‘Wrong Turnings’Football is compared to many things, a roller coaster, a love story, a horror show – just to name a few. Today football is a road is we look not just at one particular game, but the season as a whole. The football season is one big road trip (half of the time literally for Mansfield as we head to places such as Barrow & Wrexham), we’ve put the word ‘promotion’ into our metaphorical SatNav and whilst the modern piece of technology will bellow instructions at us like an over enthusiastic Sunday league manager, it’s actually down to the players to physically drive us in the right direction. There’s never a smooth road and as we’ve experienced in the past there are many stretches of footballing roads which are not just long – but rough. However once you’ve got up & running it’s down to you as to how long you stay on the smooth road & follow the directions for promotion city, the thing is if you take your eye off the ball, you’re likely to take a wrong turning and head straight back onto the rough route – which is exactly what happened yesterday as Kidderminster Harriers were the visitors to Field Mill.
Arriving at Field Mill it was refreshing to see the sunshine make an appearance, for a split second or so it seemed as if it were the start of the season again! Tuesday’s draw came on the back of 5 straight wins and I was a little worried that it may have knocked the confidence in the stands, however all seemed good and the smiles remained present – even more smiles were spread as long term injury victims Rhys Day & summer signing John Thompson both briefly graced the pitch for the warm up. I’m delighted to see them both back in some sort of action, especially Thompson after the whole Ilkeston incident.
Despite Tuesday evenings slight veering off onto the rocky road, we still had the smoothness underneath our feet, with the 1-1 draw stretching our unbeaten run to 9 games. With this in mind, Paul Cox again saw no reason to make changes to the starting line up, but did again make a tiny change to the bench switching Adam Smith for Paul Bolland again.
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 – Paul Bolland.
The visitors to Field Mill included to familiar faces, fans favourite defender Luke Jones & former 12TH Stag signing Luke Medley, who departed Field Mill at the end of last season. The latter was reintroduced to the harriers’ line up to face his former club after his new employees we’re beaten 5-2 at Fleetwood midweek. Eager to say sorry to their fans, it was the visitors who started the game the brighter of the two sides, Lee Vaughn’s right sided throw found its way to Jamille Matt who was beaten to the ball by Ritchie Sutton, however the former Port Vale defender’s challenge saw the ball run back to Vaughn who skipped forward before firing narrowly over Alan Marriott’s bar with less than a minute played. At the other end a minute later, Mansfield looked to rekindle their knack for scoring early, Louis Briscoe fed Luke O’Neill who sent a deep cross into the box which unfortunately sailed harmlessly away for a Kidderminster throw as the on rushing Lindon Meikle missed timed his run.Mansfield had another chance to progress forward but again saw their early effort snuffed out by a tight Kidderminster defence, Adam Murray picked the ball up in the centre before switching wide right for Briscoe & O’Neill to combine, O’Neill was forced to move inside finding Anthony Howell with a short pass before the former Alfreton midfielder completed the move by sending Lindon Meikle on his way wide left. Meikle ran into trouble and Lee Vaughn was able to clear despite Matt Green’s best efforts to close the ball down.
The hosts then began to stumble as a lively Kidderminster began to attack, the visitors making the most of Mansfield’s stumble by grabbing a 5th minute lead. Callum Gittings worked a short corner with Lee Vaughn, with the latter sending in a neat cross which caught the stags’ off guard, Kyle Storer rose high at the far post to head past Marriott.Stags 0-1 Kidderminster
Pretty much straight from the restart Mansfield were dealt another hammer blow, still reeling from the opening goal Mansfield failed to close play down and were again on the back foot, allowing Gittings an unreal amount of space to attack, when Mansfield eventually chose to close down, Gittings slid a neat ball through to Nick Wright who made no mistake in staying onside to tuck the ball beyond Marriott to make it 2-0 with just 7minutes on the clock.
Stags 0-2 KidderminsterIn the space of two minutes the stags had gone from a sturdy unit to a real life example of the game Jenga, the two goals had pulled the sturdy pieces from the stags’ structure and Mansfield were beginning to fall. What the stags needed was a goal to re-address the games balance, Joe Kendrick’s free kick following a foul on Ben Futcher on the half way line looked to provide it, and too the stags credit they fought to keep the ball alive following Futcher’s wayward attacking header with Anthony Howell scooping the ball wide to Briscoe who sent in a left footed cross, Futcher was the target once more and connected slightly better, nodding just wide of the target.
Kidderminster took the half chance and converted it to fuel as they regained control of the ball and the game, Mansfield looked sleepy and lacked responsiveness, something an old stag pairing looked to take full advantage of as Luke Jones delivered a directional ball wide for Luke Medley, the pacey front man who enjoyed an average time at Field Mill cut past Joe Kendrick and let fly left footed, however Alan Marriott got down low to keep out Medley’s effort. Kidderminster continued to attack and freely open up the stags, Ben Futcher managed to get a foot in as Kyle Storer pushed forward, Lindon Meikle picked up the second ball and began a surge left, not getting far though as Lee Vaughn easily took back the ball, cutting inside on a 8 yard run before firing wide from the edge of the box.Field Mill was yet to see a penalty awarded so far this season, the wait was over on 23 minutes but to the stags disappointment it was the visitors who were awarded the spot kick, Mansfield with no compliments either as they forgot the basics, Mark Williams receiving a Storer pass before ‘kissing the grass’ as Lindon Meikle upended the visiting captain. Lee Vaughn stepped up to face Marriott, with surprisingly no argument from Luke Medley – there’s a first! Joking aside, Vaughn sent Marriott the wrong way to add Kidderminster’s 3rd of the afternoon.
Stags 0-3 KidderminsterBriscoe & Meikle swapped wings in an attempt to restore the deficit, Dyer fed Briscoe wide left, his cross causing Daniel Lewis problems with the kiddie shot stopper forced to palm away for a corner, which, to comply with the story of the day, the stags’ wasted.
Kidderminster then broke again with Gittings & Matt combining, Vaughn then joined in skipping past Briscoe and sending in a testing ball which the stags somehow cleared. Mansfield looked to counter with Murray acting as play maker, the stags skipper left fuming as Meikle failed to make the run, the duo still locked in argument as Kidderminster attacked again. Something needed to change as Stags’ were going downhill fast, Paul Cox shook the pack by introducing Jon Worthington & Paul Bolland (marking his home debut) for Anthony Howell & Lindon Meikle respectively. The changes saw the stag’s toy with varied formations, a 4-4-1-1 with Dyer on the right, Briscoe on the left & Murray behind lone striker Green, a 4-3-3 was also on show at times (very rarely) as Dyer, Briscoe & Green formed a front 3.Mansfield perked up a little following the changes, with Bolland eager to show the home faithful what he could do since arriving from the other MTFC in the summer, both he & Worthington put in vital blocks to stop the Kidderminster attacks, it’s probably down to those two plus Murray and maybe Futcher & Sutton, that the score remained 3-0 at the break, at the other end the stags still lacked creativity and Luke Jones mopped everything up with relative ease. As the 4th official held up the board for additional time, Doris the tea lady quickly replaced the expensive bone china cups with pound shop plastic ones as Paul Cox & Mickey Moore’s notebook was also replaced with an old school jotter – in short, there was work to do in the second half and the stags’ management would make sure the boys new it.
Half Time: Stags 0-3 KidderminsterTwo minutes after the restart Mansfield were left reeling, a much brighter start saw the stags attack with fire in their bellies, Ross Dyer headed down a long ball for Green who chipped a returned ball for Dyer to smash on the volley towards goal, Dyer’s shot was pushed onto the bar by Lewis and bounced on the line, stags thought they’d done enough to see it given as a goal but the linesman said no and as play went on, the stags fire was blasted with one powerful hose as Kidderminster sprung into action themselves, Callum Gittings smashing a ferocious shot against Marriott’s bar before teeing up Jack Byrne who fired over.
Mansfield had their chances but were denied by Daniel Lewis, Louis Briscoe did well to cut in from the left hand side and set up Green who struck in hope of a 6th goal in 5 games – the Oxford loanee was denied by Lewis who parried as far as Murray who somehow saw the ball taken from him.Mansfield had upped a gear but with no end product, something they were nearly made to pay for with the hour mark approaching, Joe Kendrick was judged to have fouled Gittings on the edge of the box, Kyle Storer hitting the resulting set piece just over.
Things got worse for the stags with 68minutes on the clock as frustration began to set in, Mike Williams cross field free kick was headed away by Briscoe, however both he and Lee Vaughn challenged for the second ball with studs showing, Briscoe winning nothing but a straight red card as Vaughn remained grounded.Strangely Mansfield again perked up and despite losing a key player created a brief period of play which saw the stags pen the Harriers in. Matt Green chipped the ball wide for Luke O’Neill, the youngster delivered a testing cross which was met by Green’s boot, Daniel Lewis got down well to keep the ball out but failed to hold onto the ball, Paul Bolland raced in and smashed goal wards, denied only by some brave goal line defending by former Stag Luke Jones. Moments later Green was creator again, dropping deep to hold up play before feeding the on rushing Joe Kendrick into the box, the Irish full back struck wide under pressure. Kendrick continued to press forward covering the gap left by Briscoe’s dismissal, Kendrick this time opted for a pass as Vaughn closed him down, Adam Murray let fly after trotting into the box, Ross Dyer somehow saw his follow up turned round the post for a corner, which stags failed to take advantage off.
Kidderminster to their credit were unbreakable at the back and Mansfield soon became tired and frustrated as Kidderminster searched for a 4th, it nearly came with 5 minutes left, substitute Mickey Demetriou receiving Marc Williams pass after Marriott was drawn off his line, Demetriou fired straight at Luke O’Neill who tracked back well to make the goal line clearance as stags became stretched to the point of snapping.The clock ran down and despite a slight second half improvement, the stags were just not up to standard and in all honesty, were awful in the opening stages. To Paul Cox’s own admission after the game, the boys got the basics wrong and took long between thinking about doing something rather than actually doing it. There are no excuses to yesterday’s performance and I’m not even going to even bother trying to make any. From start to finish Kidderminster Harriers were much the better side, more focussed, more able and more skilful – If you don’t focus from the start, be prepared to be punished. I am confident the boys can bounce back on Tuesday as we travel abroad to take on Wrexham!
Full Time: Stags 0-3 KidderminsterSo now following that defeat we find ourselves back on that rocky road, we must learn from our previous failings now and remember one simple fact of footballing life. The game throws up difficulties like yesterday at the most unexpected time, it’s how you deal with these difficulties which will tell you if you’re a winner or not. There’s no room for the middle ground of inconsistency here either, find your path and stick to it. It may still be early in the season but games are coming thick and fast, the tables taking shape so you either work hard to achieve your goal of promotion and the promise land beyond, or you keep on falling - being contempt with outside hope like we have been in previous years will get us nowhere. Fact. Let’s be prepared to take the knocks when they come because they will, but one game doesn’t make a season so heads up, and keep that dream alive. In the dressing room we have inner quality matched with ability, it didn’t show yesterday but it will in the future – and that’s Tuesday! This is still our season, be sure to join myself & Scott on Tuesday night from 7.30PM for full match commentary & build up as the stags respond in the best way possible – beating the league leaders Wrexham.
Thanks for reading – Keep the faith.Match Photos: James Williamson