‘Rub Of the Green’
There always comes a time when you end up reflecting on missed opportunities, looking back over the past few days or weeks wondering when it was you broke a mirror, walked under a ladder a black cat. Matt Green will be doing the same tonight as he reflects on last night’s 1-1 draw at home to Gateshead, in fact I bet the lads wondering when all three misfortunes at the same time, because latest he’s just not getting the rub of the Green – please excuse the pun.
Following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with bottom of the table Bath, Paul Cox said his side needed to be more Systematic more strong minded and get back to enjoying their football, when speaking to me at the weekly press meeting. The Stags boss shook the pack once more, making three changes as we searched for our first victory in five outings (league and cup)
There was a shock with Cox’s selection as he dropped full back Luke O’Neill who had featured in every game of the season, in came John Dempster for his full debut along with Lee Stevenson and Adam Murray following his suspension. Along with O’Neill out went Paul Bolland and Anthony Howell. A flexible formation was put on show by Cox, a 4-3-3 or, what looked to me like a 4-2-3-1 – both formations suiting our style of play, allowing Stevenson & Meikle a little more creative freedom.
Ritchie Sutton – John Dempster (O’Neill) – John Thompson – Kieron Freeman
Adam Murray (C) (Bolland) – Aman Verma
Ross Dyer – Lee Stevenson (Howell) – Lindon Meikle
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Louis Briscoe – Paul Bolland – Luke O’Neill – Nialle Rodney
Mansfield started the game a million times brighter than they have done in previous weeks and should have been ahead in the opening two minutes, a routine back pass to the keeper from Sam Rents seemed to hold up in the gusty evening wing, both Green and Gateshead keeper Jak Alnwick raced for it with Green getting there first, knocking the ball around the Newcastle loanee – With an open goal at his mercy all Green had to do was tap home, however unbelievably Green shot wide of the target.
Three minutes later Green was in again, this time showing good determination chasing down a sloppy back pass. Stags’ leading scorer veered away from goal to round the keeper but this time was denied as Alnwick claimed the ball at Green’s feet.
The Stags were playing some truly wonderful football with the 4-2-3-1 formation working a treat. As predicated pre-match, it allowed Meikle and Stevenson, who was making only his second start of the season, a lot of freedom, with Murray & Verma starting moves with well timed challenges and pitch perfect passes. Murray and Verma also showed there attacking credentials with the pair heavily involved with Mansfield’s opener on nine minutes.
In the centre of the park, Murray pulled off a splendid dummy, that good he fooled himself! Before the returning Stags skipper spotted Verma to the right of the box, picking him out with a neatly chipped pass. Verma then showed neat control and knocked the ball inside to Ross Dyer who finished superbly, firing low and hard past the keeper into the bottom corner for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Stags 1-0 Gateshead
Despite a 3/4 minute spell on the ball in the Mansfield half, Gateshead created very little bar long range tame efforts – it was Mansfield who where on top throughout the first half. The Stags should have a second on 26 minutes when Aman Verma’s well hit deep free kick bounced the wrong side of the post when all it needed was someone to gamble.
Matt Green, Ross Dyer, Lindon Meikle and Lee Stevenson linked up very well with the latter shining in the central pocket of space which Meikle, Dyer and Green created. Just after the half hour mark Stevenson did his job perfectly, slotting Green through on goal from the centre of the park however Mansfield’s leading talisman fired over under pressure from Kris Gate. A minute later Stevenson again slipped a ball through the middle, this time is was Ross Dyer who fired over from 10 yards, under pressure from Ben Clark.
In the bitterly cold weather any knocks picked up were bound to come a little keener, with seven minutes to go before the break, Aman Verma picked up a knock to his knee and was replaced by Paul Bolland. Two minutes later Matt Green tore free down the right, holding up the ball long enough for support to arrive, Green played the ball into the area and Lee Stevenson struck, unfortunately his effort swirled out for a Gateshead throw in.
Gateshead gave the Stags a late first half scare when Phil Turnbull’s driven show was deflected behind for a corner, Ben Clark headed straight into Marriott’s hands from ex-stag Kyle Nix’s delivery.
Half Time: Stags 1-0 Gateshead
Gateshead began the second half a little more livelier than the first but despite pressure from the heed, the Stags still created chances for a second playing some neat football along the way. On 53 minutes Matt Green looked eager to avenge his first half misses, making a jinking run before letting fly from the edge of the box, however Green still couldn’t find the target as he shot straight at Alnwick.
Just shy of the hour mark the Stags saw a second goal ruled out, fantastic flowing football saw Dyer played wide right, his driven cross found Meikle at the far post who bundled the ball into the back of the net but was penalised for handball, and offside.
On 65 minute minute’s disbelief swept Field Mill as Stags again failed to convert, Kieron Freeman’s right sided free kick was strong and found John Dempster at the far post, two yards from goal Dempster, making his full debut, blazed over.
The appreciation for Mansfield’s fine flowing football seemed to bubble over into frustration by a small minority, sensing the frustration growing Gateshead brought on Nathan Fisher, who in all fairness instantly changed the game, being a nuisance to Stags getting in tight spaces, stretching the game and covering every blade of grass. On 68 minutes Gateshead made Mansfield rue their missed chances, Sam Rents provided a perfect cross for the on fire ex-Stag Jon Shaw, who predictably sent his glancing header past Alan Marriott from 6 yards, grabbing his 20th goal of the season and levelling the game.
Stags 1-1 Gateshead
Nathan Fisher fired over from the edge of the box a minute later as Gateshead looked to complete the turnaround; however Mansfield also seemed determined to get back ahead. Matt Green finally beat Alnwick after a mazy run, however the Stags striker was still left holding his head in his hands as the ball brushed past the post and out for a goal kick.
Paul Cox then withdrew the impressive Lee Stevenson for Louis Briscoe with 17 minutes left, Briscoe’s addition to the pitch saw Stags go 4-4-2 with Dyer slotting upfront alongside Green and Meikle moving to the left. Briscoe’s attacking flair had to wait however as the visitors powered forward, John Dempster made the right impression on the crowd throwing himself at not one but two powerful Jon Shaw efforts.
With 11 minutes to go, Ross Dyer should have grabbed his second of the night, Matt Green did all the hard work on the left hand side playing a neat ball inside for the former Forest Green target man, however Dyer had a rush of blood and fired aimlessly over the top when really, he could have taken a touch before finishing the job.
Neither side looked contempt with just a point however it was the visitors who looked more likely to score towards the end as they pressured the Stags. Alan Marriott was the hero once more, denying Jon Shaw and James Marwood from close range with top draw saves – a fine way to complete his 100th league game for the club, it’s just a shame the chances at the other end couldn’t make it all three points rather than just one!
Full Time: Stags 1-1 Gateshead
So another draw making it three points from a possible 12 in our last four outings, however I’m not going to sit here tonight and pick holes in our performance, or try and deeply analyse every single move (despite having time on my hands!)! All I’m going to say is something that’s a fact – Mansfield Town played some fantastic, outstanding football worthy of winning any game, yes we didn’t take our chances and yes we got caught (again!) but we didn’t get the rub of the green, it’s a simple as that. No amount of coaching, ability, money, effort etc can chance that – sometimes things either happen or they don’t.
In a few weeks time we WILL look back at last night’s 1-1 draw and say it changed our season for the better. For the first time in a month, maybe two – we played with freedom, flair and confidence. We we’re tactically spot on and matched this with ability – both in attack and defence. We we’re fluid, we we’re excitable, we had desire, flair and belief – We were Mansfield Town once more.
All we do now is channel it and convert it into points on Saturday afternoon against Braintree. Simple.
P.S.... If you’ve any lucky horse shoes, four leave clovers, charms etc – please send them to Matt Green, Mansfield Town FC, Quarry Lane.... Only Greeny, the net will burst from your boot soon!
Thanks for reading!