Sunday, 27 November 2011

CTA #22 Bath Vs Stags

Blue Square Bet Premier Game #20 Bath City Vs Mansfield Town – Twirton Park, Saturday 26th November 3PM

‘Roman Invasion’
After making four exciting signings in the week, you could forgive any Stags fan who had an air of confidence about them yesterday. With Stags travelling to rock bottom Bath City and having, as mentioned, added more quality to the ranks – it seemed a certainty that there would only be one winner at Twirton Park yesterday.

In the mixing bowl too was the fact the hosts had played 120 minutes of football midweek when they we’re knocked out of the FA cup by Dagenham & Redbridge. The cake mixture was sweet and as kick off approached the flavour was so sexy, the apatite craved more – looking back, our cake was arrogant and the sweet taste turned bitter at 5PM when once more, the beautiful game brought us crashing back down to earth with its harsh reality; A very lucky and totally unacceptable 1-1 draw.

During the week Paul Cox had brought in Aman Verma and Marcus Kelly on loan with a view to a permanent move from cash strapped Kettering, along with experienced defender John Dempster from Crawley (three months) and lively forward Nialle Rodney from Bradford (1 month) – With Adam Murray suspended it was likely that either Verma or Kelly would debut, however the real question was which two loan players would miss out, as league rulings state only five can be in the 16. Louis Moult, who looks set to return to Stoke on Monday, along with surprisingly Marcus Kelly we’re the two loanee’s to sit out, whilst skipper Adam Murray also missed out trough suspension with Paul Cox unsurprisingly handing captaincy duty to John Thompson as the Stags boss made two changes to the line up, and four to the bench.
Alan Marriott

Luke O’Neill – Ritchie Sutton – John Thompson (C) – Kieron Freeman

Ross Dyer – Paul Bolland (Murray) – Aman Verma (Hegarty) #34 – Lindon Meikle

Matt Green – Anthony Howell

SUBS: Shane Redmond – Louis Briscoe – Lee Stevenson – John Dempster #31 – Nialle Rodney #32
After battling with Dagenham & Redbridge midweek Bath seemed to have found renewed confidence and got proceedings underway, the registered their first effort in under a minute pouncing on an error from skipper John Thompson – the former Notts County captain was just too keen to stamp his authority on the game and didn’t get enough on his clearing header allowing Lewis Hogg to nip in. Hogg made his way to the edge of the box but couldn’t get a clean shot away under immense pressure from Ritchie Sutton and hit a tame effort straight at Marriott.

Seven minutes later it was the hosts on the charge once again, Lewis Hogg was allowed too much time and space on the ball inside the centre of the park and picked an easy pass to Joe Bryan who arrived in the area after giving O’Neill the brush off. Bryan’s shot hit the side netting fortunately for Stags who in truth demonstrated some sluggish defending throughout the early exchanges.
The Stags did finally break and show signs of what could be on ten minutes after Alan Marriott calmly collected a deep Sean Canham free kick. The Stags keeper spotted Lindon Meikle free on the left wing and picked him out with an early ball – Meikles neat control allowed him to turn outpace his marker and feed leading scorer Matt Green. The Oxford loanee who is close to sealing his permanent move to Field Mill dropped his shoulder to shoot but was blocked off before picking a pass out to strike partner Anthony Howell who immediately let fly, but only into Bath keeper Jason Matthews’ hands.

On 17 minutes good Mansfield pressure saw debutant Aman Verma put in his apology for former club Darlington’s FA Trophy win, combining well with John Thompson. Verma held the ball up well on the edge of the box and demonstrated neat footwork, firing a shot towards goal but seeing it blocked and diverted away for a corner.

A minute later Bath took the lead very much against the run of play with Mansfield enjoying a neat passing spell, Aman Verma thought he’d sparked another move when the 24 year old found Bolland in the centre circle, however Bolland’s touch was heavy and Marley Watkins broke free. Watkins threaded a pass into Bryan who drew a fine save from Marriott; however Marriott could do nothing about the rebound as Watkins arrived unmarked to fire home from 12 yards to put the rock bottom hosts in front.

Bath 1-0 Stags
Five minutes later Mansfield we’re back on level terms thanks to a massive piece of good luck, Aman Verma impressed on the edge of the box turning away from his marker before feeding Lindon Meikle wide left. The England C winger took the ball right to the goal line and chipped the ball back into the box – Matthews was beaten and somehow the looping ball delicately touched the far post and dropped into the net. A fluke goal from an acute angle, Meikle’s third of the season.
Bath 1-1 Stags

On 27 minutes the hosts had a golden chance to regain the advantage, however both sides where left feeling guilty, Mansfield of poor defending and Bath of woeful finishing. Canham’s free kick was headed back across the face of goal as Ross Dyer was easily out jumped at the near post, with Mansfield in a daze the ball fell at the far post for Charlie Clough, Clough somehow missed an open goal from two yards out. As soon as the ball was over, Paul Cox raced out of his technical area with more steam coming out his ears than steam coming from the nearby roman bath houses – the Stags boss clearly furious with his sides defending.

With a minute to go before the break the Stags felt the pendulum of luck swing ferociously from side to side, Sekani Simpson’s low cross from the right hand side bounced up and struck a Stags arm, however referee Amy Fearn waved away the appeals and Alan Marriott collected the loose ball. He spotted Ross Dyer free on the right hand side and picked him out with a fine throw, Dyer then produced a fine run cutting inside from the bye line leaving defenders chasing fresh air, he unselfishly played Howell into the box however the former Alfreton mans shot was well saved by home keeper Matthews. Luke O’Neill delivered another poor corner as the Stags again failed to make their presence felt.
On the stroke of half time, Mansfield pilled forward again, Matt Green and Ross Dyer combined in the air with the ball falling to Howell on the edge of the box. Howell struck tamely but again got a corner as the ball bobbled off Charlie Clough’s leg.

Half Time: Bath 1-1 Stags
Two minutes into the second half, a much improved delivery from Luke O’Neill nearly saw the Stags edge In front; O’Neill’s corner ran all the way to the far post for Lindon Meikle. The lively wingman whipped the ball back across goal right footed, with the ball just curling out as Ross Dyer arrived at the back post.

Minutes later Mansfield we’re caught napping but given a let off curtsey of Amy Fearn, A Bath free kick was taken quickly and chipped into the box, the Bath runner was unmarked on the edge of the box and unleashed an unstoppable volley which cannoned off the post and back into play – fortunately the sleeping Stags we’re woken up by Fearn’s whistle as the free kick was pulled back and the taker booked for taking the set piece before the whistle.
On 52 minutes Matt Green showed battling quality’s to keep Ritchie Sutton’s chipped ball in play on the right hand side, Green earned the Stags a corner which O’Neill took. The young full backs delivery found John Thompson at the back post after he powered his way through the crowd – the captain’s header was blocked and found Dyer on the edge of the box. Lindon Meikle then linked the ball back across to O’Neill who delivered a curling cross which Matt Green headed wide from close range.

A minute later it was Bath pressuring, Simpsons cross was flicked on and found Joe Bryan – Alan Marriott produced a fine save to deny the hungry Bath forward. Moments later Marriott could only watch on as Gethin Jones headed a Canham free kick wide of the target as the Stags again we’re sluggish to clear the hosts set pieces.

Paul Cox then introduced Louis Briscoe for Paul Bolland with 65 on the clock, the lively wing man has missed Mansfield’s last five games through injury and his ability has been sorely missed. Ross Dyer, who has taken Briscoe’s place on the right since his injury, moved back up front alongside Green, whilst Howell slotted into the vacant central-midfield role.

Four minutes after his introduction Briscoe showed the Stags exactly what they’d been missing, whipping in a dangerous ball following Luke O’Neill’s interception of a Bath through ball. Briscoe’s lively cross found Green inside the area, the leading scorer controlled and turned well, firing a shot against the leg of the covering defender.

On 74 minutes Matt Green should have put Mansfield ahead, Lindon Meikle produced a fine pass over the top of the home back line and Green pounced, cushioning the ball with his head before setting himself to go round the advancing keeper. With the goal at his mercy Green had simple goal but rolled the ball agonisingly wide of the target. Green was replaced less than a minute later by Nialle Rodney.

From then on it was a true Roman invasion as the hosts penned Stags in and produced the better football, creating space, exploiting the gaps and doing everything but score. On 83 Sekani Simpsons low cross found Lewis Hogg unmarked in the middle, Hogg powered his effort goal wards but was denied by Marriott who was on fine form.

A minute later the hosts thought they’d done it as they ran riot down the right hand side leaving Kieron Freeman exposed. Simpson found substitute Scott Murray who placed the ball across the face of goal, fellow sub Lee Phillips bundled home from half a yard but didn’t even celebrate as the linesman flag for offside was up way before he connected with the ball.

With less than five minutes to go away from home against bottom of the league, locked at 1-1 you’d usually see a striker or attacking midfielder thrown on, however with Freeman and Mansfield getting torn to pieces at the back the Stags final substitution was used to withdraw Freeman and introduce John Dempster. The 28 year old defender slotted in at centre half, with Sutton going to right back and O’Neill to left back.

Despite the move, Bath continued attacking and Paul Cox’s side had Marriott to thank as he held onto several long range efforts, they also had the post to thank as Aaron Amadi-Holloway crashed a shot against it in the dyeing seconds.

Full Time: Bath 1-1 Stags
I can’t put my finger on why Mansfield crumbled or why we again had an knack of not scoring, had it been for Meikles fluke, we’d have lost as nothing seemed like going in. Bath are fighting for their lives at the bottom and tore us to pieces on too many occasions, any neutral who’d seen the game and didn’t know which side sat where in the table would put Mansfield at the bottom on that showing. We missed Murray in the centre of the park; I personally feel a Murray-Verma partnership would be fantastic. Upfront Howell gave us a different dimension and whilst some will say he was ineffective, I disagree. He got in the tiny holes, won us flick on’s and gave Green more space to work – I think we lost a massive part of our attack when he was moved back into the middle of the park. I can sit and pick holes in our side and rant about player performances etc for hours on end but their seriously is no point – dwelling get’s us nowhere. What we’ve done is get out of bed on a cold morning, stood on a plug, been scratched by the cat and poured boiling hot water on our hands whilst making the tea – what we do know is look in the mirror, address our mistakes and make sure we avoid failing down stairs when we face Gateshead on Tuesday. As Keith Curle always said, there’s a right way, a wrong way and a Mansfield Town way – The Mansfield Town way is getting a point off the bottom side, but beating the topsides – so bring on Gateshead!
Aside from the football, as you’ll be aware yesterdays game was my final broadcast with Takeover due to a staff shortage at the station. I’d just like to thank you for the kind messages of support and offers of help, to know that what I do makes a difference and provides a service on match day warms my heart – I’ll do my best to get it back. During my time with Takeover, I’ve hit troubled spells but shone through them with the help of friends and close colleagues – If this is the end, I will look back with fond memories. I am proud of the phone in show we had last season and thank you for your participation, I am privileged and grateful of my days out at Wembley and I’m delighted with the upturn of listeners and love for the shows since pre-season. It has been difficult and there have been doubters (some of them I’ve kept quiet) but through gritted teeth, together we’ve got through it all and had a bloody good laugh along the way. I thank you for sharing the journey with you and promise that; somehow, we’ll be back, bigger and better than ever before. This is not the end, it’s just the beginning – we are down, but by no means out. Keep a track of what’s going off on and if you can help in anyway please email     
Thanks again and thank you for reading as always.
Photos: James Williamson

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