Full Time Score Mansfield Town 4-2 Cheltenham Town
Competition Sky Bet League Two
Venue One Call Stadium
Stags Goal Scorer(s) CJ Hamilton (2), Will Atkinson, Alex MacDonald
Attendance 5,276 (181)
Craig Priest writes…
The beautiful game is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, heartbreak and elation – but it’s that raw emotion which keeps us coming back week up on week – and yesterday as Mansfield grabbed three more precious points, they certainly put us through every raw emotion going, in a game full of determination and will power.
David Flitcroft was celebrating his first year in charge of the Stags and recapped twelve months within ninety minutes as his sides merged between lacklustre, flat, hungry, lucky, dangerous, unlucky, deflated, bemused, courageous and in the ends – down right bloody brilliant!
It’s one of the strangest games I’ve watched for a while as supporters watched the changing mood play out, but ultimately at this time of the season pretty football won’t take you up – togetherness and a commitment running through the core will. We didn’t have that when Flitcroft first took charge, a lot of the so called core was rotten and it’s taken time to remove that and rebuild, yesterday showed that no matter what, nothing is going to poison our core and we will fight until the very end.
This goes way beyond the eleven players put out to start the game, a one man circus is never going to be the greatest show – yesterday especially showed that everyone believes in what we are trying to achieve and are ready, when called upon, to fight to make it a reality.
Will Atkinson, Alex MacDonald and Ben Turner are examples of just that – Atkinson is Mansfield’s marmite but for me is a vital weapon to have within as he can comfortably play anywhere and has experience of consistently playing at a higher level which is where we aspire to be. Atkinson yesterday came on and helped with the change of shape (I won’t go on about changing shape too much, but even Stevie Wonder can see we are FAR MUCH BETTER and dangerous with a flat back four) and was tremendous down the right hand side, topping off a solid display with that critical third goal – throwing himself into the fire, not bothered about getting burnt.
Alex MacDonald is, and has been since day one, Mr Mansfield Town – we’ve missed his flare and infectious enthusiasm at times and really needed that at 3-2 yesterday to blunt the knife edge game and see us through to a critical victory, his goal was breathtakingly beautiful as it defined what Mansfield Town Football Club are about – never giving up, no matter what obstacles stand before us.
Turner’s late appearance helped lock down the defence and slam darkness on Cheltenham’s chunk of light, we’re a young squad predominantly and at times we forget that – we need his experience in situations like that to prevent the pot from boiling over.
It goes far beyond those ON the pitch though, we’re missing key figures through injury and suspension but they are all committed to the project and supporting in whatever way they can, players like Danny Rose and Bobby Oljenik are not letting injury hold them back as they get their heads down and focus on recovery, they’re in on a match day to be a part of this team, this unit, this core – and for that to be totally transformed in the space of a year with the results to match just goes to show the right appointment was made.
Eleven games to go, but only ONE to focus on and that’s next weekend’s trip to Port Vale, the league table is starting to see a real split in terms of points but we can only affect our own position – so let’s get across to Port Vale next weekend and back this group of players who are giving everything to make our dreams a reality.
Defender Matt Preston was given a deserved rest as it was revealed he’d be carrying an injury for a long time, Ryan Sweeney fresh from a two game ban came into the starting line to replace him, whilst Ajose replaced the suspended Walker as the Stags lined up 3-4-2-1, young striker Zayn Hakeem given a slot on the bench to boost attacking options.
The Stags were kicking towards the Quarry Lane Stand in the first half but it was at the other end where the first bit of action took place as Jacob Maddox got a volley all from for the visitors two minutes in.
Two minutes later Hamilton played in the lively Ajose who saw an effort blocked, Grant and Bishop saw efforts go stray as the game bundled on past the half hour mark – the stags best chance came on 39 minutes as Hamilton saw an effort blocked before from the resulting corner, Mellis hit one sweetly only to be denied.
Stags needed some luck and twice struck lucky before the break as Hamilton notched two goals – his first on 42 minutes came after Ajose’s effort was blocked into the path of the lightening winger who just got enough power on the follow up from an angle to open the scoring – three minutes later Hamilton again had just enough power, tucking beneath Flinders to double his, and Mansfield’s tally.
Moments later Hamilton nearly turned goal scorer into provider with a pinpoint ball for Ajose, the on loan Charlton man turned the inviting cross wide – Mansfield however were somehow two-nil up as the half time whistle blew.
After the restart the next goal was critical and it should have been the Stags who got it, Hamilton denied a hat-trick by Flinders on 49 minutes before Ajose was also denied by a last ditch challenge.
Mansfield’s first half luck then did a U-turn as Mal Benning was judged to have given away a free kick on 59 minutes, Chris Hussey curled home a sweet dead ball which you couldn’t help applaud, before with the pendulum back in Cheltenham’s court, they pulled level on 69 minutes, Mansfield allowing Charlie Raglan a free header from a corner, after the Stags had carelessly given away the ball in midfield.
The Stags then set about getting back into the lead and had chances twice through Mellis and once through Grant, before the former delivered a testing corner on 77 minutes, which saw Will Atkinson throw himself at a dipping ball to score a brilliant diving header to restore the Stags lead.
Alex MacDonald was introduced to the home crowd for the first time since September late on and into the third minute of added time, his enthusiasm and grit secured Mansfield’s fourth as he charged through the middle via a bobble and calmly tucked beyond Flinders, celebrating with raw passion to the sound of his own name.
Willem Tomlinson went into the referee’s note book in the dying seconds, but the full time result was far more important as the whistle blew – the Stags remain two points ahead of MK Dons in fourth and two behind Bury in second.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 4-2 Cheltenham Town
STAGS [3-4-2-1]: Jordan Smith, Ryan Sweeney, Krystian Pearce ©, Mal Benning, Gethin Jones (Will Atkinson HT), Neal Bishop, Willem Tomlinson, CJ Hamilton, Jacob Mellis, Jorge Grant (Ben Turner 79), Nicky Ajose (Alex MacDonald 90)
Unused Subs: Conrad Logan, Otis Khan, Alistar Smith, [#34] Zayn Hakeem
Referee: Alan Young
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