Sunday, 31 July 2011

Pre-Season Friendly: Boston Vs Mansfield

‘A New Look’
Trips to Boston hold many a good memory for Mansfield Town fans down the years perhaps not always on the pitch though. When it used to be a league fixture, it was one of the first to be looked for by the eagle eyed fans, who always hoped it was penned in for a Saturday afternoon, in the warmer months, why? So they could make a short stop off at nearby Skeg-Vegas of course!
I’m sure many people took up the option of a weekend in Skeg, stopping off at the football yesterday afternoon, looking back – I wish I was one of them, yesterday result aside, was an utter nightmare. According to the Sat-Nav, yesterday’s trip should have taken roughly 1 hour 20 minutes, as it happens it took us 2 hours 30minutes!
Being sat in a slow line of crawling traffic was frustrating, it brought back memories of Newport last season, when we arrived at the ground with 2minutes to spare. This time, we arrived with 34 minutes to spare before kickoff; however I was late having been due on air at 2PM.  
After roaming randomly around the Boston car park, we stumbled across the media ticket collection point and endured another frustrating wait as Barbra & Jean chatted about which coffee was better, instant or machine made? My lip was being bitten so hard I could have pierced it, trying desperately not to shout out ‘who cares, drink tea – now give me my f*****g tickets!’ Eventually the debate was solved and it was time for hurdle number two – the turnstile. After attempting to tear our tickets in half perfectly, the turnstile operator finally let us through and we headed for were press boxes are normally situated – the half way line, however after a quick look around the ground, we noticed the press box was situated else were – behind the goal, how the bloody hell did we get over there?! A quick run over the corner of the pitch into the other stand, didn’t seem to please the Boston squad as we temporally disrupted their warm up! Eventually we arrived in the press box and set up in record speed (2 minutes 43 seconds!), made a rough guess at the team news and as a scheduled song took over; I slumped back in my seat, wondering what other surprises the afternoon would bring!
Paul Cox said at the ‘Meet the Manager’ event on Thursday evening that the side he put out against Boston & Chasetown next Saturday would be close to the one he starts the season with, looking at the names on the team sheet, I could do nothing but agree.
Stags lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with the shirt numbers worn on the day in brackets.
[1] Alan Marriott
[2] Tom Naylor – [5] John Thompson – [6] Martin Riley – [3] Joe Kendrick
[7] Louis Briscoe – [21] Adam Murray (C) – [8] Jon Worthington – [11] Andy Todd
[10] Matt Green – [9] Paul Connor
SUBS: Shane Redmond, Ritchie Sutton [16], Matt Bell [17], Luke O’Neill [18], Lee Stevenson [12], Anthony Howell [14], Ross Dyer [15]
As if the press box behind the goal wasn’t enough to put a strange twist on the afternoon, the fact the players lined up for the pre-match handshakes on the edge of the penalty box rather than either side of the half way line was another. Add to that the fact the home side wore their away shirt; allowing Mansfield to wear all yellow once again was enough to send me near the edge of insanity.
Usually, when I start a commentary I say ‘Mansfield will be kicking from left to right in the first half’ because it helps to give listeners a clearer picture of the action, but with a press box behind a goal, what the hell was I meant to say?! I settled on ‘Up or Down’ the stags kicked off; kicking ‘Down’ the pitch towards the goal we were seated behind.
We didn’t have to wait long for a goal either, Tom Naylor showed playing left side of the back three on Tuesday evening at Hednesford he can be handy with throw ins, playing in a new role of right back yesterday, it certainly proved to be the case a minute in. Naylor’s throw looked to go down the line to Briscoe, however a cleaver spin drew the Boston markers all over the shop, the ball was launched long inside to Adam Murray who lurked outside the penalty box. The ball set up nicely and Murray pulled the trigger, the ball dipping powerfully with only one final destination – the back of the net, home keeper Paul Bastock got a hand to it, but nothing would have kept that strike out.
Boston 0-1 Stags
Straight from the re-start, stags nearly added a second. Tom Naylor won back possession well and played a neat cross park ball to Joe Kendrick, The former Bray Wonders man headed onto Andy Todd who was then fouled as he looked to progress forward, Kendrick’s resulting free kick lurked around the box and the home side eventually cleared through ex-stag Gareth Jellyman.
Mansfield continued to pile on the pressure, imprisoning the hosts into their own half – Matt Green’s header on from a right wing cross fell for Paul Connor, forcing a smart save from Bastock earning the stags a corner with barley 5 minutes on the clock.
Heading to the sea-side, everyone always says ‘Bring me back a gift’ with around 7 minutes gone, Adam Murray’s cross park chip to Louis Briscoe saw the wing man combine well with Paul Connor, The stags front man headed on to return Briscoe inside the area with last year’s leading scorer powering a lot low towards goal, Bastock seemed to be equal to it but the ball squirmed underneath the experienced keeper, who threw himself on top of the loose ball to deny Mansfield a second.
Boston finally broke free from own half jail, Jellyman burst free wide left and eventually chipped the ball forwards, he found Liam Ogden on the edge of the box who shot high – Alan Marriott more than equal too it.
Tom Naylor impressed at right back defensively but should have done better on the attack, Louis Briscoe dropped central to pick up Thompson’s pass before feeding the stags youngster into the box, Naylor opted for the shot which hit the side netting, a quick look up he would have spotted Paul Connor unmarked in a better shooting position, still a great Mansfield move.     
With 22 gone, Boston really should have made Mansfield pay for standing off a little too much, the home side allowed to come forward as Ex-Stags youngster Danny Sleath fed Marc Newsham into the area, Alan Marriott springing off his line to deny the pilgrims front man.
Mansfield soon woke up and attacked once more, Adam Murray spraying a pass wide to Andy Todd who did well to beat ex-stags trialist Jordan Fairclough at right back, Todd’s cross was just a little too deep, Matt Green inches away from connecting but to Mansfield’s credit they applied pressure well and looked to regain possession. Jon Worthington was then replaced by Lee Stevenson on 27 minutes after picking up a little knock, manager Paul Cox confirmed after it was a precautionary substitution.
Mansfield ended the half firmly in control, Lee Stevenson stole the ball from Danny Sleath before Adam Murray took over, Murray’s chipped ball onto Matt Green saw the oxford loanee move away from goal but keep the ball in play, the stags kept the ball but were forced back to the half way line, This before Mansfield had claims from a penalty waved away on the stroke of half time. Louis Briscoe fed Stevenson into the area, as the goal machine midfielder let fly, the ball stuck Jellyman on the arm but the referee said no and soon ended the half.
Half Time: Boston 0-1 Stags
The hosts started the second half and made 7 changes at the start of the half, stags made none at it was them who started the brightest once more, Louis Briscoe crossing from the right, Paul Connor beating his man headed the ball down towards the bottom corner, forcing a smart save from sub keeper, Ricky Drury.
Moments later, it was Drury who was the pilgrims saviour, great combination play saw Lee Stevenson push the ball wide left for Joe Kendrick to cross in for Paul Connor, his flick on landed at the feet of Briscoe who struck with venom left footed, Drury pushing the ball behind for a corner – a top draw save.
Danny Sleath let a shot fly from the edge of the box which was well held by Marriott, the only real scare Mansfield faced before the stags had a prime opportunity to double their lead. Matt Green laid the ball inside to Stevenson, his left footed effort was palmed away by the keeper but only as far as Briscoe half a yard from goal, and somehow his shot was wide of the target.
Ross Dyer came on to replace Paul Connor just past the hour mark however following Briscoe’s miss, Mansfield’s finishing touch was soon made to pay as the hosts drew level on 67 minutes. Ryan Semple’s corner drew a sharp save from Marriott from Parker, however the stags didn’t deal with the second ball and Liam Parker tapped home to level the scores.
Boston 1-1 Stags
Mansfield were back in the driving seat in under two minutes, a long ball up park from the back was headed on by Dyer, Matt Green made his way into the box and as he took the ball around the keeper, he was brought down with the referee pointing to the spot. At first, it looked like Matt Green was going to take the spot kick, but as Kendrick received some treatment, Louis Briscoe used the stoppage to receive instructions from the bench – he was to take the penalty, not Matt Green. Briscoe stepped up and fired low underneath Drury who guessed correctly diving to his right – however Briscoe’s kick was too powerful and he bagged his third goal in as many pre-season games to put the stags back in front.
Boston 1-2 Stags
Greens displeasure of not taking the spot kick was got a response from the bench, he was withdrawn for Anthony Howell, but not before Naylor’s deep free kick nearly saw Briscoe double his tally, the stags number 7 firing low but straight at the diving Drury.
Adam Murray made it 3-1 with a sublime effort with around 10minutes left, Murray started the move with a quick free kick, switched to Kendrick who chipped in a ball looking for Howell, Parker’s headed away fell kindly for the stags skipper who smashed a shot goal wards left footed, dipping underneath the keeper who stood no chance.
Boston 1-3 Stags
Ross Dyer had the chance to make it 4 minutes later, Murray played Stevenson into space wide left, his ball forward was perfect to Dyer who rounded the keeper and hit the side netting, had he found the back if the net, joy would have been short lived as the flag was up for offside.
Former Aston Villa star Julian Joachim had a great chance to reduce the score line with around 6 minutes to go, a neat pass into the box saw the experienced front man draw a smart save from Marriott, Joachim picked up the second ball but his pass was intercepted by Stevenson, then Kendrick.
The whistle for full time was getting increasingly closer to the referee’s lips however there was still time to add a fourth, Joe Kendrick’s left footed in swinging corner caught the home defence out, Anthony Howell tapped home from half a yard to seal the victory for the stags.
Boston 1-4 Stags
A crowd of 637 saw just one more piece of action, the ball had barley rolled out of the centre circled before the game ended and Paul Cox’s side sealed their third consecutive victory.
Full Time: Boston 1-4 Stags
The man of the match was undoubtedly Adam Murray, two sublime finishes plus some excellent passing showed what a talent Murray is, for me he’s an ideal captain and although Paul Cox will not name his captain until after the Chasetown game, Murray remains firm favourite in both myself & Paul Cox’s eyes as he admits in the post match interview.
Mansfield looked good yesterday afternoon but there clean canvas painting was still disrupted by a few blotches. At times I felt we stood off a little too more, quicker teams would have hurt us. Also for the goal, we had three chances to stop that happening and failed to do so every time, something we need to work on, we’ve two more games to do so before the serious stuff starts.
Paul Cox is a perfectionist and once more, he, Micky Moore and the boys had a lengthy discussion post match, however I didn’t mind waiting for the interview – the sunshine and cool breeze a refreshing end to what for some parts, was a hellish day. Paul Cox spoke to me very honestly & openly after the game, the interview you can here along with the podcast below. I’m usually a string judge of character, so far I’ve seen barley nothing on & off the pitch to suggest this year will not be our year – I plan to write a special season preview piece after the Chasetown game which will hopefully let you into Paul’s management style & mindset a little more.
Next up for the stags, it’s Ilkeston on Wednesday evening at the new manor ground – the very same ground were our FA Trophy escapades started – bring on the memories. If you can’t make it, Full match commentary on Takeover 106.9FM (link on the right), despite our finical problems, we will keep going until the very end. Thanks so much for your kind messages of support – there really appreciated by both me personally and the station as a whole.
Thanks for reading.

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