Porter 45, 63.
Rose 55, Mirfin 66
Attendance: 4933 (1392 from Mansfield)
Date: 5 August 2017
STAGS DRAW IN PULSATING ENCOUNTER ON OPENING DAY AT CREWE
Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Gresty Road
The 2017-2018 season is underway and Mansfield Town opened up with an exciting draw at Crewe. The Stags played some fine football and could have easily won the game with a succession of chances in the second half, but could also have lost the game as Crewe went close themselves in the final few minutes. Crewe twice took the lead, though both occasions were out of the blue and against the run of play. On 45 minutes, a corner from the outstanding George Cooper was headed back across goal and headed in by Chris Porter from close range. It was disappointing defending after the Stags defence had looked solid before that. The Stags responded well after the break and were dominant for most of the second half. The equaliser came on 55 minutes as Danny Rose headed down and into the bottom right corner from Mal Benning’s cross after a good move. It was well-deserved and the Stags should have got themselves in front but were caught again on 63 minutes out of the blue, as Porter glanced in a header across Conrad Logan from another good ball in from George Cooper. The Stags were back on level terms again when David Mirfin turned in Joel Byrom’s free kick with his left leg on 66 minutes. Mansfield continued to take the game to Crewe but weren’t able to find a winner despite several near misses, including Paul Anderson bringing a good save from the keeper and Zander Diamond firing just wide from 25 yards. As the game entered the final 5 minutes, it became end to end, and Crewe came close to winning themselves with several goalmouth scrambles. All in all a satisfactory start for Mansfield, with much promise. The Stags showed good fighting spirit to come from behind twice. It was a game that probably should have been won, but then could have been lost near the end.
A wonderful travelling support of 1392 Stags fans, compared to 449 for the same fixture last season. The increase shows the expectation levels from Stags fans
There had been much talk about which eleven Steve Evans would select to start the game.
He went with this team:
(4-4-2, with a diamond in midfield):
Hayden White, Zander Diamond, David Mirfin, Mal Benning;
Will Atkinson, Paul Anderson,
Lee Angol, Danny Rose.
Before the game, Evans noted that Paul Digby and Rhys Bennett would probably have started if they had been fully fit. Digby had had a virus in the week, but was fit enough for the bench. Bennett had had a sore heal and missed the game at Alfreton. Steve Evans said to me before the game how was he supposed to choose between Logan and Olejnik, both of whom had performed well in pre-season. Evans also said that if this had been a home game he would have started Potter instead of Atkinson. He also said that Sterling-James looked so sharp in training on Friday that he had considered a late change to his side after already deciding it. The players not making the 18 were Taft, Hunt and Spencer, plus the injured MacDonald.
The Stags created a chance on just 33 seconds. A ball forward, Angol outpaced his defender and shot straight at the keeper from a tight angle.
On 7 minutes, Benning’s free kick was headed out to Anderson, who blasted over the bar from 30 yards. Well struck but well over the bar.
A minute later, a good move involving Byrom and Angol, to Benning who pushed forward, and crossed to the far post where Rose headed over the bar. A good chance. Atkinson was coming on behind Rose and might have been better paced. Straight to the other end, and a Dagnall shot from 20 yards which was pushed away by Logan.
A great tackle by Diamond on 10 minutes as Porter was about to shoot from the edge of the box.
On 13 minutes, another chance for Dagnall, as Crewe broke and he shot from an angle on the left, straight at Logan.
On 18 minutes, good strong defending from Mirfin, holding off Dagnall. But moments later Ng played a good 1-2 with Porter and his low shot was saved by Logan.
A free kick for the Stags on 26 minutes. A central position, 28 yards out, Angol took it, just over and wide. A minute later at the other end, terrific defending from Mirfin to wrestle the ball of Dagnall.
A good tackle by Benning on 31 minutes, one of several good interceptions he made.
On 32 minutes, Ainley got to the byline and put in a good cross, which Logan did well to put behind for a corner. From the corner. Logan punched 30 yards clear.
Mellis was booked for a foul on 34 minutes. The game was getting feisty.
On 38 minutes, a corner from Mellis from the left, Mirfin chested down, but ran the ball out of play.
On 42 minutes, a good move from the Stags involving a clever back-heel from Rose, Angol moved forward but dragged his shot wide.
A minute later, Angol turned and shot and there were claims for a penalty but they looked optimistic.
The Stags were caught by a sucker punch on 45 minutes as Crewe took the lead totally against the run of play. Cooper’s corner from the left, was headed back across goal by former Stags Michael Raynes, leaping above Rose, and Porter headed in from 6 yards beating his marker Mirfin, giving Logan no chance.
In stoppage time, Rose was booked for a mistimed tackle, tracking back. Still there was time for another Crewe chance as Cooper’s free kick nearly found Dagnall nipping in at the far post.
Disappointment for the Stags at the break. Having defended well, with Diamond, Mirfin and Benning all impressing, it was a lapse to concede a goal from a corner, and doubly disappointing as it was so much out of the blue.
Half time 1-0
The Stags were off to a fast start in the second half. Just 18 seconds in, Angol found Rose, whose shot deflected wide of the right post.
On 47 minutes, Benning found Angol, who fired in a great shot, which was met by an equally great save as the keeper palmed it away.
It was a terrific start to the second half for Mansfield, the deserved equaliser came on 55 minutes, as Danny Rose got in front of his marker, headed down and into the bottom right corner from Benning’s cross after a good move.
On 57 minutes, a great move from the Stags, good play from Mellis, and Rose shot wide of the right post. Two minutes later, Angol did well to get to the byline, but wasted it with a poor cross.
On 60 minutes, Rose turned in the area, but just as he was about the shoot, the ball was cleared.
The Stags should have got themselves in front but were caught again on 63 minutes out of the blue, as Porter glanced in a header, getting in front of his marker Benning, across Logan from another good ball in from Cooper, right footed from the left.
The Stags should have been level within a minute. A long ball over the top from Logan, the ball bounced up invitingly and Rose found himself with just the keeper to beat. The keeper was a long way out of his goal, and Rose just needed to lift his header over the keeper, but didn’t get enough height on it.
A minute after that, Atkinson got to the byline, his cross took a couple of deflections and was somehow cleared.
The Stags were back on level terms again when Mirfin turned in Byrom’s free kick at the far with his left leg on 66 minutes.
Byrom was booked on 70 minutes for a clear foul.
Sterling-James replaced Angol on 71 minutes.
On 74 minutes, Sterling-James made a great run down the left hand side to the byline, but with Rose waiting in the middle, Sterling-James played it behind him.
White was booked for holding Copper on 76 minutes.
Digby replaced Mellis on 77 minutes.
Brilliant football from the Stags on 78 minutes. Sterling-James to Rose, who put a low cross in from the right, Anderson slid in from the left, made great contact with the ball, and keeper made a great save.
Sterling-James was booked on 79 minutes. He was fouled, and while sitting on the floor, was pushed from behind. He retaliated by the throwing the ball at the culprit. The referee probably didn’t see the push on Sterling-James as would have booked both players.
On 80 minutes, Sterling-James turned on the edge of the area, there was a chance for Anderson, it was blocked, the ball came to Anderson who headed wide of the left post.
On 82 minutes, Diamond found himself 35 yards from goal, he surged forward and unleashed a vicious shot from about 25 yards which whistled just wide of the left post.
On 84 minutes, Anderson put in a high cross from the left, and Sterling-James headed wide of the right post. He never looked like scoring from that position.
The Stags were throwing the kitchen sink at Crewe.
Hamilton replaced Rose on 84 minutes to get the home side with more pace.
Hamilton was straight into the action a minute later, crossing, Digby knocked down to Atkinson, who fired a powerful shot, on target, but blocked.
On 87 minutes, end-to-end stuff with a chance at either end. Firstly Cooper seemed to have the goal at mercy inside the 6 yard box but the ball stuck under his feet in a real scramble. From the video, Anderson put in an important timely challenge to stop Cooper shooting. Straight to the other end, Hamilton did well, spun past one defender, and his shot was deflected over the bar. Breathless stuff.
On 89 minutes, Dagnall did brilliantly to get into the area, and Logan spread himself superbly to save with his legs.
On 90+1 minutes, a corner from Cooper, and Stags defenders put their bodies on the line to clear in another scramble. On 90+3 minutes, Cooper’s free kick came out to Dagnall who headed over.
On 90+4 minutes, Sterling-James had a shot from 20 yards blocked, and had a hopeful claim for handball.
On 90+5 minutes, Cooper got to the byline on the left, and Byrom did well to put behind for a corner.
The referee blew for full time and it could have gone either way late on.
A pulsating second half. The Stags were very impressive for 40 minutes, and should have won the game, but Crewe could have won it in the final minutes.
Some fans have blamed keeper Conrad Logan for being rooted to his line. The keeper was on his line for both goals. But where should he have been? For the first goal, should he come for the ball from the corner? If he does, he can't get anywhere near that as it's well beyond the far post, and then he can't possibly react to get out for the second ball and get that either. So for me, he is not at fault there. For the second goal, the header is at the near post from 7 yards out from a relatively low cross. I don't think he can get to that either. So I don't agree that Logan is at fault for either goal. It's very easy to automatically blame a keeper.
Man of the match: Zander Diamond/Mal Benning
Report by: Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Gresty Road
(4-4-2, with a diamond in midfield):
Logan 7 Good game. Looked confident. Superb save with his legs late on from Dagnall. Good punch from a corner.
White 6.5 Did ok going forward. The final pass could have been better.
Diamond 8 Very good in the air. Some great tackles. Not at fault for either goal.
Mirfin 7 Solid, some good strong defending. Took his goal well. But beaten by Porter for the 1st goal.
Benning 8 Good tackles and interceptions. Good moving forward. Good cross for Rose’s goal.
Byrom 7.5 Some good set pieces, including an assist for Mirfin’s goal.
Atkinson 6.5 Late powerful shot on target was blocked.
Anderson 7.5 Involved in a lot of good things. Nearly scored the winner and a real threat going forward.
Mellis 6.5 Did ok, but didn’t live up to recent performances in pre-season.
Angol 7 Several shots, one of which brought a great save.
Rose 7.5 Good header for his goal. Had two great chances from other headers which he should have done better with.
Sub Line Up:
Sterling-James (for Angol, 71 mins) - Looked really sharp in the 20 minutes he was on.
Digby (for Mellis, 77 mins) -
Hamilton (for Rose, 84 mins) - A couple of really good pieces of play.
Subs not used: Olejnik, Bennett, Pearce, Potter.
Opposition Line Up:
Garratt, Ng, Walker, Raynes, Nolan, Wintle, Lowery, Ainley (Bowery, 80), Cooper, Dagnall, Porter. Subs not used: Richards, Pickering, Dale, Kirk, Finney, Sass-Davies.