Sky Bet League Two | Wednesday 13th January 2021 – Boundry Park [Behind Closed Doors]
It’s long been said that there’s an easy way, a hard way and a Mansfield Town way – well as the Stags make it four league wins on the spin and make up for Sunday’s FA Cup exit – they certainly stuck with that, in an eventful 3-2 victory at Oldham.
There’s been a lot of talk about a chase for the play-offs as with victory last night we moved to just five points behind Crawley in 7th, however they and all the teams above us have a game in hand, some two games, on us. The same too can be said for below us as with last night’s win, there’s now a nine point buffer between us and the drop – BUT, with the exception of Grimsby and Port Vale, all teams below us also have games in hand, some two games.
My point is not to be negative or pessimistic, but to be realistic – this league this season is so tight, a swing of results (like we’re currently seeing) can send huge waves crashing through the table. I’m loving the run we’re on and the potential we have, and I’m not saying the unthinkable can’t happen – I’m saying that we know how poor we have been and what effect that has, keep building that buffer and what will be will be this term, nothing yet – is set in Stone.
A prime time to talk about him, Aidan Stone that is – one of three changes last night. They’ll be a few who criticise the young keeper for his early error to put Oldham 1-0 up, but actually he deserves huge credit for the role he played in the win – making two key saves at 1-0 when Oldham we’re edging the game, and then again when we were 3-2 up and on the ropes.
The changes were a masterstroke from Clough with all three having a big impact on the game. Stone as I mentioned was key when called upon as the game progressed, Kellan Gordon was under pressure after how Perch and O’Keeffe performed in his absence but came back in and gave us real flare down the right hand side, delivery a number of key crosses – whilst Cook, well he was just Cook – strong and articulate in stretching the Oldham back line in open play, and forceful in the air from set plays.
Two quick examples, he wins the initial header for Sweeney’s goal – and then for Reid’s much deserved goal, takes two defenders out of the central positions and creates space for Reid to pounce. The 4-3-3 system real suits him and gets the best out of the supporting midfield.
We still missed Ollie Clarke and James Perch and we’re nowhere near the finished article – I still maintain that we need three more faces to supplement us and help us push on, these are likely to be loans with Clough saying after the match he’s waiting to hear back on one or two enquiries.
Carlisle, the league leaders, at home on Saturday – not an easy game but certainly winnable, for me – I’d take a draw and to keep this momentum going! A gritty win last night which could, and should, have been a little more comfortable than it was – but what really matters, is the points – job done, onto the next one.
Click HERE to read the clubs official match report.
STAGS: Aidan Stone | Kellan Gordon, Farrend Rawson, Ryan Sweeney ©, Stephen McLAughlin | Harry Charsley, George Maris, George Lapslie | Jamie Reid, Andy Cook (Nicky Maynard 90), Jordan Bowery (Mal Benning 80)
Unused Subs: Marek Stech, Rollin Menayese, Aaron O’Driscoll, Corey O’Keeffe, Jason Law
End of the road: Stags 0-0 Newport (AET, Newport win 5-3 on penaltys) [Play Off Semi Final, Second Leg]
Full Time Score Mansfield Town 0-0 Newport County AET Newport win 5-3 On penalty’s
(Aggregate Stags 1-1 Newport)
Competition Sky Bet League Two – Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg
Venue The One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) / (Penaltys: Ajose SCORED Hamilton SCORED Walker SAVED Benning SCORED)
Attendance 7,361 (1,118)
Craig Priest writes…
Missing out on a trip to Wembley is how the story ends for the 2018/19 season, in the cruellest of ways – a penalty shootout. Honestly I don’t know what else to write whilst holding back the tears – other than I’m incredibly proud of Mansfield Town FC, as yet another season comes to an end.
I’m not going to sit here and look in detail at how it all went wrong, that’s for another day when the emotion is far less raw – but what I will briefly comment on is the future of Stags boss David Flitcroft, and that quite simply is to remain Manager of the club, and finish the job next season.
Flitcroft has built a squad which for 95% of the campaign has delivered tremendous football with a fighting spirit to match, and whilst the other 5% has had detrimental effect on promotion hopes and dreams – I walked away from the One Call Stadium yesterday with a tear or two running down my face, satisfied that the players had given it everything in the end.
Going into the game, the Stags couldn’t afford to reflect on where they’d slipped in the previous weeks, nor get drawn into arguments about the referees display on Thursday – the only thing which could affect potential promotion, was what the boys did on the pitch.
At half time I did wonder how we weren’t on the end of a hammering, as Newport dominated, but after a change in shape at the break Mansfield did everything bar score and had just ONE effort dropped, I’d be writing with the jubilation of a forthcoming visit to Wembley – alas, it wasn’t to be.
When the game goes to a penalty shootout, it becomes a lottery, a slip or stumble here, or a confidence loss there and the pendulum swings widely in the opposite direction – if anything you could say Walker was destined to miss from the spot, having not missed a spot kick all season and taken the golden boot. There is no blame there, anyone who does put blame of those takers, does so out of sheer idiocy.
I’m as frustrated and hurt as the next supporter at failing to achieve promotion or a Wembley visit, and yes I agree that an inquest does need to be made into what went wrong – however, I’ve been watching the Stags for nearly twenty years now and I can honestly say that the class of 2018/19 have produced some wonderful stuff, and I’m proud to have witnessed every game, even that 45 minutes at Forest Green which didn’t bloody count!
I’ll share my views on the season as a whole over the coming days as the pain drains from my system, and of course I’ll have my say on the Mansfield Matters Podcast on Thursday at 6.3pm (ish) over on our Facebook Page in the end of season review show, for now though – the hurt and pain still lives deep, however I’m a firm believer that a manager given time to build on failure can deliver success and I already await the new season.
Thank you to the players who’ve made this season thrilling to follow, and thanks to you guys for reading the blog or watching/listening to the podcast this season – don’t look back in anger. This ain’t my journey, this ain’t the end – I’m waiting here, ‘till I see you again.
David Flitcroft was forced into one chance as Neal Bishop picked up an injury during the first leg, he was replaced by Willem Tomlinson – read how the action unfolded HERE with the clubs official match report
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-0 Newport County AET, Newport win 5-3 on penaltys
STAGS [3-5-2] Conrad Logan, Ben Turner, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Gethin Jones (Jorge Grant 120+1), Alex MacDonald, Willem Tomlinson (Mal Benning HT), Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 90), CJ Hamilton , Tyler Walker, Danny Rose (Nicky Ajose 105+1)
Unused Subs: Jordan Smith, Alistair Smith, Otis Khan
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Full Time Score Newport County 1-1 Mansfield Town
(Aggregate Stags 1-1 Newport)
Competition Sky Bet League Two – Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg
Venue Rodney Parade
Stags Goal Scorer(s) CJ Hamilton
Craig Priest writes…
With the regular season ending in such a disappointing way, Mansfield Town needed to respond with a freshness as they prepared to face Newport County in the Sky Bet League Two Play Offs, and whilst they head into Sunday’s second leg feeling a tad hard done by, David Flitcroft’s men showed real character to put in a first class display – reinstalling believe that they can finish the job they started.
It was imperative that the Stags rediscovered their flare and let behind any feelings of hurt and disappointment as they came up against a Newport side on a real bounce following a strong finish to the Sky Bet League Two campaign, and that’s something which Flitcroft’s boldness in the team selection enabled to happen with Mal Benning dropped out of the starting line-up for only the second time this season in all competitions.
The long serving defenders absence from the starting line-up allowed CJ Hamilton to occupy the left wing back slot and cause real danger to the hosts as Mansfield played an effective counter attacking game with real fluidity across the park, evident in the wingers 14th goal of the campaign in all competitions.
Whilst Hamilton caused damage at one end of the pitch, the real plaudits should go to shot stopper Conrad Logan, who produced a Gordon Banks style display in the Stags goal with a string of world class saves to keep a hungry Newport at bay – this included a strong penalty save, he was extremely unfortunate to not keep out the rebound, and defender Ben Turner who was solid, coming in for the injured Matt Preston.
A lot of talk before the game was about so called ‘damage limitation’ and trying to still be in the tie for the second leg, which to be fair given recent performances, wasn’t a bad line of conversation – but Mansfield Town delivered far more than that and SHOULD be ahead, with the penalty awarded to Newport an extremely soft call, whilst they should have also been playing with ten men, following a challenge on Tyler Walker within the opening minutes which was a straight red card.
However these squabblings and disgruntled points of conversation mean nothing, the fact is Mansfield produced their best display for weeks, they are still very much in the tie and if they can produce a similar, if not better, display on Sunday in the second leg at the One Call Stadium, then I’ve no doubt that a trip to Wembley will await the Stags.
I believe team selection will be huge on Sunday; however Flitcroft has in my opinion done the right thing in NOT using all three substitutions providing key figures with that extra rest. Had this been a league game with points up from grab, I’d be talking about utilising the likes of Khan and Grant to influence the game – but we have another 90 minutes (minimum) to factor in, plus travel and recovery – game management is where Flitcroft will really earn his money now.
Let’s do this!
Three changes were made by the Stags boss following Saturday’s 1-0 promotion costing loss at MK Dons, Gethin Jones came in at right-wing back moving Alex MacDonald back into the middle as Willem Tomlinson missed out, Ben Turner replaced the injured Matt Preston in the back three, whilst the boldest move of all saw Mal Benning dropped in favour of Danny Rose – CJ Hamilton moved back and wide to the left-wing-back slot, allowing Rose to partner Walker upfront.
Mansfield made a rapid start to proceedings as Rose looked to banish the demons of his last trip to Newport as his ferocious running earned the Stags a first minute corner, CJ Hamilton also troubled down the left hand side as he released Walker on four minutes – the leading front man unable to connect with real venom making it easy for Joe Day in the home goal to collect.
Two minutes later Walker was clean through on goal before being pulled back by O’Brien who appeared to be the last man, and as such, should have received a straight red card – the referee produced only a yellow.
Mellis and Bishop both tested the water but it was a devastating Stags counter attack which opened the scoring on 12 minutes as MacDonald made a fine clearance to send Mellis running through the middle, neat control and a crisp pass saw Hamilton through on goal at pace – Joe Day could do nothing bar pick the ball out of the net as lightening, struck.
Mansfield then soaked up some pressure from Newport but nothing too concerning before as the half hour mark arrived, Rose was unlucky to see his through ball to Walker be a little too heavy, before Mellis danced through before firing over the bar.
On 33 minutes Conrad Logan became a hero and emulated Gordon Banks with a unbelievable save to keep out Matt’s close range header, the Stags remained in the driving seat until the break – but couldn’t add to their well-earned 1-0 lead.
After the break Tyler Walker should have made it 2-0 as he weaved around the keeper but got his foot stuck under the ball as he struck toward the open goal, a Newport defender recovered well to clear the ball before it could cross the line before on 50 minutes Logan was at it again, throwing himself like a sky diving polar bear at Padrig Amond’s goal bound effort – a fine save.
Joe Day denied Walker on 62 minutes as the front man lashed an effort towards goal before the hosts had a goal chalked off for offside after Logan again produced the goods – it was then Day’s turn to produce world class save, as he acrobatically denied Mellis, whose effort was heading to the top corner after a neat bit of build up play from a hungry Stags side.
Danny Rose’s game was over on 76 minutes as he made way for Benning after a phenomenal display which caused Newport endless problems, on 83 minutes Logan was judged to have fouled a Newport player despite replays cleared proving otherwise – he did then save Amond’s spot kick but couldn’t quite recover to keep out the rebound, 1-1 which is how the game stayed, at Full time in the first leg – but half-time in the tie, the stags now come home to try and get the job done.
FULL TIME: Newport County 1-1 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-5-2] Conrad Logan, Ben Turner, Krystian Pearce ©, Ryan Sweeney, Gethin Jones, Alex MacDonald, Neal Bishop, Jacob Mellis, , CJ Hamilton , Tyler Walker, Danny Rose (Mal Benning 77)
Unused Subs: Jordan Smith, Will Atkinson, Alistair Smith, Otis Khan, Nicky Ajose, Jorge Grant
Referee: Charles Breakspear
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