Craig Priest writes…
Another Sunday morning with blue skies and sunshine must mean another three points, as Stags beat Stevenage by a goal to nil – the only complaint Stags fans will have this morning is the fact the score-line didn’t reflect the match at all.
I read the Stevenage managers comments of ‘we deserved a draw’ – what game was he watching?! Besides the opening five minutes and the odd free kick, Conrad Logan was practically unemployed whilst Mansfield remained in control.
There were murmurs around me of frustration at 1-0 up that we were doing nothing with the ball – actually we were knocking it side to side, running Stevenage into the ground and allowing our back line to steadily push higher – in some games you don’t need rapid fire, you need concentration and control in possession. That’s exactly what Mansfield had yesterday and the important thing is – another three points and another clean sheet which builds momentum for two very tough fixtures over the next week in League Two.
Kane Hemmings did well yesterday to get into goal scoring areas and linked up well with Jimmy Spencer, who I thought showed why he was very highly rated at Plymouth – holding the ball up, making little runs to pull defenders out and create space, anyone thinking he’s going to score you goals need to look elsewhere although he was very unlucky to see one palmed away, he will however GET you goals.
Rhys Bennett was a huge part of why we kept another clean sheet, he was solid at left side centre back with Diamond – Pearce will find it difficult to get back in if the two continue to be as solid as they have been over the last few games, Bennett for me was man of the match – he was miles above Mellis performance wise, but sadly not everyone watches the pitch when watching football, they go with the ball and therefore don’t see the hard work of others.
Had the disallowed goal stood it may have looked more convincing but that will come, I want to watch the incident back again to be sure but my initial thought before all the drama was a foul on the keeper, however for the referee to give it and then overturn it is very strange – Evans however needs to be careful with his post-match comments.
Tuesday is a tough place to go, obviously minds will want to skip that and head straight for Saturday – especially given the atmosphere that’ll come with it, but whilst a journey taken through small steps and giant strides are the same – those who take tiny steps, appreciate the prize more and are less likely to be tripped along the way.
You can have that one Stags for your growing wall of quotes – some of which make no logical sense, but hey ho… isn’t it good when all I can rant about is quotes and not football!
Steve Evans made two changes to the side which beat Coventry last weekend, one enforced as Danny Rose served a one match ban after picking up his 5th booking of the season last weekend, Jimmy Spencer the man to replace him – whilst Paul Anderson made way for Mellis following his suspension last weekend – Pearce, who also served a one game ban, was on the bench.
The Stags started well with Jimmy Spencer winning a free kick inside the opening minute, Joel Byrom’s delivery was headed away but only as far as CJ Hamilton, who curled an effort into the arms of Stevenage Shot Stopper Joe Fryer.
At the other end Stevenage saw a rare flash of goal on three minutes as they applied pressure, Chris Whelpdale’s cross put the Stags under pressure with the dangerous Matt Godden hitting over on the half volley.
The Stags won a corner on 10 minutes which nearly saw Spencer open the scoring – MacDonald’s delivery found skipper Diamond at the far post – he nodded it across to the Stags front man who looped his header over from eight yards - five minutes later another corner for the Stags following a quick give and go between hunt and Hamilton down the left – saw MacDonald fizz one down Fryer’s throat – as the lively wing back tried a neat short corner with Byrom.
Danny Newton was lucky to avoid a straight red car for a very late challenge on Hunt on 16 minutes, two minutes later the stags were in once again, Spencer brought the ball down well and held play up before releasing MacDonald – the wing man had an effort deflect wide after a mazy run into the box.
Mansfield were then rewarded on 24 minutes in a moment the visiting keeper will want to forget – as Fryer came to collect a routine free kick from the half way line from Byron – the completely missed the ball and it dropped six yards out for Hemmings, who had the simple job of sweeping the ball home to open the scoring.
On the half hour it was nearly 2-0 as a training ground corner saw Mellis tare into space from the edge of the box – MacDonald rolling the ball hard and low into his feet – Stevenage scrambled to get a block on what looked a certain goal.
At the other end, Stevenage had a free kick on the edge of the Stags box following a foul by Byrom, despite the Stags not being awarded a free kick just seconds earlier for a carbon copy foul on Bennett – Joe Martin stepped up and beat the wall, and also the goal as the ball kept on rising.
Jimmy Spencer was then denied a goal as Mellis picked out Spencer, a neat spin on the edge of the box saw Spencer turn his man and fire left footed at Fryer who did well to beat the ball away with ten minutes of the first half remaining.
The Stags remained in control as the clock ticked down towards half time, and after the break showed no signs of taking their foot off of the gas, Spencer seeing a header palmed away by Fryer on 48, before Hunt nearly got lucky with a dipping effort from distance on the follow up – Fryer reacting well to push the ball over the bar.
On 57 the Stags had a second, at least that’s what they thought. Byrom again delivered a free kick and the keeper once again spilled the ball into the path of Hemmings who swept in his second of the afternoon, as both sets of players and the referee and lines man trotted back towards the half way line – the referee did an amazing u-turn, awarding Stevenage a free-kick and disallowing the goal. Was there a foul on the keeper? But if so, why take so long to over rule it.
Matt Godden sent an effort fizzing over for the visitors on 66 minutes, but the Stags remained in relative control – Zander Diamond heading over from a free kick on 72 minutes, Spencer smashing wide from a Mellis cross a minute later.
With eight minutes to go Alex MacDonald provided a nice cross for Hemmings, this time Hemmings unable to get a clean connection before in the final minute, a real chance to seal the game as CJ Hamilton showed lightening pace on the counter attack down the left hand side – he cut the ball across the box to substitute Will Atkinson, who somehow missed the target!
FULL TIME Stags 1-0 Stevenage
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Alex MacDonald – Jacob Mellis (Will Atkinson 85) – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Kane Hemmings (Calum Butcher 90+3) – Jimmy Spencer (Omari Sterling-James 81)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Olejnik, Krystian Pearce, Paul Anderson, Alfie Potter
Attendance: 3,353 (141)
Referee: Tom Neild Assistants Michael D’Aguilar, Michael Denton Fourth Official Robert Merchant
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