Mansfield 1 Carlisle 1
How unlucky can you get? After the league performance at Southend when Stags totally dominated the game and came away with nothing, you might have thought the Stags deserved some luck. So what did they get? Answer - a Lormor header against the post, a Peacock free-kick against the post, a Lormor shot cleared off the line, a Lormor shot against the post, another scramble cleared off the line. And numerous other chances that went close. OK so the finishing could have been more clinical, but that has to be bad luck in anyone`s book.
Stags took the lead after 15 minutes with a perfect 20 yard free kick from Andy Roscoe, but were pegged back when Baker equalised for Carlisle after 37 minutes. Despite numerous chances for Stags in the second half and none for Carlisle, it remained 1-1 to bring Mansfield their first point of the season, but scant reward and consolation for another fine performance.
Mansfield made one change from the team that beat Nottingham Forest on Tuesday with Gary Tallon returning to the starting line-up in place of Michael Boulding. The formation seemed to vary throughout the game between 5 at the back and 4 at the back with Lee Williams sometimes at right wing back and other times in midfield.
After a bright opening, Mansfield took a deserved lead after Lee Peacock was fouled on the edge of the box. A free-kick was given, despite protests from the Carlisle players. Andy Roscoe, who had been unlucky with several free-kick attempts at the Cheltenham game, stepped up to take it and planted it in the right hand corner of the net with the goalkeeper totally unmoved. Roscoe immediately went on a celebratory run in the style of the Wimbledon team from John Fashanu days, and the relief all round Field Mill at the first league goal of the season was plain to see.
Stags had many chances to finish the game in the opening half hour but survived a scare when a Carlisle goal was ruled off-side. Two Carlisle players broke down the middle and the player who carried the ball, passed to the other one who put the ball into the empty net but he had been in an off-side position. But this gave Carlisle some hope and shortly afterwards they equalised when Baker carried the ball from some distance out and made his way into the box unchallenged before shooting past Barry Richardson. The Stags` goalkeeper will have been disappointed to have been beaten at his near post. It turned out to be Carlisle`s only shot on target in the entire 90 minutes apart from the disallowed goal. Carlisle did have one other chance when a snap shot on the volley went feebly wide.
Stags` catalogue of chances in the first half included a fantastic cross from Peacock which was headed against the base of the post by Lormor with the keeper well beaten. Lormor also had a shot from a tight angle cleared off the line when it seemed destined to go in. From another free kick about 20 yards out, Lee Peacock`s shot was magnificently turned on to the post by the Carlisle keeper - a great save but very unlucky nonetheless as it struck woodwork. At half time, Stags were left to rue not killing off Carlisle in an excellent opening half hour.
At the start of the second half, Mansfield got sucked into a physical battle as Carlisle tried to put Mansfield off their game. And it worked as the game became very niggly and the Stags lost all momentum. In one incident, it seemed all 20 players were involved in a fracas which resulted in bookings for Roscoe and Carlisle`s Thomas Black, playing his first game on loan from Arsenal. That incident became significant later when the referee lost patience with Black after several fouls on Roscoe. Black finally scythed down the Stags` player on the left wing and was given his marching orders 18 minutes from time.
The Stags generally pulled their game together for the last 25 minutes and mounted a siege on the Carlisle goal but it seemed the ball just would not go in. Once again it was Tony Lormor who was most unlucky when his shot from 15 yards completely beat the keeper but struck the post and rolled back to be cleared by grateful defenders. There were numerous other chances too including another shot cleared off the line. But the luck just wasn`t with the Stags and Carlisle held on for a totally undeserved point.
Overall, this was another fine performance from the Stags. Despite their position at the bottom of the table after 4 games, it was really only in the game at Brighton where they have played poorly.
Richardson in goal had nothing to do apart from the goal with which he should be disappointed. The defence looked solid with a good performance again from Hassell who made one fine sliding tackle to prevent a chance in the first half for Carlisle. Linighan and Neil Richardson also had solid performances, as did Gary Tallon at left back. Lee Williams generally had a good game at right wing back and right midfield. Mark Blake had a very fine game in midfield and really looks an excellent ball winner and distributor. The Stags must get him signed up on contract before another club steps in. Michael Sisson also put in a good performance on his first league start of the season. Andy Roscoe seems to get better in each game and looked impressive on the left side of midfield. Up front, Lee Peacock looked much sharper than in earlier games and is starting to return to the form of last season. His cross for Lormor`s header against the post and his own free kick against the post were outstanding. Tony Lormor continued to receive criticism from some sections of the home crowd, which was totally incredible considering he had two fine efforts against the woodwork and another shot from a tight angle cleared off the line.
Bobby Hassell was carried off on a stretcher in the second half with a hamstring injury. After the game, manager Dearden was unsure how long it would keep Hassell out for but clearly he won`t be fit for the Exeter game. Hassell was replaced by Alistair Asher who came on for his first team debut and slotted in at right back. Asher looked comfortable and should be a sound replacement for Hassell who had had such an excellent start to the season. Wayne Thomas replaced Gary Tallon and played a couple a good long passes but generally did not get into the game. Finally, Michael Boulding replaced Sisson, as the Stags reverted to 3 up front as they had played at home to Nottingham Forest.
Mansfield now face a very stiff challenge away to an Exeter side who have been very strong at home in the last couple of years. But another performance like this and the ones away to Southend and at home to Nottingham Forest, combined with a modicum of luck, might just be enough to bring the first 3 points of the season.
Man of the match: Lee Peacock
Barry Richardson 6,
Hassell 8, Tallon 7, Linighan 7, Neil Richardson 7,
Blake 8, Sisson 6, Roscoe 7,
Lormor 7, Peacock 8.
Asher 7 (for Hassell),
Thomas 6 (for Tallon),
Boulding 6 (for Sisson).