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Season 13/14 Stagsnet Match Report
Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town  
2 - 3
 Accrington Stanley
McCombe 23, 68.
 Naismith 48, 90+4, Gray 90+5.
Attendance: 2549 (73 from Accrington)
Date: 21 December 2013


Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town threw away three points, conceding goals 4 and 5 minutes into stoppage time, after leading 2-1 through two goals from the recalled centre half John McCombe. It looked like the Stags would finally win a game after 11 games without a victory, but the Stags couldn’t hold on after defending deeper and deeper rather than trying to hold the ball upfield. Four minutes of stoppage time was signalled and 3.5 had passed when Accrington equalised. It was devastating for the players, management and fans. And even worse was to follow as Accrington scored again less than a minute after the restart. It was a poor game of football throughout, though Mansfield wouldn’t have minded if they could have registered the victory against an Accrington side that looked as devoid of confidence as the Stags did.

So the Stags are now 12 league games without a win, having taken just four points in the process, and getting closer to the club record of 14 games without a win, set in March-September 2000. Accrington’s victory saw them leapfrog Mansfield in the table and the Stags are now just two points above the drop zone, with 7 teams including Mansfield separated by 3 points. The Stags somehow need to re-group after this crushing blow and come back with an improved performance at Rochdale on Boxing Day, but it is also clear that Mansfield need to add some quality to the squad in the January transfer window, a point that is obvious to all, including manager Paul Cox, who is fully intending to do so.

Cox made five changes to the side that lost to Oldham on Tuesday. Three were enforced with Dempster suspended, and Clucas and Hutchinson injured. Daniel and Meikle were also dropped. In came McCombe, Sutton, Jennings, Stevenson and Andrew. The formation had three central defenders (Sutton, Riley and McCombe), with Westlake and Jennings as wing-backs, Murray and McGuire in the centre of midfield, and Stevenson behind Andrew and Dyer. Andrew was recalled on the back of his two goals for the reserves on Wednesday. Stevenson was brought in for his goalscoring ability, while McCombe was a surprise recall, though probably because of his prowess in the opposition box (as I did say in our commentary build-up to the game, and not just in hindsight).

It was an afternoon with a swirling wind, and the opening 13 minutes was poor from both sides with nothing of note taking place. On 13 minutes, Riley went down (for the second time in the game), and there were Stags claims of an elbow, with Murray and Marriott remonstrating with the officials. Nothing was given. The match DVD shows a malicious elbow into Riley’s head. Riley played the rest of the game with a headband.

On 19 minutes, a Murray corner from the left was headed up by Riley, and Andrew sent an overhead kick well wide. Then on 21 minutes, Peter Murphy volley well wide of the right post for the visitors.

The Stags took the lead on 23 minutes. A corner from Jennings from the right found McCombe who thundered a header against underside the bar. The ball dropped down and McCombe stabbed the loose ball into the back of the net. It was the first goal by a Stags centre-half since Luke Jones scored against Macclesfield in April.

On 27 minutes, Stevenson burst forward, picked up a good knock down from Andrew, got the ball onto his left foot, and fired wide of the right post. On 28 minutes, Accrington appealed for a penalty as the ball struck Riley on the hand but it looked like ball-to-hand. The ref waved away appeals. On 30 minutes, Lee Naylor’s free kick from 28 yards from the right was just over Marriott’s bar though Marriott had it covered. Then a minute later, Josh Windass had a free shot from the edge of the box, but fired over the bar.

Accrington were looking very poor, full of errors all over the pitch.

On 39 minutes, Jennings cleared away an effort from James Gray. Two minutes later, Accrington had half-hearted appeals for a penalty turned away. On 43 minutes, a snapshop from Kal Naisbitt was miles over the bar.

On 44 minutes, a good ball in from Jennings, was headed behind with Dyer lurking at the far post. From the resulting corner Riley got underneath it and headed well over.

Not a great game of football at all, but Mansfield were delighted with McCombe’s goal and happy to be in front at the break.

Half time 1-0

Mansfield started the second half slowly and Accrington equalised on 48 minutes. Naisbitt shot from the edge of the box and a deflection took it past the stranded Marriott. A very fortunate goal for Accrington.

On 49 minutes, Jennings, 35 yards out, fired miles wide, but he had no other options available to him. A minute later at the other end, Windass shot well over from 25 yards.

On 53 minutes, a good free kick from Jennings, but Riley couldn’t enough get on it to head it goalwards. On 56 minutes, Luke Naylor’s shot from 35 yards was well wide. Two minutes later, an Accrington corner caused danger but was cleared. On 59 minutes, a good 1-2 between Stevenson and Dyer, and Dyer flicked the ball back to Stevenson who volleyed well wide. Then a minute later, Stevenson teed up McGuire and his dipping shot from 25 yards was over the bar. On 62 minutes, Naismith shot well wide from 25 yards. On 63 minutes, Westlake crossed and Stevenson’s poor header was nowhere near goal. Straight to the other end, and Accrington had appeals for a penalty again as Mingola’s cross hit Jennings and the referee decided it hit him in the chest. On 67 minutes, Murray got into a shooting position 25 yards from goal, and it was deflected wide.

Mansfield were back in front on 68 minutes. A Jennings corner from the right was met by McCombe, who fired goalwards right-footed, it was blocked, straight back to him and he smashed a shot left-footed into the roof of the net.

On 70 minutes, Mingola cut inside from the left, and fired miles wide.

Cox made a change on 78 minutes, bringing on Meikle for Stevenson. Sutton moved to right back, in a 4 at the back formation with Westlake moved into Stevenson’s position as an attacking midfielder. Murray was now playing just in front of the back four. McCartan also came on for Accrington and immediately fired well over the bar following a long throw on 79 minutes. On 81 minutes, Jennings cleared an Accrington attack.

The Stags were looking nervous and defending deeper and deeper.

Rhead replaced Dyer on 86 minutes. Andrew moved back to left midfield, with Rhead up front on his own. Seconds later, McCombe did well to get a good header away from a dangerous cross.

A key moment came on 87 minutes as the Stags should have made it 3-1. Rhead put Westlake through, one-on-one with the keeper, but Westlake’s shot was saved.

Daniel replaced Andrew on 88 minutes. Jennings was booked for a late tackle on 90 minutes.

Four minutes of stoppage time was added.

With just 30 seconds of the four minutes left, Accrington equalised. Meikle lost the ball on the right wing, half way inside the Accrington half. Mingola played the ball forward and Riley put it out for a throw. A long throw was headed up in the air by Rhead, it was controlled by the knee of an Accrington player, and dropped for Naismith who fired left footed, low into the bottom right of the net from the edge of the box. It was a crushing moment for the Mansfield, who were shell-shocked.

Unbelievably, worse was to follow, less than a minute later. Naismith played a long ball over the top down the right from near his own corner flag, it was played into the middle by Peter Murphy, Luke Joyce battled to win the ball in the middle and play the ball back to James Gray, 16 yards out, pretty much unmarked, who fired into the left corner of the net. Accrington couldn’t believe it and their management team joined the players celebrating on the pitch.

The full time whistle, seconds later, brought a crescendo of boos from a stunned and angry Mansfield crowd, with some calls of “Cox out”. As the players approached the tunnel, there was an incident where Lee Stevenson appeared to have to be pulled away by his team-mates from an altercation with some fans behind the goal.

It was an awful game, the Stags looked very nervous in the final minutes trying to cling on to victory and paid the penalty for not holding on to the ball better. Accrington probably couldn’t believe their luck to be gifted the points after playing so poorly.

Despite the desperate situation the Stags are in, a Merry Christmas from us to all Stags fans, players, and management and staff. And of course huge congratulations to John and Carolyn Radford on the birth of their baby boy Hugo on Thursday!

Man of the match: John McCombe

Report by: Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Line Up:
Marriott 6 Couldn’t do anything about the goals, and the rest of the time he had nothing to do.
Westlake 6 Missed a good chance to sew the game up, but otherwise didn’t play badly.
Sutton 6 His first game back from injury. Didn’t do badly.
Riley 6 One or two good pieces of defending.
McCombe 7.5 The first centre half to score since Luke Jones against Macclesfield last season.
Jennings 6.5 Two good corners for the two goals.
Murray 5.5 Didn’t impose himself on the game as he did at Wimbledon and against Oldham. Faded towards the end, when his captaincy was most needed. This should improve with fitness.
McGuire 5 Poor game.
Stevenson 5 A couple of poor efforts. Otherwise too quiet.
Dyer 5 One good lay-off for Stevenson, otherwise was not in the game. The front two did not muster a single attempt on goal.
Andrew 5.5 Won a few headers and laid the ball off well, but otherwise contributed little. The front two did not muster a single attempt on goal worthy of the name.
Sub Line Up:
Meikle (for Stevenson, 78) - He was brought on to take the ball to the corner flags and instead he gave the ball away leading indirectly to the attack from which Accrington made it 2-2.
Rhead (for Dyer, 86) - Good ball forward to set up Westlake’s chance.
Daniel (for Andrew, 88) -
Subs not used: Deakin, Beevers, Clements, Palmer.
Opposition Line Up:
Bettinelli; Hunt (Bowerman 78), Aldred, Winnard, Naylor; Naismith, Murphy, Joyce, Mingola; Gray, Windass (McCartan 78). Subs not used: Liddle, Richardson, Hatfield, Wilson, Atkinson.
Carl Boyeson 5 A few odd decisions. Review of the match DVD shows a malicious elbow into Riley’s head which went unpunished.

Season 13/14 Reports