Sunday, 29 January 2012

CTA #34 Ebbsfleet Vs Stags

Ebbsfleet United Vs Mansfield Town
Blue Square Bet Premier (Game #30)
Stonebridge Road
Date & Time
Saturday 28th January – 3PM
1,085 (200 approx)
Match Referee
Justin Amey

‘Going the distance’

With a 360 mile round trip yesterday to a ground which holds hurtful memories of our fall out of the football league, it would have been very easy to have ignored my 5am wakeup call yesterday. All week, through my own doings, I have been reminded of our untimely relegation, writing various articles about our first ever game in the conference, against yesterday’s opponents Ebbsfleet at Stonebridge Road. Such memories still hold a degree of anger and as I threw my alarm clock out of the window in a fit of early morning rage, I wondered what possessed me to keep travelling all these miles. I was a millisecond away from going back to sleep and missing my second game in eight years, however as my phone’s alarm beeped I realised I was awake and that, should I ‘Go the distance’ my team would too.

That’s exactly what they did yesterday, rounding off an unbeaten January with a 3-0 victory, ensuring their second consecutive clean sheet on the road and moving within touching distance of the play-offs once more. Two goals to the good at the break it’s fair to say the Stags perhaps stepped off the gas a little in the second half allowing the hosts numerous chances to level – however the determination showed and Gary Roberts’ second goal of the game deep into added on time wrapped the game up in front of the majority of the travelling faithful, who would have no doubt had the same battle with the alarm clock.

The lengthy journey provided a look from afar at the Olympic stadium, immediately dreams flooded my head of commentating at the games’ football showdown. A white van man driving over a raised barrier on an A road just past the Olympic venue caused a few raised eyebrows with fellow motorists, but not the nearby police who we’re conducting a routine drug search for a forthcoming episode of traffic cops! Oh Mickey from only fools and horses was also spotted delivering food to a local expensive version of the co-op..... arrival at Stonebridge Road couldn’t come quick enough for me really – sod the memories!

Nothing about the grounds exterior had changed since our last visit in November 2009; the pub which was rammed with Stags fans the previous year however had changed, converting into a successful cafe. The car park, as I vaguely remember from 2009 was still a building site with puddles galore, the inside of the ground still consisted of an open to the elements terracing and a crumbling wooden main stand which housed the press box, dressing rooms and two exercise bikes. I could feel the paint work crumble off onto my jacket every time I climbed underneath the desk to plug in my equipment – the unsteadiness of the creaking wooden floor added to fear of being smashed with the ball as I was in close proximity to the pitch. The less said about the wooden beams and bent, narrow steps, the better!

Time ticked on and team sheets arrived, Paul Cox named an unchanged starting 11 from Wednesday’s draw at Luton, whilst new signing Paul Edwards (on a month’s loan from Fleetwood) came onto the bench to replace Jon Worthington.       

Alan Marriott
Ritchie Sutton – John Dempster – Martin Riley – Luke O’Neill
Ross Dyer – Gary Roberts – Adam Murray (C) – Adam Smith
Ben Hutchinson – Matt Green
SUBS: Shane Redmond – Paul Edwards (#2) – Louis Briscoe – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle

In search of all three points, the Stags got off to a great start registering the games first chance in under a minute, winning the ball back straight from kick off. Ross Dyer made the space on the right hand side before playing the ball short inside to Roberts. The creative midfielder completed the link up with a fast paced spinning ball to the feet of Ben Hutchinson, who trotted forward to the edge of the box before drilling wide with his left boot.

A minute later Mansfield perhaps had a case for a penalty. Ben Hutchinson started the move on the half way line winning the ball back from Michael West before chipping a pass wide to the right hand side for Matt Green. The Stags leading front man cut past full back Joe Howe before crossing into the middle in search of Smith or Dyer – the ball seemed to deflect off the arm of home captain Paul Lorraine however the referee waved play on as keeper Preston Edwards came to collect.

The Stags we’re again on the attack on nine minutes when Roberts’ acute chip over the top played Matt Green in behind the fleet defence, Preston Edwards was quick off his line to collect the ball and avert the danger. Two minutes later the hosts registered their first chance of the game following a defensive error, Liam Enver-Marum chased down the danger and managed to get a shot away under-pressure from the hastily retreating Dempster and Riley. The shot lacked any real power though and Alan Marriott was able to collect. Ebbsfleet continued to have a spell inside the Mansfield half and put a testing ball across the six yard line on 13 minutes. Right back Craig Stone provided the cross following a powerful advancing run, his ball into the middle was two quick for Enver-Marum or any other Ebbsfleet body – Ross Dyer cleared the danger.

On 21 minutes a battle of head tennis back and forth over the half way was ended when Adam Murray was fouled from behind, the Stags used the resulting free kick to prefect to open the afternoon’s scoring. Alan Marriott took the central placed free kick and delivered the ball straight to the head of Ross Dyer who cushioned the ball down for Matt Green. The Stags hit man watched the ball drop perfectly before stroking the ball into the bottom corner for his 18th of the season – a well worked goal from Mansfield with Ross Dyer playing a key role in the air, the hosts no doubt will be questioning their focus and defending when they watch the game back.

Ebbsfleet 0-1 Stags

Mansfield sensed more goals and a minute from the re-start again had a case for a penalty thrown out of court. Matt Green was the man fouled by the referee adjudged Tom Phipp’s challenge just inside the area to be a legal one. Liam Enver-Marum came closest to levelling the game on 28 minutes as a rare mistake by Adam Murray allowed the hosts to advance. Nathaniel Pinney took control of the ball following the Stags skippers error and after taking the ball forward a few strides, pushed the ball inside the Enver-Marum whose powerful effort fizzed off the surface before being blocked by Marriott down to his right hand side.

Ebbsfleet had keeper Preston Edwards to thank four minutes later as Ben Hutchinson looked to score his first goal from open play, after opening his account from the spot against Hayes & Yeading United the previous Saturday. Adam Murray atoned for his earlier error making a mockery of Neil Barrett on the half way line, chipping the ball over his head before controlling and knocking the ball inside to Roberts. The eager-eyed midfielder played a frankly sublime through to Hutchinson who powered through the middle to latch onto the pass. Just inside the area Hutchinson set himself with a tight touch before smashing the ball towards goal, Edwards managed to push the ball up and away for a corner – which Mansfield failed to take advantage of.

Edwards was again called into action on 35 minutes when Hutchinson returned the favour to set Roberts. Roberts turned his marked well and hit a well driven shot with his left boot towards the top corner. Edwards watched it all the way and moved across to catch the ball. Two minutes later the home keeper could do nothing as Roberts doubled Mansfield’s lead with a splendid effort from 25 yards out. A poor headed clearance from Ebbsfleet’s Paul Lorraine allowed Matt Green to drop deep and initiate the move, spraying the ball wide to Ben Hutchinson. The former Middlesbrough striker played Roberts inside who did the rest, skipping easily past his marker before opening up his body to fire a dipping shot into the bottom corner.

Ebbsfleet 0-2 Stags

Ebbsfleet then offered little until the break and should have been made to pay once more with a minute to go before the half time whistle. Robert’s played a neat cross field ball to O’Neill who, after keeping the ball alive on the left, crossed in fro Matt Green. Ebbsfleet headed away but Roberts picked the ball up central and drove forward once more looking to bring Dyer into play on the right. Just as the former Port Vale man played the ball wide, his legs we’re taken away by Yado Mambo and Stags awarded a free kick. Luke O’Neill stepped up and curled wide, half a yard the other way and Paul Cox’s men would have taken a three goal lead into the break, alas as the whistle blew, it was just two.

HALF TIME: Ebbsfleet 0-2 Stags

The hosts looked the brighter of the two sides as the second period got underway with Alan Marriott called into action early on, holding onto Michael West’s driven free kick after he was fouled by Adam Murray. Paul Cox was forced to reshuffle the pack on 55 minutes when Matt Green picked up a shin injury during a challenge with his Ebbsfleet marker, Louis Briscoe entered the fray with his role alternating with Dyer up front and on the right.

Mansfield gave themselves a scare on 58 minutes as another Michael West free kick was well struck. Alan Marriott watched it all the way but taken aback by the pace of the effort, could only parry into a pocked of space inside his 6 yard box, fortunately no red shirt charged forward to challenge and Marriott quickly recovered.

On 65 minutes Mansfield had a golden double chance to add another goal when Louis Briscoe cut inside from the flank and create a pocket of space leaving his markers in a daze. The lively winger threaded a pass through to Hutchinson who in turn skipped inside before letting fly. The ball cannoned off a lunging defender straight into the path of Briscoe, who drive his effort straight into the arms of Preston Edwards from five yards out.

Two minutes later the hosts again troubled the Stags with Liam Enver-Marum teasing, driving a shot towards goal from 25 yards – Alan Marriott showed good agility producing a fine one handed save. Ben Hutchinson saw two chances blocked at the other end but again it was Enver-Marum who came closest to reducing the score line, seeing his 75th minute driven shot deflect up and beyond Marriott for a goal kick. Lindon Meikle then replaced Adam Smith as the Stags looked to put the game to bed, Meikle was involved straight away making a strong run, squaring the ball low for Hutchinson, before keeping the deflected ball in play on the touch line and crossing for Ross Dyer. The burley hit man who scored in last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Hayes, rose high to connect but somehow headed wide with 81 on the clock.

Enver-Marum again threatened but to no avail before Anthony Howell came on to replace Ben Hutchinson with seven minutes remaining. Lindon Meikle moved up front on his own whilst Briscoe shifted left and Dyer right with the midfield becoming a five to silence Enver-Marum and substitute Lanre Azeez. With a minute of normal time left Mansfield should have finally wrapped the game up with Meikle creating once more, his ball to feed Louis Briscoe into the left of the area was good with Briscoe creating the final pass across the box to Ross Dyer. With the goal at his mercy the former Forest Green man failed to add to his 6 goals already collected this campaign, opting for power rather than placement, smashing the ball against the post.

Finally Mansfield did score again three minutes into the four added on. Briscoe was the creator this time from the right hand side lofting the ball to the back post. Gary Roberts arrived and unleashed a venomous volley at Edwards who saved well but could nothing about the rebound which landed back at Roberts’ feet, the midfielder slotted home to grab his second and Mansfield’s third.

Ebbsfleet 0-3 Stags

After the game Robert’s admitted he had asked to come off with five to play, not realising Cox had used all three substitutes. He didn’t have to wait long for a breather as soon after celebrating his goal, the full time whistle blew.

FULL TIME: Ebbsfleet 0-3 Stags

The victory, including a second consecutive clean sheet, puts us four points off a play-off space with a game in hand, stretching our unbeaten run to six games in the process. Reflecting on the game we should have been sharper in the second half and we’re perhaps a tad fortunate to come away with a clean sheet, however we did what we needed to do, digging deep and staying the distance.        

I believe February will now be a key month in terms of our ambitions; firstly we need to snap John Dempster and assure a key cog of our machine will not be taken from us. Secondly we need to really show our ruthless streak as we face Struggling Darlington, Alfreton and Newport, plus league leaders Fleetwood and mid-table Tamworth. I have every sympathy for Darlington and their supporters and hope we can do something to help and of course, a saviour steps in. That said, we need the points and despite their youthful threadbare squad, can’t afford to be nice on the pitch. Over the last three games they have shown they will fight and we’re unfortunate to be pegged back to a draw against York yesterday. There are 15 points up for grabs over the next month, 12 would be what’ is expected of us, 13 would be better drawing with Fleetwood – however I believe we have the ability to see off the league leaders and take the maximum points on offer. No team will be a walk over and all the games in some way will present a challenge – let’s keep our focus and gather pace, staying the distance to get where we want to be.
Before leaving you for another week, I must send my wishes to Rhys Day who was injured during yesterday’s 1-1 reserve team draw at Rainworth MW – another injury to his knee could again see him out of action for some time, here’s hoping the injury won’t be as bad as first feared – all the best Rhys!
Thanks for reading - COYS! 
Match Photos: James Williamson

No comments:

Post a Comment