Craig Priest and Emily Sykes write...
Monday 7th May 2012 late defeat to York City in the playoff semi-final second leg left 5,804 Stags fans in tears and heartbroken. Both of us were watching that day as Captain Adam Murray stood on the pitch in tears having fought so hard to bring success to the club.
Saturday 20th April 2013 a Matt Green penalty saw Stags edge past Wrexham and into the football league as Champions, 6,252 Mansfield fans in tears of joy. Both of us were watching that day as Captain Adam Murray stood on the pitch unable to contain his joy as he held the Blue Square Bet Premier Trophy aloft – what a difference a year makes!
After such heartbreak it’s extremely difficult to pick yourself up and go again, credit therefore must go to Paul Cox who was determined not to fail at the second attempt that said the season just gone wasn’t all glory, for a while it looked like it wasn’t meant to be.
It’s funny to think that back in October/November some supporters wanted to see the back of Paul Cox as we were stumbling in form, now with the title delivered nobody wants to see him go. Despite all the opinion on the terraces there’s only one man whose opinions count, hats off and bow down once more to John Radford whose patience and belief in Paul Cox has paid off – if he’d been rash and sacked the former Eastwood boss would we honestly be sat here writing about our Championship winning season, we highly doubt it – saviour comes in the smallest of forms.
Without doubt this season will be remembered forever, it is a story with a moral we can all live by – even in the darkest of lights you should keep believing and keep working because eventually if you do dark becomes light and failure becomes success.
With promotion comes a million and one different views and different tales, we have purposely kept ours quiet until now to let the euphoria and adrenaline calm – now it has please sit back and enjoy the journey one more time through our eyes, this is the Champions Chase how we got from Leamington to League Two.
July – We have kick-off
The hurt of York was still running deep as pre-season arrived however unlike the previous season there was a sense of readiness about Paul Cox’s side with the majority of the signings already made before a ball was kicked.
What was obvious after the York defeat was the lack of fire power as with Green suspended we failed to find another source of goals – Paul Cox, along with his new assistant Adam Murray and first team coach Richard Cooper, had addressed that by bringing in Kidderminster hit-man Nick Wright and Wrexham forward Jake Speight who between them netted over 30 goals the previous season, Speight of course back for his second spell at the club.
At the back there were spaces to be filled as starlet Luke O’Neill had left for Burnley, centre backs Martin Riley and Exodus Geohaghon both also moved on to pastures new after both turning down the deals offered by Cox. The Stags boss wasted no time in bringing in replacements as two familiar faces in Luke Jones and John Dempster put pen to paper along with former Luton captain George Pilkington and full backs Andy Owens and Lee Beevers.
In midfield there were new additions as Jamie Hand, Jamie Tolley, Godfrey Poku and Chris Clements also arrived – all of the squad new and old with the exception of the injured Jake Speight, Ross Dyer, Anthony Howell and John Thompson played at least 45 minutes at Leamington in the first pre-season friendly.
It was a beautiful day at the New Windmill Ground against the brakes however playing effectively two sides made it a boring game to watch with only the one trialist in left back Sam Benjamin on show – front man Matt Green netted the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 80th minute.
Next up it was another spilt game as two sides took on Hednesford, Lee Stevenson and Jamie Tolley on target a match which was followed by a goalless draw at Blue Square North outfit Gainsborough Trinity, the first time Cox had given his players more than 45 minutes apiece.
Further wins against Hucknall, Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Eastwood followed as the Stags boss continued to shape his squad and cast his eye over further trialists such as striker Ryan McGorrigan and defender Pablo Mills.
As July drew to a close Stags were unbeaten in their pre-season matches against both lower and higher opposition however despite positive results there was a sense that Paul Cox still didn’t know his strongest side and with the season’s opener finally approaching that wasn’t a good thing.
August – Caught in the starting blocks
There were three more friendly to fit in before the season could begin properly, to tight schedule went along way to suggesting that the management still hadn’t settled on their first choice squad. A narrow win over Boston was followed by a thrilling 3-2 defeat to Rotherham less than 24 hours later. The final pre-season friendly saw a Stags side romp to a 5-0 half time lead against Sheffield FC in a game which a car full of trialists failed to show for – the second half wasn’t so enjoyable, as the game finished 5-4 to Mansfield.
The preparations were over as the season’s opener with Newport arrived, Paul Cox added one more face in Junior Daniel from Macclesfield he was an used sub as Stags fell to a narrow 4-3 defeat to their Welsh counterparts. George Pilkington skippered the side for the first time on a day to forget especially for striker Ross Dyer who was injured early on. Pilkington would go on to captain one more game as Stags were slaughtered by Gateshead on their Tuesday nights trip to the north east, a game which sure midfielder Jamie Tolley substituted after 15 minutes, Pilkington withdrawn at half time and Lee Beevers sent off.
Paul Cox rang the changes as Stags sat second bottom after the opening two games. John Dempster and player coach Andy Todd were amongst those recalled as Mansfield took on 24th placed Kidderminster at Aggborough, the latter proved pivotal in the game as with 58 minutes played Stags were 2-1 down after throwing away the lead. Todd rallied the troops and set up Lindon Meikle to score twice as Stags registered their first win of the season.
Back at The One Call Stadium a second win was on the cards as Matt Green netted the only goal of the game against newly promoted Hyde, however their fortune didn’t last as two days later they were battered by Grimsby by four goals to one and picked up another red card as Gary Roberts received his marching orders for two bookable offences.
Before the transfer window slammed shut Cox brought back Exodus Geohaghon from Kidderminster a deal which didn’t go down well with the Harriers supporters, the giant defender Cox’s second defensive addition in the transfer window following the arrival of former Southampton Academy man Ryan Tafazolli.
September – Consistently inconsistent
As Green Day once sang ‘wake me up when September ends’ that was a rather apt lyric for Stags as they struggled through busy September. As the month began Geohaghon made his debut whilst Player Assistant Boss Adam Murray made an earlier than suspected return as Mansfield edged fast Woking 3-1 at The One Call Stadium.
Whilst Mansfield continued to show good form at home with a comfortable 2-0 win over Tamworth, away from home things weren’t so great as Paul Cox’s side were battered by Ebbsfleet 4-1 on a day which saw Matt Green and Paul Cox both dismissed and where the sun was so hot you could cook a three course meal off your forehead – things got slightly better with a home win over Braintree however a disappointing 2-2 draw away at AFC Telford saw Stags teetering on average.
The month drew to a close with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Hereford, a game in which Paul Cox made six changes which included a return for George Pilkington and a rare outing for keeper Shane Redmond following a training ground injury to Alan Marriott. In transfer movement Paul Cox acquired goalkeeper Liam Mitchell on a month’s loan from Notts County as cover for Marriott and Redmond, the latter shaking off the injury he picked up in training.
October – Get back on the bus
Usually by the third month of the season a team has found its rhythm and you get a feel for how the season will pan out – thankfully the feeling in October wasn’t the same at the end of the season as Paul Cox’s men endured another month of putting the fans through the mire.
The month began at Cambridge with the strange addition of Soloman Taiwo on a month’s contract following two average games for the reserves. Back in a 4-3-3 formation Cox’s men struggles against Cambridge as they played their first game under new boss Richard Money. Stags were marred by two defensive injuries either side of half time and slumped to a pathetic 4-1 defeat which led to a memorable rant by a highly frustrated Craig on air.
Things didn’t really get any better as Lincoln and Forest Green arrived at The One Call Stadium, a goalless draw with Lincoln and a narrow 1-0 win over Forest Green didn’t give supporters much confidence as they prepared for the long trek to Workington in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round – the Stags narrowly defeating the Blue Square North Outfit 2-1 thanks to a Jake Speight brace.
With renewed confidence on the road Stags headed to newly promoted Dartford hoping to end the month with victory, however two catastrophic errors in the space of a minute saw Paul Cox’s men disappointingly beaten again.
November – Poisoned Chalice
Last season November was statistically the poorest month for Paul Cox’s side in the Blue Square Bet Premier and whilst they improved on that slightly cup matches took the majority of the headlines this time around.
First up it was the FA Cup and the visit of one of the lowest ranked remaining teams at the first round stage in Slough Town, the underdogs frustrating Mansfield and holding out for a replay in what was a dull goalless draw at The One Call Stadium. Before the replay ten days later Stags slotted in a trip to Nuneaton and a home game with Southport and picked up four league points, coming from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw at Nuneaton and taking all three points at home to Southport thanks to Ben Hutchinson’s first minute goal.
It was soon time for the replay as Mansfield made the trip to Holloway’s Park to take on in form Slough. With loanee shot stopper Liam Mitchell now back at Notts County, youth team goalkeeper Ryan Hopkins was promoted to the senior squad and made the bench as Stags surrendered a one goal lead and needed a penalty shoot out to progress to Round 2 to face Lincoln City – Shane Redmond the hero as he saved Ollie Burgess’ shot kick.
The month continued as Stags looked to continue their improving league form, Matt Green came from the bench to rescue a 2-2 draw at home to Luton before a controlled and stunning performance from Stags saw them grab their first league away win since 18th August, goals from Matt Green, Lindon Meikle and the returning Luke Jones brushed aside Macclesfield.
The month however came to a disappointing end as another MTFC dumped Stags out of the FA Trophy at the first round stage – The Gladiators came from behind at The One Call Stadium to earn a replay before doing the same again three days later to beat what can only be described as a pathetic, weak and inexcusable performance, Paul Cox had made six changes giving certain players one last chance to shine, this including Gary Roberts who wasted the chance by being stupidly sent off. The match was a real low point in Mansfield’s season as the defeat sparked some ugly scenes between Paul Cox and a group of supporters.
December – Christmas cheer
Everybody loves December with Christmas just around the corner, following that disgraceful defeat to Matlock Paul Cox’s side did their upmost to make it a Merry Christmas as they reached the third round of the FA Cup.
December began with a lunch time trip to Lincoln City in the second round of the FA Cup – the match against our rivals proved both dramatic and highly entertaining as the sides played out a tense 3-3 draw in front of over 4,000 fans. Matt Green opened the scoring 20 minutes in but Stags again failed to hold on as the Imps levelled and then led within four minutes either side of half time as Alan Power and Jamie Taylor both found the target. Louis Briscoe netted a sublimed goal to level on 52 minutes before Power again put Lincoln ahead on 65 minutes. It looked as if Stags would be beaten however they remained determined and snatched a replay through Matt Rhead in the 93rd minute.
The adrenaline from that late goal spurred Mansfield on to take revenge on Ebbsfleet hammering them 4-1 at The One Call Stadium to give them yet more confidence going into the televised second round replay with Lincoln, both sides drooling over the prospect of Liverpool at home in the third round. Over 5,000 watched on as the sides went in level at 1-1 at the break before Louis Briscoe provided the heroics 14 minutes before the end.
Mother nature then intervened as adverse weather saw numerous postponements – Stags finally back in action on Boxing Day losing 2-1 at home to Alfreton as the arrogance of ‘we’re playing Liverpool’ sank in.
January – Happy New Year
Who knows what it is about a Paul Cox side after Christmas they always seem to do well and certainly began the year in style as Exodus Geohaghon, Junior Daniel and John Dempster netted to avenge the Boxing Day defeat to Alfreton.
Next it was the eagerly anticipated third round showdown with Liverpool – a game that will live long in the memory as fearless Mansfield came close to one of the biggest upsets ever against a footballing giant. New Liverpool signing Daniel Sturridge netted the opener after just eight minutes but squandered numerous other chances against the outstanding Alan Marriott allowing Mansfield in return to attack. Liverpool controversially doubled their lead after the break with substitute Luis Suarez’s well documented handball before Matt Green got his dream goal with 12 minutes to go. Stags threw everything including the kitchen sink at the Premier League giants but failed in their quest to get a deserved replay.
It was then back down to earth with a bang six days later as Kidderminster ran out 2-0 winners at The One Call Stadium, a result which spurred Stags on to improve their form for the remainder of the season starting with the midweek trip to Stockport which saw numerous changes including the return of Lee Stevenson who netted one of the three Stags goals as Cox’s men ran out 3-1 winners on a ice cold evening.
A remarkable month drew to a close at Southport as Murray and Stevenson overturned Shaun Whalley’s opener to take all the points home – commitments in the Cup of other clubs plus another spell of adverse weather saw more postponements at the tail end of the month, a only thing to keep Stags fans entertained was the transfer window, Cox sending out various players including Gary Roberts and acquiring just the one as left back James Jennings arrived from Cambridge.
February – Goals Galore
February was a productive month in front of goal for Cox’s men as they netted 21 goals conceding just six. Mansfield put right another wrong by battering Dartford 5-0 at The One Call Stadium before netting another five before half time the following week, a feat which saw Paul Cox given a new car by John Radford – The Stags battering Barrow 8-1 as Matt Green took home the match ball.
The Stags good run of form was soon dented with a mid week trip to Newport, Cox’s men beaten by two second half goals on what was a dreadful pitch in miserable conditions. Defeat didn’t harm the lads as they kicked on once more, an eventual 12 consecutive wins began with a 3-1 win at home to Cambridge and stretched through February as Hyde, Luton and Lincoln were all beaten.
Louis Briscoe with the only goal at Hyde where Stags were frustrated by Chris Dilo in the Hyde goal. Lindon Meikle provided the heroics and dramatics at Luton with a 90th minute winner before Matt Green scored a vital goal late on at Lincoln to perhaps atone for an awful display by the Stags defence.
March – Marching On
Struggling AFC Telford kicked off the penultimate month of the season as Mansfield became unstoppable, Green on target against the Bucks before Luke Jones and Louis Briscoe both netted away at Woking – a game which handed a debut to loan man Adam Chapman and which sparked a near brawl at the end of the match when a thuggish Woking supporter smashed the Stags dressing room window, don’t you just hate sore losers?
New boy Chapman then announced his arrival in style as he became the first player since Keith Cassells to net a hat trick on his home debut as Mansfield saw off Stockport County 4-1. Mansfield were formidable in their climb and showed that it wasn’t just the lower ranked sides they could beat as they brushed past play-off chasing Grimsby at The One Call Stadium with goals from substitute Matt Rhead and Adam Chapman – the win setting a new post war club record with eight consecutive victories.
Forest Green Rovers were next to be beaten by Stags as Lindon Meikle and Lee Stevenson found the target at The New Lawn before the Stags equalled an all time club record for ten consecutive wins as Louis Briscoe’s free-kick saw Nuneaton beaten.
Paul Cox was forced to dip into the emergency loan market to find a left back following the injury to James Jennings against Nuneaton – Greg Taylor arrived from Luton and helped set the only goal of the game at Tamworth as Stags ran out 1-0 winners in front of 1,172 Stags fans as defender Luke Jones scored once more.
April – The Final Chase
The Stags began a memorable April by guaranteeing their place in the end of season play-offs as they thumped Gateshead 4-0 at The One Call Stadium, keeper Alan Marriott claimed his 50th clean sheet for the club whilst the victory equalled the all time Conference record for consecutive wins held jointly between Burton Albion and Hereford United.
Next up for Stags was a Thursday night trip to rivals and FA Trophy winners Wrexham, a night which didn’t quite go to plan as Cox’s side searched for a 13th straight win. In front of a hostile crowd Stags saw a clear goal from Luke Jones ruled out before Matt Green hammered home the opener on 53 minutes. Mansfield were their own enemies as the hosts punished two mistakes, Dean Keates saw a free-kick fumbled into the back of the net by Marriott before Adam Chapman’s error allowed Danny Wright to power home what proved to be the winner with 11 minutes left to play.
Defeat had meant Stags had stumbled with five matches remaining, however being a game in hand over rivals Kidderminster it hadn’t cost them too much – all Cox’s men needed to do was win at Barrow to keep up with the Harriers. On a beautiful day in Barrow goals from John Dempster, Lee Stevenson and two from Matt Green got the Stags through, however it could have been so different had Alan Marriott not heroically saved Richie Bakers early penalty.
Refreshed from the Barrow victory Stags were refocused as Macclesfield came to town, the game another one in hand over Kidderminster – Cox’s men needed a result. Matt Green, Luke Jones and Lee Stevenson put Mansfield into a commanding three goal lead before Pablo Mills netted a late consolation for the silkmen, a huge result which meant if Stags were to win their next match and Kidderminster to draw – Stags were champions.
Things are never that simple and Braintree proved another reminder that arrogance has no place in football, as all the pre-match talk was about parties and league two. Matt Green settled the clear nerves as Stags began in rampant fashion, his eighth minute strike sparked pandemonium in the stands however that excitement soon turned to distraught as Matt Paine and Kaine Sheppard overturned the opener to seal the points for battling Braintree.
The defeat was soon hampered too as Kidderminster beat Wrexham in the evening kick-off meaning Stags had a simple task, to win the league, or at least stand a chance of doing so on the season’s final day against now out of the race Wrexham, they had to win at all costs at Hereford in their final game in hand – it was do or die and the title race, had turned serious.
What Mansfield had struggled with all season long was overturning leads of their opponents so the one thing they needed to avoid was conceding first. 627 Mansfield fans made the trip and made non-stop noise at Edger Street, the volume did decrease though when Ryan Bowman opened the scoring for the hosts on eight minutes.
Stags knocked on the door and were relentless in their assault on the Hereford goal, it was spirited and determined from the players as the passionate cries of the travelling support bellowed out – Matt Green rewarding their faith as he nodded home Lindon Meikle’s excellent cross on 37 minutes.
Momentum was firmly in the Stags camp yet they couldn’t break the stubborn resistance of Hereford who also threatened to turn the tables every time they attacked. Mansfield were battling on despite the loss of the outstanding Lee Beevers midway through the first half and saw efforts from almost everyone either saved or go astray – would the goal ever come, a draw simply wouldn’t be good enough.
Alan Marriott proved one of three heroes in the final minute as he kept out a well hit long range effort from Hereford, his long punt down-field sparked one last attack – Matt Rhead nodded the ball into the path of Green and the rest, is history. The ball dropped and bounced well, Matt Green swung back his size tens and BANG the ball hit the net and Stags had won – the pandemonium, ecstasy and joy was unbelievable, both in the terraces and in the press box, as it was in the final minute.
With one game remaining Mansfield had somehow put themselves in the driving seat, all they had to do was beat Wrexham and they were up. However, should they lose they could also grab promotion depending on what happened at Aggborough as Kidderminster took on Stockport, a side needing all three points themselves to avoid the drop – there were seven possible outcomes of which five would send Stags up, in truth though, they were only chasing the one: THE WIN.
The cameras watched on as the final game unfolded, over six thousand supporters had brought a ticket in the hope of witnessing a momentous day in Mansfield’s history. In truth it was a boring game, especially as Wrexham made numerous changes ahead of the play-off’s three days later. Mansfield were buoyed on and the noise tense, yet inviting – the roof raised for the first time on 40 minutes as Louis Briscoe was hacked down by Glenn Little for a penalty.
Matt Green took responsibility and came up against Andy Coughlin in front of over 150 visiting fans. The whole stadium took a collective deep breath before Green began his run – as the ball hit the net the delight was evident, had Green just netted the winner?
The game progressed and Mansfield’s desperate attempts to score a second failed, in the end they were penned in during the intense last minute which felt like an hour – the full time whistle seemed to take an eternity to blow but when it did, it was a relief – Mansfield Town were back in the football league, they were champions and their journey was over.
In the end it proved a thrilling chase to watch, there were moments when that painful stab inside said we’re not going to do this and then there were moments where the emotion was so high and burned so much with the feeling that it was meant to be.
Every Stags fan will remember how it ended forever, the roof went off when that final whistle blew at home to Wrexham and the buzz from seeing the glisten of the Trophy in the evening sun will carry us forward for a long time coming.
People talk about Champions beating everybody and ‘smashing the league’ but in reality that’s arrogant, a real Champion keeps fighting till the end and always believes in themselves – a true Champion is Mansfield Town FC!
So that’s it, it started with a Matt Green penalty at Leamington and ended with a Matt Green penalty at home to Wrexham, thank goodness he scored. See you in League Two.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writers and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations. To submit a blog email email@example.com
Craig Priest and Emily Sykes share their views on the class of 2012/13
It’s been over a week since that infamous day at the One Call Stadium, of all the celebrations that have passes we still remember the nerves and fears we felt prior to the match and the jubilation after it, long may that continue.
Over the next few weeks or so we will look back on the season just gone and indeed the five years spent in the conference, today though we look back and share our thoughts on the players involved in bringing Mansfield Town success at last.
1 : Alan Marriott
[Starts: 39, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
The clubs joint longest serving player has missed a few games through injury, however when fit he has proved as ever to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Conference. The former Lincoln shot stopper has enjoyed a relatively decent season and finally earns the promotion he deserves after such a ‘so near yet so far’ type career.
Once again he has made some smart saves and has benefitted from another experienced goalkeeper in Billy Turley on the training ground. No goal for him this term but plenty of clean sheets, the 14 collected this term taking his club total to over 50.
The former Tottenham youngster’s penalty save at Barrow proved vital however his tears of joy post Wrexham with best mate Lee Beevers were heart-warming – proving that everybody gets there goal in the end.
2 : Ritchie Sutton
[Starts: 25, Substitute Appearances: 6, Goals: 0]
It’s been an indifferent season for the reliable defender as since Christmas he’s not really featured too much with Beevers, Jennings and Taylor preferred in the full back positions. Once again the former Port Vale man has played all along the back four when asked to and has done a reliable enough job.
Prior to Ebbsfleet away the popular defender became a father for the first time, with his little bundle of joy arriving late Friday/early Saturday. The defender was still eager to be part of the squad and made the long journey to be involved just hours after welcoming little baby Sutton into the world, just a shame the Stags couldn’t deliver the perfect present of three points.
3 : John Thompson
[Starts: 12, Substitute Appearances: 1, Goals: 0]
Another difficult season for the experienced defender, who suffered that traumatic injury last pre-season. Whilst in a more stable physical condition the former Notts County man has just been unable to cement a regular place, mainly due to the excellence of Lee Beevers. The reserve team has kept him ticking over however Thompson has decided to call time on his playing career.
‘Memorable moments’ will be a rare thing for the former Notts Forest man this season however he had a fairly decent game against Liverpool in the FA Cup, a game which he may never have played in had he not been determined to carry on after the aforementioned nightmare of last season. John’s Mansfield career may not have seen him involved much but to have that attitude after what happened takes a lot of courage.
4: John Dempster
[Starts: 39, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 4]
It was so frustrating when Crawley refused to permanently transfer the defender last January during his loan spell, for us it was a delight to see him return in the summer. Loaned out to Tamworth early on many wondered if Dempster would get his chance to shine, he did and he has – the partnership with Jones, one of the strongest defensive partnerships at Stags for many a season. John has tremendous ability and a calming nature which is why he was the perfect choice for Captain when Murray was absent over Christmas, securing his signature for League Two and beyond is a must.
After every home game the first thing we look for in ‘The Stag’ apart from the travel page has always been John’s whispers column, anyone that has read it will know, understand and appreciate why.
5 : Luke Jones
[Starts: 35, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 8]
A real contender for Player of the Season Luke frankly has shone this term, his dominance in both boxes is what we’ve been lacking for seasons. It was bemusing when David Holdsworth released him after his first impressive spell at the club, thank goodness Paul Cox brought him back. As mentioned above the partnership with Dempster has become one which we never want to end.
We’re sure you will have heard of the ‘Quarry Club’ during the season, Jones’ memorable moment comes in escaping the destined for the exit club and establishing himself as not only a first team regular but a club legend, taking the place of Big Ex and stopping the recurring dreams of defensive howlers!
6 : George Pilkington
[Starts: 4, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Oh George what on earth happened, we were both quite excited when the former Luton captain put pen to paper in the summer – now we don’t really think it will bother us if he is released. Nobody knows what happened but something must have to make him lose the captaincy and only start four games. He has fared quite well in the reserves and did turn down a move to Rotherham but the stats tell the story here.
A personal one this time round, Craig was at death’s door at Workington in the FA Cup and to get through 90 minutes of commentary he required a bottle of Buttercup Syrup. George was sat behind us and asked what Craig was taking and then sniffed the bottle to check it was cough medicine – his face was a picture!
7 : Lindon Meikle
[Starts: 35, Substitute Appearances: 15, Goals: 4]
Another excellent season for the England C man who has continued to progress as a player and will no doubt play a big part in our League 2 campaign next term.
Stealing the ball from McNulty and hammering it in the back of the net at Luton in the last minute to steal the points – legend!
8 : Jake Speight
[Starts: 10, Substitute Appearances: 14, Goals: 8]
An injury in January perhaps hampered Speight’s season a little however he did make the contribution of eight goals and provided early competition for Matt Green. Like Jones Speight is also in his second spell with the club, as to whether he will be here next term remains to be seen.
On reflection his brace at Workington in the FA Cup 4th qualifying round was fairly important.
9 : Ross Dyer
[Starts: 1, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
You’ve got to feel sorry for Ross whose season has been hampered by that horrible knee injury suffered on the opening day at home to Newport. He will be like a new signing when recovered, which shouldn’t be long now – see you next season Ross.
Unfortunately there aren’t any for Ross this term, however the fact he’s been present at 90% of the games this season with that infectious grin is memorable enough for us.
10 : Matt Green
[Starts: 46, Substitute Appearances: 3, Goals: 27]
Where do we start with this heroic man? Reviewing the stats will show that the former Oxford man hit form at the right time with nine goals in the last seven games quite simply without him Mansfield Town would not be Champions. Compared to last term he probably hasn’t been as strong however when it’s counted he’s done the business and will undoubtedly lead the line for us in League 2.
Hereford, Lincoln, Barrow or that critical spot kick at home to Wrexham – you choose!
11 : Louis Briscoe
[Starts: 32, Substitute Appearances: 13, Goals: 9]
Another comfortable season for the club’s joint longest serving player with a little more competition this time around. Right wing or left wing Briscoe has continued to be supporters Marmite, love him or hate him he’s still played a key part in our success.
Being fouled by Glenn Little for the penalty against Wrexham – nice one Louis!
12 : Nick Wright
[Starts: 5, Substitute Appearances: 15, Goals: 1]
Twitter is a great tool when things aren’t going you’re way, like Nialle Rodney before him Nick did tweet his frustration at not being involved earlier in the season. Strangely enough he didn’t use the hash tag #getmebacktoKidderminster whilst partying in Tenerife #Champion.
13 : Anthony Howell
[Starts: 36, Substitute Appearances: 6, Goals: 4]
The defensive midfielder has enjoyed yet another solid campaign alongside either Murray or Clements in the centre of the park, no doubt he’ll be another key part next term. Often quiet and unnoticed from the headlines the former Alfreton man has been a key cog and in our opinion leaves a huge gap in the side when absent.
It’s not so much a memory but like Ross Dyer that infectious grin is evident after every goal he chips in with, he’s worked hard for the side this year and deserves all the success that comes with it.
14 : Chris Clements
[Starts: 20, Substitute Appearances: 4, Goals: 0]
Named by the players as the one who doesn’t speak, there were a lot of questions asked when Clements arrived from Hednesford in pre-season although to be fair for a man who doesn’t speak he has answered them well. Restricted to 20 starts due to the excellence of Howell, the midfielder has done well when called upon with a range of passing which put Roberts to shame.
His shot at Luton kind of set Meikle for the winner – yeah that’ll do!
15 : Andy Owens
[Starts: 2, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
A disappointing one for us as in pre-season we were quite impressed with the adaptable left sided player. He looked a stable addition but for whatever reason things just didn’t work out and he was loaned back to Southport.
As mentioned Owens was loaned to Southport prior to the match at their place Owens came out before the warm-up in his Stags top and Southport shorts, it was a funny moment but we guess you had to be there.
16 : Matt Rhead
[Starts: 12, Substitute Appearances: 28, Goals: 5]
His first ever season in full-time football has ended in a Championship winning medal, not bad eh! The former Corby man has been used the most from the bench and always makes an impact causing havoc for opposition defenders, it’s going to be interesting what League 2 make of him.
His introduction against Liverpool will always be one we will never forget as former England International Jamie Carragher turned to his much younger centre half partner and pointed and said ‘you can mark him’ – his celebration against Grimsby was one to remember too as can that at Hereford where he received a piggy back ride from an unsuspecting steward.
17 : Lee Beevers
[Starts: 39, Substitute Appearances: 1, Goals: 1]
Where do we start with Super Beevers....the man who will seemingly run through a mile of concrete wall and then a burning building for Mansfield Town FC. Playing on through countless injuries, hurling in long throw after long throw and generally excelling at the back has quite rightly earned him the people’s choice Player Of The Season Award. If Paul Cox is putting a new contract on the table we shall gladly lend him a pen.
They say he’s an ordinary man from Doncaster, they say he’s just another Ex Wales Under 21 International and they say he’s just another defender...but to us he is actually SUPER MAN! Give that man a contract NOW!
18 : Gary Roberts
[Starts: 10, Substitute Appearances: 2, Goals: 0]
Last year’s star January signing has been somewhat disappointing this term and it came as no surprise when he made his exit on loan mid January. A great player on his day but how many chances does one person want to keep their career on track, the influences of certain others won’t have helped either.
Followers of Ritchie Sutton on twitter will understand this...in a pub car park somewhere outside Kidderminster side by side with a butt naked Jamie Hand ‘watering’ some flowers! Another Robbo classic!
19 : Jamie Hand
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 1, Goals: 0]
Aggressive challenges and a somewhat unhealthy obsession with mid game scraps...and this was only pre-season! We kind of had a feeling this one was never going to work out, nothing’s ever perfect in a season.
20 : Jamie Tolley
[Starts: 2, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Another promising signing which failed for some reason to work out, the former Wrexham man disappeared after the second game of the season remerging late on in the season with the reserves, we guess we’ll see what happens in time.
His goal at Hednesford in pre-season was pretty impressive.
21 : Adam Murray (Captain/Player Assistant Boss)
[Starts: 38, Substitute Appearances: 1, Goals: 3]
Promoted to Player/Assistant Boss in the summer following the departure of Micky Moore many thought that Muz would be mainly on the sidelines this season – how wrong we were. The lion hearted central midfielder has still managed 38 starts and has continued to give his all for the club, whether it be managing the youth team, arguing with a referee or clearing the snow off the pitch – is there anything Murray can’t do?
Saturday 20th April 2013 Adam Murray lifts the Blue Square Bet Premier Trophy above his head to signal the end of a long road and seal Mansfield’s promotion back to the promise land, there really isn’t a moment better than this!
22 : Godfrey Poku
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
The story of Godfrey Poku, signs from Southport has a little run round in pre-season and then is loaned back to Southport for the season...yeah we didn’t understand that one either.
The central midfielder still has a year left on his contract, so maybe we will give him a memorable moment next time.
23 : Shane Redmond
[Starts: 12, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
The Irish goalkeeper has endured a frustrating season of not even making the bench, although he did enjoy a spell in the side when Marriott was injured and showed that given a run he’s actually a capable enough keeper. Fingers crossed he gets another deal and another shot.
On a dark night in Slough Shane Redmond single handily prevented a giant killing with a sublime penalty save during a penalty shootout, as much as we thank Speight for his brace at Workington we thank the former Chesterfield keeper for his heroics. Also if he remembers a twitter conversation he is likely to be best man at our wedding, what a guy!
24 : Andy Todd (Player/Coach)
[Starts: 6, Substitute Appearances: 1, Goals: 0]
Statistically it’s another quiet season for the under rated player/coach however when called upon he’s given his all for Mansfield Town. His contribution both on and off the pitch has been key to our success both in the senior and reserve set-up.
Third game of the season with 59 minutes played Mansfield were 2-1 down at Kidderminster and things looked glum. Up stepped Andy Todd to rally the troops and set up Lindon Meikle for the equaliser before also setting up the winner. The guy quite simply is a legend and will go on to make a successful manager.
25 : Ben Hutchinson
[Starts: 11, Substitute Appearances: 5, Goals: 4]
Many said that Hutchinson should have been released at the end of last season however Paul Cox kept faith and Hutchinson in turn rewarded him during his spell in the first team. Opinions will still be divided however the stats show that given the chance the former Celtic man gets you goals.
A tough one however his goal against Ebbsfleet at home was something special.
26 : Lee Stevenson
[Starts: 26, Substitute Appearances: 3, Goals: 10]
What a season it’s been for the former Eastwood man who could have so easily walked away at the end of last season. The attacking midfielder has been a breath of fresh air and without his influence and flair we genuinely feel that promotion wouldn’t have happened, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – get that man a contract NOW!
27 : Adam Somes
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
One of four youth team graduates to be handed a six month professional deal in the summer but failed to be given the chance and was the first of the four to leave, having his contract terminated by mutual consent.
27 : Adam Champman
[Starts: 9, Substitute Appearances: 2, Goals: 4]
A late arrival on loan from Oxford at what must be Paul Cox’s third attempt at signing him. The adaptable midfielder certainly played his part in getting us over the line and will no doubt be here next year to help us settle in League 2.
The goal against Grimsby was a belter whilst that long throw of his does make you ask why exactly do we have Geohaghon?
28 : Joel Holland
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Another of the four youth team graduates to be handed a six month professional deal in the summer and also failed to be given the chance, the tricky left winger departed in January when his deal expired.
28 : Greg Taylor
[Starts: 8, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Another late addition on emergency loan from Luton following the injury to James Jennings to be fair to him he made little error and didn’t rock the boat at the critical time.
Quite difficult considering he only played eight games, his deep free-kick at Tamworth proved critical.
29 : Scott Rogers
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Another of the four youth team graduates to be handed a six month professional deal in the summer and also failed to be given the chance, the midfielder who won last season’s youth team player of the season, departed in January when his deal expired to join Eastwood.
29 : James Jennings
[Starts: 13, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Signed on the last day of the transfer window in January from Cambridge, the left back proved a great addition allowing Beevers to move back across to his natural right-back position. His tight marking and excellent set pieces made him an instant favourite – hopefully he will be injury free for the start of next season.
Remember Matt Rhead’s goal against Grimsby well it was Jennings’ ball in which started the pandemonium.
30 : Jobe Shaw
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
Another of the four youth team graduates to be handed a six month professional deal in the summer and also failed to be given the chance, the defender departed in January when his deal expired.
31 : Colin ‘Junior’ Daniel
[Starts: 36, Substitute Appearances: 9, Goals: 7]
Signed on the eve of the season’s start from Macclesfield, Junior has proved a decent addition down the left hand side. Sometimes blowing hot and cold the fact that he provided tough competition for Briscoe and Meikle in the wide areas make him worthy of a new deal.
When he’s on the top of his game he proves a real handful just ask the Liverpool defence.
32 : Ryan Tafazolli
[Starts: 4, Substitute Appearances: 1, Goals: 0]
A strange signing for many when Paul Cox already had a number of suitable defenders, the former Southampton youngster has as a result struggled to maintain a solid first team birth. With a little more experience Ryan will prove a solid addition so long as he learns from his mistakes like Dartford away.
Despite having a young head Ryan has showed his commitment for the club especially in the reserves, taking the managerial reins from Todd overseeing the youngsters defeat at Chesterfield last week.
33 : Exodus Geohaghon
[Starts: 24, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 2]
Everyone was annoyed when we didn’t sign him in the summer however Paul Cox did eventually manage to bring him back from Kidderminster mid August. On reflection he’s not made much of a difference, Luke Jones has shown he’s far better whilst numerous others have shown that having a long throw isn’t just Ex’s speciality. We don’t think we’ll be too disappointed if he were to go.
He was named Man of the Match against Liverpool.
34 : Liam Mitchell
[Starts: 3, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
The promising young goalkeeper spent a short time on loan from Notts County as cover for the injured Alan Marriott and Shane Redmond. A good shot stopper who will easily cut it in the conference next season should he be sent anywhere.
35 : Soloman Taiwo
[Starts: 1, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
After two games on trial for the reserves Paul Cox handed him a month’s contract as cover in midfield, something we didn’t really need. Wasn’t the greatest of players – let’s hope that’s still the case at his new club Luton.
He came, ran around for an hour and certainly didn’t conquer – farewell Soloman farewell.
36 : Ryan Hopkins
[Starts: 0, Substitute Appearances: 0, Goals: 0]
The youth team goalkeeper was signed on professional forms for Mansfield’s FA Cup first round replay with Slough and has the honour of being the only keeper named on the substitute’s bench this season. He’ll be a decent keeper with a few more years’ development.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the writers and not those of Mansfield Matters or its related organisations. To submit a blog email firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Priest writes...
Upon reading the headline “Thompson Announces Retirement” this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a cold shudder of sadness, despite knowing deep down the news would come sooner rather than later.
The 31 year old defender has endured a torrid time at his third Nottinghamshire club since arriving in the summer of 2011 and has, upon numerous advice from medical staff, family and friends, decided to hang up his boots and retire from professional football – a big loss not only for Mansfield Town Football Club, but for the game itself.
There was a huge buzz around the place when Paul Cox secured the signature of Thompson after a friendly with Notts County last summer, with many saying the former County captain could be the ideal man to skipper Stags to success.
He arrived with a big expectation on the back of a fairly successful career, as well as success with County John captained Nottingham Forest’s academy side to Premier League glory before breaking through to the senior side and also had the honour of skippering his country, Republic of Ireland, at under 21 level before again, breaking through to the senior side.
What happened with this promising and successful defender was nothing short of tragic and horrific, there is no place in football for incidents like this and still, over two years on – the debate continues over the action taken with perpetrator Gary Ricketts.
For those that are unaware of what happened, the incident which proved career ending, took place during a pre-season “friendly” with Ilkeston on Wednesday 3rd August 2011. It was a fairly entertaining game with Stags looking sharp and Thompson, making his third appearance at centre-half, was settling in well showing the promise we all expected.
Ilkeston front man Ricketts had already injured right back Ritchie Sutton during the first half and, with Stags leading 4-2 at half-time, injured a second player in Martin Riley shortly after the break – Thompson’s centre half partner needed at least six stitches. Being a friendly no card had been shown by the referee nor had he asked the Ilkeston bench to substitute Ricketts, who would go on and injury a third player with a needless challenge on 68 minutes.
A long ball forward sparked the clash on the half way line, the pair jumped for the ball but with Thompson on the cusp of winning the tussle, Rickets shoved the defender mid-air to attempt to win the ball and in doing so, saw Thompson go crashing into the corner of the dugout and then, at speed, collide with the pure concrete pitch side barrier.
I was fortunate to have my view blocked of the incident by the TV scaffolding which is next to the press box at the New Manor Ground however others got a full view of it and we’re sickened by it for a long time.
Thompson was rushed to A&E and required 60+ stitches to his face, this along with a broken nose, dislocated finger and damaged shoulder would have been enough for anyone to call it a day there and then, but not Thompson, who fought desperately to recover and eventually made his Stags debut against AFC Telford in mid-November.
The popular defender helped keep Stags’ first clean sheet in 13 matches and enjoyed a mini-run in the side before suffering a relapse which kept him out until the season’s final day at Kidderminster, where he returned as Cox rested players ahead of the play-offs.
Another injury kept Thompson out of the early pre-season matches before an eventual return against Hucknall, where he skippered the side. For whatever reason, another prolonged absence saw Thompson out of the side until November where he enjoyed another mini-run in the side, which included a start against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch Thompson play for the reserves of late and have seen glimpses of what could be, however a closer look at the defender tells you that the spark he had upon arrival, has gone and there’s a reason – scars that a physical can disappear, but scars that are mental, are more difficult to fade away.
Taken from the clubs official website, Thompson speaks about his torrid time with words that bring a lump to your throat.
Thompson says “When I eventually got back playing after overcoming most of the physical issues, I soon realised I was doing things which I wouldn’t normally do on the pitch. Panic attacks were common and I would not be able to sleep before games. My confidence on and off the pitch had been severely knocked.”
The former Notts County and Notts Forest defender continues to speak openly about his desire to return, stating “I have done everything I can, even seeing a psychologist at my own expense. My recovery is still ongoing.”
It’s a sad and sorry tale that a player who has enjoyed such a prestigious career has had to call a halt to it with his everyday life affected by the one incident whilst another player, the one who inflicted such damage, continues playing.
This however is not about hatred or even right or wrong, it’s about celebrating the career of an excellent footballer. The success John has had, for club and indeed country, will be no consolation to having to walk away from the game he so dearly loves, however John leaves behind a legacy in a way and a message.
Life throws curve balls and sometimes, dodging them is impossible. If you want something badly enough then mentally you will do all you can to have another shot at it, no matter the circumstances. Winning & being a success is not defined by medals, but by looking back and saying “I gave it my all”
John Thompson can walk away with his head held high able to say those words, I wish a genuinely down to earth and level headed guy all the best for the future, safe in the knowledge that whatever path his career takes now, he will be a success.
Thank-you for playing your part in our title winning season John, all the very best for the future.
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Naturally there have been numerous messages of support to Thompson via twitter today following his retirement, view the pick of the below & tweet your messages of support to @mtfcmatters [Views expressed are those of the tweeters!] More RTs of support can be found on our twitter feed
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