‘Dragon Slaying'There are many quotations in the world which people live by & believe in, I myself have many and would find it completely impossible to choose just one, mainly because they all contradict themselves depending on what mood you’re in and how you’re seeing the world, anyway that’s another story my point is that one quote is currently shining through in relation to our beloved Mansfield Town at the moment. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall” We have fallen so far over the past 6 years or so, going from robbed play off finalists to a mid table conference outfit, however after adding last nights to the list of performances I’ve seen so far, I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that at last – our Mansfield Town are starting to rise, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a past life.
After Saturday’s showing against Kidderminster it would have been easy to lose all the hope we’ve built up, not because we don’t believe in our boys but because in previous seasons we’ve been hurt so much the change of mood & expectation after 1 bad result comes as a natural feeling, so as I headed to Wrexham I was surprised to find myself strangely full of hope & optimism, confident that Mansfield could get a response. Confident too, that the result against Kidderminster would prove to be a mere smudge on our beautiful promotion portrait’s canvas.
After raiding Sandbach service station of McVities muffins (the lucky Galaxy & Jaffa Cake for me, encase you were wondering) we continued to follow the road out of England into Wales & soon arrived at our destination. In the car park as we chatted to waste time, Scott spat out his chewing gum and, preparing for today’s youth team game, kicked it into the bushes only to see his trainer fly off at the same time, it’s a good job there was no local walking past as none of us knew the welsh for ‘HEADS!’ Scott’s comedic antics continued throughout the evening, poorly impersonating the local accent and as kick off approached, asked me in all seriousness if the teams would perform the national anthem before the game got underway. As if Scott’s shoe kicking, nation anthem craving company wasn’t enough, he then proceeded to eat all of my Orange Chocolate Chip Muffin, which photo man James had brought me to celebrate two years to the night I made my radio debut! I think I managed to get one tiny crumb of it but Scott assures me the cake was very nice! Oh and thanks to James who actually went to some expense (99p) to buy the cake and candles! Its little things like that which make each game so enjoyable and which make me realise how lucky & privileged I am to work which such great people and to have great people listening & supporting me – I really do appreciate it.Back to the action & Paul Cox made three changes to the side which lost to Kidderminster on Saturday, one enforced following Briscoe’s red card. Along with Louis Briscoe, Joe Kendrick & Lindon Meikle also went out as Tom Naylor, Jon Worthington & player coach all came in as the stags switched from 4-4-2 to a 4-4-1-1.
Tom Naylor (Kendrick) – Ben Futcher – Ritchie Sutton – Luke O’Neill
Ross Dyer – Jon Worthington (Briscoe) – Anthony Howell – Andy Todd (Meikle)
Adam Murray (C)
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Martin Riley – Paul Connor – Paul Bolland – Lindon Meikle.
Despite his recent trials at Derby & Fulham, plus the ongoing rumours of which club are favourites to sign him, Tom Naylor seemed relatively unfazed last night & looked settled once more pulling on the amber & blue, he was at the centre of the action from the off too, sending a long ball down the right hand side for Matt Green to chase onto, unfortunately for Green, he was flagged offside. Wrexham then had their turn for an early attack, Curtis Obeng’s right sided cross was headed away by Luke O’Neill but only as far as Neil Ashton who in turn whipped another ball into the box. Ashton’s delivery was headed away with ease but as the back tracking Ross Dyer tried to play his team out of trouble he was judged to have fouled his marker and the referee awarded the hosts a free kick. Lee Fowler struck from just outside the area, his effort was heading for the top corner and would have been the opening goal had it not been for Alan Marriot who sprung across to palm the ball away for a corner. Wrexham kept the pressure on from the corner and earned another as Ben Futcher headed away, Mansfield reacted better to the second corner and did well to force Wrexham away.Mansfield then had a spell of half pressure themselves, with Joe Kendrick missing from the line up, Luke O’Neill took over set piece duty and despite a few miss hit efforts, improved and began to send in testing balls, proved with around 8 minutes gone as O’Neill whipped in a right footed in-swinger, Anthony Howell kept it alive and found Murray who then fed Naylor wide right, the stags’ prise assets cross was met by Futcher who headed wide, not that it mattered as the whistle had already gone with Futcher judged to have fouled Wrexham’s Nat Knight-Percival.
With the game still locked level both sides dug deep to find the opener, Alan Marriott’s directional ball over the top was headed on into the area by Ross Dyer, the ball was a little heavy and ran into the grateful keepers hands despite Matt Green stretching out his boot. From Maxwell’s kick the stags then found themselves on the back foot, Tom Naylor was beaten at right back and Wrexham moved the ball well between Lee Fowler & Jay Harris with the latter finding space central to fire a shot at goal, Ritchie Sutton had other ideas though jumping in to deflect the ball away.Mansfield were then dealt a body blow on 23 minutes, Dean Keates picked up the ball in the centre and fed former stag Jake Speight into space, Speight saw his run halted by Ben Futcher who was shown a yellow card, his 5th of the season meaning he misses our trip to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday. Fortunately that was the only blow the stags took as Keates fired the free kick straight against the stags wall who broke well to clear the second ball.
The stags then began to work more chances against the hosts, first Adam Murray, playing in his favoured position just behind the striker, exploited the space to feed Matt Green into the box, the inform hit man fired well and forced Maxwell into a neat scrambling save. Maxwell was stranded moments later though as Murray again exploited the space, this time opting for a shot from the edge of the box, stinging the cross bar but unfortunately seeing the ball bounce the wrong way as it landed out for a goal kick. The stags did finally break the deadlock with 6 minutes of the first half left to play, Matt Green played a major part by using his pace & power to earn the stags a free kick right on the edge of the area. Luke O’Neill delivered a teasing ball which was met by Naylor on its way into the net, photo evidence has since shown Naylor didn’t get the final touch, it was actually an own goal with the ball headed into the Wrexham net by Danny Wright, alas Mansfield had a deserved lead.Wrexham 0-1 Stags
Mansfield could well have had a second before the break, O’Neill showing he slots in equally well at left back progressing forward allowing Worthington to move into a pocket of space, the former Leicester youngster fed the former Bradford City man who curled a shot harmlessly into the hands of the keeper. Stags kept the pressure on and fought to win the ball back, O’Neill again creating space this time finding Howell inside who did just enough to send Andy Todd on his way wide left, Todd showed good ability and surprising pace to burst into the box & earn stags a corner, however the stags failed to convert the late pressure into a second goal and had to be satisfied with a 1 goal lead as the half time whistle blew.Half Time: Wrexham 0-1 Stags
Despite losing their manager to Doncaster Rovers in the week, Wrexham still remained top and came out of the traps fighting in the second half, with the whistle barley blow Luke O’Neill was put under pressure at left back and was left chasing a blur as Mathais Pogba cut past him fortunately Pogba’s cross floated harmlessly out of play for a goal kick. Wrexham kept on the pressure & the stags had Ben Futcher to thank moments later, Dean Keates’ through ball found its way to the ever lively Speight, Futcher nipping in just at the right time as the former stag looked to pull the trigger.Again the hosts pressured and should have been level on the hour mark, Pogba this time switching flanks to torment Naylor, cutting past the stags defender after a neat pass from Neil Ashton who got the better of stags skipper Murray with a cheeky nutmeg, Pogba drove forward and drew Marriott off his line, squaring for Speight who ballooned his effort over from close range. Four minutes later, am increasingly dominative Wrexham found their way back into the game capitalising on a Howell error. Adam Murray looked to get the stags moving following another Wrexham move and passed to Howell, his touch was heavy and he lost the ball in similar fashion to the previous weeks error against AFC Telford United, this time it was Lee Fowler who nipped in and after progressing a few yards, powerfully shot by the impressive Marriott to level the game.
Wrexham 1-1 StagsTwo minutes from the restart the stags were handed a life line, Tom Naylor’s in field ball found Matt Green who skipped past his marker into the area before falling under the challenge of Nat Knight-Percival, the referee immediately pointed to the spot and produced a second yellow card for the Wrexham defender, leaving the home side with 10men. With Mansfield’s designated penalty taker Louis Briscoe suspended, Matt Green dusted himself down and took a fairly long run up, Cooley sending the keeper the wrong way and converting the penalty for his 8th goal of the campaign.
Wrexham 1-2 StagsDespite being reduced to ten men, the home side kept on pressuring the stags ensuring it wouldn’t be an easy ride, the stags brought on Paul Bolland for Jon Worthington shortly before Paul Connor replaced Matt Green. Wrexham made a substitution of their own, the delightfully named Adrian Cieslewicz was a real spark to the Wrexham side and played a major part as the dramatic game took another twist with 6 minutes left to play. The lively winger tore off the flank and looked to beat Naylor for pace, however as the stags defender stood strong, the Wrexham winger bundled down Naylor and the referee awarded a free kick. The bemusement came as the referee awarded the kick in the home sides favour, judging Naylor to have committed the foul, a bookable one too and with Naylor already on a yellow, the red followed and stags too were reduced to ten men for the second game running.
A nervy finish followed but Mansfield were outstanding defensively, Andy Todd took the vacant right back slot whilst everyone else got back and plugged gaps, Ross Dyer, Ben Futcher & Adam Murray all made key sliding interventions as the stags clung on to their lead. Wrexham’s Chris Maxwell seized the opportunity for a wonder forward as the stags threw everybody back, delivering a series of deep balls into Mansfield territory which the stags smashed clear allowing fans, players & commentators alike to breathe easy again. Wrexham pushed until the final whistle and the stags finally stood up to be counted as the 4th official signalled 5 minutes of stoppage time, in the final minute Mansfield broke free as Ross Dyer fed Paul Connor, last season’s second top scorer kept his cool to slot beneath Chris Maxwell for his second goal of the season, wrapping up a beautiful victory for Mansfield as the stags sleighed the dragons on welsh soil for the first time in the league since February 1986.Wrexham 1-3 Mansfield
The final 30 seconds felt like minutes as Wrexham threw absolutely everything forward, the stags remained composed and the final whistle was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard – magnificent Mansfield had sent a clear message to their rivals in what may prove to be the most important victory of the season. I can honestly say I’ve never been so proud of Mansfield Town as a group of players, the fight, the believe, the energy and the togetherness on show really highlighted once again why we are going to be champions come the 28th April.Full Time: Wrexham 1-3 Mansfield
I don’t think I’ve felt that good after a game for a long time; it dawned on me as we touched down on English soil with the banter in full flow, how lucky I am at the moment. I have a great job doing something I’m passionate about, I work with excellent people who I value as really good close friends, I have really kind people who give wonderful feedback & enjoy listening and best of all, I support a team that’s fallen so far but have finally healed and are rising from the ashes. WOOO!Up next it’s a trip to one of my favourite BSBP Grounds, Forest Green Rovers – be sure to join myself & Scott for build up followed by full match commentary from 2PM on 106.9FM & online (see link right) I’m sure James will feature too! Thanks for reading!
Match Photos (& pictures of cake) James WilliamsonPodcast