Blue Square Bet Premier Game #2 Gateshead Vs Mansfield Town 16/8/11 – Gateshead International Stadium.
I’ve been a football fan for around 10 years now; I’m still trying to figure out which is best – home games or away games – most of my fondest memories come from the latter. Away games and the trips that come with them create some interesting story’s – from dancing on the bus to some music from the 80’s to acting 6 years old again going on the Northwhich zip wire, I think every game & every trip has a story of some shape to go along with it. As I woke yesterday morning, I looked around my room looking at each photo which again represents a story. I looked longingly at those pictures and began to wonder what this seasons away trips would throw into the mixing bowl of stories – before I knew it, it was time set off: Destination Gateshead.
With my MP3 player in full working order (first time for everything) and my new book fresh off the shelves of WH Smith, the lines of A1 soon began to flash by once again – I knew then, with my headphones in and my eyes fixed to the words of Nicholas Sparks’ ‘Safe Haven’ that the football season was well back, however a couple pieces of the jigsaw were missing. The first an obvious one, not travelling on the coach which has been the main source of the stories down the years, the second was found upon arrival at the service station. You know what’s coming don’t you? £3.86 for a large fries and an ice cream (Strawberry Sunday) – I’d forgotten how outrageous service station prices were, I knew then as my wallet cowered from its severe beating – the football season was well and truly back.
Whilst everyone else inside the Gateshead International Stadium faced the cold evening wind, I worked up a swet attempting a neat wiring job with another race against time to get on air – the 30M extension cable from pre-season made another appearance as power was housed in the press cabins designed for athletics rather than football! In the past month or so, I’ve really discovered that you can do a lot of things with an extension lead & a plastic box!
I finished my DIYSOS job in time to receive the team and get on air in time, my discovery was two changes to the starting line up had been made, with a switch in formation too, Paul Cox handing debuts to Joe Kendrick & Lee Stevenson and employing the 4-3-3 formation.
Luke O’Neill – Tom Naylor – Martin Riley – Joe Kendrick (Replacing Matt Bell)
Adam Murray (C) – Jon Worthington – Lee Stevenson (Replacing Andy Todd)
Louis Briscoe – Paul Connor – Matt Green
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Lindon Meikle – Adam Smith – Ross Dyer – Nick Wood.
Whilst the starting minutes were very much a 4-3-3 the stags soon became experimental and depending on the different phases of play, dropped into a 4-2-3-1 formation with skipper Murray & Worthington sat in front of the back four, Briscoe & Green played wide whilst Stevenson sat just behind Connor – the trouble was, the players didn’t look too comfortable and often lost sight of their role, which saw Gateshead pick up 90% of the second ball and begin to stretch Mansfield down the wings, with former Stags trialist Chris Carruthers looking very lively on the left, linking up well with Nathan Fisher.
Both sides looked for a rhythm and had attempts, with 8 minutes gone it was the stags who had the first real chance of the game, Joe Kendrick’s direct ball found Matt Green central, the Oxford loanee did well to keep hold of the ball but was forced wide by James Curtis, some nifty foot work and a mix of the wet surface saw Green able to leave Curtis behind and play a ball low into the box, Paul Connor couldn’t connect & Carruthers managed to get back and turn the ball behind for a corner. Mansfield took it quickly, Louis Briscoe passed short to Kendrick, who with a burst of pace saw himself in enough space to chip a ball into the box, Gateshead Skipper Ben Clark headed clear and, as both sides struggled with the wet surface, the movement fizzled away.
The first 30 minutes were well balanced with Mansfield creating their fare share of chances, Paul Connor smashed into the side netting after great work between Naylor & O’Neill, with the latter the provider for the stags leading scorer from just outside the area. Moments later Connor beat the offside trap, latching onto Joe Kendrick’s chipped through ball, denied just as he was about to pull the trigger by the impressive Ben Clark who timed his challenge to perfection.
Gateshead then began to pen Mansfield in their own half, it almost seemed like being stuck in jail in a game of monopoly – the stags trying desperately to throw a double but failing, Gateshead soon made their pressure pay, taking the lead with 33 minutes gone. Chris Carruthers’ left sided throw in steadily made its way over to the far side, Mansfield stood off and allowed Yemi Odubade space to set up Jon Shaw who fired low into the bottom corner, an excellent strike to punish his rather sluggish former employees.
Gateshead 1-0 Stags
Mansfield failed to pick themselves up and despite moving forward into Gateshead territory on a few occasions, failed to pick up the second ball and were once again forced backwards. With 4 minutes to go before the break, Yemi Odubade made Mansfield’s second half task more difficult as he glided past two Mansfield defenders, placing a neat finish underneath Alan Marriott to double the hosts’ lead.
Gateshead 2-0 Stags
Gateshead looked more fresh and gained more encouragement from their second goal of the evening, passing it around smartly, knowing just how to play the wet surface and punish the stags, luckily the referee called an end to the first half before any further damage could be done.
Half Time: Gateshead 2-0 Stags
Despite a below par effort in the first half were it was clear we needed fresh legs, Mansfield made no substitutions at the break, presumably allowing for that 5-10 minute ‘last chance or your off’ period. Paul Connor nearly reduced the scores just 2 minutes into the second half, good movement from Kendrick saw the Irish left back ping in a pinpoint cross for Connor, who in space, headed over from around 6 yards.
What followed was the story of the first half, Mansfield standing off whilst patient Gateshead moved the ball well just waiting for their moment to strike. It came and was taken a minute shy of the hour mark, Chris Carruthers and Nathan Fisher moving well wide left to earn a corner, Micky Cummins delivered a right footed in swinger and an alarmingly unmarked James Curtis powered his header home past Alan Marriott.
Gateshead 3-0 Stags
Ross Dyer was introduced for Paul Connor two minutes later but it all seemed too little too late, Mansfield’s luck just wasn’t in. Proved moments after Dyers introduction as the stags earned a corner, Kendrick’s left footed delivery found Riley who powered towards goal, blocked on the line Briscoe’s pull back was again met by a Mansfield boot but as the ball was hit, the player slipped and rather than tap into the half empty goal, they ballooned well over the bar.
It was clear that 4-4-2 was needed and Adam Smith’s introduction with 20 minutes left saw that formation happen, Jon Worthington departed, Smith slotted wide right, Briscoe dropped wide left and Stevenson sat in the centre alongside Murray. However Mansfield’s 4-4-2 lasted all of 9 minutes as the stags miserable luck continued – Tom Naylor receiving a straight red card. On a slippery surface, with Mansfield chasing the game the referee got the decision with everyone, including the majority of the home support agreeing the 50/50 challenge with Eddie Odhiambo only warranted a yellow rather than a straight red. Moments after Naylor’s dismissal, Mansfield were forced to stop chasing the game and bring down the shutter and play ‘Damage Limitation’ Nick Wood making his debut slotting into centre half at the expense of Matt Green.
From then on in it was all Gateshead, Eddie Odhiambo crossed in for Kris Gate who wasted his chance from close range, the stags then got extremely lucky, Martin Riley’s foul inside the box on the pacey Gary Mulligan looked a stone wall penalty. Jon Shaw also saw his close range header held by Marriott late on as the home side bagged another 3points to put them top of the table, whilst lack lustre Mansfield faced a long trip home with nothing, sat at the top of the relegation zone.
Full Time: Gateshead 3-0 Stags
The performance and result was totally unacceptable and the journey home seemed three times longer, again I think those 5 consecutive victory’s towards the end of pre-season have proved a dose of false hope and our expectations are perhaps set too high. The shouts for the manager to be sacked are ridiculous though, we’re two games into the season – seriously what good is sacking him and hiring a new manager who will want to assemble his own squad going to do! It’s august; we’ve signed 16, maybe 17 players close season and have suffered a big physiological blow by loosing key players thanks to a man from Ilkeston!
We’re still building, we’re still figuring each other out, as fans we must remain patient and just remember it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Yes, this is unacceptable and something that needs fixing, Paul Cox knows that and will make the changes that are needed. Let’s put this down to a false start, rally behind the players and management and start as we mean to go on by winning on Saturday.
Don’t miss full match commentary on Braintree Vs Mansfield on 106.9FM from 2PM, the link to listen online is on the right hand side.
Thanks for reading – keep the faith.