencer’s set – the midfielder’s last action was he was replaced by Butcher to a standing ovation.
Danny Rose tried to replicate his first round goal at Shaw Lane with a volley on 78 minutes from white’s cross, but hit the ball over the bar – a minute later, Rose sent Butcher through but the midfielder, who scored a hat-trick against Clipstone in the 45-minute work-out, couldn’t get this shot on target.
CJ Hamilton then had a chance at the far post from White’s deep cross with nine minutes to go, the lively winger dragged his effort wide of the target – before the Stags hit the woodwork again as Potter and Hamilton stretched the visitors with quick, cross-park, football.
With two minutes to go, the whole stadium was up standing in applause as Jimmy Spencer was replaced by Sterling-James, and despite an additional three minutes of time allowed, couldn’t add a fourth goal.
FULL TIME: Stags 3-0 Guiseley
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Paul Anderson (Alfie Potter 69) – Alex MacDonald (Calum Butcher 73) – Will Atkinson – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose – Jimmy Spencer (Omari Sterling-James 88)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Jacob Mellis, Paul Digby, Krystian Pearce
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 4,081 (675)
It’s not uncommon for people to sit and remise about bygone days. Watching old videos, listening to Audio, reading articles, looking at photos – or whatever, memories last a lifetime and tomorrow as the football cycle ploughs on – two old faces return in a showdown that will be bittersweet.
Paul Cox and Adam Murray are two icons in my opinion, what you have there is two names, two men, two heroes – who we have to thank wholeheartedly for getting us to where we are now.
I’ll say this now, and will argue to death over it – anyone who boo’s either Cox or Murray tomorrow is NOT a true supporter.
You see the problem with football is, it’s fickle – people remember the negatives and nit-pick, it’s almost like they’re immune to the positives. When both Cox and Murray left the club, it was after a particularly hard and frustrating and tense spell – but it was so sudden, there was never a chance to say goodbye and more importantly ‘thank-you’ either it was just ‘the end’.
Now call me over passionate or whatever but when you achieve what Cox and Murray achieved, both deserved the respect of us saying thank-you. The arguments I know will be more about Murray and that he achieved nothing by way of trophies or success as a manager – sadly I saw little of Murray’s final few months in charge, but his job as a manager and achievement too in fairness, was stabilisation.
Murray, or to give him his proper title, Mr Mansfield Town took a brave step into management with a club tattooed on his heart – and like so many club legends before him at clubs across the land, risked losing the on pitch respect he gained by stepping into the dugout. We must not forget what he did for us as a player, as a captain – and that my friends, is keep a promise and deliver.
Week upon week, Murray would run through reinforced concrete walls for MTFC, often having been injected prior to kick-off. His passion would lead us, would motivate us and carry us through in times of need. Those tears post York on the pitch we’re real tears of pain, the promise he made me afterwards of promotion the following season – was not words to console a broken Craig, they were words of hope from a broken man, fed up of feeling pain.
Those tears he cried when lifting the conference trophy above his head were real tears of pride and jubilation, it was never about silverware or chasing success for Adam Murray – it was so much more.
He put that into his managerial career and you could always see how much it hurt not being able to influence a game on the pitch itself, I swear down he’d two foot a fourth official to get on the pitch!
There was the ‘falling out’ with Cox, but we all have tiffs and disagreements – there pairing worked and I’m so glad for Muz now that he’s linked up with Paul once again after a spell at Boston as manager which, I’m sure he’ll admit, was a learning curve.
Every captain needs a good manager, that man was Paul Cox who said the first time I met him “success is built on strong foundations”. Having arrived from Eastwood after many successful years, it was still a shock appointment which many questions – but arguably to date, the best appointment made by the Radford’s – and yes, I include Steve Evans in that.
Cox took a broken Mansfield Town and re-built it, picking it’s supporters up from the floor after a turbulent couple of seasons and after three seasons of us all wondering if we were destined for the conference, delivered the most emotional and thrilling seasons I’ve witnessed as Stags fan.
People complained about the football and in the early months, questioned the appointment – but the fact is, we showed patience and in the end IT BLOODY WORKED! We weren’t ready for the Football League in 2011-12 and as I’ve said before, the heartbreak of the play-offs made us stronger and more determined for the following season. Yes, we got lucky in a way, yes we dragged ourselves across the line – but we did, and because of that are in a much better shape now.
Cox was asked in a recent interview if he made a mistake in leaving, I always think he did – but sometimes, you need to let go.
We are ready to take the next step which Steve Evans is at the helm to do, and naturally I want to see us progress tomorrow in the FA Cup against the non-league side, but don’t for a second write them-off, and don’t for a second think it’ll be an easy ride.
Cox and Murray in the game will no doubt frustrate supporters, it’s the games passion of course but just remember this - Paul Cox delivered promotion, FA Cup joy, Football League status and Football League stabilisation, as did Adam Murray.
We would not be where we are today and have this huge opportunity to develop in the future had it not been for Cox and Murray, so please – be upstanding and applaud, no matter the result, no matter the game really – be upstanding and applaud two heroes, two icons, two legends and two men who refused to let Mansfield Town Football Club die.
Craig Priest writes…
In the surroundings of Yorkshire, the biting November wind mixed with the blinding winter Sun made for a strange setting for Mansfield Town FC – as an afternoon’s cup drama nearly played out in the predicable ‘David beats Goliath’ manner, which the FA Cup is designed for… that was until Barnsley born and Barnsley based Danny Rose stepped forward with a BAFTA worthy performance, to break the hearts of his own people. Now THAT is drama.
As supporters arrived at Sheerian Park and crammed into the car park, stories emerged of how the catering van – intended for inside the ground, had got stuck in the mud! It was a chilling reminder if where Mansfield once were, as five or six seasons ago – visiting grounds such as Sheerian Park was part of the story every week.
That’s no disrespect whatsoever to Shaw Lane who played their part tremendously in a day I’m sure they won’t forget in a while – but as I watched supporters walked down the muddy path to the away end where a temporary stand had been put up specially, the memories kept flooding back and I couldn’t help but worry what would happen if our attention slipped and focus faltered.
At the half time whistle, my fears were confirmed – despite a very well worked opening goal from Pearce, a mixture of sloppiness and sheer determination from Shaw Lane had pulled them level and had it not been for a tremendous last ditch challenge from Danny Rose, the hero of the day, Football League Mansfield would have been losing to Non-League Shaw Lane… and rightly so.
In the first half, and probably until Roses’ header in the second to be fair, Mansfield were the worst team – they didn’t look up for the fight and had no idea how to play the pitch, which had more diverts than a field infested with randy moles (which is non-league, it’s not a criticism, the One Call Stadium pitch was the same but a few seasons previous).
Fancy touches and finesse passing wasn’t going to work until the legs were tired, and running on adrenaline Shaw Lane were going to battle for as long as they could, even with each other! They had players with vast experience and in front of the nation were not going to roll over – something I think the Stags half expected them too.
To Mansfield’s credit, they woke themselves up at half-time – Evans’ voice no doubt bellowing around the hollow container dressing rooms ten times louder than normal, but still didn’t find it easy – the penalty miss, a poor hit well read by the keeper, was very nearly the final nail in the coffin.
For once, the heads didn’t drop which – had that happened in a league fixture, they would have done and we’d be well beaten as a consequence! Danny Roses’ brace was a finishing master class – everything from the anticipation of the movement around him to the athleticism and execution was a joy to be hold, and as he made way off the pitch late on, his white kit drenched in mud and the standing ovation painted a picture of a hero, and in dramas such as yesterday – heroes win BAFTAS.
As always the bigger picture comes into play now, that’s now six games unbeaten in all competitions with three wins, two of which are back to back – momentum for Saturday’s trip to Coventry where once more the surroundings will be very different.
I wish Shaw Lane all the best with their future, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever with this – yesterday was a stark reminder of how far Mansfield have come and the battles we’ve faced, I’ve no desire to see us return to that place – it’s time to kick on and climb.
Skipper Zander Diamond was the only survivor from Tuesday’s checkatrade victory over Everton U23s, he replaced Rhys Bennett as Evans switched back to the side which drew with Exeter a week ago.
The hosts started brightly in the opening minute as the cup fever set in, Nicky Walker tried to slot in the home front pair but Conrad Logan was on the ball like a duck to water, and it was soon the Stags who knocked on the door.
Mal Benning swung in a third minute cross from the left but saw Jon Stewart claim the ball high, a minute later – tricky from Mellis opened up some space – his effort from just inside the box, bravely blocked by home skipper Ryan Qualter, before Alex MacDonald and Mellis again had pop shots, which the ducks scrambled cleared. Rose also was unlucky not to grab a goal, after Kane Hemmings’ effort was palmed up into the air by Stewart, Rose steamed in and connected but saw the ball hit the post and go out of play.
A tremendous burst of pace from Rose to tackle the advancing full back Ryan Serrant stopped the hosts from opening up the Stags – Conrad Logan also had to get down low to a poked cross from the attacking left back on 25 minutes.
Eight minutes later, the Stags worked one straight from the training ground as Byrom was tripped by David Norris – the hosts claimed it wasn’t a free kick, and having watched the game back since – thyey may have a claim, although a foul on Rose a split second before the one on Byrom, just about balances things out.
Byrom stood over the free kick and as Macdonald pulled away into space, Byrom clipped the ball into his path – after setting himself, Macdonald delivered into the mix – the ball deflecting straight into Pearce’s path who struck cleanly on the half volley into the bottom corner to put Mansfield ahead.
The Stags lead was then taken away from then with four minutes to go before the break as they didn’t deal with a scramble inside the box – a blocked effort from Lee Bennett saw the ball fall kindly for him and at the second attempt – drilled low and hard beyond Logan to silence the Stags supporters packed behind the goal and give Shaw Lane, their moment in the spotlight.
The hosts should have been ahead on the stroke of half time, as fuelled by their goal, they came forward again – this time a left sided ball into the box wasn’t dealt with and Nicky Walker turned an effort against the post – before Danny Rose, from nowhere steamed in to challenge the Shaw Lane man who had the goal at his mercy – Roses’ tackle saved the game for the Stags at a critical moment.
After the restart with the Stags attacking towards their own supporters, Jon Stewart was on hand to thwart CJ Hamilton who attempted to lift the ball over him, at the other end ex Alfreton man Paul Clayton was fouled by Pearce – the resulting free kick on 51 minutes curled over the bar by Alex Byrne.
On 64 minutes after knocking on the door, the Ducks were sent Quackers (Sorry!) as Jacob Mellis twisted his way through and was fouled inside the box. The tricky midfielder who scored the Stags last spot kick after a frustrating run of misses from Rose, Spencer and Hemmings, stepped up.
However the story of the FA Cup should make it obvious to what happened next, as Mellis saw his spot kick saved by the towering figure of Stewart in the Ducks goal – a good height for him to be fair but a good solid save.
Zander Diamond nodded over Alex MacDonald’s resulting corner as the tension rose.
The battle continued as the Stags came forward but failed to find a way through, until Danny Rose netted a sublime header on 73 minutes to put Mansfield ahead. Rose’s movement was a pleasure to watch, spinning away from his marker as the cross swung in from the left.
On 77 Rose nearly added his second but hit the ball into the side netting, not that he’d have to wait much longer as just seconds later – Rose pulled off the finish of the round who started and finished the move.
Rose on the edge of the box swept the ball to Mellis and made his run – in the meantime, Mellis swept the ball wide right to MacDonald whose first time cross hung beautifully in the air for Rose, who at the far post hit a sweet volley almost with his back to goal into the back of the net. You’ll struggle to see a better piece of movement all season.
With five minutes to go, Jimmy spencer who replaced Rose just two minutes earlier, should have sealed the win – MacDonald again the man to create as he pulled the ball back across the box – spencer wrong footed got it all wrong.
The Stags then held on with good possession football through five minutes of added time, to kill the dreams of Shaw Lane and make it into round two.
FULL TIME: Shaw Lane 1-3 Stags
Paul Anderson – Zander Diamond © - Krystian Pearce – Mal Benning
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Paul Digby 90+5) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Jimmy Spencer 82) – Kane Hemmings (Will Atkinson 90+2)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Rhys Bennett, Alfie Potter, Omari sterling-James
Attendance: 1,576 (560)
Referee: Ben Toner Assistants: Steven Rushton, Richard Ward
Up and down the country, with Christmas just around the corner, there are many people rehearsing for this year’s Panto, hoping to give everybody a dam good laugh. Tomorrow, in front of the watching nation – the Stags have a part to play, but it will be attitude which defines the part.
Within our squad we have plenty of players who have played at high levels, at clubs with nice, tidy facilities where things are generally done for them – they are used to a certain level of comfort and certain standards – tomorrow that will change as the magic of the FA Cup puts Mansfield on a tightrope – battling with non-league Shaw Lane.
Shaw Lane are no easy opponent, within their ranks they have players who have played much higher and will want to continue their own dreams. They have the advantage too with the match being at their home, a pitch they are used to playing on and with the greatest will in the world meant here – one many of the Stags players will not be used too.
Adrenaline will take over for Shaw Lane’s players and my concern is that we won’t be able to match that spirit and fight – unless leaders can emerge and step up to the challenge.
Tomorrow we need to be firm at the back and tight as a unit, they’ll be physical and direct and if we for a second under estimate them or the challenge, our role in this particular production, will be of the laughing stock the ‘Giant’ who gets killed.
The Ducks have a rich and recent history, they’ve worked hard to get where they are and are a community hungry for success – where as we are a team who, let’s be fair here, are not performing to their full potential nor ability. It’s a script writers dream really – your classic David beats goliath.
Steve Evans has been in the position of the Shaw Lane management, I’m sure no Crawley fan will ever forget their FA Cup Run which accumulated in a 5th round trip to Old Trafford. We too as supporters have had plenty of cup dreams; the most recent of course sparked our most successful run in the last decade when we welcomed Liverpool in the third round back in 2013.
I remember the buzz around the town and club – it was wonderful to soak in. I was fortunate enough to commentate on that game and as such was there before the crowds came in, I’d never really felt noise like that before kick-off as the teams walked out – I couldn’t hear myself! It really gave a taste of being successful and even though it ended with THAT handball, it sparked a wave for the remainder of the season.
Newcastle away in 2006 when Alan Shearer equalled the record was another cup memory I’ll forever cherish, and like me – you’ll have your own. Shaw Lane will be thinking of those possibilities and that in itself will motivate the players – it’s all about chasing the dream.
I would love for more cup memories to be created, but with everything in football and in life – achievements are made sweet and rewarding by digging your heels in and doing the ugly work first, that’s exactly what we have to do tomorrow.
Remember when Luton came to the One Call Stadium for the FA Trophy Semi-Final back in 2011? There arrogance stunk and we took the wind from their sales with the right attitude and application from start to finish. The boot will be on the other foot tomorrow if we travel thinking the game is already won – if we want to create memories, then there is no place for that mentality.
Over confidence and under estimation will be out greatest downfall.
Time flies when you’re having fun, it moves even quicker in football! Can you believe that TEN years ago today (January 7th) Mansfield Town of League Two, made the trip up North to face Premier League Newcastle United in the FA Cup Third Round.
I was fourteen at the time and back then, a much skinner, far ginger and much more awkward me, regularly skipped school (I mean attended lots of dentist, hospital and optician appointments) to watch Mansfield Town FC without fail.
I didn’t have a season ticket so was petrified I wouldn’t get a ticket for the game so I was naturally buzzing when I was presented with tickets. Dressed in a horrible pair of jeans with a longsalde jacket I’d got for Christmas covering my home shirt (with COKE 15 on the back), I remember the excitement of matchday and how much of an awesome experience going to Newcastle was.
I remember little of the journey, other than a gang of us all congregating together as coach up on coach lined all the way down quarry lane to ferry the population of Mansfield to St James in the hope of a giant killing. We all stuck together as “the regulars” and managed to get on the same coach, I slept and listened to my Alba MP3 Player all the way – changing the pound shop batteries every two minutes whilst chatter and excitement built.
The experience was epic and was unlike any pre-match build up I’d experienced before, the play-off final in Cardiff had far too much worry and expectation attached, this time we were there for the ride. I still remember the sound of excited gasps followed by admirable silence as the coaches drove past St James’ to the drop of point.
Before hand a group of us crammed into Shearers Bar, constantly turning to anyone who could translate the native tone in order to have a conversation with our Premier League hosts.
I have to be honest, I hated the pub before hand – I’ve always wanted to see the warm ups and study the coaching drills, so was pleased when we headed back up a slight hilly incline towards the entrance.
We stopped half way and had a photo to show my dad, it was outside the St James Park welcome sign and taken on an old white phone which I’ve since lost! After going through the turnstyles, we headed up numerous flights of stairs to our stated destination – at which point my brother said to me “this isn’t high” – I walked out first, took one look and turn around, even more pale than usual and said, “wanna bet” (or words to that effect!). It was HIGH! Even higher when we reached our seats which were on the edge of the row.
My day was temporary ruined when a drunk supporter tripped UP the step and spilt a bottle of Coke on my COKE shirt – oh the irony. A sulk later, it was game time.
I remember little else, the players were dots, which perhaps explains why I still don’t use 3D mode on Football Manager. We played well, perhaps the best we played that entire season, but were inevitably beaten by a Historic goal from a footballing god – Alan Shearer, spinning midway through the second half to drill low beyond Pressman in the Stags goal to end a goal drought and pull level with Newcastle’s all time goal scorer, Jackie Milburn. That was a brilliant moment to witness to be fair.
Giles Coke came close to levelling things late on, but with Shay Given between the sticks, one of my goalkeeping heroes, it was never on the cards. The full time whistle was one of relief for Newcastle and one of pride for us.
In the ten years that passed for me, Stags stayed as the number one in my life, fell from grace and rose again. But what of the Stags side that day, I consulted the internet to attempt to find out….
Kevin Pressman – The Sheffield Wednesday legend joined Stags in the summer of 2005, linking up with his old team mate Carlton Palmer who was of course the man in charge at the beginning of the campaign. Owls Favourite ‘Big Kev’ joined after spells with Leeds and Coventry acting as cover and quickly established himself as Stags Number One with Jason White as his understudy.
I recall his display at St James’ Park to be one of his best in a Stags shirt, being extremely unfortunate to be beaten by that piece of Alan Shearer magic. I remember him as a very vocal shot stopper and, having attended every game that season, only recall him ever coming out of his box once – at Shrewbury away at Gay Meadow, Mark Stallard (who of coruse later went onto play and briefly co-manage us) was put through with a long ball over the top and left the back four stranded (the norm for that season!) – Pressman came racing out and slammed the ball into touch, whilst Stallard, sensisble, darted out of the way to avoid being booted with the ball!
Pressman left Stags at the end of that season and hung up his boots, although not for long as he turned out the following season for Northern Irish Side Portadown following a keeper crisis – he went onto win a player of the season award, aged 39 and his since moved into coaching, currently at Millwall working with their keepers after an ill-fated spell as Scunthorpe United assistant and a spell with Bradford.
Jake Buxton – Local Lad Jake had risen through the youth team and established himself in the side, either on the right side or in the middle of the back four. As we know, Jake went onto captain Mansfield during our darkest hour of relegation, moving on at the end of that season to join Nigel Clough at Burton Albion despite being on Paul Holland’s squad list for our conference debut season, had he got the job, according to Holland’s autobiography.
Buxton, despite being heavily criticised by most fans during our “season of death” went on to have a fairly successful career, winning promotion from the conference with Burton, as captain if memory serves me correct, before linking up with Clough for a second time at Championship Derby County and has since made over 130 appearances for the Rams where he still remains, albeit nursing an injury.
Alex-John Baptise – Like Buxton, Baptise was another local lad who regularly attracted the attention of higher division clubs, and numerous Soccer AM segments. Baptise left Stags after handing in a transfer request following our demise to the conference (I know, it’s like rats leaving a sinking ship!) and subsequently joined then Championship side Blackpool.
Baptise enjoyed life by the seaside and after breaking into the first team, established himself as a decent championship, and briefly, premier-league defender! That was weird watching a part of the worst back four ever (arguably) popped up on match of the day whilst we were roaming around the likes of Ebbsfleet!
Post Blackpool, ‘Bap’ has enjoyed spells as Bolton and Blackburn before joining Middlesbrough in the summer, suffering an injury in the early stages of a pre-season friendly against York City.
Rhys Day – Mansfield legend Rhys was in his first of two spells with Stags when we headed to St James Park. The much loved dominant welsh centre-back was well established in the Stags side and supporters hearts at this point, after Keith Curle had made Day’s loan switch from Manchester City permanent back in the summer of 2003.
Following the Newcastle game, where he earned praise for his talents from many including Shearer, Day remained with Stags until the end of the season where then Manager Peter Shirtliff failed to offer Day a new deal allowing him to join Conference side Aldershot Town.
Day did eventually return to the Stags, as one of David Holdsworths many loan signings from Oxford United during the 2010-11 season – making the switch permanent in the January window. Day shared the captains armband with now boss Adam Murray, predominately under the management of Duncan Russell. Sadly Day wouldn’t feature as much as supporters hoped, suffering numerous injury setbacks which forced him to retire with his final appearance being in his testimonial at the One Call Stadium, which brought back many of the players Day had played with throughout the years.
A momentary return from retirement came for Day as he joined Hyde, as player coach, in 2013, departing in the summer of 2015 after a handful of appearances to pursue a coaching career and supporting retiring sports man.
Gareth Jellyman – Curly haired Welsh left back Gareth joined in 2005 and stayed with the club until, yes you guessed it, our relegation in 2008. Highly rated by Billy Dearden during his tenure as boss, Jellyman has since become a journeyman of Non-League football and, perhaps more famously, the subject title of Soccer Saturday host Jeff Stelling’s book “Jellyman’s Thrown A Wobbley” which refers to the formers reporting of the left backs sending off against Oxford whilst at Stags.
Gus Uhlenbeek – Able to operate at Right Back or as a winger, Dutchman Gus who has two appearances for Alax to his name – joined the Stags under Palmer at the start of the 2005-06 campaign, departing on a Free to FC Halifax at the end of the same season.
Ten years on from playing 79 minutes at St James in the amber and blue, Gus is now back in Amsterdam, posting the occastional happy birthday message to ex-teams on twitter… he had a few during the years….
Stephen Dawson – Tough tackling midfielder Dawson was outstanding against Newcastle, although less said about his chance to level the game from 40 yards after Shay Given’s misplaced clearance the better! I always remember Dawson at being a constant performer for Stags in the centre of the park and since his departure in 2008, yes another one, he moved onto Bury, Leyton Orient, Barnsley and Rochdale before joining his current club Scunthorpe United. He’s been a transfer rumour for re-joining Stags, where he made his professional debut, a few times but nothing has ever come of them.
Giles Coke – One of a few names I’ve had printed on the back of my Stags tops down the years (the others for reference being Neil Mackenzie and most recently Brian Jensen, well BEAST), Giles was a talented youngster ten years ago and alongside Dawson, had a decent game on the big stage.
After being snapped up by Carlton Palmer from Non-League Kingstonian, the playmaking midfielder has gone onto forge a decent career for himself with spells at Northampton, Motherwell, Sheffield Wednesday and now Ipswich.
SUBS Adam Birchall and Nathan Arnold were the only two to feature from the bench, Birchall now combines a playing career turning out regularly for Maidstone (Thanks to Martin Shaw for the heads up) whilst also works as a coach within the Arsenal set-up after hanging up his playing boots whilst Nathan Arnold, practically still in nappies at the time, is at Grimsby in the conference, although he could be wearing the amber and blue again, had Paul Cox not done a U-turn on offering him a contract following a trail at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
Of those who warmed the bench as pure spectators, goalkeeper Jason White became an unwilling villain as number one during the relegation season, he’s now at AFC Mansfield. Islandic defender John Olav Hjelde put of a move back to Norway to stay with Stags until the end of the 2005-06 season, departing and retiring a year later. And as for midfielder Frazer McLachlan, he was last seen eating turkey at Carlton Palmer’s Christmas Dinner Table (this may not be entirely 100% accurate).
When Darren Locke headed St Albans City into an eighth minute lead yesterday, fans of Mansfield must have wondered if their goal-shy sides luck would ever change. Going into the match Stags were without a goal in 428 minutes so you can imagine the relief when Lee Stevenson slotted home to stop the clock, ending what was a 472 minute spell without a goal to level the FA Cup encounter.
What followed was an outburst of Stags attack as they dumped their part-time non-league opponents out of the cup by eight goals to one, midfielder Sam Clucas the star man bagging half of the Stags goals.
As mentioned, the Stags began skating on Banana Skins as Locke headed an eighth minute David Keenleyside cross beyond a bewildered Alan Marriott. The Stags were rocked by the saints opener and fought hard to respond and end the goal drought, Lee Stevenson the scorer after being restored to the line up after a man of the match performance for the reserves midweek.
Stevenson was teeded up by a low pass from captain Jamie McGuire a minute before the break and after levelling the match, were soon in front as a second goal followed just a minute later – goal scorer Stevenson turned provider for Anthony Howell who converted low to put the Stags ahead.
After the break the Stags showed no mercy on the hosts as they grabbed a third on 70 minutes thanks to Junior Daniel’s well struck tight angled volley, Sam Clucas got the fourth just four minutes later as he curled beyond Paul Bastock in the home goal.
Ollie Palmer added the fifth minutes later with a fine solo effort, twisting and turning from the half way line before driving a low effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
From then it was the Clucas show as he added goals six, seven and eight taking home the match ball in the process. Goal six came on 81 minutes as substitute Lindon Meikle sent Clucas clean through for a simple tap-in, the former Hereford man grabbed his hat-trick five minutes later, this time clipping the keeper from another Meikle pass before right at the death grabbing his fourth and Stags’ 8th of the tie racing through the middle onto a loose ball before cooly finishing.
FULL TIME: St Albans City 1-8 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 3,251 (450 Approx)
Referee: Mark Heywood
Stags: Alan Marriott, Ritchie Sutton, John McCombe, George Pilkington, James Jennings (Paul Black 88), Sam Clucas, Jamie McGuire (C), Anthony Howell, Junior Daniel, Lee Stevenson (Lindon Meikle 78), Ollie Palmer (Godfrey Poku 90+1)
UNUSED SUBS: Matt Rhead, Calvin Andrew, Keiran Murtagh, Ian Deakin.
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