‘When the stars go out’
Football as we all know is a beautiful game; I was thinking the other week about the best thing about being a football fan, basically asking myself – what makes football beautiful? After pacing the house for ages trying to come up with one answer, I discovered that, there is not one particular thing; there are just moments, places and memories.
Every fan’s moment, memory or place will be different, and as I reflect on yesterday’s game against Southport, it’s not one of my three that provides the inspiration and questions which link so well with this blog; it’s actually one from my co-commentator on Takeover Radio, Scott Rogers. I won’t go into the reasoning why, I’ll just say it’s an empty Field Mill in the late evening setting.
I can picture it myself, the place so silent and peaceful, the memories of so many high moments flooding through your head as if they’re being played out live in front of you once again. I imagine it to be a feeling so strong; every trouble in the world will vanish. The picture I create in my head is being sat in my own seat (press box number 106!) looking down on the action, after various scenes being played out, I go to leave, happy that my troubles have vanished and that the stars that shine above Field Mill will guide me.
Sometimes though, the reality of life see’s a dream turn into a nightmare – something which happened yesterday as I sat in the same seat, this time in the beautiful autumn afternoon setting. I’d been through the dreams, the visions, the memories, the moments – when suddenly, the little devil on my shoulder stabbed the Craig angel with his fiery pitchfork, and whispered in a grim, shuddering voice ‘It’s all well and good having these dreams, but ask yourself – what happens when the stars go out’ The devil flew up into the sky and combust into a ball of flames before turning into the afternoons team sheet, as I browsed the line ups, I hoped the stars would never go out and our season of dreams would continue.
Paul Cox made one change to the side which came from behind to beat Grimsby last Saturday, returning from suspension Louis Briscoe was brought straight back into the starting 11 to replace Lindon Meikle.
Tom Naylor – Ben Fucther – Ritchie Sutton – Luke O’Neill
Louis Briscoe (Meikle) – Adam Murray (C) – Jon Worthington – Andy Todd
Ross Dyer – Matt Green
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Martin Riley – Paul Connor – Paul Bolland – Lindon Meikle.
The stags got proceedings underway, having a couple of early chances in the opening minutes. First Tom Naylor linked up well with the returning Briscoe from the formers throw, Naylor turned under pressure to find Worthington who sent a ball in the direction of Green, however former Stag Simon Grand got a foot in to clear. Moments later stags were on the move again, Naylor’s long ball found Green who dropped wide right to pick up play, the Oxford loan man put in a cross with the outside of his right boot – however there seemed no eagerness for a stags body to connect and as the ball trickled out for a throw, I began to fear my devils words.
Mansfield had another two golden chances to open the game, Luke O’Neill’s throw in with nine minutes on the clock found Green on the edge of the box, he opened himself up but saw the ball bobble away, Louis Briscoe picked it up and tested the water from distance – firing well wide of the target. Three minutes later, Worthington’s controlled header to Tom Naylor saw the much wanted defender chip a ball forward for Matt Green, Green turned onto his left foot and fired over from just inside the box.
Southport came into the game four games unbeaten and nearly opened the scoring moments later from a free kick. Tony Gray struck well from 35 yards, catching Marriott by surprise. The former Lincoln shot stopper parried the strong effort straight into the path of Godfrey Poku, who smashed the follow up against the bar from 4 yards.
A nicely worked move between Dyer and Briscoe then followed as stags briefly opened up the visitors, Briscoe played a neat 1-2 with Dyer after picking up the ball from Worthington’s pass, however Briscoe dragged his shot wide with 19 on the clock and four minutes later Briscoe was left cursing his miss, as Southport took the lead.
Tom Naylor slammed the ball away for a throw in under pressure from Shaun Whalley; however it would be Naylor’s last action as he pulled up injured. Naylor was replaced by Martin Riley who slotted in at centre back with Ritchie Sutton going to the vacant right back slot. With Mansfield still adjusting themselves, Southport’s Andy Owens launched a long throw into the box; Andy Todd unfortunately was credited with the final touch as a sluggish stags put the ball into their own net.
Stags 0-1 Southport
Mansfield offered nothing in reply and Southport made them pay by grabbing a deserved second as they opened the stags up at every turn. Shaun Whalley cut in from the right wing and let fly inside the area, seeing his shot balloon off the back of Martin Riley’s leg over the diving Alan Marriott and into the empty net.
Stags 0-2 Southport
Southport continued to look for a third before the break but couldn’t find one, tea lady Doris again sprinted to the dressing room to remove the expensive cups before Paul Cox and Micky Moore delivered the half time team talk.
Half Time: Stags 0-2 Southport
In a bid to turn the game on its head, Paul Cox made his final two substitutions, bringing on Paul Connor and Lindon Meikle for Louis Briscoe and Andy Todd. Connor, who scored in a friendly at Solihull Moors on Monday evening, partnered Green upfront whilst Dyer slotted wide right and fresh on Meikle, on the left.
Mansfield had a mountain to climb to turn the game around, two minutes into the second half they made it harder for themselves. Slack defending and miscommunication saw Tony Gray beat the offside trap, slotting past Marriott into the bottom corner to delight the 114 travelling fans behind the goal.
Stags 0-3 Southport
Mansfield were falling apart and Southport should have had a fourth minutes later, Gray again beat the flag and attempted to chip Marriott, however the stags shot stopper stood tall to catch the ball and send Dyer on his way. What followed was a good piece of play, Dyer found Murray who in an instant switched play to Meikle who charged forwards into space. Meikle was fouled around 35 yards from goal, Luke O’Neill’s resulting free kick bounced kindly for the visiting keeper to collect.
Ross Dyer then fought to win the ball back and charged free into space, however the former Forest Green front man over ran the ball and Tony McMillian easily collected racing off his line.
The stags finally grabbed one back with 76 on the clock. Luke O’Neill’s right footed in swinging corner found Paul Connor in the air, the burley front man headed towards goal but saw his effort blocked in the goal mouth. Stags screamed for a penalty with the block being made by a defenders trailing arm, the referee sprinted to the linesman who judged the ball to have crossed the line. The referee awarded the goal, with Paul Connor getting the credit from the PA (Press Association).
Stags 1-3 SouthportA late O’Neill free kick was nearly converted by Green at the back post, but it was Southport who kept pushing and took home the points following 4 minutes of added time. The stags lacked fight, belief and painfully the desire, to go on and climb the mountain.
Full Time: Stags 1-3 Southport
It was a below par and totally unacceptable performance from the Mansfield Town I thought had turned a corner, I don’t know if it was complacency, arrogance or just a poor showing, in honesty – I don’t care. I’m angry that my team have let me down and I won’t for one second try and make excuses – what I will say though is, if past experience has taught anything, it’s not to dwell on our failings – but come together to out things right.
I believe Paul Cox will put things right and I expect the stags to come out fighting on Tuesday night at Lincoln. The next two games are dubbed as ‘derby’s’ so we need to fight and send out the message that we are not back to our old selves. The new Mansfield are worthy of promotion and WILL get it no matter who stands in our way.
Heads up, move on and back the boys – I’ll be in the opposite stand to the stags fans on Tuesday night, but I want to hear you roar – spurring us onto victory. If you can’t get join myself and the man who inspired today’s blog (Scott Rogers) from 7.30PM for full match commentary, on 106.9FM and www.takeoverradio.net
So what happens when the stars go out? Do we lose and crumble into the devils pit, or rally round and create the light to guide us forward? I guess the next few weeks will tell us.
Thanks for reading.
PHOTOS: James Williamson