Today (Sunday) has been one of those days’ where we’re just getting out of bed makes you the strongest willed person in the world. Reflecting on yesterday’s game at AFC Telford I can’t pinpoint a particular moment to make me smile and feel good, I’m sat here shaking my head in disbelief at how negative my writing feels. I’m stuck on a pendulum swinging between fact and optimism, the way I see it? Yesterday we we’re back, but not better.
Yes we knocked the ball round well at times; we created space and had opportunities to change the outcome of the game. However you can pass the ball around the entire game but it only takes one sniff for you to concede – games are won on chances being taken, not possession, remember that’s only nine tenths of the law.
I think it’s a frustration thing for me today, I’m spending too much time reflecting on past games – it just feels like in every new game we play, we have to justify the mistakes we’ve made in previous weeks. The break we’ve had should have stopped that and in fairness in for me did, however the final score yesterday of 0-0 means we go into next week’s game at bottom club Bath City having to win to show that a point at Telford (making it 4 points out of 6 away from home) was actually a decent point to pick up. I’m babbling here, what I’m trying to say really is that it seems like we’re two steps behind our challengers all the time and with each game and each mistake we’re being pushed back even more, allowing more room for doubt and frustration to grow and grow.
I’m seeing this every week at the moment, nobody’s to blame either so doesn’t think this is a rant at anybody, it’s just the path we are currently on – I guess that’s why I’m feeling blue. Don’t worry though – I often find inspiration when feeling blue, I’m sure I will again...
Onto yesterday’s game I was delighted when I woke up knowing it was Stags Saturday once again, last week was so boring without a game, I was at the Alfreton Vs Carlisle game and I don’t mind admitting I hated every second away from my boys oh and being away from the press box! Being able to talk about my team and celebrate their achievements is a much more overwhelming feeling, Jumping for joy as Chris Senior missed a penalty didn’t quite match the feeling I get from celebrating something in relation to my Stags – maybe the fact I was in the middle of dye hard Alfreton fans at the time didn’t help.... anyway – moving on. A short car journey to the new bucks head ground was passed by changing the lyrics to Christmas songs to fit a Stags setting – I’ll reveal more on that at a later date! Despite a few problems with admittance to the car park and ground, we we’re soon in the ground grabbing hold of a power point and setting up in the tightest space yet!
Team news soon filtered through, Paul Cox made one change from the side that we’re beaten by Cambridge – John Thompson finally made his Mansfield debut at the heart of defence replacing Ben Futcher who is of course now back at Bury. John played extremely well alongside Rhys Day on Monday at Eastwood and I’m delighted to see him back after Ilkeston Gate.
Luke O’Neill – Ritchie Sutton – John Thompson (Futcher) – Kieron Freeman
Ross Dyer – Adam Murray (C) – Anthony Howell – Nick Hegarty
Lindon Meikle – Matt Green
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Paul Connor – Paul Bolland – Rhys Day – Louis Moult.
The Stags got the game underway and made a bright start, winning a free kick in dangerous territory in the opening 30 seconds. Luke O’Neill’s ball down the right towards Ross Dyer looped up in the air with Anthony Howell climbing highest to win the challenge, however Howells was caught as he jumped and a free kick awarded – Luke O’Neill delivered the ball deep, however Ritchie Sutton was judged to have fouled his man and the hosts we’re given a free kick themselves.
With the game three minutes old it was the hosts who threatened as they enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges, fortunately for the stags Richard Davies shot wide after Jay Smiths cleaver through ball had caught the Mansfield back line nodding. Six minutes later AFC Telford we’re in again, Ryan Valentine nipped the ball past Luke O’Neill finding Chris Sharp in space on the edge of the box, Sharp let fly but couldn’t keep his shot underneath the bar and the Stags we’re let off with a goal kick.
Alan Marriott then started a bright stags move catching a chipped cross from Sean Newton, he spotted Nick Hegarty in space wide left and quickly released the former Grimsby wing man. After taking one marker out of the game with a neat instep, Hegarty had space and fed a neat pass towards Matt Green, he turned under pressure but failed to take the ball with him allowing the hosts to easily clear.
It was clear that Lindon Meikle upfront was not working and he made his way back to the right as Dyer moved up front, the instruction came after The Stags registered their first proper shot on target on 20 minutes, Matt Green took a quick throw in on the left, feeding Kieron Freeman who saw his cross curl towards goal but not evade Ryan Young who watched it all the way into his hands.
Four minutes later Mansfield finally stretched AFC Telford with Meikle immediately effective out wide, weaving his way past his marker the winger, back from international duty, whipped in a decent cross finding Hegarty inside the box, however his header was tame and easy for Young to collect.
Mansfield thought they’d fallen behind with 28 gone as AFC Telford proved lightening can strike twice. In similar fashion to the 1-1 draw at Field Mill, Anthony Howell was disposed by Chris Sharp, Sharp let fly from 25 yards seeing his shot smash the bar – Ritchie Sutton was on hand to head behind for a corner which fortunately swung out of play for a goal kick.
The half hour mark was the turning point as Mansfield upped their game with numerous attacks, Nick Hegarty started a decent Mansfield move spreading the ball wide to Luke O’Neill from the centre of the park, O’Neill rescued his own heavy touch by whipping a neat ball into the area, it found its way to the far post where leading scorer Matt Green pounced, somehow firing wide from close range.
Two minutes later Hegarty started yet another move in which patience shone. Matt Green cut back inside following Hegarty’s left wing pass, eager for a shot Green just couldn’t find the space so instead fed Murray as the Stags kept the ball, the Stags skipper pushed the ball wide left for Freeman, the Welsh Under 21 internationals cross set up nicely for Dyer at the far post however Dyer headed over.
On 34 minutes the Stags saw a goal fairly chalked off. Great character from Ross Dyer saw the burly front man chase down a long ball, keeping the ball in play he fed Meikle down the right channel, Meikle’s ball across the face of goal was deflected behind for a corner. Luke O’Neill’s right footed out swinger was flapped at by the keeper and found Matt Green who tapped into the empty net, however the whistle had already gone for a foul on the keeper and the game remained level.
With six minute to go before the break Stags were on the wrong end of some awful refereeing, Lindon Meikle was taken down near the bye-line after threading Ross Dyer into the box, Dyer was clean through and about to shoot as the referee pulled the ball back for a Stags free kick.
Luke O’Neill completed the first half action powering a neat drive into Ryan Young’s hands after Adam Murray had taken a free kick quickly – no sooner had Young released the ball downfield, the half time whistle blew.
Half Time: AFC Telford 0-0 Stags
At the break Paul Cox withdrew Nick Hegarty for striker Paul Connor and despite the option of a 4-3-3 stuck with 4-4-2 with Dyer going back to the right and Lindon Meikle slotting onto the left.
Ritchie Sutton was on hand in the opening minute of the second half as Stags switched off from Will Salmon’s throw, Salmon put the ball into the box after a return from former Stag Ashley Cain, the ball found its way to the on rushing Craig Farrell whose shot was turned behind for a corner by Sutton.
A minute later it was the Stags turn to worry the opposition, Matt Green picked up the ball in the centre before feeding Ross Dyer, Dyer did well to shrug off his marker and move in the middle and a huge pocket of space, eventually returning Green who’d made the advancing run. Green was 1 vs. 1 with Young but brave goalkeeping from the Bucks shot stopper saw Green’s effort thwarted.
Mansfield generally kept the ball well in the second half but chances seemed rare, on the hour mark another good spell on the ball saw the Stags nearly find a breakthrough. Kieron Freeman controlled the ball well before playing Sutton into the centre circle; he then chipped a neat ball forwards for Matt Green who’s shot on the turn found its way wide left to Meikle. After squeezing his way through two markers, Meikle chipped in a cross which Green headed over from 6 yards.
Alan Marriott was then Mansfield’s hero pulling off a superb save with his thigh, Jay Smith’s cross following a strong Thompson headed clearance saw Richard Davies get goal side of the back line, Davies let fly and Marriott deflected the ball away for a corner. Smith’s corner was headed goal wards and Ritchie Sutton blasted the ball away as it lingered dangerously near the line.
Mansfield we’re dealt a blow on 78 minutes, Adam Murray’s foul on Ryan Valentine on the edge of the area saw the influential skipper pick up his 5th booking of the season, meaning he’ll be suspended for our trip to Bath City next Saturday. Fortunately that’s as far as the punishment went as the resulting free kick was poorly struck against the wall and cleared.
In the dyeing minutes Mansfield again played keep ball with Murray and Meikle both seeing strikes deflect away, Stags just couldn’t find the gap and we’re nearly caught with a second to go, AFC Telford broke free but John Thompson, who will be favourite for the skippers armband next week, read the pass well and smashed the ball into orbit just as the final whistle blew ensuring Mansfield’s first clean sheet in 13 games.
Full Time: AFC Telford United 0-0 Stags
As I mentioned earlier the pendulum swings between positives and negatives, a huge positive was Thompson’s debut and a clean sheet, a negative? Not scoring. Looking back that’s pretty much it, we lacked creativity and failed to take our chances therefore we didn’t score. Sometimes we rushed our play and put balls into no-man’s land when really all we needed was to play the basic ‘Give and go’. Our answer to on the pitch fortunes lies in Paul Cox’s hands – What John Thompson did yesterday was take control of a shoddy back four, making his presence felt and getting the result in the process. We now need a battling midfielder to come in and pull the strings, maybe we’ve got that in Bolland, Worthington or Stevenson – only Paul Cox knows the answer. We need the same on the wing and upfront, Is Louis Moult the answer? I couldn’t care less who does it, but I desperately want to see someone come in, be able to control a ball in the air or at feet, pop off a pass, get into space and make the back of the net burst. Simple football, Simple outcome – Victory!
Away from that I mentioned earlier about us looking back and dwelling on our past and our mistakes, what I’ve done is taken away our results and performances and looked at what we’re aiming for on the pitch – promotion. What is promotion really? A dream, why is it a dream? Because that’s what EVERYONE wants before a ball is kicked, nobody in their right mind says ‘I wouldn’t mind relegation this season’ the thing is only TWO teams can achieve it – what we must do is chase the dream and look at some mind boggling logic.
“When all is said and done, dreams are like a shooting star – a spectacular moment of light in the darkness giving a fleeting glimpse of eternal glory. In a flash, the dreams are often gone and forgotten so to achieve we must never let them go out of sight”
In our analogy, the darkness is our past – we’ve spent so much time reflecting on it and looking back, we have become trapped by our own darkness. What we have now is a side capable of offering us the light of those shooting stars, so I say keep an eye on them, focus on the here and now, because as soon as we do – our darkness will be gone forever and eternal glory will shine.
The shooting star will be present at Bath City next week, so follow it – do not let it go. If you can’t get, join myself and Scott Rogers on 106.9FM and www.mtfcmatters.weebly.com for full match commentary from 2PM – we’ll follow it for you!
Thanks for reading, If you’re baffled at my comments – I promise you there is a hidden message. COME ON YOU STAGS
MATCH PICS: James Williamson