Mansfield Town 1 Exeter City 1
by Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Mansfield made one change from the team that had scraped past Brighton just 3 days earlier, with on-loan Leigh Bromby returning to the side after a one match absence, at the expense of Lee Cowling. Exeter included Stuart Naylor in goal, who played on loan for Stags last season, and Jason Rees who also played on loan for Mansfield 7 years ago. Another former on-loan player at Field Mill, Darran Rowbotham, was injured and missed the game for Exeter.
There was a minute’s silence before the game for striker Martin Aldridge who was killed in a car accident.
In a swirling and unpredictable wind, Stags created a number of good chances in a first half that they started well for 15 minutes and ended well for another 15, but went to sleep for the middle 15. Stags played some neat football at times but were unable to break the deadlock. The closest they came was when Lee Williams worked his trademark step-over (which works every time), to leave his marker for dead, and send a perfect cross onto the unmarked Darrell Clarke’s head. Clarke headed the ball towards the left hand corner of the net, but Naylor got down to the ball well and pushed it onto the post and away to safety. Clarke had another opportunity when he flashed the ball over the angle with a left foot shot from 10 yards.
Three great chances also fell to Chris Greenacre. Firstly he was surprised to receive Roscoe’s cross from the left through a sea of legs and could only tap his shot straight at Naylor was 6 yards. Then he missed the target from a free header, again only 6 yards out. Finally after Roscoe played a cross from the left which just evaded everybody, it went out to the right hand side where Lee Williams retrieved it, and sent a fierce cross to the far post which Greenacre met with his head from a yard out but could only glance it inches wide.
In contrast to Exeter, Mansfield looked very assured at the back with Bromby and Andrews oozing class with commanding performances. Exeter did have a lot of possession during a 15 minute spell but failed to create the clearcut chances that the home side created.
At half time I felt quite confident that if Stags could keep up the same standard of attacking, another 3 points would be earned.
Just 4 minutes into the second half, there was relief all round Field Mill as Stags deservedly went in front. From a Lee Williams corner, Tony Lormor got in front of his marker on the near post to back-head the ball over the keeper and into the net. It was a carbon copy goal of his goal against Rotherham, though from the other side of the pitch, at Field Mill earlier in the season.
Four minutes later it should have been 2-0. Williams was unlucky to see his effort hit the post and as the ball came out, it hit Lormor and flew inches wide of the post. It was an amazing escape for the Devon side, but disappointingly it turned out to be the last time the Stags came close to scoring.
Instead it was Exeter who gradually came more into the game. There was one fantastic piece of defending by Bromby when Bennett was through on goal for Exeter. The Stags defender threw himself in front of the shot and blocked it to safety. Exeter brought on the dangerous Flack and he had one shot just wide of the post. Then Andrews cleared a ball off line though the ball never looked like going in.
The Stags were generally coping well despite not creating anything themselves but a stroke of bad luck on 72 minutes cost the Stags the win they deserved. Following a corner, Andrews headed the ball away, but it hit Asher on the back, and rebounded straight to the unmarked Alexander who thrashed it towards goal. It hit Roscoe on the line, and as he span round to try to clear the spinning ball, it just crept over the line before he hooked it away. It looked as though it had just gone over the line, and this was confirmed later by video evidence. There was no doubt that the Stags were unlucky with the rebound. In an extraordinary moment of time-standing-still, it must have been about 15 seconds between the ball crossing the line and the Exeter fans realising that they had scored, as the linesman who signalled the goal, would not have been visible to them.
The goal gave Exeter confidence but they only looked like snatching a winner on one occasion when Alexander shot straight at Thompson.
The game finished in disappointment for Mansfield but they still left the pitch to a healthy reception from the appreciative home fans.
Overall I think that Mansfield were definitely unlucky not to take all 3 points from the game, given their first half chances, and the manner of Exeter’s equaliser. But the failure to create any clear-cut chances in the last 35 minutes of the game meant they were hanging on to just a one goal lead, which is something they should not have been attempting to do, against a poor side that had lost 7 successive away games. Perhaps the injury crisis at Field Mill and the fact that this was the third game in 6 days took its toll on the players.
Leigh Bromby was quite outstanding on his return to the side, and manager Dearden will be delighted that Sheffield Wednesday have allowed him to stay on loan for a third month. John Andrews continued his excellent form at the heart of the defence alongside Bromby. Sisson was strangely out of form, but this may have been explained when Bill Dearden commented afterwards that Sisson was carrying an injury. Roscoe continued his improved form on the left, as did Williams on the right. Up front Lormor and Greenacre had good games, but Greenacre will be rueing his missed chances in the first half.
Man of the Match: Leigh Bromby
Boulding for Sisson (83 minutes).
Subs not used: Tye, Cowling, Allardyce, Kerr.