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Season 13/14 Stagsnet Match Report
Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Bristol Rovers  
0 - 1
 Mansfield Town
 Daniel 36
Attendance: 10,594 (704 from Mansfield)
Date: 3 May 2014


Martin Shaw at the Memorial Ground

Mansfield Town ended the season with a tremendous victory which sent Bristol Rovers down to the Conference. And the winner was a goal worthy of winning any game, with great play on the left hand side by man of the match Anthony Howell, a fine cross, and a volley from Colin Daniel from 16 yards that flew in off the right post. After the disappointment of poor performances in the previous two games at home, this was a gutsy display from the Stags who defended solidly and were tough-tackling in midfield, while keeper Lewis Price made one sensational save.

The Stags finish in 11th, and only behind 10th and 9th place on goal difference, and that only by 2 and 3 goals respectively.
It is the Stags highest finish in the league pyramid for 10 years, since finishing 5th (and losing in the play-offs) in 2003-2004.
The Stags end the season not having lost away from home to any team outside the top 8 positions.
In fact, only 6 away defeats is the equal lowest in the club’s history, equalling 1974-75.

Very creditable to finish in the top half, and yet, with the addition of that missing link, a quality finisher, and without the concession of 9 points in stoppage time to Plymouth, Accrington, and Fleetwood, it could have been ever better.

704 Stags fans made the trip to Bristol, many in fancy dress, dressed as minions, and were rewarded by a good performance.
704 travelling Stags fans today takes the average Stags away following for the season to 508. The highest was 1992 at Chesterfield, and the lowest was 115 at Exeter. Superb!

The game was sold out for home fans, and there was a carnival atmosphere before the game, with balloons left around the stadium for fans to release, and I remarked as the game kicked-off that if you hadn’t known otherwise you’d have thought Rovers were celebrating winning the league.

The pitch was bobbly, nearly as bad as I had seen at Halifax recently, on another pitch used for rugby.

Mansfield had to play in Bristol Rovers’ youth team kit of black shirts, as kitman Mez Merriman forgot to pack the amber kit. I spoke to Mez after the game and he was distraught with himself. I tried to console him that the black kit looked great and we have a 100% record in it now! The second time this has happened this season, though on the first occasion, at Torquay, the kit was driven down hastily and arrived just in the nick of time.

Mansfield were without the injured Adam Murray and suspended Matt Rhead. In came Jamie McGuire and Sam Clucas, while Anthony Howell also replaced Chris Clements who dropped to the bench. It was the now familiar 3-2-2-1-2 with Daniel as the attacking midfielder behind Palmer and Clucas up front.

Bristol Rovers included former Stag Chris Beardsley and former Notts County goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, who once scored at Field Mill in a league cup game. Darrell Clarke was in charge of Rovers, while Mansfield born Tom Parkes was in central defence, having told the local press in the week “I’ve got a few family coming down to watch the game, but none of them are Mansfield supporters.”

Beardsley was straight into the action on 4 minutes, in space on the right of the area, and blazing a shot over the bar. On 6 minutes, a poor clearance from Sutton straight to Clarkson, who shot straight at Price.

On 7 minutes, a long throw from Marsden bounced over everyone and was claimed by keeper Mildenhall. Moments later a good tackle by Palmer, but he was tackled himself for another Stags throw. Marsden’s long throw again caused confusion in the Rovers box but was cleared.

On 9 minutes, a great ball from McGuire to Daniel on the left, and his cross was blocked for a corner. The corner was wasted. On 13 minutes, McGuire’s ball forward was flicked on by Daniel and Mildenhall just claimed it in front of Clucas. On 15 minutes, a good header away by Jennings.

On 17 minutes, Parkes headed over from a corner.

On 18 minutes, Marsden’s long throw came straight back to him, he put in a great cross, which Palmer glanced on but straight to the Mildenhall. That was very close. Marsden was booked on 19 minutes for a foul. A good break from Rovers on 21 minutes, Matt Harrold got into the area and shot across Price and wide of the right post. A minute later, a long Rovers free-kick was headed on by Harrold for Bearsdley who flicked wide.

On 24 minutes, Howell did well to clear from a Rovers break down the right. Then on 26 minutes, great control by Howell to set up an attack, but a mistake by Palmer let it go out for a throw. A good tackle by Sutton on 30 minutes. Then on 32 minutes, a low cross from Clarkson on the right, and Price did well to save in front of Harrold. A good tackle in the area by McGuire on 35 minutes after a mistake by Marsden.

The Stags were in front on 36 minutes. Good play by Howell on the left, to get himself into a crossing position, and his cross was perfect for Daniel who volleyed from 16 yards in off the left post. I would certainly have included this in the Goals of the Season video from which supporters vote for their favourite goal, had it come two games earlier.

With Wycombe and Northampton already winning, this goal meant that Bristol Rovers were currently the team going down in the live league table.

On 38 minutes, Ollie Clarke headed wide, unmarked, from a Mohamed free kick.

On 45 minutes, a great break by Howell, and a perfect ball for Palmer who cut inside and fired over. Great play by Howell and a great chance.

Boos at half-time from some of the Rovers fans, a far cry from the carnival atmosphere at the beginning. A very even first half, and the teams separated by a great goal. A tremendous first half performance from Anthony Howell, his best 45 minutes of the season in my opinion.

Half time 0-1

On 51 minutes, Parkes headed well wide from Mohamed’s corner.

On 57 minutes, a bad mistake by Riley gifted Rovers possession and Clarkson raced into the box, his shot was good but Price pulled off a wonderful save to tip it for a corner. From the resulting corner, Clarkson headed just wide.

On 58 minutes, Jennings crossed from the left and Mildenhall just claimed the ball in front of Palmer. Two minutes later, a good corner from Jennings, and Dempster headed down into the ground and up into Mildenhall’s arms. Seconds later the ball flashed into the press box, from a Jennings clearance, but who was he aiming for :-) Not quite as close as Adam Murray (listen here) at Luton two years ago though.

A really good spell of possession football from the Stags on 62 minutes leading to a corner. On 63 minutes, O’Toole’s shot was watched wide by Price. Then a rare mistake on the day by Howell but it wasn’t costly.

On 65 minutes Riley brought down Mohamed and was slightly fortunate to only get a yellow card as possibly last man though 30 yards from goal. Mohamed took the free kick himself and drove it into the wall.

Then on 67 minutes, a corner from sub Broghammer from the right and a brilliant save from Price from Clarkson’s header tipping it onto the crossbar. Wrongly the ref gave a goal-kick.

On 69 minutes, O’Toole and McGuire were booked, yet it looked harsh on McGuire, as it was O’Toole’s foul and seemed to be O’Toole complaining as well. On 71 minutes, Broghammer shot straight at Price from wide on the left. Another poor decision from the ref on 72 minutes as Sutton was penalised for a foul on Harrold which looked harsh. Clarkson blasted the free kick from the edge of the D inches wide of the right post. It was close.

Dyer replaced Palmer on 75 minutes.

On 77 minutes, Marsden already booked, momentarily time-wasted, and his heart must have skipped a beat when he remembered he was already on a yellow card. He got away with it. On 79 minutes, Mohamed sent an overhead kick well over the bar. A minute after that, from Santos’s cross, O’Toole glanced a header just wide. It was close again.

On 84 minutes, McChrystal headed over from a corner. A minute later, a good tackle from Marsden out for a corner. Following that corner, McChrystal hit the post with a shot, and then Mohamed completely missed an attempt at an overhead-kick. Very close again for the home side.

Meikle replaced Daniel on 89 minutes.

5 minutes were added on. Meikle infuriated by unnecessarily gifting possession back to Rovers on 90+3 .

On 90+4, a good run and a decent shot from Clucas brought a fine save from Mildenhall. Moments later the final whistle brought anger and misery for Rovers fans.

The Stags had to hang on in the last 18 minutes as Bristol Rovers went close 3 times. And possibly a draw would have been a fair result, but the Stags showed grit and determination, with some classy play too, to win the points.

There were ugly scenes after the game as some Rovers fans invaded the pitch and tried to get at the Stags fans, but were held back by police and then police horses.

I felt very sorry for Darrell Clarke seeing him crying in the post-match interview. A year ago, I watched him celebrate having led Salisbury into the Conference. What an incredible contrast here.

Man of the match: Anthony Howell

Footnote: these are my average player ratings (top 5 players) based on the 51 league+cup games played this season: Tafazolli 7.25, Clucas 7.00, Sutton 6.97, Riley 6.93, Hutchinson 6.92.
(only ratings for players starting a game are included - ie. sub appearances not included. Minimum appearances 10)

Report by: Martin Shaw at the Memorial Ground

Line Up:
Price 7.5 One sensational save and another very good save.
Sutton 7.5 Very good game with some good tackles. One poor clearance in the first half.
Dempster 7.5 Solid as a rock.
Riley 6.5 Decent game, though one bad mistake was rescued by brilliant Price save, and slightly fortunate to only receive a yellow card.
Marsden 7 Some good tackles. Long throws caused danger. One mistake in the first half was rescued by McGuire. Can be very proud of his two performances in the Football League and they give cause for optimism next season.
Jennings 7.5 Very good game. Several good balls into the middle and some very good defending.
Howell 8 Tremendous first half (his best 45 minutes of the season in my opinion) with three really good pieces of play in addition to his excellent work for the goal. Quieter second half.
McGuire 7.5 Some good play going forward and some fine tackling. Harshly booked.
Daniel 7 Great volley for the goal.
Palmer 6.5 Had one good chance when he cut inside and fired over.
Clucas 6.5 Good run and decent shot in stoppage time nearly sealed victory.
Sub Line Up:
Dyer (for Palmer, 75) - Held the ball up well. Did well.
Meikle (for Daniel, 89) -
Subs not used: Stevenson, Clements, Thomas, Speight, Briscoe.
Opposition Line Up:
Mildenhall; Lockyer, Parkes, McChrystal; Clarke, Seanan Clucas (Santos 66); Clarkson, O’Toole, Mohamed; Beardsley (Broghammer 54), Harrold. Subs not used: Gough, Harding, Keary, Lucas, Thomas.
Oliver Langford 6 No major decisions wrong.

Season 13/14 Reports