Sunday, 21 August 2011

CTA #3 Braintree Vs Mansfield

Blue Square Bet Premier Game #3 Braintree Vs Mansfield – Cressing Road 20/8/11
When I was 15, Someone once asked me what job I’d really like to do when I was older, at the time I answered ‘Actor’ – I just loved drama and the people I worked with in my class at school. A few weeks ago, I bumped into the same person in town and after chatting and catching up, they asked me if I achieved my goal of becoming an actor. With my response a ‘No, I want to be a sports journalist now’ the next obvious question was ‘Why?’ – Something I had to seriously ask myself at 3AM yesterday morning when I woke up, in a cold swet worried that my plans would fail.
Those of you who know me will know that I like to be organised, I email clubs well in advance to book tickets and worry about the response from the moment I hit send until the second my phone bleeps loudly telling me I’ve received a reply. Up until now, bar maybe one occasion, my fears have been pointless – however the events of the last few days did nothing but confirm my worst fears, as at 10.30PM Thursday I received a reply telling me there would be no press pass for me as the press box was full. Without going into too much detail, I replied with a workable solution yet at 3AM Saturday morning, I still had no reply and was unable to sleep, the cold swet brought on by the fear of letting people down and by the fact I was set to travel 140+ miles with a great possibility of being turned away.
I think I spent every second of that trip yesterday wondering why I wanted to be a sports journalist, sometimes it’s not worth the stress – for example I could have spent yesterday playing football with my best mate, or going in search of a beautiful girl to date! Ok, not every second, the Jaffa Cake muffin from the service station and the flowing conversation in the car filled a big gap of worry – but you get the picture! After roaming the streets of Braintree we eventually found the ground, hidden away in the middle of a housing estate off the beaten track – we parked up, unloaded the kit and headed for the entrance.
We we’re greeted by a gentleman in an orange bib who, to my surprise, had a list WITH my name on it! I proceeded to walk up, with co-commentator Scott following at which point we were stopped in our tracks by the Gentleman who informed us, rather abruptly & rudely given the situation, that only I was allowed in and Scott would have to pay, Too cut a long story short (& to avoid a massive rant!) I was told to go in or go home, I did so – those of you in the surrounding areas who saw some red faced, red haired thing with steam coming from his ears walking along with bags and wires – it was me!
The next problem is a quite frequent one: accessing power. Due to the amount of press covering the game, my seat wasn’t in the press box, I’d set up just next to the press box within reach of a team sheet and of course, the holy grail for all broadcasters, power – the only problem being there was 2 sockets, one for the home teams media the other for the visitors – they were all used, leaving us powerless. After a serious think, a few phone calls and a lot of cursing, Stephen Thrikill arrived from Mansfield Chad, and we hit upon the idea of creating a separate press area, with our own power supply, again creating a problem – we’re would we find a mains plug! Using my expert detective skills, I discovered a power point in the turnstile booth – which the kind turnstile operator agreed to let us use!

Remember the 30M cable from Chasetown and more recently Gateshead? It soon made another appearance, running from the turnstile booth, up over the top of the porter-loo’s roofs, carefully through some trees and up, into the stand to the concrete plinth behind our seats, with the other wires to power laptops, mixers etc being ran underneath my seat – proving that not only can we create press boxes from nothing, we do it safely! After getting half way through our pre-match chat, it suddenly dawned on us we’d need a team sheet – a quick glance over to the proper press box saw that they had them, with no spares in sight it was time for old school journalism: Hand writing!   
After Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at Gateshead, Paul Cox promised changes, he delivered too withdrawing Paul Connor, Jon Worthington & Lee Stevenson from the line up to go along with his 1 enforced change as Tom Naylor began his 4 game ban. The changes made by the stags drop back into a 4-4-2 and hand the 4 fresh faces debuts, with Anthony Howell making his second Debut since returning to the club in the summer.
Alan Marriott
Luke O’Neill – Ben Futcher (on loan from bury, replacing Naylor) – Martin Riley – Joe Kendrick
Louis Briscoe – Adam Murray (C) – Anthony Howell (Replacing Worthington) – Lindon Meikle (Replacing Lee Stevenson)
Ross Dyer (Replacing Paul Connor) – Matt Green
BENCH: Shane Redmond – Paul Connor – Jon Worthington – Lee Stevenson – Nick Wood.
Along with Howell, the other full Debutants were the pacey Lindon Meikle, burly hit man Ross Dyer and on loan defender Ben Futcher. On loan from Lord Barker’s league one Bury, the 30 year old defender stands literally heads & shoulders above the rest, measuring in at 6ft 7inches tall – he has vast football league experience with spells at Lincoln City, Grimsby, and Peterborough to name just a few. His arrival is aided by the 12th stag who handed over £2,400 towards the big man’s arrival for the month.
Yesterday’s game got underway and it was Mansfield who were clear to undo the wrongs from midweek, Joe Kendrick headed away the ball from kick off, receiving the ball back and aiming long down park looking for Ross Dyer’s flick on, Lindon Meikle was first too it on the left wing, denied by a perfectly timed challenge from Pat O’Connor.
Mansfield continued to put pressure on the hosts who battered Grimsby 5-0 in midweek, Joe Kendrick’s left wing cross went in search of Briscoe who, dropping off the right wing was out jumped by the home keeper Nathan McDonald – McDonald’s throw out was won back by Lindon Meikle who was upended as he charged forward, unfortunately for the stags, they did nothing with the resulting free kick.
The hosts then created a few opportunities of their own, Nicky Simmons left wing cross was headed away by Martin Riley but pumped back in by Simmons, this time is was Futcher who stuck his neck out to nod away the danger for a corner, Braintree made nothing of it and it was left for the sides to battle it out for the ball once more. A few moments later, a long ball over the top nearly caught the stags off guard, Sean Marks dragged his shot wide of the target from the edge of the box.
Joe Kendrick then seemed to have a shaky five minutes, delivering a poor corner over on the far side after good work between O’Neill & Green, before being booked for a silly challenge on Andy Yiadom, Ben Futcher read the early free quick well and quickly re-established Mansfield’s possession of the ball.
Matt Green then went in search of his first goal of the season, earning a free kick around 30 yards out following neat work between Kendrick, Meikle and himself. He was the first to connect with Kendrick’s delivery too – heading wide. Minutes later Green was in the thick of it again, Lindon Meikle swapped wings with Briscoe and the former Eastwood man crossed deep from wide right, Briscoe kept the ball alive and put the ball back in, Green latching onto Howells header down, his final shot cannoning off a defender for a corner.
As the game edged closer towards the half way point, Mansfield edged closer to the lead – Louis Briscoe’s cross went in search of Ross Dyer, who jumped high enough to put McDonald off, with the ball loose Anthony Howell picked it up, coming inside to skipper Murray. Murray then sprayed a brilliant pass wide to Luke O’Neill, his cross was headed down by Dyer, Matt Green the recipient opted for a pass rather than a shot on the turn, both Briscoe and Murray failed to connect and the ball trickled away for a goal kick. McDonald’s long ball down field nearly caused Mansfield problems, Ben Wright repeating his strike partner’s feat, hammering wide leaving Marriott furious with his slow responding defence.
Mansfield ended the half on top, Joe Kendrick’s deep cross went in search of Dyer who could only head into the keepers arms as the half time whistle blew.
Half Time: Braintree 0-0 Stags
Mansfield started the second half in similar fashion to the way they ended the first, in the driving seat, Joe Kendrick’s chipped ball down field from the kick off found Dyer, the former Forest Green man headed onto Strike partner Matt Green who was unlucky not to force a corner, the home defence doing just enough to turn the ball away for a throw with 14seconds on the 2nd half clock.
About a minute later Mansfield found their finishing touch, Kendrick’s left sided throw in was again headed on by Dyer to Green, this time the Oxford loanee strolled past the home defence, firing towards goal left footed, Nathan McDonald blocked well with his legs but could do nothing about the follow up, Louis Briscoe first too it, slotting home powerfully from 10 yards to put Mansfield in front and grab his first goal of the league season with 46minutes of the game gone.
Braintree 0-1 Stags
Mansfield dealt well with the home side’s immediate effort to respond, Ben Futcher headed away Yiadom’s chipped cross, Anthony Howell first to the second ball but bundled over as he progressed forward. Moments later Mansfield put together an eye catching move, Joe Kendrick’s left sided throw found Green, who returned to Kendrick allowing the Irish full back to cross. Adam Murray picked up the second ball and stretched the home side with a good ball wide right to Lindon Meikle, who should have won a corner but didn’t account for the linesman’s blinkered eye-sight: goal kick given.
The stags kept in a 4-4-2 formation but instead of opting for a flat midfield, a diamond shape emerged, Briscoe slotted on the left wing, Meikle on the right whilst Howell & Skipper Murray took turns playing in front of the back four and just behind the strikers respectively. It’s this shape which saw Matt Green given space to run into, he did so latching onto a Murray pass, pulling the trigger from the edge of the box earning Mansfield a corner which Martin Riley headed just wide.
As we all know by now, nothings ever simple in the world of Mansfield Town, a Braintree corner proved to be the bubble buster, Alan Marriott came and didn’t quite get hold of the ball, with ball bouncing everywhere Sean Marks headed goal wards and was awarded the goal despite Mansfield’s best efforts to clear off the line.
Braintree 1-1 Stags
So we’ve had a Mansfield goal, we’ve had a Mansfield mistake – what next to complete the hat-trick, I know: A major incident. It came just past the hour mark as Luke O’Neill charged forward and received the ball back on the bye line from Meikle, Braintree’s Nicky Simmons won the ball in a tough tackle but followed through nastily, stamping on the back of the already grounded O’Neill’s head, Simmons really dug his boot in and will be enormously grateful the referee didn’t see the challenge – O’Neill was in some discomfort but was able to continue.       
If Simmons stay on the pitch wasn’t enough to annoy the stags, the decision not award Mansfield a penalty with 12 left probably was, Louis Briscoe the man upended in the box after he’d received Matt Green’s pass. A minute later, Joe Kendrick’s left footed clearance found its way to Ross Dyer, the ball eventually ran for Murray who headed down for Matt Green to striker, earning Mansfield a corner – this would prove to be Greens last action of the afternoon, replaced by Paul Connor who headed the resulting corner wide.
The stags pushed and survived a late Braintree scare, on reflection Mansfield probably did deserve a win but in the end, one mistake cost them and it was time to return to Field Mill with just a point in the bank – on the bright side, the point lifts the stags up & out of the bottom four.
Full Time: Braintree 1-1 Stags    
Having still not picked up three points, we head into the Luton game on Tuesday evening with perhaps the same comprehension that we did when we faced them in the FA Trophy semi final last season, we all know what happened there. Let’s hope for our first three points on Tuesday and to use it as a spring board to make our way towards the top spot – it’s still early doors with plenty of positives shining through, the negatives are of course still evident but they will fade.
Join me on Tuesday night from 7.30PM for regular updates on 106.9FM & online (see right hand side for link) as stags & Luton go toe to toe once again. Thanks for reading!
Match Photos: James Williamson 

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