Mansfield Town Vs Forest Green Rovers
Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #27)
Field Mill, Mansfield
Date & Time
Saturday 7th January 2012 – 3PM
Tony Harrington (Hartlepool)
‘The Day the Work Got Done’
|The boys celebrating one of the four goals in our last victory|
When you look back at Mansfield Town’s fixture list, you have to look back to Saturday 3rd December 2011 for the last victory prior to kick off yesterday afternoon. Calculating it, that’s a mammoth 450 minutes of football (league and cup), played without victory – if you want to go further back for a victory prior to the Braintree win, it’s October 22nd when Andy Todd’s late strike earned the Stags a 3-2 win over Alfreton – meaning in 1080 minutes of football we’ve won just twice. Now I’m not here slating the boys or saying it’s not good enough and I want the managers head impaled on a spike – my point is that after so many minutes of football, at least 75% of which our performances have warranted victory but not actually achieved it, beating Forest Green Rovers yesterday afternoon was a welcome relief and a feeling, which, if harnessed and used correctly, can propel us onto another run similar to the one at the start of our league campaign.
Having won just by the one goal in a game dominated by the wind rather than the football, some of you may think I’m mental for suggesting such a thing – I’m not. My point is that when you wait for something for such a long period, you value the reward when your goal is finally achieved. Players and managers will have been just as hurt when another mark went in our draws column or defeats column, now we have the victory we must not remember the feeling the victory brings, but remember the anguish of not winning each and every time we step over the white line to take on our opponents. Football is a game of mental strength as well as ability, if we channel the loosing/ drawing feeling during the tough spells of games, I’m confident it will be the springboard for us to go and change a game for the better, whether it be tightening our passing to keep the ball from our opponents, or letting Green run free and bag yet another goal.
Football is what you make of it, yes it’s a destiny but one you have to work for rather than wait for. As each minute ticks by it can either be another point slipping slowly out of reach, or a tightened grip. If we no longer loosen our grip, we become strong, in becoming strong we become winners, in becoming winners we achieve what we desire. Simple facts, simple truths – read at first like gobble-gook ramble, but read a second time with understanding of the message within.
|Joe Kendrick, one of three changes|
Luke O’Neill – John Dempster (Riley) – Ritchie Sutton – Joe Kendrick (Freeman)
Louis Briscoe (Howell) – Gary Roberts – Adam Murray (C) – Lindon Meikle
Matt Green – Ross Dyer
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Martin Riley – Lee Stevenson – Anthony Howell – Ben Hutchinson (#28)
Forest Green got the game underway as the sides swapped ends, with the Stags attacking the QLE in the first half rather than the second, the Rovers’ couldn’t keeper the ball for long as skipper Adam Murray nipped in to take possession, he was quickly bundled down from behind earning the Stags a free kick which Luke O’Neill took, delivering too heavy allowing James Bittner to collect in the Forest Green goal. Murray did receive treatment prior to the kick being taken, but was soon up on his feet and back in the action.
|Gary Roberts, in action at York, impressed on his home debut|
Two minutes later the Stags we’re again on the march forward, with Roberts feeding Green on the edge of the box. The Stags leading scorer deflected the ball away for a corner which Mansfield perhaps wasted, the ball was played quickly to Briscoe whose cross failed to trouble the rovers back line, with Jamie Turley heading forcefully away. The visitors then enjoyed a spell in the Mansfield half with Kieron Forbes playing chief tormentor, weaving a path through the middle before feeding Liam Henderson into the area. Henderson was playing his third consecutive game against Stags after starting both the festive fixtures for York, from whom he joined Forest Green on loan prior to the game. The front man scored in the same net he was attacking for his new team on Boxing Day, a well timed challenge from Joe Kendrick ensured there was no repeat performance.
James Norwood then saw his low cross deflected behind by Kendrick with the Stags nearly countering from the resulting corner, Forest Green skipper Jared Hodgkiss stopped Lindon Meikle in his tracks on the half way line after Matt Green had got back to clear the dangerous set piece.
Despite a neat piece of play between Roberts, Dyer and Green which saw the final pass too heavy for Briscoe, it was the visitors who continued to attacking drawing the first real save of the game on 22 minutes. Charlie Griffin held up play well before sending James Norwood on his way, the Forest Green wing man found himself in the box and drive a shot towards goal which Marriott sprung to tip over the bar, Kieron Forbes headed harmlessly wide from the resulting corner much to Mansfield’s relief.
Gary Roberts was really impressing the crowd on his home debut since his arrival from Port Vale, on 27 minutes he sparked another fine move with an acute ball over the top into the left channel. Ross Dyer worked his socks off for Mansfield and played the ball off a Rovers’ defender for a corner. Luke O’Neill’s delivery was easily cleared, however the Stags had a taste for going forward and two minutes later, nearly took the lead with a cheeky Roberts free kick from just over the half way line. The former Vale midfielder spotted Bittner off his line and got the required pace and accuracy on the ball, Bittner recovered and did well to canter back and catch the dipping ball.
Again the pendulum swung back in the Rovers favour as they penned Mansfield in their own penalty area with Kieron Forbes again covering the ground to stretch the game, a hesitance in shooting though saw Mansfield scramble clear. Just past the half hour mark the visitors could have been ahead, Hodgkiss’ low cross found Yan Klukowski whose powerful effort deflected behind for a corner, a neat ball was swung in and Klukowski again lurked on the edge of the box, drilling a thunderous effort just wide of Marriott’s post.
With ten to go before the break, Louis Briscoe made a good run to switch play to the left hand side for Lindon Meikle, the former Eastwood winger weaved past defenders before finding the advancing Gary Roberts on the edge of the box, a neat turn from Roberts set a left footed shot for himself, which landed just wide of the post. Five minutes later Mansfield moved the ball well from wing to wing, with Luke O’Neill providing the connecting pass to Louis Briscoe from Joe Kendrick. Briscoe showed a flash of what fans know he can do, nipping into the area between two bodies, before unfortunately curling well over with his left boot.
A long ball over the top from the visitors then saw Griffin hold up play well, he then fed Norwood who hit a decent effort towards the bottom corner, Alan Marriott got down in time to keep it out and see the game firmly locked at the half time interval.
HALF TIME: Stags 0-0 Forest Green Rovers
The second half wind was bitterly cold and mightily strong meaning the neat spells of football we’re few and far between, the ugly game Paul Cox had spoken about was on show. On 50 minutes the wind played a major factor in James Norwood staying onside nearly getting in behind, Luke O’Neill recovered for the Stags though and nipped the ball of the Rovers’ wing mans toes. Two Minutes later Forbes was again pulling the strings for the visitors as he sent Liam Henderson free, the front man forced a fine save from Alan Marriott who sprung well down to his left, the resulting corner saw Marriott clatter with defender Eddie Oshodi, who was shown a yellow card for his late challenge which left Marriott winded, however the Stags custodian was ok to carry on.
Mansfield then opted with a change in personnel to deal with the tough conditions, Anthony Howell replaced Louis Briscoe who in my opinion did very little to influence the game, often drifting inside when it was clear we needed his pace in the wide areas when Luke O’Neill brought play forward. On 57 The Stags broke well with Lindon Meikle effective, now on the left hand side of a forward three. Meikle cut off the bye line to curl a neat cross into the middle, the cross moved in the wind and James Bittner was forced to tip over, preventing the ball from crashing into the top corner.
Just past the hour mark Roberts sparked another Stags move in which the hosts should have taken advantage. Matt Green covered the ground with real pace, springing from the right flank to the centre before playing in Roberts who made a central run. The creative midfielder weighted a low pass perfectly into the feet of Meikle who burst into the box onto his left foot and blazed over, Meikle looked to burst the net at pace rather than stroke the ball into the inviting goal – a fine move all the same.
Meikle then made it third time lucky as he gave Mansfield the lead on 64 minutes, with Gary Roberts heavily involved once more. The central midfielder kept control well and created space for Luke O’Neill, the former Leicester full back broke into the space and received Roberts’ pass, drilling a low cross into the middle where Lindon Meikle pounced, bundling home from half a yard for his 5th of the season.
Stags 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
Meikle’s goal was then celebrated by a new song from the QLE choir and drum band – to the tune of ‘heartbeat’ Meikle’s name bellowed loud for all to hear – an absolute classic! On 70 minutes though the home crowd were nearly silence by the rovers as Jake Thompson’s right wing free kick fell to Eddie Oshodi on the six yard line, somehow he blasted wide with the goal at his mercy.
Eight minutes later the Rovers’ troubles deepened as substitute Matt Paterson committed a dangerous challenge on John Dempster right in front of the Stags bench, Paterson rightly was shown a straight red card with no hesitation from referee Tony Harrington. Dempster too followed Paterson down the tunnel, heading to the treatment room being replaced by Martin Riley.
Despite having a man less, Dave Hockaday’s side continued to battle and play well, however Gary Roberts had a decent chance to put the game to bed with five minutes to go. After doing the work himself to break into the box, he blazed a shot high into the stand with Matt Green standing unmarked, onside on the penalty spot. Roberts continued to play well and in truth deserved a goal to cap his home debut, and after watching Alan Marriott block well with his legs from a scrambled Oshodi shot, Roberts received a standing ovation when replaced by Ben Hutchinson, with the former Celtic striker making his debut following the completion of paperwork.
Hutchinson had little to do in the majority of the five minutes additional time as the visitors looked for a late leveller. Substitute Michael Uwezu was guilty of missing a sitter for Rovers as he poked a dangerous low cross wide from close range. In the final minute Mansfield found the net once more With Ben Hutchinson squaring the ball to Matt Green, who got enough power on the ball to see Bittner fumble and the ball trickle beneath his legs – the Forest Green shot stopper was spared the embarrassment however as the offside flag had already been raised.
No sooner had Bittner restarted play, the referee blew the whistle sealing Mansfield’s first victory of the new calendar year and also, a valuable clean sheet.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
Not the best victory in the world no, but a key performance by several players including Gary Roberts helped spare the Stags onto victory, it’s a great feeling and now let’s hope that we use the break from action to our advantage, put together another run towards the play offs and look back at the end of the season, saying Saturday 7th January was the day the work got done.
Thanks for reading.