‘A question of right & wrong’
Usually after a game, I find myself writing about the performance and the end result, however on this Thursday afternoon, I find myself writing about an ugly side to the beautiful game – injury’s, the incidents that surround them, and trying to figure out if the events of last night were right or wrong.
(Left) John Thompson left in a bloody mess, revealed via Alan Marriott’s twitter (Right) Martin Riley reveals his stitches via his own twitter
If you proceed to substitute Rickets and obviously Thompson to allow the game to continue you will get 22 players all wanting revenge and wanting to win the war after the battle from the original incident, the emotions will have been running high and on a warm evening this is something you do not need or want to see, it would be a matter of time before the time bomb exploded and another incident, possibly more serious, would have taken place. By withdrawing the players from the pitch, Paul Cox did the RIGHT thing – protecting his players from the possibilities of further injury and from committing any fouls themselves – therefore becoming as bad as the other side.
Add into the mix the friendly was Mansfield’s penultimate one before the season’s opener and that all 3 players injured were defenders, the choice to walk of an abandon the game is once again justified. If you take out the three injured players Sutton, Riley & Thompson your left with just ONE out & out centre half in Tom Naylor. Whilst Matt Bell can play centre half too, it would have been silly to throw Bell on and again risk injury (not just from the ‘revenge missions’ but from natural causes too), he is also naturally a left back and in honesty, didn’t look comfortable at centre back against Nuneaton a few weeks ago. This then becomes a task of not only managing the current situation of the games aggression levels, but also a task of ability – do you give bell a shot, do you give trailist Nick Wood a short term contract or do you look for a short term loanee as we wait for Rhys Day to become fully fit. All this would have been going around Paul Cox’s head last night, on reflection I feel he made the correct choice to lead his players off the pitch – the jeers of ‘Coward’ etc from opposition fans (& possibly management!) are petty, I think it took more bravery to take the players off, than to throw them back on and let the football do the talking.
Paul Cox will be judged on the decisions he makes throughout the season, I think the one he made last night goes someway to proving that the future decisions he does make, will be the right ones.
As the whole injury and ‘Ilkeston-Gate’ saga continues, it’s easy to forget the game as a whole; Mansfield departed the pitch with a 4-2 lead, despite the goals conceded being very suspect (again!) the stags, for the 3rd game running had no trouble finding the net on numerous occasions.
Mansfield took to the field last night once again in their home kit, the team sheet a handwritten photocopy was fooled by the stags wearing their squad numbers for the forthcoming season. Line up as follows [Shirt numbers worn on the night in brackets, bar for trialist Nick Wood, whose number wasn’t on the team sheet and I couldn’t see!]
 Shane Redmond
 Ritchie Sutton –  John Thompson –  Martin Riley –  Joe Kendrick
 Louis Briscoe –  Adam Murray (C) –  Lee Stevenson –  Nick Hegarty (Trialist)
 Paul Connor –  Matt Green
SUBS:  Alan Marriott,  Lindon Meikle,  Jon Worthington,  Adam Smith,  Andy Todd,  Anthony Howell,  Ross Dyer,  Luke O’Neill,  Matt Bell, Nick Wood (Trialist)
Mansfield started brightly at Boston on Saturday afternoon, Adam Murray opening the scoring after just a minute, it was fairly similar last night, 30 seconds in John Thompson’s long ball over the top was headed on by Matt Green, former Grimsby, York & St Mirren man Nick Hegarty found his way into the area and shot wide, however the latest stags trailist was flagged offside.
A minute later, Joe Kendrick made a good run advancing down the left wing before putting a cross into the box, Paul Connor headed wide of the target.
With four minutes on the clock, Mansfield were in front. Lee Stevenson did well in the centre circle to win the ball back, sweeping a nice pass wide left for Trialist Hegarty, the former Grimsby man’s cross found Matt Green inside the area, the Oxford loanee rose highest to head past Aaron Butcher in the Ilkeston goal from close range. Some reports suggest it was a Josh Hill own goal, others (including those behind the goal) say Green got the final touch – my view was blocked by the TV gantry so I missed who got the final touch, I’ll go with the official websites report and say Matt Green got the final touch, either way, stags were in front.
Ilkeston 0-1 Stags
The lead lasted all of 3 minutes as Ilkeston punished Mansfield on the counter attack, Joe Kendrick’s left footed out swinging corner was cleared, Adam Murray attempted to volley the ball back into the area but missed the ball completely. The loose ball ran free to Daryl Thomas who pushed the ball inside onto Karl Dinedth who slotted past the one rushing Shane Redmond to level the game. Adam Murray will be disappointed in the part he played in the Ilkeston leveller, he had time to take a touch and bring the ball forward – a rare mistake by the otherwise impressive stags skipper, better to get it out the system now than in a few weeks time.
Ilkeston 1-1 Stags
The home side, who drew 1-1 with Alfreton a few weeks previous, looked to get in front, Joe Wilcoxs’ deep cross was headed well over by Gary Rickets.
It was just the wakeup call stags needed as Paul Cox’s men rallied and regained the lead with 15minutes gone, Nick Hegarty combined well with Kendrick who chipped a decent ball down the left channel, Lee Stevenson was first to it and soon burst into the box, his cross-come-shot was tapped in by Matt Green.
Ilkeston 1-2 Stags
A strong challenge on Ritchie Sutton from Gary Rickets saw Sutton receive treatment but carry on for a little while, he was on the pitch to see Louis Briscoe first test the keepers hands, the nearly burst the back of the net.
Lee Stevenson and Matt Green combined well on the edge of the box, the oxford loanee laid off Briscoe who cut inside and curled a powerful shot from 18 yards straight into the grateful hands of the keeper, however with 24 on the clock Briscoe gave the keeper no chance as he further extended the stags lead.
John Thompsons long ball was met by the on rushing Kendrick, his ball into the area was intended for Paul Connor but the stags front man was a fraction to late, the ball had already ran for Briscoe who, dropping off from the flank, cut inside and powered a shot right into the top corner, grabbing his 4th goal in as many games.
Ilkeston 1-3 Stags
Another clash between Sutton & Rickets saw the stags right back replaced by Luke O’Neill, Sutton headed straight for the dressing room in some discomfort and later made his way to A&E.
Mansfield regained composure and pushed for a 4th Martin Riley powered a left footed blast over from 6 yards following a Joe Kendrick corner, shortly before Kendrick pinged in a cross which Lee Stevenson headed thunderously against the cross bar.
A lapse in concentration on 42 saw the home side get a goal back, James Burgin played Ryan Wilson wide left, Wilson crossing in for Gary Rickets who powerfully headed past Shane Redmond.
Ilkeston 2-3 Stags
Right on the stroke of half time, Mansfield had a perfect chance to restore their 4 goal cushion, Matt Green crashed a shot towards goal, it hit the bar but struck a hand on its way, the referee pointing to the spot after Briscoe’s appeal. Briscoe placed the ball on the spot and struck powerfully, centrally into the roof of the net, grabbing his second of the evening and his third successful penalty conversion in as many games.
Ilkeston 2-4 Stags
There was barley time for the home side to restart play before the referee called an end on a goal packed first half, the stags heading into the dressing room in front once again.
Half Time: Ilkeston 2-4 Stags
A drab start to the second half wasn’t helped by the offside flag, Paul Connor & Matt Green both flagged off side in the early stages. With 50 on the clock, Gary Rickets was again at the centre of the controversy, leading with an elbow against Martin Riley who was promptly replaced by trialist Nick Wood, Riley followed in the footsteps of Ritchie Sutton, heading to A&E later receiving several stitches, keeping fans up to date with the latest goings on from kings mill via twitter.
Chances seemed nonexistent as the game moved onto the hour mark, a change in personnel soon created a rare sight of goal. Ross Dyer & Anthony Howell came onto replace Paul Connor & Matt Green on the hour mark, minutes later Skipper Murray was replaced by Jon Worthington who took over the captaincy.
The fresh changes saw Mansfield create a goal mouth scramble, Ross Dyer pushing the ball wide to Hegarty, crossing in from the left in search of Anthony Howell, Louis Briscoe crossed in from the opposite side when the ball didn’t fall for Howell, Briscoe’s cross headed away only as far as Worthington. The ex-Bradford man pushed the ball wide to Hegarty who again crossed in, Joe Kendrick kept the ball alive at the near post and chipped back in, Ross Dyer ended the move by hitting the ball into the side netting.
It was all change on the wings as Briscoe & Hegarty departed, Adam Smith & Andy Todd came on but saw all of 2minutes of action before the Thompson incident, A quick recap reminds us that Gary Rickets shoved Thompson off towards the pitch side hoardings, with the stags star smashing his nose and suffering other facial injury’s – leaving a pool of blood imbedded in the New Manor pitch as a reminder of the evenings final action. The clocks of the media kept running until the 73rd minute when Paul Cox lead Mansfield off, however the paused time on the referees watch (the time of the initial incident), see’s the games official abandonment time set as the 68th minute.
68 Minutes: Game abandoned due to player safety: Ilkeston 2-4 Mansfield
This of course leads us back to the top of the piece and the questions of right & wrong – I firmly believe (both as a Mansfield fan and a journalist) that the right action was taken by Paul Cox to take Mansfield Town off the field. Sometimes in football you get players who put themselves about and make the game physical, but the actions of Gary Rickets were inexcusable, I hope Ilkeston FC come up with an appropriate punishment following his suspension earlier today.
I wish Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley and John Thompson a speedy recovery, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 24 hours regarding medical assessments and transfer activity should we require another defender.
This game will be remembered for a while for all the wrong reasons, I urge everyone to let the respective actions be taken against Gary Rickets and back our players to a speedy recovery, this will be a test of our squads mental state for sure – a boost from the supporters will help to the squad to battle on and start the season with a positive mentality.
MTFC: Together as one.
Don’t forget to join me for full match commentary on Saturday afternoon from 2PM as the stags play their final pre-season friendly against Chasetown, listen on 106.9FM or online using the link on the right hand side.
Thanks for reading.
The views expressed in this blog are that of Craig Priest and not those of Takeover Radio 106.9FM