‘BANG and the points are gone’
After a midweek spanking at Fleetwood, many would have found it difficult to get out of bed and head to Field Mill yesterday, especially when your battered and bruised side is facing an in form team who are unbeaten in 6, netting 19 goals in the process.
The weather too was miserable and did nothing to inspire, in fact after it almost seemed like Tuesday’s script writer had returned for to begin penning Mansfield’s sequel story, the setting dull, damp, lifeless and miserable. However people do say it’s not about how you fall, it’s how you respond – meaning the Grim Reaper of story tellers might not have everything his own way.
Paul Cox had seemingly brighten the mood on Friday adding two players to the ranks, left winger Nick Hegarty joined until boxing day whilst 19 year old defender Kieron Freeman joined on a month’s loan from Nottingham Forest. Both additions already provided some much needed balance as a lack of fit, naturally left footed players has seen our game plan slightly obvious – both we’re handed debuts as the Stags boss made three changes from THAT game midweek, fit again Matt Green completed the trio of changes as Martin Riley, Paul Bolland and Louis Moult made way.
Luke O’Neill – Ben Futcher – Ritchie Sutton – Kieron Freeman #30 (Riley)
Lindon Meikle – Adam Murray (C) – Anthony Howell – Nick Hegarty #29 (Bolland)
Matt Green (Moult) – Ross Dyer
SUBS: Shane Redmond – John Thompson – Paul Connor – Paul Bolland – Louis Moult
The visitors got the game underway at Field Mill but the opening five minutes produced barley nothing, the debutant left hand side enjoyed some healthy movement and looked to communicate well, however on the wet pitch the Stags couldn’t seem to find the right pace. At the other end, Cambridge saw a free kick from Ashley Carew sail wide from around 30 yards out, Adam Murray picked up his 4th booking of the season in the process.
Six minutes later it was the visitors who again put on the pressure, good movement between Michael Gash and Kevin Roberts saw the latter chip a ball into the box, Carew was first to it and fired goal wards from an acute angle, Alan Marriott was alert and palmed away, however Cambridge we’re eager and latched onto the second ball, former Stag Tom Shaw’s shot deflected away for a corner. Carew’s right footed in swinger looped up in the air around three yards from goal and as Marriott came to collect, Ritchie Sutton spotted the pouncing Luke Berry and hoofed away the danger – The resulting corner was easily dealt with by Ben Futcher, who will return to parent club Bury sometime next week.
With 20 on the clock, the Stags began to settle into the game a little more and create a few chances. Kieron Freeman’s throw in sparked a mini game of head tennis between Green, Howell, Dyer and Hegarty, the latter ended the aerial game and looked to feed Green into the area, the former Grimsby mans pass was a little to pacey and the ball trickled away for a goal kick.
Three minutes later Matt Green was gifted a way through curtsey of a defensive deflection, the momentum of the ball saw Green forced wide but the Stags top scorer had support through O’Neill, it was his first time cross which found the on rushing Nick Hegarty, however the tricky winger’s final header was agonisingly over the top of the bar.
Mansfield looked to keep the ball and would have created a lot more openings had it not been for the rain soaked surface; on the half hour mark Hegarty was again guilty of missing the target from close range following a nice patient passing move. Adam Murray was the linkup between O’Neill and Freeman as the stags swept the ball from side to side, Hegarty switched play back towards O’Neill however his cross was cleared – Adam Murray again looked sharp to head the ball to ground and start the movement once more, this time it was Lindon Meikle who providing the cross left footed after cutting inside, the ball landed perfectly for the unmarked Hegarty who curled his final shot over the top of the bar.
Seven minutes before the break Mansfield thought they had opened the scoring, this time it was a long ball which started the move with Kieron Freeman spotting Ross Dyer onside in the final third. Dyer showed neat control but was pressured by the Cambridge keeper Danny Naisbitt who raced off his line, Green made a perfectly timed run and slid in connecting with Dyer’s pass however the keeper somehow got back and get out Green’s goal bound effort. The clock ran down and both teams headed into the dressing rooms level – tea lady Doris looked bemused after three weeks of removing the bone china from the home dressing room following unacceptable first half displays.
Half Time: Stags 0-0 Cambridge
Cambridge were quickest off the mark as the second half got underway, a neat ball down the line from Shaw towards Rory McAuly caught everyone out bar Luke O’Neill, who slid in well to avert the danger.
The ball kept zipping about on the wet surface and both sides were guilt of a few late challenges, Lindon Meikle was booked for his challenge on the half way line, however 10 minutes into the second half, Meikle was key to setting up Mansfield’s opening goal. Standing strong in the middle of the park, the England C man won back possession and sent Green on his way through the middle, again United keeper Naisbitt sped off his line but Green’s tight control saw him nip round the committed visiting keeper and then slot home into the empty net for his 11th goal of the campaign.
Stags 1-1 Cambridge
The Stags joy was short lived however as just two minutes later, the U’s drew level, a rare piece of hesitant defending from the usually reliable Luke O’Neill saw Cambridge’s Harrison Dunk steal the ball back and slot underneath Alan Marriott to level the game and silence the home support.
Stags 1-1 Cambridge
Mansfield looked for a response almost immediately, combination play between Murray and O’Neill saw the ball deflect kindly into the path of Meikle, his cross was headed away but Anthony Howell sprung first to the second ball, a neat pass then found Green inside the area but under pressure the Stags top scorer was forced back to skipper Murray who again triggered a switch of play. Meikle crossed again this time Nick Hegarty was the recipient and looked to combine with forest youngster Freeman, he was fouled and the Stags awarded a free kick. Luke O’Neill’s delivery was too strong and sailed out for a goal kick.
On the hour mark, Ross Dyer looked lively in the final third once more, holding off his man to feed Meikle into the box, however the former Eastwood mans shot was fired over the bar and three minutes later, Mansfield we’re made to pay as the visitors took the lead.
Strong movement from Cambridge saw the Stags pulled apart and Harrison Dunk given a pocket of space, after receiving a pass the U’s winger was 1 Vs 1 with Marriott who could only watch on as the ball nestled in the bottom corner – the five minute turnaround was completed and the Stags experiment with gun powder had blown up in their faces.
Stags 1-2 Cambridge
Louis Moult then entered the fray for Hegarty with Dyer dropping to a left wing role; it didn’t take long for Moult to be involved either. With 72 on the clock, Luke O’Neill fed Adam Murray into space wide right, the skippers cross was headed down by Moult towards Howell on the edge of the box, who let fly left footed but was denied by Naisbitt who watched the shot all the way.
The Stags continued to move the ball up park and whip in numerous crosses, none of which could find the way to the back of the net with Dyer, Moult and Meikle all seeing efforts miss. The Stags movement up park saw them leave a mass amount of space at the back, first a Dunk cross was too heavy for substitute Ryan Charles, before Luke Berry saw a goal ruled out for offside.
With four minutes to go the stags failed to make the most of two O’Neill corners before man of the mach Freeman set Green up from a throw in, the Stags marksman failed to double his tally for the afternoon though and four minutes of additional time passed without the stags conjuring up another chance to grab a point, as the final whistle blew the boo’s again rang out as Cambridge deposited another three points and the stags slipped down the table to 10th.
Full Time: Stags 1-2 Cambridge
Another defeat is far from satisfying on home soil and despite winning our previous league game two weeks ago, it feels like a long time since we’ve been truly satisfied. Boo’s are understanding, we pay our money and are entitled to our opinions in turn. However that said personal attacks I cannot condone, why do we always have to look for a bad guy or a scapegoat? Four defeats all season (five if you count the FA Cup) and we’re calling for the manager’s head – why? He may or may not have made some bad decisions which don’t go down well, and I’m sure he will hold his hands up eventually and make changes, he is the manager of our football team and the man, who I believe will lead us back to the football league, we need to support him and the players. No matter WHO we appointed at the start of the season, they WOULD have had the SAME wage/ transfer budget to work with, therefore attracting the SAME STANDARD of player. I personally do not think we are out of the race, at this stage of the season 10th on balance is about right we have a game in hand and are only five points off of a playoff spot.
We will get better on the pitch but only with us (the supporters) fully behind the lads, success is built on strong foundations and the foundations at any football club lives in the terraces, no not those concrete pillions that obstruct some people’s views – the fans, the heart and soul of the club. We are strong when we are together, moving as one, if one player has a rough time on the pitch; he needs a boost and a helping hand rather than a rugby type scrum of abuse and foul mouthed hatred.
My words are not aimed at anyone, I’m merely expressing opinion – every fan will always hold the club close to their heart, but for a second we need to look in a mirror and ask ourselves one question – Do we want success? If the answer is yes, buy a stress ball put it in your pocket and squeeze the hell out of it during the bad times – then channel the rage into positive energy and sing, help the boys believe by backing them, in turn they will climb and we will sail back into the promise land.
On a positive note, the addition of Hegarty & especially Freeman has really boosted our left hand side, the duo combined well and created various openings throughout, the pair will progress as the games keep coming. Yesterday’s game also saw the final outing for Ben Futcher as his loan spell has now expired. Ben has been one of the most influential signings and provided a massive boost following the knock on effect from Ilkeston. He tightened a fragile defence and helped us onto that marvellous run to lift us up the table – would I like to see him back in January, defiantly – frankly I’ve been dreaming of a Futcher / Thompson pairing since his arrival! There is a lot of time to go before January when we are able to sign Ben again and with John Thompson and Rhys Day close to full returns, a LOT can happen, so for now, Farewell Futch, and thank you.
We’ve now got a break before out next game, lets wash ourselves down and let Paul Cox and Micky Moore do the work on the training ground – Join myself and Scott Rogers for Full match commentary on AFC Telford United Vs Stags on Saturday 19th November from 2PM, listen on 106.9FM or online (Link on the right).
My final word today is this – behind every great leader, is a team ALL pulling together FIGHTING FOR THE CAUSE. Thanks for reading.
Match Photos: Dan WestwellPODCAST