Mansfield Town 2 Plymouth Argyle 2
By Martin Shaw at Field Mill
In the final match of the season, Mansfield were looking to give their fans hope for next season, and end the sequence of games that has seen them take just one point from the last 8 games, and fail to score in those 8 games.
Stags made one change from the side that had lost at Northampton with young striker Danny Bacon returning from injury for the first time since November. He replaced Martin Garratt who has been released. It was also announced by Bill Dearden that Lee Cowling and Gavin Bassinder had been released. Dearden explained that he already had cover in the positions of the 3 released players. Further announcements of players released could be made on Tuesday.
Whilst the inclusion of 3 strikers in the side made it look like a 3-4-3 formation, in reality it soon became clear that only 2 were really up front as the strikers took it in turns to drop back into midfield.
Before the game young Alistair Asher received his award for Stags Supporters Club Player of the Season, to add to his SOS Player of the Season award received at the previous home game, while Tony Lormor received the award for CHAD Player of the Season.
In the opening 2 minutes, Plymouth`s 150 travelling fans turned their backs on the game in a protest against their chairman Dan MacCauley.
Stags were looking for their first goal in more than 12 hours of football. In the first minute, Danny Bacon, who of course had not been involved in the scoreless games and hence would not have had a dented confidence, broke clear and nearly scored as his low shot was well saved by Plymouth keeper Jon Sheffield diving low to his right. But Stags didn`t have to wait long to break the sequence. On 4 minutes and 12 seconds precisely, defender John Andrews popped up in the 6 yard box to score his first ever league goal. It was Stags first goal for 12 hours and 29 minutes. Mark Blake received the ball near the bye-line following Greenacre`s header from a corner. Blake looked up, and squared a perfect ball across the goal for Andrews unmarked, who tapped the ball in from 2 yards with the side of his right foot. It was a great moment for the home fans, some of whom started a conga on the West Stand terrace, and also I noticed a look of mock-shock from manager Bill Dearden. It was also a great moment for popular Irishman Andrews to score his first goal. After the game Andrews said he would tape the goal from TV and watch it over and over again.
Strangely it was Plymouth who came to life following the goal and the Devon side came close when Hargreaves broke through a static defence, and had a free shot that was superbly saved by the legs of Bobby Mimms. Plymouth equalised after 9 minutes when Steve Guinan scored with a header that was adjudged to have crossed the line after bouncing down from the underside of the bar. It was the third time in 3 months that Stags have been unlucky to concede goals in similar circumstances following the goals scored by Exeter and Barnet at Field Mill that were adjudged to have crossed the line.
Mansfield then got firmly on top in the game and regained the lead they deserved when Danny Bacon scored with a brave diving header, despite being sandwiched between 2 defenders, to place the ball just inside the near post. It came from a terrific in-swinging cross by Alistair Asher.
Stags had numerous other chances in the first half, such as one for Sisson, who was beautifully put through by Boulding, and shot low but the keeper got a hand to the shot and it crept just past the post. Then Boulding broke clear from the half-way line, and with both Bacon and Greenacre free on either side, he chose to shoot but placed it just wide. Greenacre also had a good chance but was denied by another fine save from keeper Jon Sheffield.
At half-time, Stags received a standing ovation from the crowd, which at over 2000 with only a small following from Devon, was slightly larger than expected.
Mansfield continued to remain largely in control of the game and through the second half looked like holding onto their lead, and possibly extending it.
But on 72 minutes, it was Guinan again who equalised for the visitors as he received the ball after Lee Phillips header had been brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Mimms, and rebounded to Guinan. Guinan had a free shot from 4 yards and easily beat Mimms.
Stags created a number of chances during the second half including for Darrell Clarke who had a couple of fine shots blocked, and also for Michael Boulding, who continued to have the majority of Stags chances. Stags came closest when Lee Williams` free-kick struck the post with the keeper beaten though in truth Williams was not aiming to score but instead put in a cross.
So the game ended in a draw. It was a game of good entertainment with plenty of chances for both sides though Stags had many more than the visitors. After the game, John Andrews said that he thought a draw was a fair result. But I certainly felt that Stags clearly deserved a victory. Billy Dearden said he was disappointed not to have won the game, and thought Stags had played well and deserved to win. He thought Mansfield scored 2 good goals and could have good more. He singled out Danny Bacon for praise and thought he had a superb game. But the manager expressed his disappointment in the defending that allowed Plymouth back into the game.
Danny Bacon was also my man of the match, returning from an injury after a long break to give fresh impetus to the Stags. Boulding also looked very sharp up front, though I thought Greenacre looked a little jaded, and perhaps not 100% fit. In midfield, Darrell Clarke at last returned to something like his form from the game at Rotherham as he often surged forward. Sisson, Blake and Williams also showed fine form in midfield. Neil Richardson was the pick of the defence where I thought Asher and Andrews were disappointing.
So Stags ended the season in 17th place, dropping one place on the day below Southend, and finishing 17 points above bottom place while 16 points below the play-off places.
Man of the Match: Danny Bacon
Mimms 7 Solid with a couple of good saves.
Asher 5 Disappointing defending.
Richardson 7 Solid in the centre of defence.
Andrews 5 Disappointing defending, despite scoring the all important goal.
Clarke 7 Fine performance with surging runs forward and unlucky not to score on a few occasions.
Williams 7 Good game.
Blake 7 Tough tackling as usual.
Sisson 7 Another good performance.
Bacon 8 Excellent return to the side – full of running and inventive play. Also scored a brave goal.
Greenacre 6 Looked a little jaded and not as sharp as usual.
Boulding 7 Unlucky not to score on several occasions, and surprisingly substituted.
Williamson (for Williams, 78 minutes) 6
Disley (for Bacon, 78 minutes) 6
Roscoe (for Boulding, 84 minutes) 6
Subs not used: