As Clipstone’s Worksop Van Hire Stadium plunged into darkness at half-time last night, there was certainly some irony because despite the sheer blackout like I’d been on take me out, there was light in what was a phenominal display of community spirit.
The hearts of the community sank a year or so ago when it looked like Clipstone as a club we’re finished, yet as the set-up from Blidworth moved across – the cobras we’re given a second chance.
And then just over a month ago, mindless vandals ransacked the Clipstone club-house, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage – deflating the clubs soul once more. Mansfield Town had no obligation whatsoever to offer to help, but did as Steve Evans picked up the phone and arranged a fixture – promising to send a first team along.
He stuck to his promise, as would 90% of managers to be fair – but one thing the other 10% wouldn’t do is instruct the players to put on a game, it was clear to see that the instructions from the kind-hearted but firm scot were ‘Full pace, we’re not here to make the numbers up, go and get yourself into the side to play in the cup.
Mansfield’s players responded to the instructions and on a freezing cold Tuesday evening where many players would show a total lack of professionalism, the Stags went out and played if they we’re playing a competitive cup final. It was humbling too see.
The blackout at half-time which also knocked out a neighbouring street was of course a disappointment, over 400 fans had paid through the turnstiles to support Clipstone and not ONE person complained that the game had to be abandoned due to a lights failure, which didn’t just effect the floodlights, but dressing rooms etc – staff we’re holding phone lights so both sets of players could change into warmer clothes, whilst as the pitch plunged into darkness with a local set of children’s clubs playing during the break, spectators did the same so that they could be safely escorted off - it was a real community effort and showed one message: no matter what you throw at us, you will never break us.
On the pitch, the Stags started 11 senior players and named a further three on the bench with a couple of the more senior youngsters and it showed, against a team to be fair, who are competing one or two levels higher than expected due to the club move.
Clisptone could have taken a very early lead but drilled into the side netting of Bobby Oljenik’s goal as Mansfield struggled to find their feet, and to be fair had a good amount of chances and did themselves no disservice whatsoever in between Mansfield’s goal glut, which statistically reads a goal every 6 and a half minutes – any chance we could have that Sunday?!
With Zander Diamond and Rhys Bennett in fine form in the league, Kyrstian Pearce has been kept out of the side since serving a games ban for five yellows, yet he sent a message to boss Evans watching, and bellowing, on from the stand – anything Zander can do, I can do too – opening the scoring from Alfie Potters 12th minute corner.
Calum Butcher then made it 2-0 as he trapped Mal Benning’s deep cross well inside the area before powering into the roof of the net from eight yards, before Paul Anderson staked a claim for spot-kick duty, dispatching a penalty after Benning was tripped to make it 3-0.
The best was yet to come from both Butcher and Anderson though, Butcher made it 4-0 with a well struck dipping half-volley before Anderson showed Danny Rose how to properly score an over-head kick, the skipper for the night chesting the ball down inside the box with his back to goal, flicking the ball up before doing a full flip to hammer in from 14 yards out for 5-0.
Alfie Potter made it 6-0 with a mouth watering cut in and curl effort before Butcher completed the hat-trick right on the stroke of half-time, smashing the ball in from around the penalty spot after a left sided cross.
7-0. Lights Out. Game Off. Job Done.
Paul Digby – Krystian Pearce – David Mirfin – Mal Benning
Jack Thomas – Calum Butcher – Will Atkinson – Alfie Potter
Paul Anderson © - Jimmy Spencer
Unused Substitutes: Lee Angol, Omari Sterling-James, CJ Hamilton [YOUTH] Wilson, Healey, Wilder
A huge congratulations to Clipstone for staging a really enjoyable night, obviously they’ll be gutted not to have completed the game, but I’ve no doubt that if not this season, than certainly in pre-season they’ll be another game with a strong stags side. Football is more than just about winning and losing, it’s a community and as last night proved, there’s light – even in darkness.
Craig Priest writes…
Players on the fringe of the Starting Line-Up were put in the shop window last night in a friendly with Rainworth MW. Eight first teamers were included as the Stags made up for sending a youth team during pre-season, a run out they won 2-0.
Paul Raynor took charge of the sides with Steve Evans watching from the stands with chairman John Radford, earlier in the day of course Evans had again hit the sporting headlines, as Gillingham made an approach for his services – an approach which was rebuffed.
On the pitch, the Stags put in a shift fitting of the occasion – friendly but professional, ensuring those who were watching in the biting evening cold, we’re entertained enough – perhaps if Joel Byrom and Zander Diamond had been closer to fitness they would have had at least 45 minutes, whilst Paul Digby nor Hayden White weren’t involved either despite missing Saturday’s derby day win over Notts County.
The youngsters who stepped in did themselves no harm, in particular Lewis Collins who has been excellent on loan at Gainsborough –he played out of position at right back but did so comfortably. Cameron Healey in the centre of the park too had a solid game – it’s great to see the club developing young talent and partnerships with the likes of Rainworth, only help to make them stronger.
In terms of the senior players, CJ Hamilton had a solid game on the left hand side of midfield showing his pace, Mal Benning also at left back for me HAD to perform with Johnny Hunt in form ahead of him and did so, although I think it’s about time to give up the idea of another Benning-Belter!
A special mention too for Rhys Bennett who captained the side, he was vocal and helped get the younger players through the game in which Rainworth were certainly up for.
The Stags started brightly and within the opening two minutes, a neat cross park ball from Jacob Mellis picked out Hamilton – his cross flashed across the face of goal and picked out Kane Hemmings, who failed to get his shot on target.
Rainworth then pumped one over the top and got a low cross into the box, Kieran Harrison smashed the ball away before on the 7 minute mark, the hosts had a golden opening with a central free-kick conceded by Harrison. Joshua Ross stepped up and saw his effort deflected behind for a corner, from which Brad Wilson volleyed high into the evening sky.
Ben Townsend in the Rainworth goal palmed away an effort from Hemmings on 17 minutes before Lee Angol had a half hearted appeal for a spot kick turned away – two minutes later, another free-kick for Rainworth, this time hit by the left boot of Jordan Claxton saw Olejnik called into action, who did well to hold.
Jacob Mellis tested the water on 22 minutes from distance on the volley but just three minutes later, Lee Angol headed Mansfield in front as Lewis Collins bombed down the right hand side to cut a cross in from the bye-line – straight from the re-start Mansfield were on the attack once more and grabbed a second with venom, thundering an effort into the bottom corner following a mazey run.
Zayn Hakeem, Jacob Mellis and Lee Angol all saw efforts go astray as Mansfield looked for a third, but couldn’t quite find a way through as referee Declan Bourne drew a close to the first half.
Kane Hemmings was withdrawn at the break and replaced by Jordan Graham, two corners in quick succession for the Stags then followed as Jacob Mellis teased the hosts with a neat cross park ball. Mellis swung in the resulting corner and picked out Mal Benning on the edge of the box for a volley, it’s safe to say his effort is still in the night sky.
As the hour struck, the Stags withdrew Angol and Mellis as youngsters Nyle Blake and Keaton Ward took their place. Blake was involved from the off and was soon fouled, Mal Benning whipped a shot over the wall from the resulting set play but it flew over the bar.
Benning and Blake were both involved in Mansfield’s next chance as the left back’s ball from the left fell kindly for Blake at the back post but he was unable to keep his shot down as Mansfield looked for a third to wrap the game up.
As the match entered the final ten minutes, Bobby Oljenik was called into action as Rainworth sprung an otherwise tight defence – the stags keeper of his line quickly to mop things up before Zayn Hakeem, who scored in the previous fixture back in early August, nearly did so again in the games dying embers. Mal Benning providing the cross which Hakeem nodded wide.
FULL TIME: Rainworth MW 0-2 Stags
Lewis Collins – Kieran Harrison (Henry Wilder 79) – Rhys Bennett © - Mal Benning
Zayn Hakeem – Jacob Mellis (Keaton Ward 60) – Cameron Healy – CJ Hamilton
Lee Angol (Nyle Blake 60) – Kane Hemmings (Jordan Graham HT)
Unused Substitute: Sam Wilson
Referee: Declan Bourne
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