Mansfield Town were washed out of the Carabao Cup in the first round last night, but put in a hard fought display against a good league one side on a night where conditions were simply woeful.
A torrential down pour and a bitter chill made it feel more like a mid-November night in Hyde or Barrow than an early August evening in Mansfield – so much so Stags grounds-man ‘Mez’ was fighting a losing battle in repeatedly re-painting the pitch markings!
Mansfield threw everything at their league one counterparts and any neutral who didn’t know watching the game, would say it were the Stags who were the higher division club – such was their energy and tenacity, pretty much from the off.
The way in which the second goal was conceded was my only critique from last night, we have to close down the second ball from corners and set-plays – although you can’t take anything from Camps it was a fantastic effort.
A few around me bemoaned Danny Rose for missing the penalty, two things to note here – ONE, Lillis is a phenomenal goalkeeper and read it very well, and TWO – on a night like that with the ball zipping anywhere, a placed spot-kick was not the option to take – it had to be driven hard and low, Rose did everything right.
In open play I felt we we’re very unfortunate not to grab a goal, had we done so especially in the second had – we’d have opened the flood gates and won comfortably and avoided extra-time and the ABBA style penalties and resulting puns – but hey, when all is said and done, we really did put Rochdale under attack, only one of us could be the winner who took it all – I could go on (and on and on).
Puns aside, the most important thing for me – answer this, how many times on nights such as that, with the biting cold night and rain pouring it down – have Mansfield Town sides given up and frankly not cared? Last night couldn’t be further than that, we have battlers, we have fighters, we have committed players and even though the penny didn’t drop in front of goal – we never gave up, and that – is the name of the game.
Steve Evans made six changes to the starting line-up from Saturday, with Rhys Bennett returning to face his former manager and club, whilst shot-stopper Bobby Olejnik, defender Krystian Pearce, Midfielder Paul Digby and front men Jimmy Spencer and Omari Sterling-James also made the cut.
Stags struggled early doors to adapt to the conditions, Callum Camps got the early beating of Benning only to see his cross nodded over by Williams in the opening minute. At the other end once Mansfield found their feet, Will Atkinson continued his good form from the weekend – opening up the Rochdale back line before sending a testing ball across the face of goal, had it gone maybe a touch earlier – Mansfield may well have taken the lead.
Mansfield were starting to bite into challenges, with Joel Byrom & Paul Digby particularly not holding back – the latter on fourteen minutes won the ball in the interceptor role he plays so well, striding his way forward before slipping in captain Paul Anderson – he took a touch and saw an effort saved by Josh Lillis in the Rochdale goal – again had Anderson struck first time, the Stags may well have found the opener.
Instead it was an old mistake which reared its ugly head once more as the visitors grabbed the opener on 17 minutes – as Dale swung in a corner the Stags failed to deal with the second ball and as the visitors nodded the ball to the edge of the area, nobody closed down the excellent Callum Camps in time, allowing him to curl into the postage stamp – despite the best efforts of Olejnik who flung his way through the air to try and stop a technically good finish.
Matt Done fizzed an effort wide of the Stags goal as Rochdale went in search of a second before on the half hour mark, skipper Paul Anderson struck the post with a venomous strike, following a mazey run, twisting and turning before clipping the ball over a defenders head and striking at goal.
Anderson again came close on the stroke of half time, but again saw his effort blocked after a strong run down the right channel saw Bennett’s low cross palmed into Anderson’s path by the Rochdale glovesman Lillis.
After the break and a re-paint of the lines, the Stags looked hungry to level the match and stepped things up a gear with Paul Digby showing his strength in midfield four minutes in, winning back possession and laying a crisp pass into Anderson – the Stags skipper this time firing into the side netting.
Omari Sterling-James went on a mazey run on 55 minutes which earned the Stags a corner which was headed into the path of Mal Benning around 40 yards from goal – the left back has ‘Benning Belters’ in his locker, but this time zipped his effort high into the empty Quarry Lane stand.
Rochdale then saw a flash of goal and almost grabbed a freak second, left-back Ntlhe's cross looped up in the air and over Olejnik's outstretched arm - fortunately rattling the crossbar and bouncing away before minutes later, winger Oliver Rathbone's fierce shot clipped the outside of the post.
Mansfield soon regained their grip and created a number of opening,s the best chance to take the game into extra time and set-up some ABBA puns, came with seven minutes remaining as Danny Rose, off the bench, advanced into the area and had his legs taken by Niall. The striker agonisingly saw his penalty saved by the legs of Lillis as he attempted to drill it straight down the middle, Lillis for me doing well to stand up for as long as possible and Rose doing little wrong in going for power over placement – the latter would have ended badly on a wet night.
With captain Paul Anderson taken off, Krystian Pearce took the armband and nearly levelled things = however a dramatic block from Dale substitute Steven Davies denied the defender what looked e a certain goal.
Mansfield threw the kitchen sink at Rochdale, and in the final minute – Bobby Olejnik got the call from Evans and Raynor and pelted it forward to attack a corner, he very nearly won his header too and was spared a sprint back to his goal, by the referee’s full time whistle.
FULL TIME | Stags 0-1 Rochdale
Rhys Bennett, Krystian Pearce, David Murfin, Mal Benning
Will Atkinson, Joel Byrom (CJ Hamilton 70), Paul Digby, Paul Anderson © (Alfie Potter 79)
Omari Sterling-James, Jimmy Spencer (Danny Rose 77)
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Logan, George Taft, Lee Angol, Johnny Hunt
Attendance |1,457 (121)
Referee | Andy Madley
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