Blue Square Bet Premier Game #10 Mansfield Town Vs AFC Telford United – Field Mill, 20/09/11 7.45PM
As kick off approached at Field Mill last night, the first ever league meeting between Mansfield & AFC Telford United looked set to played underneath a picturesque red sky. I wondered whether the old proverb ‘Red Sky at night, Sheppard’s delight’ would undergo a footballing translation & turn out to be ‘Red Sky at night, supper stags’ delight’ – however as the players walked out of the tunnel onto the field mill pitch, the red sky disappeared and the pretty picture beyond turned to a dull and shivering darkness, the only light around being provided by the Field Mill floodlights, I wondered then what the evening would bring for Mansfield Town FC. We’ve had cloud 9, we’ve had grit & determination – what came next in the sequence of football emotions? ... As it turned out – Frustration.
Frustration was not only the feeling felt by every Mansfield player & supporter at the full time whistle, but the feeling felt by an ill me as the AFC Telford players took off their bright yellow jackets to reveal white shirts but white numbering on the back, figuring out which Telford player was which was more difficult than pre-season when sides either wore the wrong number or not number at all! The visitors, like Mansfield came into the game on the back of a victory at the weekend however whilst the newly promoted visitors were perhaps happy with their mid-table spot, the stags were eying up top spot, depending on the results of the three sides above us. Mansfield were also chasing an 8th game unbeaten and a 6th consecutive victory, Paul Cox again stuck with the ‘If it isn’t broke’ theory and named an unchanged starting 11, but reintroducing Adam Smith to the bench in place of Paul Bolland.
Luke O’Neill – Ben Futcher – Ritchie Sutton – Joe Kendrick
Louis Briscoe – Adam Murray (C) – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle
Matt Green – Ross Dyer
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Tom Naylor – Jon Worthington – Paul Connor – Adam Smith.
So far this season Mansfield have struck earlier with the exception of Gateshead & Braintree away, add into the mixing bowl the fact AFC Telford tend to concede early too and you’d be quite surprised to hear that the start to last night’s game was a rather dull one. AFC Telford, promoted from the BSBN via the playoffs last season, played a tight back four and the stags struggled to get into their stride, in fact it took around 8 minutes before Paul Cox’s men had a real chance worth noting. Lindon Meikle picked the ball up inside the centre circle before pushing the play wide to Joe Kendrick, the Irish left back progressed forwards before being put under pressure & releasing skipper Murray in the centre. Murray’s left footed pass found Green, who eventually provided a cross in search of Briscoe after linking up with Dyer & Meikle, unfortunately for stags, Briscoe couldn’t keep the ball alive and Mansfield handed possession back to the visitor’s curtsey of a throw in.
With 10minutes on the clock the partnership of Murray & Green shone once more, Murray picking up the ball after an AFC Telford move and, after cleverly spotting the run of Green, chipped the ball into space just to the left of the box. Green did the rest, cutting inside and firing a shot at the keeper which, again to Mansfield’s disappointment, he hung into. A minute later Murray was taking centre stage again, this time feeding Lindon Meikle left, the lively wing man, who scored his first stags goal at Barrow on Saturday, opted to go alone despite support from Dyer, Green & the over lapping Kendrick. Meikle drove into space central before finally feeding Dyer, who under pressure flicked the ball to Briscoe who opted for a right footed drive from 40 yards out which landed well over Ryan Young’s cross bar.
In a fairly balanced opening 15minutes or so, the visitors had chances too, perhaps wasting the most valuable one dead on the 15minute mark, Ben Futcher was judged to have fouled the on rushing Phil Trainer right in the edge of the box, Jon Adams struck the resulting free kick miles over. 5 Minutes later from another AFC Telford attack, Mansfield countered, Joe Kendrick worked the ball forward and after getting the ball back via a kind deflection delivered a fine cross park ball for Briscoe, the flying wing mans touch was good and he beat his man with ease, however the ball was too pacey and despite Briscoe’s efforts, trickled harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Mansfield’s frustration grew on the 26 minute mark as they saw claims for a penalty waved away, Lindon Meikle started the move on the edge of his own penalty box, chesting down the loose ball before feeding Dyer just over the half way line with a neat pass, Dyer raced free and found himself inside the box about to pull the trigger with his left foot when he was pulled down by the back tracking AFC Telford defender Dan Preston.
Mansfield then seemed determined to break the deadlock despite the visitors clam passing along their back line and their seemingly watertight midfield, Adam Murray’s cross park pass found Briscoe, him & O’Neill worked a neat 1-2 before O’Neill drilled in a low cross, with 3 bodies in the box, AFC Telford somehow scrambled clear. Mansfield again troubled with 6minutes of the half left, Meikle’s low cross was a little too heavy for Green to get a shot away, but the Oxford loan man let the ball run across his body before chipping the ball back into the box, Ross Dyer met it at the back stick and somehow, headed wide.
Mansfield continued to put AFC Telford under pressure and the visiting keeper had a heart in mouth moment late on, but to tie along with the story of the first half, stags couldn’t capitalize and the half soon fizzled out ending goalless.
Half Time: Stags 1-1 AFC Telford
The second half saw a fairly similar start to the first with neither side really stretching the other, It took 4 minutes of second half action before the first chance came along, a long ball over the top found Matt Green’s run & after combining with Dyer, Green found himself wide, cutting in onto his left foot and firing towards the bottom corner, the keeper getting down low to keep Green’s effort out.
Mansfield then had Marriott to thank moments later; Ben Futcher’s headed clearance held up in the air, Andy Brown connected around 12 yards out and Marriott was forced to dive to his left to parry Brown’s effort away for a corner, the right footed inswinger was eventually cleared by skipper Murray despite heavy AFC Telford pressure.
A number of half chances passed for both sides, more for Mansfield though Ross Dyer missing from close range & Joe Kendrick delivering a few testing balls in, but with both sides going nowhere Paul Cox threw on Adam Smith for Lindon Meikle as Mansfield looked to take the lead. Louis Briscoe nearly broke the dead lock on 68minutes, after linking up with Green, Briscoe struck on the half volley, with his shop dipping in, Ryan Young produced a fine back peddling shot to deny last season’s leading scorer. Young was at full stretch two minutes later, this time palming away Adam Smith’s effort after the lively winger cut past two players and struck left footed.
Mansfield seemed unable to score despite threatening, so it seemed only fitting that the man whose boots have been on fire so far, to restore the faith, a long ball over the top was flicked on by Ross Dyer and Matt Green latched onto it, showing a burst of past to find himself central on the edge of the box, tucking the ball underneath the on rushing keeper to net his 7th of the season, break the deadlock and put Mansfield Town top of the BSBP.
Stags 1-0 AFC Telford
Mansfield had a tough task on their hands trying to keep the lead, Marriott had to be alert to a driven free kick before Kendrick & O’Neill stood strong to deny the visitors a way through, the only way back into the game as the clock ran down for AFC Telford was a mistake, and unfortunately for the stags – they made one 5 minutes from time. Mansfield looked to be moving up park, but Anthony Howell didn’t get enough pace on the ball as he looked to return Murray who’d spotted Smith’s left sided run, Richard Davies snuck into take the loose ball and played Chris Sharp clean through, Sharp made no mistake and slotted past Marriott to level the game, knocking Mansfield from the top spot down to 5th in the process.
Stags 1-1 AFC Telford
Louis Briscoe desperately tried to restore the lead with a series of very late shots & crosses, but time was against Mansfield and in the end, the winning sequence came to an end as the full time whistle blew – but on the Brightside, the draw still see’s Mansfield maintain their unbeaten home record and extend their unbeaten run to 8 games.
Full Time: Stags 1-1 AFC Telford.Match Photos: James Williamson