Craig Priest writes....
On the seventh day, it’s always a wonderful feeling to wake up, draw back the curtains and see a clear blue sky. What makes it better is knowing that, on the previous day, your beloved football team grabbed what many said would be an unlikely victory.
Well as I drew back the curtains this morning to see blue-sky on the seventh day, I couldn’t help but raise a wry smile at the irony that our number seven had broken down the sky blues barrier to send the doubters to Coventry as the Stags beat the aforementioned by a goal to nil.
For those who don’t get the phrase ‘Send them to Coventry’ basically to send someone to Coventry is an English idiom meaning to deliberately ostracise someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist. Victims are treated as though they are completely invisible and inaudible – aka SILENCED!
Heading into the game we knew Coventry had the best defence in League Two, if not the football league in its entirety and that they would come at us early and fast. We we’re up against a storm and given how our predicted start of winning the league had seemingly disappeared, many predicted that bang-average Mansfield would be sent home from Coventry with no coal to show for it.
Alex MacDonald’s 84th minute sensational strike however put pay to that, in what was a commanding and disciplined [bar Hayden ‘Chopper’ white] display from start to finish – giving us three deserved points and another pivotal clean sheet with a central defensive pairing that hadn’t played together in a competitive match.
Conrad Logan was in fine form once again and thoroughly deserved his fourth clean sheet of the season whilst I thought Alex MacDonald, the ultimate hero, was tremendous in a central midfield role – filling in for the suspended Jacob Mellis.
A tremendous vocal backing from the Stags fans, just shy of 1,600, gave Mansfield the edge on the pitch as whilst the Ricoh Arena is a lovely stadium – in league two it’s empty and soulless, if you can come and pack out a stand – the players can take one look at that and it lifts them and they’ll dig in a little harder to deliver the rewards.
What really won the game however was the substitution of Will Atkinson for Paul Anderson on 82 minutes, Atkinson moved central meaning MacDonald moved wide – but his markers didn’t go with him and allowed him that extra pocket of space around him – which he exploited expertly, what is it they say? Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
The only negative to the match is the booking of Danny Rose, meaning our leading scorer will be suspended for next Saturday’s face off with Stevenage who are enduring an indifferent season – unbeaten in three games in all competitions, but in League Two, are without a win in three and have won just once in their last six league games – it’s games like that, especially at home, where you need your top scorer really – but like yesterday, when key players are missing through suspension (Pearce and Mellis) it’s an opportunity for others to step up.
As a whole, I’ve no complaints with yesterday, we we’re patient enough to break down the league’s toughest backline and at the other end, remained focussed and got the job done – some critics may question the fact that we’re not taking that many chances – but play them MacDondalds goal, remind them that points mean momentum and ultimately – send them to bleeding Coventry!
Steve Evans made three changes to the side which beat Shaw Lane live in front of the nation last week, two enforced – as vice captain Krystian Pearce and Jacob Mellis both picked up their fifth yellow card of the season, meaning a one match ban. Rhys Bennett and Hayden White replaced the suspended duo, White to right back pushing Anderson to right midfield with Bennett at his more natural centre half position – Mal Benning also lost his place to Johnny Hunt.
After a minutes silence the Stags got the game underway and were quickly defending, as Liam Kelly clipped in Stags summer target Marc McNulty but Conrad Logan was quick to pounce – Rhys Bennett also hacked away an early corner from the hosts before on six minutes, captain Diamond slid in well on McNulty as Jodi Jones tried to unlock the Stags.
Conrad Logan then pulled off a fine save from point blank range on ten minutes as Jordan Ponticelli found space in the Stags box, fortunately as the ball cannoned back into the home front man’s feet, he fired wide, before a minute later – Logan tipped one over from McNulty…. And got awarded a goal kick!
The Stags had a sight of goal themselves on 16 minutes as Danny Rose looked to find Hemmings, the on loan Oxford man swung his left boot at the ball and was unfortunate not to see the ball find the net – firing narrowly wide of Lee Burge’s goal.
Two minutes Burge pulled off a fine stop after Alex MacDonald’s free kick cannoned back to the feet of Byrom, his volley towards goal deflected off Hamilton towards goal, Burge sprang well to palm the ball away.
The Stags then had two chances in as many minutes, Paul Anderson fired down the throat of Burge on 21 minutes after scintillating footwork from Hamilton on the left – before Danny Rose kept his balance inside the area and curled a left footed effort beyond Burge – denied his 11th of the season by the woodwork.
Joel Byrom put the Stags in trouble on 27 minutes as his back header to Logan fell short – McNulty nipped in but couldn’t break the deadlock as Logan made himself big, dived to his left to palm the ball away – unleashing a volley of expletives towards Byrom as Hunt swept the ball to safety.
Hayden White was then a lucky man to stay on the pitch on 42 minutes as he wiped out former Stag loanee Peter Vincenti with a two footed challenge which got nothing of the ball – a ridiculous challenge that he didn’t need to make.
After the break, the Stags started brightly and CJ Hamilton turned on the rockets to romp down the left hand side to chase a directional pass in the 50th minute, he beat his marker with ease and flashed a cross across the face of goal, all it needed was a boot but the ball was so fast – nobody got near it!
Two minutes later it was Alex MacDonald, who thanks to a slight tactical tweak had been given more of a free role, who caused havoc – free flowing football saw MacDonald drive into space before curling an effort narrowly over.
Byrom then made up for his first half error with a well-timed challenge on 58 minutes to stop Michael Doyle driving into the Stags box – Danny Rose then went to ground at the other end on 64 minutes but the referee judge the incident to be a dive, Rose collecting his 5th yellow of the season thus far and will now miss next weekend’s match.
A Coventry corner with ten minutes to go saw Kane Hemmings head a goal bound ball off the line as the hosts put on the pressure, but rather than implode – the Stags rallied and pushed forward, Paul Anderson being replaced by Will Atkinson on 83 minutes moved MacDonald wide and just a minute later – with nobody picking up the wide man, Danny Rose cushioned a ball into his path some 30 yards or more from goal – MacDoanld set himself and drilled beyond Burge to send the Stags fans into raptures as he opened the scoring – breaking the divisions toughest defence.
The Stags weren’t content with one and in the final minute of the 90, Rose outmuscled Ryan Haynes squared the ball for Kane Hemmings who was denied by Burge – straight at the other end, Logan made another fine stop to deny Ponticelli one vs one.
Into five minutes of additional time and Mansfield were then denied a clear cut spot kick – Calum Butcher, who replaced rose just moments earlier, burst forwards and fed Hemmings who was floored by the challenge of Citys Rod McDonald - the referee waved away the protests, booking Hemmings for descent.
With the final kick of the game, Conrad Logan proved to be the hero – a free kick was awarded to the hosts right on the edge of the box – Jodi Jones fired under the 165935241876241689 man wall…. But Logan shifted himself across well and clung on to the ball, destined for the bottom corner - smashing the ball into the abyss to the sound of the full time whistle.
FULL TIME: Coventry City 0-1 Stags
Hayden White – Zander Diamond © - Rhys Bennett – Johnny Hunt
Paul Anderson (Will Atkinson 83) – Alex MacDonald – Joel Byrom – CJ Hamilton
Danny Rose (Calum Butcher 90+2) – Kane Hemmings (Paul Digby 90+4)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Jimmy Spencer, Alfie Potter, Omari Sterling-James
Attendance: 8,410 (1,565)
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley Assistants Natalie Aspinall, Marc Wilson Fourth Official Christopher Sarginson
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