Blue Square Bet Premier Game #4 Mansfield Vs Luton – Field Mill, Tuesday 23rd August 2011 7.45PM
‘Waiting for the rub of the Green’
Three games into our fourth year in the ugly, yet strangely beautiful depth of the blue square bet premier – fans already find themselves pulling their hair our, tearing up betting slips and desperately searching for the receipt for the season ticket & replica shirts: all because, I think, our pre-season dominance has not followed us into the season we’re the points & goals count.
I’m the type of person that searches for a good story about an underdog who goes onto achieve great success. I was told once about a boy in his final year at school, each year he’d been bullied and shown very little respect. His dream was to be an Olympic sprinter, yet his class mates & teachers wrote him off. Every year he headed into the school sports days final cross country race wanting to win, but every year, as the starting pistol sounded he was unwittingly tripped over as he ran. The previous year he’d been tripped again and came so close to finishing 1st, but on the final straight, just out of sight from the teachers – the schools ‘king dick’ ran past and shoved him into the hedges grabbing all the glory. This year, the boy had trained hard & well, but could do nothing to prevent being tripped again – on a rainy day, the boy was face first in a mass puddle of mud thinking ‘why do I even bother’. Something inside the nice, silent boy snapped and as he rose from the mud, tightened his laces and began making up ground on those in front who jogged on half heartedly laughing. The boy caught up and powered through the crowd, jumping the trailing legs waiting to trip him, fending off the hands pulling at his shirt in a vain attempt to stop him. The boy reached the point he’d been pushed into the hedges the previous year and again found ‘King Dick’ waiting, the boy was pushed again but showed strength even he didn’t know he possessed to out swivel the ‘King Dick’ sending him flying into the hedges instead. The boy made the final sprint up the hill and burst over the finishing line in record time – 3 times the boy had started strong but had failed to finish, but at the fourth attempt, a slow a sluggish start saw the boy triumph over the negatives and become a champion at last. I remembered this story last night as I overheard people writing off the stags chances, I again felt that Mansfield could follow the boys example, pick themselves up from the mud, fight their way back into the race for the top spot, and cross that line first.
Last night’s visitors to Field Mill we’re our FA Trophy semi-final opponents Luton, still reeling from that trophy defeat followed by the killer blow we’ve suffered ourselves, losing a play off final on penalties. Paul Cox opted for the same side which drew with Braintree on Saturday afternoon.
Luke O’Neill – Ben Futcher – Martin Riley – Joe Kendrick
Louis Briscoe – Adam Murray (C) – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle
Matt Green – Ross Dyer
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Lee Stevenson – Jon Worthington – Paul Connor – Nick Wood.
The opening exchanges were a little timid between both sides who looked to find there range, Ben Futcher’s ball over to the left side in search of Meikle was picked up by the visitors who in turn, couldn’t find a way through as the ball drifted out for a throw in.
With the game just two minutes old, Mansfield had Luton stretched as the stags looked for an early lead. Lindon Meikle controlled well in the centre circle and pushed the ball onto Matt Green just to the left of the box, Green found Kendrick who put in a low cross first time, the ball bobbled up and was headed on by Meikle, Luton managed to scramble clear but the stags picked up the second ball with Matt Green, Green then found Briscoe who played a neat 1-2 with Lindon Meikle before firing goal wards, drawing a top save from Mark Tyler. The resulting corner was met by Martin Riley, whose marker Dean Beckwith headed behind for a second corner, this one an out swinger by Kendrick which was headed away - Adam Murray mopped up the loose ball just shy of the halfway line as the stags built again.
The stags looked really up for the game and were eager to get a goal to help them on the way to the first 3 points of the season, the stags applied pressure well and forced Luton into putting the ball out for throw ins. With 10 minutes on the clock it was Mansfield’s dominance that created a chance for both sides as the game took an end to end turn. Ross Dyer headed down the ball finding strike partner Green who in turn pushed back to Meikle inside the centre circle as the stags looked to stretch the game, Adam Murray then took over and spread a pass into space with the outside of his boot to Matt Green, Green failed to break past his marker this time but again it was Mansfield first to the loose ball, Adam Murray shielding it well under pressure before sending Louis Briscoe on his way, Briscoe’s back heel inside the box failed to find Green and Luton countered, former Stag Aaron O’Connor broke down the right wing, cutting inside past Martin Riley before firing at Alan Marriott’s goal – Adam Murray got a vital block in diverting the ball away for a corner which Martin Riley headed powerfully away.
Moments later Alan Marriott was at full stretch to keep Luton’s Amari Morgan-Smith at bay after he cut in from the left wing in a rare Luton sight at goal bar a few long range tame efforts as they searched for an opener. On 17 minutes, the stags should have been ahead. Joe Kendrick’s left sides throw found Matt Green, who showed good power to feed Ross Dyer on the penalty spot, Dyer turned well and spotted Briscoe who burst past Beckwith before dragging a shot just wide of the bottom corner.
9 minutes later, it was a similar sequence combined with an outstanding finish which put the stags ahead – Kendrick’s throw this time found Meikle who, from the by-line cut past Curtis Osano before picking out Matt Green on the edge of the box, Green open his body and set himself up, shooting powerfully into the top corner leaving Mark Tyler no chance, springing the stags fans to their feet – an outstanding effort to officially open his account for the season.
Stags 1-0 Luton
Mansfield have failed to double their lead so far this season, however they were keen to put this right with some stylish movement and powerful play. Adam Murray’s chipped ball forward from the edge of the centre circle was headed on by Dyer and hoofed clear by Will Antwi, Murray, who signed from Luton last season, was first to it once again and picked out a hungry Briscoe with a neat ball, Briscoe’s delivery didn’t really do enough to test Luton, dealing with it well as Dyer, Green & Meikle looked to pounce.
As the half drew to a close, Joe Kendrick delivered a number of testing set pieces all to no avail, Louis Briscoe tested the water from distance whilst Lindon Meikle showed pace and power to create a few gaps for Green to look to slot into, at the other end, Martin Riley and Bury loanee Ben Futcher we’re rarely troubled and communicated well with Marriott, O’Neill & Kendrick to keep a Farley solid back line, heading into the half time break with the sheet still clean.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-0 Luton
Mansfield looked to start the second half much as they ended the first, on top. Just 19 seconds in, Joe Kendrick’s left sided quick throw found Lindon Meikle who was brought down for a stags free kick. Kendrick delivered a testing ball which Matt Green was a hairs width from connecting with, the quick ball whizzing across Mark Tyler’s goal.
The stags still pressured but we’re forced to opt for distance shots for a short spell, Matt Green latched onto Murrays central pass after Dyers neat control in the centre circle, Green’s powerful effort from 30 yards was dipping but was deflected away, Luton kept the ball in play and searched for an opening, but were forced to put the ball out for a stags throw as good pressure from the home side gave the visitors very little space to attack.
Mansfield kept pilling on the pressure and looked to find a way through, a series of crosses easily found their way into the hands of Mark Tyler as the veteran shot stopper easily read the ideas from O’Neill & Kendrick. At the other end Alan Marriott showed he was equally alert, Adam Watkins drove forward on the counter attack and powered a left footed effort towards the top corner, Marriott sprung well to tip the dipping ball over the bar.
Luton have come from behind in their past two games and did it again with 78 minutes gone, making Mansfield curse there missed chances – Joe Kendrick’s saw Luton get a free kick, whipped in by Jake Howells met by Will Antwi who somehow out jumped Ben Futcher around 8 yards from goal to nod past Alan Marriott who was well beaten.
Stags 1-1 Luton
Mansfield needed a response in front of their home crowd, Matt Green looked to give it them 2 minutes from the restart, powering forward and letting fly from distance, the ferocious shot just over the bar. Tyler’s goal kick was headed away by Riley and Mansfield we’re on the charge again, Anthony Howell popped in a contribution threading Lindon Meikle into the box, Meikle was bundled over by Osano but Mansfield we’re denied a spot kick.
Late on, Joe Kendrick curled a free kick over the wall & into the keepers hands after Luke O’Neill took a tumble, O’Neill then delivered a testing cross deep into injury time gifting the stags a late corner, Kendrick’s left footed out swinger was agonisingly headed wide by the towering Ben Futcher – the stags just didn’t get the rub of the green with a series of chances and despite dominating the game 80:20 had to settle for a point.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-1 Luton.
A million and one positives flooded out of the stags performance last night, if we continue to play with that pace and that evident style of creativity and determination, some teams will leave Field Mill crying wondering what the hell hit them. All we have to do is stop giving away set pieces and just tighten the defence from said set pieces, yes our face has been in the mud these opening few games, but after last night I feel we’re back on our feet – ready to charge down the enemy and claim that winners slot.
On a side note, Takeover Radio 106.9FM were unable to bring you any coverage last night, this is due to a staffing issue ahead of this week’s world record attempt and issues with station funding – these issues have now been resolved and everything will continue as normal on Saturday – check www.facebook.com/mtfcmatters for more later in the week. On a personal note, thank you for all the kind messages of support, nobody was more gutted than me yesterday when we had to pull the show – I hate letting people down. To compensate for the lack of coverage, a full recording of the game was made, you can download this until August 31st The usual podcast will also be available forever along with all the podcasts from EVERY game!
I was down last night following the shows withdrawal, as ever my Mansfield mended by broken heart – it wasn’t three points, I’ll give you that but boy – it was close and the points are just around the corner. Thanks for reading.
Match Photos: Dan Westwell & James Williamson
Full Match Podcast (Online until 31/8/11)
MTFC MATTERS PODCAST #4