by Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes
at Field Mill
What a night at Field Mill. In
front of an extraordinary attendance of over 8500 with over 7500 home fans
plus another 500 locked out, Stags produced a great second display to earn a
vital victory in a pulsating game. Stags took an early lead, but were pegged
back by a Cheltenham side who looked very lively in the first half, and
could easily have led at half time. But Stags completely dominated the
second and a late Andy White goal saw them home. Mansfield were
unchanged from the side that had beaten Bristol Rovers, whilst Cheltenham
were without top scorer Julian Alsop.
The game kicked off 15 minutes late with Stags fans spilling over from the
North Stand into the open areas to the side of the stand, and approximately
500 fans apparently locked out, some of whom took up a vantage point
outside the ground to the side of the Bishop Street stand, where they would
have a view of the whole pitch.
Cheltenham had the first attack and nearly scored, after Stags lost
possession in their own half. Naylor was clean through but fluffed his lines
and Pilkington smothered. Stags went straight to the other end and scored on
3 minutes. A free kick form the right ewas floated to the far post. Andy
White won the header which thumped against the inside the post.
Luckily the ball rebounded to Greenacre who dived in despite flying boots,
to head into the empty net. Amazingly, within a minute Cheltenham nearly
scored again, as a header flew inches past Pilkington's right hand post.
Four minutes gone, 1 goal and 2 near misses. This set the pace for a
pulsating and open first half, with some of the most exciting football seen
for years. Stags looked dangerous and Disley had a brilliant shot from 18
yards from an awkward position, where he showed tremendous technique to get
power behind it. But keeper Book made a great save to tip the ball round for
the corner. However Cheltenham had more chances as Stags seemed intent on
giving the ball in dangerous positions. Cheltenham got a deserved equaliser
on 24 minutes after terrible play by Reddington. He had time to clear the
ball down by the corner flag, but lost possession and fouled the striker as
he pulled away. Reddington was booked, and from the free kick taken by
Milton, Yates headed home powerfully from 6 yards. It was the sort of goal
that any viewer of Nationwide League Extra will have seen Cheltenham score
over and over again this season. By half time, the visitors should have been
ahead from several more chances, notably when Tyson drove just wide when it
seemed the ball must go in and missed both a defender and Cheltenham striker
by the far post. In the final minute of the half, Cheltenham had a trademark
set piece yet again, and the a header flew inches wide.
Half time 1-1
At half-time Watkiss made a change to shore up the defence with Tankard
replacing Pemberton. He also brought on Williamson for Disley who looked not
at his best. Stags immediately looked safer in defence and in truth the
visitors created absolutely nothing in the second half. Stags produced a
great display and had several chances to take the lead. Greenacre produced a
fabulous shot on the turn out of nothing which screamed like a bullet inches
wide. Later Murray broke through and was clear on goal just outside the box,
when he was clearly tripped from behind. Only one man in the ground thought
it wasn't a foul and he was the one who waved play on. An incredible
decision. Later Sellars drove a quick 22 yard free kick against the post
when it seemed the keeper just got a fingertip to it. At that stage the game
had 1-1 written on it. But on 72 minutes, Stags got the crucial goal. Kelly
and Hassell were involved as the Stags full back drilled a ball across the
box. Time seemed to stand still as Andy White hung out a boot and directed
the ball tamely into the corner of the net which the keeper somehow
transfixed. The roof came off the West and North Stands as Stags automatic
promotion dream was re-ignited.
Cheltenham had surprisingly few opportunities to draw level and Pilkington
was largely untroubled as Stags hung on to claim a vital win amid tremendous
tension. The referee made few more extraordinary decisions including showing
his lack of knowledge of the rules as one free-kick against Andy White was
advanced 10 yards despite no show of dissent. Overall Stags deserved
the win for a dominant second half display with visitors showing absolutely
nothing, after a first half which was just shaded by Cheltenham. Two
games left. If Stags can win them both, the likelihood is that promotion
will be theirs.
Report by Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes
Man of the Match: Andy
Pilkington 7 Made some
good catches and looked solid. Not tested in the second half.
Hassell 8 Terrific game, always first to the ball, dangerous going forward,
defended well in the second half.
Barrett 7 Difficult 1st half as Chelts put the defence under pressure, but
outstanding in the second half. One fabulous last-ditch tackle to deny
Reddington 6 Stupid play to give away free-kick that led to Chelt goal.
Torrid time in 1st half. Showed great character to produce solid display in
Pemberton 5 Two terrible lapses where he was caught in possession in
dangerous areas which nearly cost goals. Rightly substituted at half-time.
Sellars 7 Very good second half, looking dangerous. Intelligent use of the
ball on the right wing. So unlucky not to score from free-kick.
Murray 7 Battled brilliantly especially towards the end when he was clearly
injured but couldn't come off.
Disley.6 Seemed to lose 50:50 balls in the first half. One fantastic shot
from an awkward position nearly brought a goal.
Corden 6 Not at his best, and gave the ball away too often. But at least he
was careful in defence.
Awhite 8 Going from strength to strength. Made the 1st and scored the 2nd
goal. He showed great strength, held the ball up superbly, and played well
for the team.
Greenacre 7 Brave header for the goal, and so unlucky with a brilliant shot
in the second half from nowhere. Won a lot of balls, and caused the defence
trouble all game
Tankard (for Pemberton, 46) 7 Made a real difference to the defence. Looked
very solid and never looked like giving the ball away.
Williamson (for Disley, 46) 6 Didn't get into the game quickly but improved
late on and fought hard.
Kelly (for Greenacre, ) 6 Kept the momentum going after replacing the
injured Greenacre. Involved in the second goal.
Subs Not Used: Bingham, Clarke.