Harper misses late golden chance for winner

 

Leyton Orient 1 Mansfield Town 1

 

By Martin Shaw

 

After having watched  the 3 games in the previous 10 days, where the Stags were excellent against Swansea and Rotherham, but then poor against Darlington, I wasn't quite sure what to expect at Leyton Orient.

 

Working in Sussex but living in Guildford, I decided to leave work early at 4.00, drive home, get the train from Guildford into London, and meet my brother and Dad at Tottenham Court Road tube station at 6.45. After another half hour journey on the Central Line and the short walk from Leyton Station we got into the ground 10 minutes before kick-off.

 

There was a reasonable turnout of about 120 Stags fans. This was about what I expected and much less of course than the 1000+ that I joined at the Rotherham game. The first surprise was the team taking the field in the new blue away kit for the very first time. The kit has received some cricitism elsewhere in this fanzine for being too similar to Chesterfield colours, but I thought it looked quite smart, and after all is similar to the shirt which was first team colours in the late 60s. I particularly remember this because I have on video the goals from the game where Stags lost 2-0 to Leeds in the FA Cup.

 

In the first half, Orient had more of the play and took the lead from a corner when an Orient defender beat Bowling to the ball and rocketed a header into the net. For my money, this was a clear mistake by Bowling. Mansfield were not really in the game and were giving the ball away far too much in midfield, just as they had done on Saturday against Darlington, with Clarke a major culprit. Having said that, Harper was very unlucky when his magnificent chip hit the bar just before Orient scored.

 

Out of the blue and just before half time, an Orient player was sent off for his second bad foul on Christie. Christie was then booed by the home fans for the rest of the match.

Mansfield began the second half with much more confidence and began to create openings with Clarke and Ford coming to life in midfield, and Christie and Peacock looking sharper. The equaliser soon came when Clarke won the ball on the edge of the box and his shot seemed to take a slight deflection and easily beat the keeper just inside the post. Mansfield now had their tales up and were looking dangerous. Christie had a good chance when he rounded the keeper but put his shot into the side netting, bringing derision from the home fans.

 

But the game turned again with 15 minutes left, when Darrell Clarke was sent off for a double foul on the touchline in front of the baying home fans. It seemed harsh to me, especially as Clarke was also fouled in the process.

 

This brought Orient back to life and it seemed we would do well to hang on for a point. Parkin changed his formation with Peacock moving into midfield leaving just Christie up front. In truth, the last 15 minutes was open and end to end, and both teams could easily have had a winner.

In the very last seconds, Schofield fed a ball to Harper who was unmarked 15 yards out but after he steadied himself, he curled his free shot just the wrong side of the post with keeper beaten. The anguish on his face, and on mine, said it all.

 

In the end a draw was a fair result. In reality it was a game that the Stags were only in control of whilst we had the man advantage.

 

My man of the man - quite tricky since no-one was outstanding. But Schofield was solid as usual and even ventured upfield in the closing minutes. Twice he nearly created a winner, and so gets my vote.

 

Stuart Ryder played in place of Hackett and did reasonably well. In the first half he went close with a header from a corner. No subs were used.

 

On the train home, I reflected on Harper's late miss, and Clarke's sending off.

 

Bowling 6

Williams 6

Harper 7

Peters 7

Ford 6

Ryder 7

Schofield 8

Clarke 6

Peacock 6

Christie 7

Walker 6