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Season 13/14 Stagsnet Match Report
Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Northampton Town  
1 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Carter pen 64.
 Palmer 32
Attendance: 5,129 (744 from Mansfield)
Date: 15 March 2014


Martin Shaw at Sixfields

Mansfield Town worked hard for an important point at Sixfields this afternoon having to play the last half hour with only ten men after Darryl Westlake was harshly sent off for handball in the area in conceding a penalty, which was converted to equalise for Northampton. The ball probably did hit Westlake’s hand as a cross came in and I can understand a penalty being given, but the red card looked extremely harsh. The Stags had gone in front in the first half when man of the match Ollie Palmer showed great strength to muscle his way past the last defender and fire under the keeper from close range. A draw was probably a fair result in the end as the Stags defended bravely yet did not sit too deeply and both sides had chances to win the game. The Stags therefore kept up the remarkable record of not having lost away to a team outside the top 7 this season. The point was important for the Stags as it keeps Northampton 5 points behind with one game in hand. I still think 52 or 53 points will be enough for a side to stay up, so the Stags need to concentrate on their own points tally and get 9 or 10 points from the final 9 games to ensure staying up.

The Stags were roared on by a magnificent travelling support of 744, who supported the team throughout.

Paul and Tina Broughton told me before the game that in the region of 950 season tickets had been sold in the early bird offer, which was a great effort by the fans, given the short timeframe upon which it was imposed.

Paul Cox made three changes from the side that undeservedly lost to York: Sam Clucas was taken ill during the morning with sickness and diarrhoea, while McGuire and Meikle dropped to the bench, to be replaced by Palmer, Howell and Stevenson. Northampton included Emile Sinclair in their starting XI, while Cristian Lopez was on the bench having signed the previous afternoon. Both were targets of Paul Cox in January. Chris Wilder talked in his midweek press conference about Mansfield’s current plight saying: “When you have a good start like (Mansfield did) that and then results don’t start going for you, then a little bit of anxiety starts to creep in. That happened to me when I was at Oxford and it was our first season back in the league, we had a bit of a dip around Christmas time and we had to sign some more experienced players.” A reference to the fact that Cox was not allowed to strengthen his squad in January or subsequently, as Wilder had done at Oxford a few years ago, and Wilder had then done again upon joining Northampton this season. Cox’s frustration could only be increased by his two targets joining today’s opponents. Before the game Sinclair picked up Northampton Player of the Month award, having played a major part in turning their season on its head. The news on Friday that One Call were putting a six figure sum into sponsorship of Doncaster Rovers was perplexing on the face of it given Mansfield’s plight and clear need for strengthening.

On 2 minutes, a great chance for Northampton to take the lead. Connell played a ball forward for Dickenson who was clean through on the Stags goal, albeit looking possibly offside. Marriott was out of his goal quickly and made a tremendous block to save Dickenson’s shot. On 5 minutes, Sinclair got away with a handball to control the ball, and teed up Hackett in the right, who blazed a wild shot wide of the right post. On 7 minutes, Palmer had a half-chance on the left but his shot was blocked.

On 11 minutes, a great chance for the Stags as a corner from Jennings was flicked on, and Tafazolli’s header was cleared off the line by Hackett.

Then on 13 minutes, another good chance for the Stags as a good ball in from the right from Westlake found Stevenson in space in the box on the right, he took time to take aim, but fired against the stanchion at the back of the goal. On 14 minutes, a good challenge from Tafazolli near his own corner flag. On 15 minutes, Rhead hooked on to Stevenson to Palmer, whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked through to the keeper.

On 18 minutes, a shot from Sinclair was deflected for a corner. From the resulting corner, Jennings strangely left it and it crashed off the post and away. A clumsy challenge from Stevenson on 20 minutes on the edge of his own box to concede a silly free kick. Hackett sent the resulting free kick from 20 yards straight into Marriott’s midriff for a good save. On 30 minutes, Doumbe, who scored that crazy own goal at Field Mill earlier in the season, sent a clearance against his own chin!!

The Stags were in front on 32 minutes. Murray clipped a nice ball forward down the left. Palmer muscled his way past the last defender Doumbe, and slotted the ball under keeper Duke. Very pleasing to see Palmer’s pace and strength to score the goal.

On 40 minutes, a bit of fortune for Marriott as he came right out of his area on the right and didn’t get there; luckily Hackett ran the ball into touch. On 42 minutes Riley brought Dickenson down 24 yards from goal. With the home fans baying for a red card, the referee brandished a yellow: the correct decision in my opinion. Carter sent the resulting free kick into the wall and Ravenhill sent the follow-up over the bar.

On 45+2, a good move by the Cobblers down the left, the ball was played into the middle and Jennings did brilliantly to block a shot over the bar from Hackett. From the resulting corner, Doumbe headed over.

A competitive half and the Stags with the lead thanks to Palmer’s strength and persistence. Two other good chances for the Stags while Northampton had come close several times but the Stags had put in some good blocks and Marriott was in good form. The Stags defence had kept Sinclair relatively quiet but there was still the worry of Lopez to come. Northampton had the wind with them in the first half; could Mansfield make use of it in the second?

Half time 0-1

On 50 minutes, there was a good tackle by Riley by his own corner flag. On 51 minutes, a dangerous Palmer cross from the right was just cleared ahead of Stevenson. On 54 minutes, Connell fired inched over the bar from 20 yards after the ball had rebounded to him off the referee!

On 55 minutes, a Jennings free kick deflected off Morris’s head over the bar. From the resulting corner, Tafazolli headed the ball up and a defender headed over his own bar. From the corner after that, Rhead headed the ball down and a Northampton defender booted the ball against Tafazolli and it went harmlessly out for a goal kick.

On 57 minutes, a superb Palmer run down the left but his cross was cleared off Rhead’s head.

On 61 minutes, Westlake gave the ball away, Morris drove forward and sent a powerful shot towards the roof of the net which was tipped over by Marriott for a fine save.

On 64 minutes, Northampton were level. Dempster cleared a cross straight up into the air, and then another cross from the right appeared to strike Westlake’s hand on the edge of the 6 yard box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot which may have been the right decision. However his decision to send Westlake off was harsh in my opinion. Carter took the spot kick and sent it into the bottom right corner.

On 68 minutes, Paul Cox made a double substitution taking off Palmer as he tired slightly after a tremendous performance covering most of the pitch, and sacrificing Stevenson as the Stags moved to a 4-4-1 formation, bringing on Daniel and Meikle onto either side of midfield, with Riley moving to right back, and Rhead up front on his own. There were a some boos from some of the Mansfield fans for Palmer being taken off but I thought that Cox got it about right as Palmer had worked so hard and was just starting to tire a little.

On 69 minutes, Rhead was booked for a soft foul. On 71 minutes, Robertson headed over from a Carter corner. On 74 minutes, Carter’s shot was very well blocked by Dempster.

On 75 minutes, Daniel did well from a Rhead knock down to get in a shot which was deflected over the bar. From the resulting corner, the ball was recycled into the box and Howell, in a great position on the left, shot into the side netting. It was a good opportunity.

The Stags came so close again on 77 minutes. Meikle played a ball forward and Daniel who was onside because he had run from his own half, was yards clear of the last defender as he chased after the ball. He initially looked favourite to get there before the keeper but the ball just had a fraction too much pace on it (possibly due to a little bit of wind?) and the keeper got there first. If Daniel had got there first, it would either have been a goal or a red card for the keeper. So close.

On 82 minutes, Jennings shot over the bar from 35 yards. On 85 minutes, there was good play from Meikle to earn a corner but from the resulting corner, it was Northampton who created a great chance to score as they broke down the left and put a perfect cross to the far post where Hackett volleyed over. It was a glorious opportunity to win the game.

Dyer replaced Rhead on 86 minutes, Rhead having worked especially hard as the lone striker since the sending-off. On 87 minutes, Lopez finally entered the action, replacing Hackett. There was a mistake by Riley on 90+1 minutes which allowed Lopez a run on goal from wide on the left but the ball ran through to Marriott. A minute later, a free kick was very harshly awarded against Riley, and Cox turned around and booted his water bottle away. The Stags cleared the resulting free kick. In the fourth of five minutes of stoppage time, Carter shot well over for the home side.

The final whistle brought an appreciative response from the fabulous travelling Stags fans. It was a good performance from Mansfield who showed bravery especially in the final 30 minutes when harshly down to 10 men, to thoroughly deserve a point. Mansfield defended well and not too deeply, and kept the dangerous Sinclair quiet throughout.

Man of the match: Ollie Palmer

Report by: Martin Shaw at Sixfields

Line Up:
Marriott 7.5 Some really good saves and very safe handling.
Westlake 6 Harshly sent off in my opinion. Gave the ball away in another incident to give Northampton a goalscoring chance.
Riley 7 Defended well apart from one mistake late on and the foul for a yellow card.
Dempster 7 Good game apart from a poor clearance in the build-up to the penalty.
Tafazolli 7.5 Defended well with some good challenges. Had a header cleared off the line.
Jennings 7 Good game with some good last ditch defending.
Howell 7 Did well in the centre of midfield. Did miss one good opportunity.
Murray 7.5 Fine game and showed leadership.
Stevenson 6.5 Did ok. One good chance which he hit against the back stanchion.
Palmer 8 Tremendous performance covering most of the pitch, showing good pace, and pleasingly good strength for the goal.
Rhead 7 Worked especially hard as the lone striker after the sending-off.
Sub Line Up:
Daniel (for Palmer, 68) - Freshened things up with some good running, and had one shot deflected over.
Meikle (for Stevenson, 68) - Looked lively. His ball forward for Daniel was perhaps just fractionally over-hit as the keeper got there first.
Dyer (for Rhead, 86) - Only on for 10 minutes but he surprised me, disappointingly not chasing down as much as I would have liked to have seen. I couldn't understand this at all, when everyone else was busting a gut to keep possession and keep Northampton out. Perhaps it was difficult getting to the pace of the game at that late stage. Didn’t push his case for a starting position.
Subs not used: Beevers, McGuire, Cain, Briscoe.
Opposition Line Up:
Matt Duke; Leon McSweeney, Zander Diamond, Mathias Doumbe, Gregor Robertson; Chris Hackett (Cristian Lopez, 87), Ricky Ravenhill, Darren Carter, Brennan Dickenson (Ian Morris, 50); Alan Connell, Emile Sinclair. Subs not used: Dean Snedker, Gary Deegan, Ben Tozer, Ivan Toney, David Moyo.
Andy Haines 5 The same referee who sent Cox off at Bury. His red card for Westlake looks harsh to me.

Season 13/14 Reports