When the draw for the fourth qualifying round was revealed a few weeks ago, there was a collective groan around the town as we we’re handed a tough home tie with big spending Fleetwood Town. Whether it’s because the draw was made during our purple patch, or that we wanted a so called ‘easy tie’ I don’t know, I’ll hold my hands up and say I’d have liked an easier cup tie, but you have to remember that in football, as in life, you have to play with the hand your given.
Once the game began to creep closer I realised that, at this point in the season, a game against Fleetwood in the cup is exactly what we needed. No points are lost should we be defeated, and whilst we’d be out of the FA Cup, we’d have seen exactly what was needed to strengthen our BSBP campaign for the better – it’s always about the bigger picture.
Yesterday morning before the game I remembered the Luton trophy semi final and how people said it was ‘the worse draw possible’ – fair enough I felt a stronger burn inside me before that game than I did yesterday, but only because of how close a dream was to becoming reality. I always work on the belief that money isn’t everything and that you can achieve success by hard work and determination rather than ‘splashing the cash’ – Everybody in life and football should be treated as equals, just because you’re a penniless nobody playing for the red lion pub Sunday side, doesn’t mean you can’t match the standard of the rich flash harry playing for the best side on earth. Yesterday was a close enough test of this theory, as we welcomed big spending Fleetwood.
Paul Cox made two changes from the side which beat Alfreton the previous Saturday, Ben Futcher and Anthony Howell we’re reintroduced at the expense of Joe Kendrick and Paul Connor. Striker Louis Moult resigned for the Stags on loan on Friday, he had to settle for a place on the bench alongside promoted youth team hit man, Adam Somes.
Ritchie Sutton – Ben Futcher (Kendrick) – Martin Riley – Luke O’Neill
Anthony Howell (Connor) – Adam Murray (C) – Paul Bolland
Ross Dyer – Matt Green – Lindon Meikle
BENCH: Shane Redmond – Paul Connor – Matt Bell – Andy Todd – Rhys Day – Adam Somes (#27) – Louis Moult (#28)
Mansfield got the game underway attacking the North Stand, a nice early bit of pressure saw Ritchie Sutton punt a ball long down the line in search of Ross Dyer, Anthony Howell then picked up Dyer’s cushioned header down before attempting to release Matt Green, however the pass from the former Alfreton midfielder was too heavy and trickled harmlessly away for a goal kick.
The Stags enjoyed some good early movement of the ball with some neat one touch passing; however it was the visitors who thought they’d opened the scoring after four minutes, following Ritchie Sutton’s foul on Andy Mangan. Jamie Milligan whipped in the free kick from the left hand side; it eluded everyone and nestled past the pink shirted Marriott in the bottom corner, Fleetwood’s cheers killed by the welcome sight of the linesman flag for offside.
Four minutes later the stags had a spell of pressure themselves threatening to open the scoring on numerous occasions, Luke O’Neill’s long throw in was punched clear by Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies, O’Neill delivered the resulting corner and Martin Riley’s presence at the far post was enough to force a second corner. A poorer delivery was deflected away and O’Neill did better with the third corner of the sequence, finding Howell who in turn found Murray, The Stags skipper then fed O’Neill wide but under pressure, the young full back allowed the ball to go out for a Fleetwood throw.
The ball spent most of its time in the middle of the park with neither keeper having much to do for long periods of the game, Mansfield pressured well but were kept out by the visiting keeper, With 13 minutes on the clock Davies held onto the ball after Sutton’s deep cross was pulled back to Matt Green thanks to Lindon Meikle. At the other end two minutes later, Gareth Seddon weaved his way through the Stags back line and into the area, his final shot fortunately bounced away off the post for a goal kick.
With 19 gone it was the Stags who then came closest to opening the scorning, Luke O’Neill’s dangerous cross was headed down inside the box to Matt Green by Dyer, the striker who looks set to be joining permanently in January following the agreement of a transfer fee, did well to poke the ball to Adam Murray on the edge of the box, his driven shot was superbly saved by the finger tips of Scott Davies.
Mansfield failed to take advantage of the resulting corner and the game soon fell back into a slow cautious midfield affair, however two minutes from the break the visitors we’re awarded a free kick following O’Neill’s foul on the lively Jamie Vardy. The Stags perhaps too long to switch on and get organised, Jamie Milligan squeezed a neat effort past the less than sturdy wall and into the net to open the scoring.
Mansfield 0-1 Fleetwood
The first half clock ran down and the half time whistle blew, meaning the stags we’re behind at the break for the 5th home game running – this time though a balanced and more sturdier performance at the back (bar the response time of the free kick) sent a feeling around Field Mill that the Stags we’re neither down nor out, and if anything, the game could be turned on its head.
Half Time: Mansfield 0-1 Fleetwood
The second half pretty much took the same path bas the first despite Fleetwood’s introduction of Magno Viera at the break. Mansfield knocked the ball around well but barley created anything in the final third until the hour mark, Lindon Meikle showed quick feet to pick up and whip in an O’Neill pass, Matt Green was darting in at the far post but his out stretched leg was just a fraction too late and the ball had already gone out for a goal kick.
Mansfield’s 4-3-3 seemed to be creating little so Paul Cox opted to switch to a 4-4-2 and introduce Louis Moult for a second Stags debut, replacing Paul Bolland who didn’t seem to complement a midfield three with Howell and Murray. Ross Dyer slotted on the right wing with Meikle on the left leaving Moult to partner Green upfront.
It took Moult a few minute but when he did, he and Green looked to form an instant partnership creating space for each other, however Fleetwood’s Nathan Pond read the two of them well allowing very little through the middle. The Stags refused to give in though and drew level as the clock hit 70 minute, Luke O’Neill looked sharp on the attack, cutting in from the left wing to whip a dangerous cross into the box, Louis Moult arrived at the right moment at the far post, pulling the ball back for Ross Dyer who completed the simple task of slotting into the empty net to level the game.
Mansfield 1-1 Fleetwood
Fleetwood then looked to respond and restore their lead following the restart, former Stags trailist Alan Goodall whipped in a cross towards the back post, Magno Viera leapt highest and headed against the bar, moments later Alan Marriott did just enough to keep out Jamie Vardy’s effort as the former FC Halifax hit man crept through unchallenged.
Vardy again caused Mansfield problems as both sides searched for a winner in the final five minutes, Magno Viera slotted him through 1 vs. 1 with Marriott, the stags keeper stayed string to deny Vardy with a fine stop.
Deep into injury time the Stags put the pressure on a final time, O’Neill’s free kick from the half way line found Futcher who deserved his Man of the match award with a fine commanding display in the back four, the loanee who returns to Bury shortly headed onto Matt Green who did well to keep the ball under pressure from McNulty, Green laid a pass to Howell who curled a ball agonisingly just over the top of the bar.
The full time whistle soon followed meaning a trip to Fleetwood on Tuesday evening for a replay, I pray that some more chances will be created and the game will be done and dusted in 90 minutes, I’m yet to commentate on a penalty shootout (although I’ve been close twice!) and I don’t wish to break that fact on Tuesday!
Full Time: Mansfield 1-1 Fleetwood
The result not only means a trip to Fleetwood on Tuesday, but it also see’s our fixture calendar re-arranged once more, the game scheduled for TV coverage against Cambridge United on Thursday will now revert back to its original date of Saturday 5th November 3PM – No TV coverage, be prepared for a LOT of fireworks gags!
On reflection of yesterday’s game, a draw is a fair result, neither side created many clear cut chances. I was pleased with the way Mansfield played after recent home performances, we passed the ball well and enjoyed decent spells of pressure, we talked to each other 99% of the time and there we’re no causes for concern – if we keep that standard and build from it, this season will be a success for our beloved club following that dream.
The hastily arranged replay will be a big ask for many, but fear not there’s really no need to miss a kick of the action, as myself and Scott Rogers have cancelled plans to watch Eastenders and play football manager, instead we’ll be live from Fleetwood with full match commentary on Takeover Radio 106.9FM (online too – see link on the right hand side) and build up from 7.30PM. Hopefully the Stags can continue their fine away form and head through to round one, a home tie with Wycombe Wanders awaits!
Thanks for reading.
Match Pictures: James WilliamsonPodcast