Mansfield Town 0 Swansea City 1
Stags came into this game against league leaders Swansea following a terrible run of one point from 6 games, without scoring a single goal. Confidence was at a low level, but despite an improved performance and more than holding their own against the Welshmen, Stags crashed to defeat yet again without scoring a goal. This takes the incredible run of failing to score to 7 games plus the last 25 minutes at Rotherham : a total of 10 hours and 55 minutes.
In front of a pathetically low crowd of just 2,162, including 709 from Swansea, Mansfield dropped striker Andy Evans from the team that lost to Hartlepool, to be replaced by Michael Boulding. Evans was not even on the substitutes bench. Alistair Asher played with an anaesthetic injection after splitting his toenail at Hartlepool. Young midfielder Lee Williamson, who was awarded the Stags youth team player of the year award before the game, was included on the bench.
A consistent theme of recent home games has been a high action opening from the Stags with good chances created but missed. This game followed the same pattern. On just 3 minutes, Boulding cut in from the left hand side and crashed a right foot shot just past the left hand post. From our position in the West Stand it seemed the ball had hit the back of the net but it was an optical illusion and in fact the ball struck the side netting. On 7 minutes, Greenacre shot over from a good position. In a rare Swansea attack, Walter Boyd struck a low free-kick from 25 yards which was well-saved by Mimms. On 20 minutes Boulding received the ball from a corner with his back to goal, he turned and shot but the ball rebounded off goalkeeper Freestone’s knees to safety. After 32 minutes, a long cross from Williams evaded the Swansea defence and was met by an unmarked Boulding at the far post, but his weak header went just wide.
Little had been seen of the league leaders, but on 37 minutes they took the lead completely out of the blue. A foul on Boulding on the half way line was missed by the referee; the ball was played towards Mimms, but just as the keeper was about to collect the ball, Neil Richardson unnecessarily hacked the ball away for a corner. The corner fell for Swansea midfielder Nick Cusack on the edge of the box and his low shot took a deflection giving Mimms no chance as it nestled into bottom left hand corner of the Stags net. It was a cruel blow for Mansfield and one which summed up recent luck.
At half time Stags were applauded off by at least some of their supporters for a fairly good first half showing.
Half time 0-1
In the second half Stags began to look more and more dis-spirited and failed to create the chances of the first half. An exception was a Greenacre close range shot cleared off the line and another Greenacre chip over the keeper which fell agonisingly inches wide of the post. Swansea still didn’t look like a side going for promotion but were defending solidly. After an hour Mark Blake, who had been booked in the first half for a rash sliding challenge, and had twice been warned by the referee for later incidents, was replaced by young midfielder Lee Williamson, probably to prevent Blake getting himself sent off. Williamson tried hard but was let down by some poor passing and crossing, having got himself into good positions.
As the game entered its late stages there was a general feeling that Stags weren’t going to break their bad run, and Swansea created a few more chances. 5 minutes from time, Walter Boyd received a ball at the far post that had been comically missed by the Stags defence, but Boyd completed the party piece by missing his kick. Then in injury time, Steve Watkin had a free shot from 15 yards which was brilliantly saved by Mimms.
So the game ended with amazingly some Stags supporters chanting “what a load of rubbish”. It had been far from rubbish as the Stags had been on top throughout against the league leaders, but just couldn’t find the breakthrough. Swansea defended solidly but looked anything but a promotion outfit. Mansfield were generally the more positive and creative side, but the lack of confidence in front of goal shows no sign of ending.
So the bad run continues - 7 games without a goal and just one point achieved. Even more incredibly, the run continues of losing every game this season when Stags have fallen behind (with the one exception of the draw against Leyton Orient). The season started badly with just one point from 5 games, but is finishing in even worse fashion, and it is important that Mansfield can pick up something from their last 2 games to go into the end of season break with a little bit of confidence.
After the game, young defender Alistair Asher, who was presented with the SOS Player of the Season award before the game, commented that the lads were really down in the dressing room after another game without a goal. On a personal level he said he was delighted to be presented with a Player of the Year award in his first year as a professional, and modestly said he didn’t think he had done too badly. He thanked fans who had voted for him. Regarding this game, he said that Stags were creating chances, especially down the right hand side, but they just were not going in, and luck was not going Stags way. He could not explain why Stags seem incapable of coming back from behind.
Man of the Match: John Andrews
Mimms 7 Some good saves though generally not much to do.
Asher 7 Good game at right back.
Richardson 6 Solid in defence but at fault in the incident that led to the only goal.
Andrews 7 Fine game to snuff out the threat of Boyd and Watkin.
Garratt 6 Didn’t see enough of the ball, and guilty of some poor distribution when he did get it.
Williams 6 Not up to usual high standard of crossing. He seems to have lost more confidence than most.
Clarke 6 Still unable to recreate his form from Rotherham though showed a few good touches when going forward.
Blake 6 Tigerish in midfield but looked like getting himself sent off before being withdrawn.
Sisson 7 Plenty of effort but below the high standard he has set himself this season.
Greenacre 7 100% effort to the end, and unlucky with one effort cleared off the line.
Boulding 7 Several chances and unlucky not to score.
Williamson (for Blake, 63 minutes) 6 Saw a lot of the ball in the right side of midfield, but let down by poor distribution.
Subs not used:
Tye, Roscoe, Disley, Kerr.