Craig Priest writes…
Danny Roses’ goal within three minutes of coming off the bench yesterday at Sincil Bank sparked jubilant scenes, but it also demonstrated that Mansfield Town FC finally were capable of rising to the occasion – beating rivals Lincoln City for their first away win of the season, and ending the Imps impressive near year-long run at home without defeat.
The first half, let’s pull no punches here, was dreadful – although Lincoln won’t be saying the same, there is after all a reason that teams like that go on such a long run unbeaten at home, they play nitty gritty, they play ugly and they don’t let teams play, frustrating them long enough to become frustrated and make mistakes, which they then pounce on.
Had we played that fixture two, maybe three, weeks ago that WOULD have happened, but the Stags now are looking stronger and stronger as a unit, game by game and no longer fall into those traps. Steve Evans no doubt gave the boys a shake at the break – but they chipped and chipped away and finally got the reward.
After that, the resilient defending of every single player just highlighted the fact we are in this together. I’m a big fan of the Cowley brothers at Lincoln and believe they will be up there, it must have been brilliant being a Lincoln fan over the last year, but yesterday – they lost a battle, not just on the pitch – but tactically, not so much a smash and grab – but more a game of battleships really. Mansfield hid their ships well enough to avoid any hits, but we’re patient enough to get a hit in of their own – remember the titanic only nipped that iceburg… the damage, was done.
It was a huge team performance, but in every team you need one or two standout performers to lead and inspire the footmen, step forward Alex MacDonald. He ran his socks off yesterday and was tenacious cross park in closing down players, putting in biting challenges, playing sprayed passes to open up with imps, and in the latter stages of the second half before he was subbed to a standing ovation, battled through the pain barrier after throwing himself in front of shot after shot – and what looked like popping his shoulder out, Lee Beevers style.
Nothing was mentioned after the game so, if he did or not, I’ll never know, but he looked in some pain with his right shoulder.
Danny Rose rightfully takes the headlines with his impact goal, BUT aside from the header – he was tremendous all over the pitch, chasing things down, winning headers, winning tackles, throwing himself at everything. Heroic, a word you can use for Paul Digby too, who was unbeatable in midfield and played a, majorly unnoticed, but pivotal role in keeping the Mansfield of old at bay.
Conrad Logan once again was heroic, he’s really starting to come into his own now and prove his critics wrong – as with anytime I’ve questioned a player, I love nothing better than when they turn things around – two world class saves again yesterday and he marshalled his back line well, releasing the steam as the pressure cooker was ramped up to maximum, time after time.
David Mirfin was a rock alongside captain Pearce, Matt Rhead pretty much wore his shirt until he went off, whilst Matt Green got nowhere but offside – a little moan here about booing Rhead and Green, they practically won us the conference, they are HEROES, they are LEGENDS, they deserve nothing but praise, if you booed them, shame on you. Ollie Palmer, I get with his social media antics and interviews since, but Rhead and Green? They could kill the queen, burn down the One Call and score a million against us in the next game and they’d still be heroes for me.
Anyway, back to the here and now – we are now half way through our September fixtures and are unbeaten in five league matches with three draws and two wins. Within that, we haven’t conceded in two games, and if you look at us in open play – therefore excluding the penalty against Grimsby, haven’t conceded in 345 minutes of football in open play. If we can continue that throughout the remainder of the month, then our slow start will prove that football is a marathon and not a sprint after all.
Steve Evans made three changes to the side which drew with Wycombe in midweek, Rhys Bennett was missing through illness, Joel Byrom is also out for 2-3 weeks with a foot strain – they we’re replaced by Hayden White and Paul ‘The Interceptor’ Digby respectively, whilst Alfie Potter replaced Jacob Mellis, moving Calum Butcher into his preferred central role.
Early afternoon rain swept Sincil Bank, but that was drowned out by a tremendous following of Stags fans rammed in behind the goal – who watched a scrappy opening in which referee Rob Jones stopped and started play, awarding a number of free-kicks for both sides.
The Stags had their first glimpse of goal eight minutes in as Butcher looked to pick out Hemmings, the Oxford loan man, yet to get off the mark for the Stags – headed the ball up into the air killing the danger.
Naturally at the other end it was an ex-Stag who nearly created the Imps opener on 13 minutes as Matt Green beat the offside trap down the right hand side – Conrad Logan came racing out to try and clear as the Stags had left themselves too far forward – Green knocked the ball beyond Logan, drilled the ball into the middle for Billy Knott, whose effort was blocked by Murfin who threw himself at the goal bound ball.
Five minutes later, Green was again the provider – this time for Michael Bostwick whose drive from distance flew over the bar, whilst the offside flag also came to the Stags aid against Green, who in a nice little throwback, was chasing down every single Rhead flick on – all Lincoln needed was Marriott in goal pinging balls up to Rhead and in would have been Carbon Copy of the football which won us the league title.
The modern day Stags saw a sight of goal again on 26 minutes as Angol was felled thirty from goal, as he and MacDonald stood over the ball, he told the winger to drill the ball low, remembering the way the imps set-up from set-plays from his loan spell earlier in the year prior to joining the Stags. MacDonald took up the advice, but curled low the wrong side of the post as Farman, as guessed by Angol, was rooted to his line.
Just past the half hour, Knott tried to untie the Stags with a 22 yard volley, David Mirfin’s knee’s blocked the effort as the Imps continued to enjoy the better of the first half play – Mirfin once again blocked an effort, this time from Bostwick on the stroke of half time, moments after Logan had done well to hold onto Sean Raggett’s firm header.
Steve Evans made two changes in midweek against Wycombe as things weren’t going the Stags way – this time he left it as it was but did again see an improvement from his side – two minutes into the half, ex-imp Lee Angol latched onto the loose ball following an excellent tackle from Digby, trying to catch Farman out – Angol blazed over from distance, much to his own anguish.
Alfie Potter then provided for Hemmings, bring down a MacDonald pass beautifully with a neat touch, sadly for the rejuvenated Stage – Potters’ cross was just too heavy for Hemmings.
Steve Evans then played his Ace card on 58 minutes as he introduced Rose for Hemmings, Alfie Potter sent a volley over from 18 yards on the stroke of the hour, but just a minute later it was Rose who dealt the killer blow.
Hayden White showed great pace and tenacity to bomb forward down the right hand side and take the ball around Sam Haberham – he lofted the ball into the middle and Rose, anticipating what White was going to do, leaped above the defenders to thunder his header beyond Paul Farman to break the tense deadlock – three minutes after coming on. The celebration was something else!
Lincoln would now try every trick in the book to draw level and Stags knew they were in for a battle, Alfie Potter, Johnny Hunt and Alex MacDonald all threw themselves into fiery challenges to keep Lincoln at bay – Conrad Logan then produced another expert save on 68 minutes, Imps sub Josh Ginnelly twisted his way through and, after cutting inside from the left, fired at Logan, who at full stretch – palmed the ball away which through a sea of Amber and Red blurs, was thumped clear.
Billy Knott was next up to fire a missile goal wards, his 73rd minute 30 yard drive flew over the bar – whilst Pearce also had to thrash away a cross from Sean Long on 82 minutes – a minute later, Logan again beating away an effort from Knott, the Stags were under siege from Lincoln, but blatantly refused to be beaten.
Danny Rose with eight minutes to go showed his defenders credentials with two excellent headers inside the Stags box to clear the danger – at the other end with two minutes to go, he curled an effort wide from distance which was dipping.
The Stags battle through four additional minutes with the tactical switch of Atkinson for Angol putting five across the middle and not allowed Lincoln a sniff as the clock ran down and, at the sound of the whistle, Sincil Bank burst its banks with an outcry of Amber passion – Steve Evans sprinted over to the Stags support, as did the coachin staff, players and subs to celebrate winning one hell of a fight.
FULL TIME: Lincoln City 0-1 Stags
Hayden White – Krystain Pearce © - David Mirfin – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter – Calum Butcher – Paul Digby – Alex MacDonald (Paul Anderson 85)
Kane Hemmings (Danny Rose 58) – Lee Angol (Will Atkinson 90+1)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Zander Diamond, Jacob Mellis, Omari Sterling-James
Attendance: 9,563 (1,459)
Referee: Rob Jones, Assistants Ken Haycock & Paul Thompson, Fourth Official James Wilson
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