Craig Priest writes…
Danny Roses’ 87 minute winner completed a U-Turn for Mansfield Town at Cambridge United in what was a frustrating afternoon in a game which would have been more fitting being played on a chess board – but once the final whistle blew, three points were once more in the possession of Mansfield Town Football Club.
Realistically that’s all that matters too – yes the performance was horrible to watch and extremely frustrating, but if the difference between promotion and another season languishing in league two is three points, then who seriously cares how we won them?
You can’t play ‘sexy’ football week in week out, this is league two for a start! The objective in each game is three points, or bags of coal too use the Steve Evans reference – how you get them doesn’t matter, you don’t get bonus points for fancy touches or fluid passing, the sooner we remember that the better.
Shaun Derry was right in his post-match comments, they did dominate the majority of the game and as soon as Paul Digby went off – I knew they’d get a goal in a same way they have done for the majority of the season so far, cross from deep – the runners pull the centre backs apart and the big lad pops up and heads it home.
One of my biggest frustrations in football is when people watch the ball rather than the game, those who do the unseen work go unnoticed and criticised for not being involved, or in the case of Digby yesterday, when they are seen on the ball and make a passing error – get hounded, despite all the other work they’ve been doing.
I won’t back up Digby’s passing, even he’ll know it wasn’t on par with what was required – yet his job isn’t to ping forty yard passes or take on three players box to box – it’s to be the interceptor, plug the gaps and keep the back line solid.
Mirfin and Pearce, as well as they performed, we’re getting pulled apart by the Cambridge attack – as they tried for find space for Uche Ikpeazu and Jabo Ibehre to attack. Digby dropped in and stopped that from happening, when he was subbed on 55 minutes – I said Cambridge would score – they did, just three minutes later in exactly the way Digby’s presence had prevented.
There and then we deserved nothing bar a beating but football sometimes springs a surprise and has a flirtation with lady luck, Jacob Mellis’ penalty squirmed underneath the keeper to broaden Ms Lucks’ smile on us before Danny Rose did what Danny Rose does best with three minutes to go.
Did we deserve to win? No. Draw? At times I’d say no again but again it’s not how you earn the points, it’s the fact you have. Cheltenham on Tuesday will be a tough cookie to taste, and then Notts County on Saturday – well they’re in the best shape they’ve been for years and if we play just 0.5% like we did yesterday – it’ll be the Magpie inflicting one for sorrow on Mansfield on Derby Day.
Steve Evans rewarded Danny Rose for his heroics at Lincoln with a start in the place of Lee Angol, but otherwise it was as you were as the Stags welcomed Cambridge.
Rose started with the same hunger he’d brought to the Lincoln game a week ago and won a free kick within the first minute, Johnny Hunt’s delivery sat up well for Captain Pearce – penalised for a push on his marker and the first chance came and went.
Hayden White, who set Rose for the winner at Lincoln, offered a couple of chances for the Stags – six minutes in his cross aiming for Kane Hemmings, was plucked out of the air by Republic of Ireland glovesman David Forde, before three minutes later - another White cross deflected up for Hemmings to flick on for Rose, who despite having his back to goal – nearly pulled off an acrobatic overhead kick – Forde well place to keep Rose at bay.
At the other end Captain Pearce lost his balance on 14 minutes allowing the experienced former Carlisle man Ibehre to pounce, Pearce did well to recover and keep the front man at bay.
Frustration was starting to creep in as Mansfield were reluctant to close play down, and Cambridge were also offering little – it was very much a game of chess between too tactical managers. The Stags saw an opening on 24 minutes, but Potter saw his inviting through ball swept away by Brad Halliday, before a minute later at the other end, as the Stags allowed the ball to drop in the box to the feet of Jevani Brown – Conrad Logan expertly palmed away his goal bound half-volley.
After the break, Mansfield had a little more zip about them in terms of chasing the ball – but neither side we’re ready to make their killer move. After a few misplaced passes Paul Digby was replaced by the more attack minded Jacob Mellis, whilst Paul Anderson also replaced Alfie Potter on 55 minutes.
Three minutes later, Cambridge got the game’s opening goal – capitalising on the space left by Digby’s substitution, and it was a simple one too – Cambridge swung in a corner, nobody tracked the run of Leon Legge who rose highest to score a very easy header.
Past the hour and the Stags had the chance to level on 63 minutes, MacDonalds cross-come-shot saw Rose throw himself at the ball, denied again by Forde, who a minute later, would be cursing Lady Luck, as she smiled on Stags.
Hayden White went on another mazy run and was upended in the area, for the Stags sixth spot-kick of the season in all competitions. Lee Angol, who buried two out of two in the 4-1 win over Grimsby wasn’t on the pitch and so Jacob Mellis took responsibility. His effort was technically saved by Forde who guessed right, but somehow, spun back through the keepers hands and squirmed into the back of the net, for a very fortunate equaliser.
With Lady Luck flashing her best flirtatious smile on the Stags, they went in search of a U-Turn in fortunes, Alex MacDonald sent in a teasing cross which deflected away with 70 minutes played, a minute later he was slotted in by White but agonisingly drove an effort wide of Forde’s goal.
Danny Rose also had an effort saved by Forde, before a long stoppage in play saw former Stag and promotion winning left back Greg Taylor get bandaged up for a head wound – he’d carry on for a few more minutes before being replaced as the game stop-started.
However before the change, Rose, who had been the hero against Lincoln, would then spark another chorus of “Danny, Danny ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSEEE” with three minutes of normal time to go.
Mirfin started the movement with a deep free-kick, headed away to the path of MacDonald who swept the ball wide to Mellis – the Stags went backwards with the ball but only to White who smashed the ball long and down the middle, where Pearce – who’d stayed up from the free kick, nodded the ball into the feet of Rose, who stroked the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Six minutes were added on and the Stags were penned in by Cambridge who did not want to go home empty handed, but very loud and clear instructions from Evans too “Kill the game” saw Stags somehow get across the line and record a very big victory.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-1 Cambridge United
Hayden White – Krystain Pearce © – David Mirfin – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter (Paul Anderson 55) – Paul Digby (Jacob Mellis 55) – Calum Butcher – alex MacDonald
Danny Rose – Kane Hemmings (Lee Angol 74)
Unused Substitutes: Bobby Oljenik, Rhys Bennett, Will Atkinson, Omari Sterling-James
Attendance: 3,814 (349)
Referee: Ben Toner Assistants Declan Ford, Abbas Khan Fourth Official Gary Hilton
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