Attendance: 5202 (900 from Mansfield)
Date: 9 August 2014
STAGS BEATEN FROM SET PIECE ON OPENING DAY
Martin Shaw at Sixfields
Mansfield Town were beaten on the opening day of the season by a header from a corner, in a disappointing game at Northampton. There was little between two sides who both looked ordinary on the day. The Stags started the game well with early chances, but the Stags defence started to look nervous after keeper Sascha Studer came for a cross and completely misjudged it allowing a shot that ended in the side-netting. Northampton started to get on top and went in front from a corner that was headed in unmarked at the far post by former AFC Wimbledon, Cheltenham and Bristol Rovers striker Kaid Mohamed. Keeper Studer ended up in the back of net and was adamant that he had been fouled. I could not tell from my position level with the halfway line whether it was a foul, and nor was it clear from the match DVD. Speaking to several Stags fans who were behind that goal, none saw a foul on Studer. (update: Tim Morriss, sitting behind the goal, has told me that Studer was definitely fouled for the goal, pulled to the ground). What was clear however was that Alex Fisher was the man marking Mohamed and completely lost him. A costly error from Fisher. The Stags ended the first half well and Tafazolli and Taylor both went close. All in all, a very even half; and the Stags played some decent stuff going forward. As the second half wore on, Mansfield pushed more men forward and were sometimes left exposed at the back as the Cobblers missed a couple of gilt-edged chances through Ivan Toney and Marc Richards, while Adam Murray missed a good chance for Mansfield and sub Liam Hearn looked dangerous but wasn’t given good enough service. In the final 20 minutes or so, the Stags started lumping balls up to the front which was a crazy tactic given that Palmer had gone off injured and Rhead was not playing, (I asked Paul Cox about this tactic after the game, and he agreed it was crazy in the closing stages when we did not have the right players to take advantage). The quality of the Stags crossing also left a lot to be desired as the Stags several times got into good positions only to completely waste them. Overall a very tight game, which probably should have been a draw, but for the poor defending from the corner. No need to panic, after the encouraging performances of pre-season, but a disappointing defeat nonetheless.
The winning goal was such a disappointment; Mansfield have been so good at not conceding goals from headers from corners recently, and Paul Cox refused to blame any possible foul on Studer saying “I’m not having that” and instead blaming the defending. It’s such a refreshing change to have a manager refusing to blame referees etc for everything.
Ollie Palmer got injured in the second half and will be out for 2-3 weeks with ankle ligament damage. Very bad timing with Rhead also suspended for the next two games. That leaves only Fisher and Hearn available of the strikers, so quite possibly Clucas will have to put in some game time up top.
On a statistical note, the Stags continued their record on not winning away from home on the opening day since August 1990 and a win at Wigan Athletic.
Paul Cox started with the following 11:
Stags team (3-2-2-1-2 formation):
Sutton, Dempster, Tafazolli;
Subs used: Clucas, Hearn, Clements.
The only players unavailable for selection were Luke Jones (approaching fitness) and Matt Rhead (suspended for this and the next two games).
That meant five players in the starting 11 making their competitive debuts for the Stags: Studer, Taylor, Heslop, Fergus Bell and Fisher. While Hearn came on as substitute, and he was the sixth debutante.
A magnificent sell-out following of 900 roared the Stags on, and it would have been more had more seats been available.
On 2 minutes, Beevers pulled the ball back to Fergus Bell just inside the area on the right, but his shot was charged down.
On 5 minutes, Heslop put a ball over the top for Fisher who took advantage of a defensive mistake to create a chance but lobbed over the keeper and over the bar.
On 7 minutes Fergus Bell played in Palmer on the byline, but Palmer tried a shot from an impossible angle, and it went out for a throw-in. Moments later at the other end, Sutton air-kicked and then had to pull his man down as he got away from him; Sutton became the first booking of the new season. Chris Hackett took the resulting free-kick, Studer misjudged it as it sailed over him, and Lee Collins fired into the side netting. A nervous start for Studer in the first English league game.
On 10 minutes, a Fergus Bell free kick was headed down by Tafazolli straight to the Cobblers keeper Duke. On 12 minutes, Murray set up Fisher for a shot from 30 yards, but he fired over. Then on 14 minutes, great control by Palmer to trap a Murray high ball over the top.
Good strong defending by Tafazolli on 21 minutes to hold off Richards and put it out for a throw-in.
The Stags had started well going forward, but now looking nervous at the back.
On 24 minutes, excellent play by Taylor to snuff out an attack, and set up a Stags attack. Then a good clearance from Tafazolli.
On 25 minutes, Dempster did well to block an O’Toole shot from the edge of the box. Then O’Toole’s cross was put behind by Dempster for a corner.
But from the resulting corner, it was 1-0. Darren Carter took the corner from the right, and it was headed in unmarked at the far post by Kaid Mohamed. Keeper Studer ended up in the back of net and was adamant that he had been fouled, chasing after the referee to complain, and then taking to twitter after the game. I could not tell from my position level with the halfway line whether it was a foul, and nor was it clear from the match DVD. Speaking to several Stags fans who were behind that goal, none saw a foul on Studer, although reporter Craig Priest says he did see a foul. (update: Tim Morriss, sitting behind the goal, has told me that Studer was definitely fouled for the goal, pulled to the ground). What was clear however was that Alex Fisher was the man marking Mohamed and completely lost him. A costly error from Fisher. It was such a disappointment; Mansfield have been so good at not conceding goals from headers from corners recently, and Paul Cox refused to blame any possible foul on Studer saying “I’m not having that” and instead blaming the defending. It’s such a refreshing change to have a manager refusing to blame referees etc for everything.
On 28 minutes, Murray floated a free kick from 40 yards to the left of the area, and Tafazolli sent a looping header towards the top right of the net but the keeper easily plucked it out of the air. Then a minute later, Tafazolli headed down Murray’s free-kick, Beevers put it back into the middle and Tafazolli’s low shot was straight at the keeper.
On 32 minutes, a good tackle by Dempster, but O’Toole still managed to get in a shot that was easily saved by Studer.
On 34 minutes, Palmer had a half-chance to shoot but instead recycled the ball backwards, and eventually Beevers found Fergus Bell whose shot was blocked.
On 36 minutes, Taylor passed one man on the left, got into a position to cross, and put it behind for a goal-kick. Poor.
A minute later, a good run from Fisher and he squared the ball into the middle where Murray was unmarked, but it was just behind Murray. If Murray could have adjusted it would have been a tap in; a bit unlucky.
On 38 minutes, Beevers crossed, but neither Fisher nor Palmer could direct it goalwards. On 40 minutes, Taylor’s free-kick form the right was too close to the keeper. A minute later, a great ball from Dempster out to Taylor on the left, but his cross was deflected through to the keeper.
On 42 minutes, Hackett’s cross from the right was punched away by Studer.
On 45+3, Taylor put in a fine corner from the right, into a dangerous area, but it was cleared.
The Stags were nearly level on 45+4 minutes. Fergus Bell put in a free-kick and Tafazolli powerfully headed goalwards but keeper Duke made a brilliant one-handed save to tip it away. The ball eventually came out for Taylor who fizzed a shot that it looked like the keeper tipped wide again, though the ref gave a goalkick. Two good efforts. No blame to Tafazolli who could do no more than get his header on target. Meanwhile keeper Duke’s brilliant save was enough to win him the home man of the match award.
A very even first half; as the Stags played some decent stuff going forward and looked very good early on, then defended nervously culminating in the uncharacteristic loss of a headed goal from a corner, but ended the half with some great chances.
Half time 1-0
On 49 minutes, Fergus Bell did well to pull the ball across, and Fisher turned well and shot but it was easily saved.
On 50 minutes, Alfei got to the byline and put in a good cross that Richards headed over. That was poor defending from the Stags: too easy to get the cross in and then a free header.
A good run forward by Heslop on 51 minutes, but a very poor ball forward for Palmer that was completely overhit.
Palmer went down injured with what turned out to be ankle ligament damage; he bashed the turf in frustration as it happened. He’s expected to be out for 2-3 weeks which is very bad timing with Rhead also suspended for the next two games.
Palmer was replaced by Hearn, while Clucas came on for Fergus Bell. A great reception for Hearn on his debut from the Stags fans.
On 57 minutes a good cross from Beevers and Fisher headed over.
On 61 minutes, Chris Hackett’s shot from 12 yards was deflected for a corner. A dreadful ball from Murray moments later.
On 63 minutes, Darren Carter’s shot took a small deflection and was saved by Studer.
Moments later, Clucas squared to Fisher, 22 yards out, and his shot had the sting taken out of it by a block. Clucas had done well to find Fisher in space.
On 66 minutes, Hearn showed good pace, got to the byline, and his low cross was straight to the keeper.
On 71 minutes, Carter sent a speculative effort over from 25 yards.
A decent Stags move on 72 minutes involving Heslop and eventually Taylor fired wide from 22 yards.
Sutton seemed to get away with tugging Ivan Toney’s shirt in the box on 73 minutes but Sutton claimed that Toney had fouled him first.
Northampton should have increased the lead on 75 minutes. Toney got passed Sutton, the ball fell to Marc Richards in a 1-on-1 with Studer, and Richards fired wide of the right post. Poor defending from Sutton.
But the Stags had a great chance to equalise on 76 minutes. A ball in from the left for Murray who half-volleyed over left footed. What a chance! Shame it didn’t fall on his right foot, or better still fall to Hearn!
On 77 minutes, Studer pushed away a corner from the left.
Clements replaced Taylor on 79. Clucas moved from the attacking midfielder to the left.
A howler from the ref as he failed to give the Cobblers an advantage. Then Dempster was booked for a foul.
On 83 minutes, Northampton should have scored. Morris crossed from the left, and Ivan Toney missed a sitter in front of goal, putting it wide of the right post.
A great block from Tafazolli from Mohamed on the edge of the box on 85 minutes. Brilliant from Tafazolli.
The Stags were now resorting to long hopeful balls forward and it wasn’t working.
Meanwhile Beevers had moved to left back and the Stags had reverted to 4-4-2, with Clements on the right and Clucas on the left. The Stags had not played this system at all in pre-season, not even for a few minutes.
On 90+1 Beevers’ low cross from the left was put behind for a corner. Clements took the corner, there was a massive scramble, but it was cleared. A minute later, Hearn broke into the box, but his shot was blocked. At the other end, Richards shot straight at Studer.
On 90+4, Tafazolli played in Sutton on the right, he just needed to pull it back with bodies in the box, but crossed straight to the keeper. Poor from Sutton.
Moments later, Hearn’s cross-shot was cleared. Then on 90+5, Beevers crossed and Clucas’s soft header was straight at the keeper.
Frustration at the final whistle. A tight game, but one defensive lapse was the difference.
Man of the match: Ryan Tafazolli
Report by: Martin Shaw at Sixfields
Studer 5 Nervous start to his first league game in English football as he misjudged an early cross allowing a shot into the side-netting. For the goal, he ended up in the back of net and was adamant that he had been fouled, but I could not tell, and nor is it clear from the match DVD. (update: Tim Morriss, sitting behind the goal, has told me that Studer was definitely fouled for the goal, pulled to the ground). Settled down after that. Should become a great keeper for the Stags.
Sutton 5 Some good clearances, but an uncharacteristically nervy game. Poor defending to allow the chance for Richards on 75 minutes. Booked after an early foul following an air-kick. Poor cross in stoppage time with bodies in the box.
Dempster 7 Some good tackles and blocks.
Tafazolli 8 Several good clearances and strong defending. And unlucky not to score with a good header on target; also had two other chances.
Beevers 6.5 Did ok. One or two decent crosses.
Taylor 6 Some good defending. Crosses were mostly poor. One good shot at the end of the first half.
Murray 6 Had a great chance to equalise but half-volleyed over the bar; probably would have been better on his right foot. Some of his passing went astray.
Heslop 6 Some good play bringing the ball forward from the back, but some poor balls forward.
Fergus Bell 7 Probably the pick of the midfield. Some good passing and good runs.
Palmer 6 Not his day as he went off with ankle ligament damage which is bad timing with Rhead also out suspended.
Fisher 5 Did ok up front, but unfortunately his mistake at the back cost the only goal.
Sub Line Up:
Clucas (for Fergus Bell, 54) 6 Couldn’t make much of an impact. Did well to pick out Fisher in space in the area.
Hearn (for Palmer, 54) 7 Looked dangerous but wasn’t given good enough service.
Clements (for Taylor, 79) -
Sub not used: Marsden, Amari’i Bell, Riley, McGuire.
Opposition Line Up:
Duke; Alfei, Collins, Diamond, Robertson; Hackett, Ravenhill, Carter, Mohamed; O’Toole; Richards. Subs: Toney (for O’Toole 56), Morris (for Carter 76), Horwood (for Hackett 79). Not used: Tozer, D’Ath, Moyo, Archer.
Andy Davies 5 Had a poor game, missing a lot, and twice failing to play advantage.