{ match reports }
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 13/14 Stagsnet Match Report
Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Exeter City  
0 - 1
 Mansfield Town
 Stevenson 45.
Attendance: 3303 (115 from Mansfield)
Date: 4 January 2014


Martin Shaw at St James Park

Mansfield Town picked up a second away win in six days, and 7 points from 3 games, to end a week that has been a massive morale boost to fans, players and staff. The Stags were good value for a lead at half time, with Lee Stevenson’s clinical finish just before the break. The Stags had started the game very well and should have been ahead early on as Ollie Palmer went around the keeper but had a shot cleared off the line and Stevenson had a shot tipped around the post. Exeter had a decent spell midway through the half but Mansfield ended it on top. The second half was a different story as Exeter pinned Mansfield back for much of it, and they were repelled by great backs-to-the wall defending with Stags bodies being thrown on the line, some fine goalkeeping from Alan Marriott, and crucially the Stags had Lady Luck on their side as Exeter undoubtedly deserved a point in the end especially when they hit the post after 5 minutes of stoppage time. Luck tends to even itself out and this makes up for games like Burton away when the Stags were defeated by a goal that shouldn’t have stood and not given a blatant penalty. There’s no doubt that Mansfield tired as the game wore on, having played on a heavy pitch three days ago while Exeter had a day off, and so it took a tremendous effort to dig in towards the end on another heavy pitch. Despite the upturn in results, it is still apparent that more quality is needed in the squad and January will be a big month in the transfer market. Mansfield are six points above the relegation zone and nine points below the play-off zone. The quality of signings will probably determine whether Stags can start looking up or continue looking down.

Boss Paul Cox made two changes to the side that drew with Burton: Dempster came in as expected for the injured Riley, while Stevenson came in for Murray. Murray hasn’t yet reached fitness level where he can play two full games in 3 days. Nevertheless, Murray did come on as a substitute and when he did come on, he chalked up 500 career games. Massive congratulations to him. It was the same formation as the last two games, with the three central defenders, Westlake and Jennings as wing-backs, Howell joined Clements in central midfield, and Stevenson played behind the front two. Exeter had former Stags loanee Craig Woodman on the bench, who’ll always be remembered for that storming goal against Notts County in 2004.

The game had been heavily in doubt after Exeter’s game on Wednesday had been postponed and more heavy rain was forecast. Fortunately not as much rain as expected fell on Friday and virtually none on the morning of the game allowing the game to go ahead. The pitch was heavy but conditions were nowhere near as bad as at Field Mill on Wednesday with the complete absence of wind.

Mansfield had 3 free kicks in the first 5 minutes. Clements took all of them and none came to anything which was wasteful.

On 6 minutes, the Stags really should have been in front. A tremendous ball forward from Clements put Palmer through on goal. He rounded the keeper expertly, a defender had time to get back on the line, and as Palmer shot, the defender cleared off the line. Palmer needs to be burying this type of chance having previously had one-on-ones against Wycombe and Cheltenham.

The Stags had another good chance on 11 minutes. Stevenson got the ball 30 yards out. A very good touch took him past one man. He got the ball on to his left foot and his shot from 20 yards was tipped past the right post by keeper Krysiak. I had a great view of it from my angle. The referee apparently didn’t have such a good view and gave a goal-kick much to Stevenson’s annoyance.

The Stags had another chance to take the lead on 13 minutes. From Marriott’s long kick, Rhead nodded down to Stevenson, who flicked the ball back to Rhead to volley wide from 20 yards.

Three good chances already in the opening 13 minutes was more than in 90 minutes against Burton on Wednesday.

On 15 minutes, Butterfield’s free-kick skimmed off Sam Parkin’s head straight to Marriott. A minute later, a good tackle by Tafazolli as Parkin nodded down in the box and Sercombe was about to shoot. On 17 minutes, an Exeter free-kick from 40 yards was headed away by Tafazolli. A minute later, a good corner from the left by Sercombe and Bennett headed wide at the far post. Straight to the other end and Rhead found Stevenson whose ball forward was just too far in front of Palmer who was unable to get on the end of it as it reached the keeper. On 21 minutes, Nichols went down in the area under a challenge from Jennings. I had a good view of it and it definitely was not a penalty.

On 24 minutes, Stevenson tried a shot from 25 yards which was blocked when he had nothing else on. Moments later, an extraordinarily ambitious effort from Jennings from 50 yards. He won a very good tackle on the halfway line and his shot was very easily saved by the keeper.

On 25 minutes, an inswinging corner from Jennings from the right came in right under the bar causing danger, but was cleared away and a foul was given anyway. On 26 minutes, Gow got into the box but there was a good tackle from Clements. Moments later, Gow fired a loose ball just over the bar. On 27 minutes, a good break from Wheeler down the right and Tafazolli slid in with a great block for a corner. Dempster headed away the corner, the ball was played back in and Nichols fired well wide.

On 29 minutes, a Clements free kick didn’t clear the first man, a disappointing delivery again. On 34 minutes, Sam Parkin nodded down to Gow who scuffed well wide. On 38 minutes, Gow played in Parkin to the left of centre but poor control from Parkin and the ball ran through to Marriott. A minute later, Bennett’s free kick from 40 yards was headed away by Tafazolli.

A minute later at the other end, and Westlake played the ball in to Stevenson in the corner of the box. Stevenson went down under a challenge and the referee did not give a penalty. It was hard to see from my position.

On 41 minutes, a good challenge from Sutton at the back. He immediately played a good ball forward for Palmer who flicked down to Rhead who sent a snap shot well wide from 25 yards. A poor effort from Rhead.

On 43 minutes, Westlake’s ball in, Rhead controlled it well and volleyed straight at the keeper though he claimed it hit a hand on the way. Again it was difficult to tell if it was a good penalty shout from my position but it was a much better effort from Rhead.

The Stags were in front on 45 minutes. Dempster played a long ball forward, Rhead headed it forward. Palmer flicked it through for Stevenson, who slipped a shot under the keeper into the bottom left corner for a clinical finish.

On 45+2, a great ball from Clements to Westlake who made a good run down the right and shot straight at keeper Krysiak.

A deserved lead for the Stags at the break and in particular a reward for Stevenson who caused Exeter problems from the start.

Half time 0-1

On 46 minutes, Marriott did well to punch clear a Sercombe free-kick from 30 yards.

On 50 minutes, a good corner from Jennings on the right and Rhead’s header from 12 yards was cleared off the line. Moments later, a long throw fell to Stevenson whose shot was blocked.

Westlake was booked for dragging back Gow on 52 minutes. The resulting free kick from 25 yards was taken by Nichols, Marriott watched it all the way and it hit the outside of the post. It was clearly rather closer than he thought!

Straight to the other end and Stevenson did well to get in a cross from near the right corner flag. The ball fell to Clements who sent a miscued shot well over the bar.

Exeter were nearly level on 56 minutes. Grimes played a ball across the box to Nichols at the far post whose low shot hit the post before being pushed away by Marriott.

On 59 minutes, Rhead played in Palmer down the middle, Palmer probably should have gone for goal but instead, veered off to the right.

Stevenson was booked for a later challenge on 60 minutes.

On 61 minutes, Nichols was through one-on-one with Marriott and again it was a great save from Marriott. Nichols was judged offside but Marriott couldn’t have known that.

On 62 minutes, Clements fed Jennings on the left who put in a great cross for Rhead who sent an acrobatic header goalwards which was saved by Krysiak diving away to his right. A minute later, Howell played in Palmer who went wide and, with limited options available to him, his cross was put behind for a corner.

On 64 minutes, a shot from Sercombe was saved by Marriott. A minute later, Nichols fired just past the right post from 18 yards. On 67 minutes, Sercombe was through on the left and his left footed shot brought a good save from Marriott. Exeter were starting to put the Stags under pressure and the Stags were visibly starting to tire.

On 69 minutes, Howell picked up the ball 25 yards out and shot straight at the keeper. Moments later, Stevenson fed Howell who cut on to his left foot and his low shot was saved at full length.

The Stags needed fresh legs and made a triple substitution on 71 minutes. Daniel, Murray and Meikle replaced Stevenson, Westlake and Palmer. The Stags reverted to 4 at the back with Sutton at right back and Jennings at left back. Meikle went to right midfield and Daniel to left midfield, with Rhead on his own up front.

On 79 minutes, there was a scramble in the Stags box from a corner and claims of handball from Exeter but it was well defended. On 81 minutes, a good punch from Marriott from a corner then Jennings blocked Sercombe’s shot.

It was all Exeter and you knew it was going to be a long last 10 minutes.

On 83 minutes, another scramble in the Stags box and Marriott cleared from under his crossbar.

The Stags just weren’t able to hold on to the ball.

A great tackle by Clements to win the ball in the Exeter half used up some precious time. On 87 minutes, a rare chance for the Stags as Clements shot wide of the left post from 28 yards.

On 88 minutes, a quick free-kick taken by Exeter and a Gow shot was deflected wide. Marriott punched clear the resulting corner, then Keohane shot miles wide.

A ridiculous 6 minutes of stoppage time was added, and there were looks of astonishment all round.

On 90+2 Clements was booked for throwing the ball away from a free kick. On 90+3, Keohane shot straight at Marriott from 30 yards.

Then on 90+5 minutes, a real stroke of luck for Mansfield as Gow struck the post from the edge of the box with a left-footed shot.

The final whistle brought huge relief for the Stags, and Stags players dropped to their knees in sheer exhaustion, and Rhead dropped onto his back! A superb result for the Stags, and a triumph for grit, determination, throwing your body on the line, quality defending, fine goalkeeping, and just a touch of luck for good measure!

Man of the match: Ryan Tafazolli

Report by: Martin Shaw at St James Park

Line Up:
Marriott 8 Made some great saves and good punches clear in the second half as the Stags were under the cosh.
Westlake 7 Wing-back. Got forward well on occasion. Loan spell is up; will he return? Certainly would be very welcome back on this sort of form.
Sutton 7.5 Fine game. One particularly good challenge just before half time and immediately played a fine ball forward.
Dempster 7.5 Fine game. Good headers away.
Tafazolli 9 Another outstanding performance. Excellent tackles and clearances and a great sliding block.
Jennings 8 Wing-back. Some good corners and other good crosses. Got forward well and defended well.
Howell 7 Worked tremendously hard. Instead of holding on to the ball near the end, he preferred to boot the ball away on two occasions, which looked a poor decision.
Clements 7.5 Great ball for Palmer 1-on-1 chance. Great ball for Westlake break. Some great tackles were particularly pleasing to see. Three first half free kicks were misplaced though.
Stevenson 8 Started the game excellently, and deserved his goal with a clinical finish. Now second top scorer, as he was last season.
Palmer 7 Assist for Stevenson’s goal. Did well to go around the keeper but needs to bury that sort of chance. Worked so hard again, following on from doing the same twice earlier in the week.
Rhead 7 Incredible stamina to last the 90 minutes and looked nearly dead when the game finished as he lay on his back! Fantastic effort.
Sub Line Up:
Daniel (for Stevenson, 71) - One fine run down the left which used up precious time.
Murray (for Westlake, 71) - Congratulations on chalking up 500 career games.
Meikle (for Palmer, 71) - Generally held on to the ball well.
Subs not used: Deakin, Beevers, Briscoe, Dyer.
Opposition Line Up:
Krysiak; Butterfield, Bennett, Baldwin, Moore-Taylor (Gosling 86); Wheeler (Keohane 57), Grimes, Sercombe, Gow; Parkin (O’Flynn 69), Nichols. Subs not used: Pym, Woodman, Reid, Davie.
Darren Bond 5 His decision to add on 6 minutes of stoppage time was absurd in the extreme and had everyone looking around in astonishment, and could have been costly for the Stags. Handled the game reasonably aside from that howler.

Season 13/14 Reports