NEW BOYS INSPIRE STAGS TO CRUCIAL WIN
Hereford United 1 - 3 Mansfield Town
Sheldon 89. Conlon 10, M.Boulding 78, Gritton 90+1.
Attendance: 3048 (271 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw at Edgar Street
Dream debuts from Barry Conlon and Martin Gritton inspired Mansfield Town to a morale-boosting win at Edgar Street this afternoon. The Stags were the better side and thoroughly deserved the win, though the home side were poor throughout. Conlon put the Stags ahead early in the game. Substitute Michael Boulding increased the lead on 78 minutes. Hereford pulled a fine goal back on 89 minutes to set up a nervy finish, but man of the match Gritton scored a third in stoppage time before sinking to his knees in unbridled joy. It was the first time two Stags players had scored on their debut in the same game since Keith Cassells and Neville Chamberlain, also against Hereford, in 1985.
Man of the match: Martin Gritton
Stagsnet player ratings in the match centre.
DEBUT BOYS ARE QUICK TO MAKE MARK
Evening Post, 15 January 2007
When Martin Gritton sank to his knees in stoppage time, it looked like the kind of disillusioned reaction you usually see when a player has missed a glorious chance of a late winner.
But the fact that the Scot had just scored on his debut to seal a deserved Stags victory spoke volumes as to just how shattered - and relieved - he was.
Gritton ran his heart out for the team to put his side in a seemingly unassailable position at 2-0.
Then, from out of the blue, Hereford pulled a goal back through Gareth Sheldon in the final minute of normal time and then, roared on by the home fans, piled forward in search of a leveller.
So when the man on loan from Lincoln tapped home a Matt Hamshaw cross after barely being able to keep up with the play, it was no wonder he slumped to the ground, having made absolutely sure of the victory he had worked so hard to help achieve.
Gritton's goal capped a sparkling first game for the club where he displayed all the attributes that had made manager Billy Dearden so keen to get him.
It was fellow new-boy Barry Conlon who had caused the most stir leading up to the game.
Gritton, by contrast, was relatively unknown to some of the Mansfield faithful, but he outshone his partner as the duo formed a new-look strike force.
That is not to say Conlon did not impress. He gave the Stags the flying start they needed with the opening goal that allowed the visitors to settle.
Neither man has played much first-team football this season and that showed in their fitness. But the hour they did spend together shows they have the makings of a dangerous combination. The exciting thing for Mansfield supporters is there will be more to come when they are both up to full speed.
The most noticeable difference to the team was both players can hold the ball up and allow the midfielders time to join the attack. So although many would prefer Richard Barker to still be at Field Mill and captaining the Stags, Saturday's game does show that there is life after him.
Mansfield now have real competition for places up front with Simon Brown to return from suspension, Danny Reet from injury and Chris Beardsley waiting for his chance.
But they are likely to be behind Michael Boulding in the queue to displace Gritton or Conlon after he came off the bench to score his first goal since September.
That goal had put Dearden's side 2-0 up after Mansfield had withheld a spell of Hereford pressure in their search for an equaliser.
That the Bulls never got that opportunity was down to some determined defending and a couple of top-drawer saves from Jason White. The young keeper has had it tough at times this season, particularly at Walsall and at home to Notts County.
But here he was rock-steady, punching and catching crosses and pulling off a stunning reflex save to keep out Andy Ferrell's goalbound free kick. It was the type of work you need from your keeper in away matches.
In midfield, Giles Coke was again outstanding and looks back to his best while Matt Hamshaw was a danger with his testing delivery from out wide.
But the biggest plus point was the return of Stephen Dawson after two months out with a back injury.
So effective was the Irishman it was like he had never been away and he was still looking to get into the box in the dying seconds of the game. The result meant Jake Buxton's first game as skipper ended with a welcome three points and took the Stags up to 17th in the table.
It was also the first time Mansfield had scored three goals away from home since the 4-3 FA Cup triumph at Rotherham last year.
Under ex-boss Peter Shirtliff, Mansfield managed just one League Two away win this season. Since his departure, the Stags have won both on their travels.
That scenario has not come about by chance. Quite simply, the Stags are now playing with more attacking intent. Previously on the road, they played on the back foot, looking scared to lose.
One game does not make a season, and if the players let their standards drop then they are quickly going to come unstuck.
But if Gritton, Conlon and the rest of the team can repeat their Edgar Street performance at Accrington tomorrow night, there is no reason why a hat-trick of away successes cannot be in the offing.
A poor display by the Bulls was punished to the full by visitors Mansfield Town, who recorded a 3-1 victory over Gramham Turners men.
The visitors soon took control and found the back of the net inside the first 10 minutes thanks to new signing Barry Conlon, who arrived from Darlington during the week.
Mansfield continued to take control of what was a scrappy game on a cold and wet afternoon at Edgar Street, but it took them until the 79th minute to beat Brown in the United goal for a second time, with Michael Boulding getting his name on the scoresheet.
Hereford's hopes of a comeback were raised when substitute, Gareth Sheldon struck on 90minutes, but United's hopes were short lived when Mansfield secured their fully deserved three points when new signing Gritton slotted into an empty net moments after.
Instant heroes as Stags tame the Bulls
HEREFORD UNITED 1 MANSFIELD TOWN 3
NEW signings Barry Conlon and Martin Gritton were instant heroes this afternoon as suffering Mansfield Town grabbed a much-needed away win at Hereford United this afternoon.
After all the off-the-field turmoil and slipping to within a point of the bottom two, the club have rarely needed a victory as badly as this one to lift the cloud of gloom over Field Mill.
New Stags boss Billy Dearden had worked long and hard to find a replacement for skipper and top scorer Richie Barker and looks to have pulled not one but two rabbits out the hat at the 11th hour with the capture of Conlon and Gritton who both shone and scored on their debut up front together.
The anti-Keith Haslam protests will continue but at least Billy Dearden and his new strikers showed there is life after Peter Shirtliff and Richie Barker and gave renewed hope that Stags can climb away from trouble.
Conlon gave Mansfield a 10th minute lead and, after Jason White had made a great save to preserve that lead after the break, Stags defended soundly and looked to have made it safe with Michael Boulding's goal on 79 minutes.
But, after White had made another good stop, Gareth Sheldon's rocket strike in the 90th minute gave the Bulls an unexpected lifeline with three minutes added on,
But then Gritton crowned a hard-working man of the match display with a last ditch tap-in at the end of a counter attack to make the points safe at last.
With Barker departed, Simon Brown suspended and Michael Boulding dropped to the bench, Stags gave debuts to new boys Conlon and Gritton up front and Dawson returned from a two-month injury lay-off to play on the right of midfield.
Buxton was named captain and Hamshaw started on the left wing.
Stags had a nervous moment on two minutes when they struggled to clear a loose ball and it fell to Sills who stabbed a low shot at goal which White was safely behind.
Gritton's first goal attempt came on three minutes as he turned and got away a shot on target from 20 yards which Brown was always behind.
But Stags were ahead on 10 minutes as Conlon started and ended the move.
Conlon fed Dawson into space on the right of the box. His low cross was met by Gritton who saw his shot blocked by Gulliver. But the ball ran to Conlon whose follow up gave keeper Brown no chance from eight yards.
Mullins needed treatment after catching Webb's boot on the side of his head.
Connell tried to catch White off his line from 30 yards after John-Baptiste's headed clearance sent straight to his feet, but the effort was well over.
Mansfield survived three successive home corners as the Bulls stepped up the pressure.
But Dawson neatly turned at the other end only to see his shot blocked and easy for Brown.
Then Coke forced a good save from Brown on 21 minutes after beating Webb to a deflected Gritton lay-off and making good strides before shooting low and on target.
On 31 minutes Hamshaw pumped over a free lick from wide on the left and Mullins sneaked in at the far post to crash a volley well over from a difficult angle.
Brown was then comfortably behind a 30 yard Jelleyman free kick which flew straight at him.
Mullins did well to get a vital block on a Connell shot, White confidently punching away the resulting corner.
But Stags arrived at the interval good value for their lead.
Hereford had a strong wind at their backs and the slope in their favour for the second half.
And the dangerous Travis almost conjured up an equaliser from nothing on 56 minutes as he cut inside from the right and let fly from 25 yards with a low shot that bounced just wide of White's left hand post.
Mansfield forced two successive corners with no reward before defending two at the other end, both headed away by D'Laryea.
White confidently caught a third flag kick after a low Connell cross had caused problems.
Fleetwood replaced Connell on 59 minutes to bolster the home attack.
And they were almost level on the hour as Ferrell swung in a long free kick which a home player may have got the slightes of touches on. The ball looked like it would bounce and find the top corner but White somehow stretched out the full frame of his body to get a hand to it and help it over the top for a top drawer save.
Two more home corner followed as the pressure intensified on Mansfield.
The Bulls enjoyed a spell of pressure which ended with White gathering a low Ferrell shot.
The tiring Conlon was replaced by Boulding on 66 minutes.
Fleetwood was not too far off with a good effort on the run from a tight angle, but John-Baptiste had policed him well and did enough to force him wider than he wanted.
Boulding exchanged passes with Gritton in the box and then Gritton drilled the ball across the six yard box just past the unmarked Dawson with the goal at his mercy.
A good burst into the box by Hamshaw saw him toe-poke a shot that was blocked by Purdie for a corner.
Sheldon came on for Beckwith with 15 minutes to go.
But the Stags grabbed a crucial second goal four minutes later. Hamshaw found Coke on the left and he took the ball into the box before rolling an inviting square pass to Boulding who made no mistake with a first time finish high into the net.
White pulled of another excellent full stretch save on 88 minutes after another Ferrell free kick was helped goal wards by a home head.
Lloyd replaced the excellent Coke on 89 minutes.
Hereford finally broke through in the final minute as the visiting defence relaxed for second to allow Sheldon a shot on a loose ball which he whipped in off the inside of the left hand post.
Suddenly panic bells were ringing for Mansfield as the fourth official held up three added minutes on his board and the home fans turned up the noise.
But, with the Bulls committed forward, Stags stung them with the perfect counter attack to finally seal the win.
Hamshaw skipped down the left to the by-line and drew the keeper before setting up Gritton with an easy finish from two yards into an open goal.
The Stags players went across to celebrate completing the double over the Bulls with the delighted 271 away fans at the end.
Stags managed just three away League wins in 2006. But with this one under their belts less than two weeks into the New Year they head for the six-pointer at Accrington Stanley on Tuesday in good spirits.
Latest | January 2007