MORE REPORTS PLUS LETTER
Mansfield 2 Walsall 1Jan 20 2007
By Brian Halford, Birmingham Mail
WALSALL wandered into a private conflict at Field Mill and ended up surrendering ground in their own long-term campaign.
This match was precisely three seconds old when Mansfield's civil war resurfaced, their supporters hurling the first vitriol of the day at hated club owner Keith Haslam.
That launched a fractious afternoon which included, surely, a first in English football - a person ejected from a ground for possessing a seditious screensaver!
Haslam took exception to photographer Dan Westwell's "Haslam Out" laptop screensaver and ordered his removal by stewards.
Rarely has a snapper received a standing ovation on his way out of the ground. But, flushed by this acclaim, the departing Westwell dug himself a deeper hole. He offered Haslam a valedictory gesture which turned ejection into arrest.
Lively stuff. Unfortunately, amidst all this kerfuffle, Walsall were far from lively.
While Mansfield's players battled valiantly, the Saddlers endured a big off day. Most were 10 per cent below par, some further off the pace than that.
Richard Money also had a day to forget. The manager has made many shrewd decisions this season but picking Par Cederqvist in place of bang-in-form Hector Sam was not one of them.
Cederqvist spent the first 45 minutes floundering behind the pace of English football. Sam spent the second 45 hunting down the Stags' defence with muscle and menace.
Money's decision to omit Ishmel Demontagnac from the 16 was also curious. The youngster is a loose cannon, for sure, but his pace is the last thing defenders want to face as they try to run a game down.
Walsall had the ideal start when Ian Roper scrambled home Danny Fox's corner. But there was often too much space between the back-line and midfield, never more so than when Stephen Dawson's break and cross was netted by Barry Conlon.
Walsall surrendered possession far too freely all day and a classic example cost them the winning goal. Kris Taylor gifted the ball away and when it landed in the box, Martin Gritton was rewarded for chasing an apparently lost cause as Clayton Ince, arguably impeded, dropped it right to him.
Sam almost salvaged a point for Walsall when his injury-time cross was met by Dean Keates. But Jake Buxton was on the goal-line to clear and justice was done. War-torn they may be, but Mansfield deserved this win.
MANSFIELD (4-4-2): White; Mullins (Lloyd, 52), Baptiste (Hjelde, 37), Buxton, Jelleyman; Hamshaw (Boulding, 85), D'Laryea, Dawson, Brown; Conlon, Gritton. Not used: Muggleton, Arnold.
WALSALL (4-4-2): Ince; Westwood, Roper, Dann, Taylor; Wright (Keates 60), Dobson, Pead, Fox; Butler, Cederqvist (Sam ht). Not used: Bossu, Gerrard, Bedeau.
MATCH REPORT: STAGS NAIL LEADERS
Evening Post, 22 January 2007
Being the last line of defence, a goalkeeper can be a hero in one match and a villain in the next - as Jason White and Clayton Ince know only too well.
The last time the two goalkeepers lined up against each other at the Bescot Stadium in September, Ince came out a clear winner in their personal battle.
He pulled off two sparkling saves to shut out the Stags while, at the other end, White dropped a big clanger as Walsall cantered to a 4-0 win.
But football is not without a sense of irony and this time the boot was most definitely on the other foot.
With the game level at 1-1, Ince failed to take what appeared to be a routine catch under challenge from Martin Gritton, allowing the home striker to net a simple goal.
Then, in the dying seconds, White made a vital block to keep out Dean Keates' goalbound shot and captain Jake Buxton was on hand to complete the clearance.
Those two moments proved to be pivotal in an incident-packed match - just as the two keepers' contributions shaped the reverse fixture four months earlier.
For White, it was the latest triumph in his comeback from a shaky early-season spell when he lost his place to Carl Muggleton.
The last-gasp drama aside, he caught and punched well when called into action by Walsall's dangerous set-piece delivery and could not be faulted for the goal.
And the fact that his late stop was from the same player whose free-kick he had let slip through his grasp in the West Midlands - Keates - can only have topped up his confidence levels even more.
Those who know Mansfield well fully expected the Stags to give the league leaders a run for their money despite losing at struggling Accrington in their previous game.
Why it is, only the big man upstairs truly knows, but the Stags always seem to pull out their best performances against the top sides.
Having already defeated Milton Keynes Dons and Swindon on their own patch this season, there was a steely determination from Mansfield to add Richard Money's side to their list of scalps.
And with Barry Conlon and Martin Gritton continuing to blossom in their partnership up front, that hope became a reality.
After missing one golden chance, Conlon notched his third goal in as many games in a Stags shirt by firing into the top right-hand corner after Dawson's low, left-wing cross.
And Gritton did his bit too with a scrappy goal just before the hour that proved to be the winner - his second since joining from Lincoln.
Together, they have given Mansfield targets to hit from crosses and set-pieces. Someone to get in where it hurts to put the finishing touches to their approach work.
But the rest of the team deserve the accolades too, especially Jake Buxton who continues to rise to the challenge of being skipper by leading by example.
As is par for the course with the Stags, though, they did things the hard way after conceding a soft opening goal from what was Walsall's first real attack.
Just nine minutes had gone when Martin Butler's header from a Jamie Fox corner struck a Mansfield player and dropped to the edge of the six-yard box.
Walsall defender Ian Roper was the first to react and he prodded the ball past White, who got a touch but could not keep the ball out.
That raised questions as to whether Mansfield could find a positive response, having won just two of their previous games this season - against MK Dons and Macclesfield - after conceding the first goal.
They answered that overwhelmingly in the affirmative by hustling and harrying the Walsall players out of possession and using it to good effect when they were on the ball.
Visiting manager Money pointed to the fact his side were not allowed time to settle on the ball and get their normal game going.
It was a key tactic for the Stags, meaning they controlled the passage of play for long spells, especially in the first half.
As half-time came and went, and Mansfield had not made the most of the opportunities that had come their way to improve on Conlon's equaliser, there was the worry among the fans that Walsall might nick the game as they have so often this season.
But, instead, it was the hosts who did just that to hand Billy Dearden a first home win since returning to the Field Mill hotseat.
Before the game, Newark businessman James Derry was unveiled as the club's new chairman. He cannot have failed to be impressed by what he saw on the pitch.
But he will also have noticed what went off in the stands, with the fans vociferously calling for the head of chief executive Keith Haslam.
If he did not know before what a challenge building bridges between the board and the supporters is going to be, he certainly knows now.
The hope is that all the protesting will not prove too off-putting for the players and that displays such as this become the norm rather than the exception.
DEARDEN JOY OVER STAGS' STRIKERS
Evening Post, 22 January 2007
Billy Dearden hailed his new-look strike force of Barry Conlon and Martin Gritton as they made it five goals in three games since joining Mansfield.
Both players were on target on their home debuts as the Stags came from behind to shoot down league leaders Walsall with a 2-1 win.
The Stags boss hoped their performances and goals would help end talk about former striker Richard Barker who left for Hartlepool in early January.
"I have to say that I am not bothered about Riche now because he is no longer our player," said Dearden.
"Barry Conlon missed a couple of chances but he has stuck one in as well and Martin also scored another.
"You can't ask for much more from the pair of them and long may it continue."
Dearden was just as happy with the performance he got from his players as the result.
He said: "It was a great way to come back after what happened at Accrington. We were poor up there but we were exactly the opposite here against a very good side.
"I thought we had the best chances, especially, in the first half and we could have gone two or three up.
"The result will help us get that bit further away from the bottom.
Dearden saw the kind of determination in the closing stages that he has been looking for as Mansfield held on as the visitors came in search of a leveller. He said: "We had a bit of a break with Bucko's clearance but I didn't think we were going to lose once we got in front because we got stuck into all the 50-50 challenges."
The match once again saw the crowds chanting for chief executive chairman Keith Haslam to quit the club.
The Football Paper
(thanks for carole for the scans)
Mansfield 2 Saddlers 1
By Rev H.
Many more performances like the one witnessed today could well see us returning to one of the least appealing places west of Baghdad. Walsall looked some way from being a team topping the league.
Walsall came away from Field Mill with what they deserved. Nothing.
Despite a fairly bright opening in which they took the lead courtesy of Roper's outstretched boot they managed to implode with dreadful defending from Kris Taylor and a goalkeeping blunder from Ince gifting the home side all three points.
Although Saddlers rallied in the dying seconds an equaliser would have been extremely harsh on the limited but determined Stags outfit.
In bitterly cold conditions and gale force winds both sides struggled to get a hold of the game. In their first real attack of the game, (well the first attack seen by a great number of the visiting supporters who were unable to gain entrance until 15 minutes after kick off due to yet another club with the inability to operate a turnstile system, but that's another story), Fox floated a corner to the back stick which was nodded back into the box by Butler. Neither side reacted as the ball lay stationary in the boggy goalmouth so Ropes decided to stick out his left boot to force it home.
Many visiting fans then expected a goal fest. Sadly they were disappointed as Walsall served up their worst performance of the season. Worse than Grimsby or Barnet away? Oh yes!
Minutes after taking the lead Taylor, due to appear in front of Nottingham Magistrates in the near future on charges of impersonating a professional footballer, needlessly gave the ball to D'larylea who released Conlon one on one with Ince. As against Peterborough, Ince won the one against one challenge.
Minutes later though the Stags were on level terms as Conlon rifled an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net from 6 yards following a low cross from the excellent Dawson.
From that point on Walsall were never in the game. Mansfield, strong direct and quick constantly troubled the Saddlers back line. In all honesty they could easily have bagged another couple of goals before the break. Fortunately for Walsall a few efforts are still en-route to Long Eaton whilst Ince pulled off some smart saves to ensure honours were even at half time.
During the break Money replaced the ineffective Cederqvist making his first start for Saddlers with Hector Sam.
Walsall continued where they left off unable to string two passes together. They failed as a team unit and individually too many players were well below their best. As the game went on I was left wandering whether these players had ever met before. Poor Hector Sam must have been dismayed at the inability of his team mates to make good of the chances he afforded them.
He turned in a top notch performance holding the ball up, running at the defence and laying chances on for his team mates. In return for his efforts his team members offered nothing.
Surprisingly Walsall were out battled and out fought. The Stags showed more determination and won their fifty fifty battles. The Saddlers side lacked balls.
On the hour mark Taylor picked up the ball wide left and without a Mansfield player within 20 yards of him he managed to pick out – you guessed it – the only Mansfield player within 20 yards from him. Brown then floated the ball straight to Ince who, for reasons unknown, decided to bottle it with Gritton running in and fumbled the ball onto the strikers head and subsequently into net. Appalling.
Ince's half hearted claims for a foul in order to hide his embarrassment did not fool any of the 985 visiting supporters gasping in dismay behind his goal.
Saddlers continued to huff and puff but to no avail. The introduction of Keates in place of the awful Mark Wright had little effect.
Had Saddlers equalised in the dying seconds from a late goal mouth scramble it would have been extremely harsh on the battling Stags.
We looked to be a million miles away from being a team topping the table.
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn:
GRITTON'S STRIKE LEAVES SADDLERS SORE AS STAGS TOPPLE LEAGUE LEADERS
Mansfield Town 2 Walsall 1
Conlon 14, Gritton 58. Roper 9.
Attendance – 3737 (985 Walsall)
The Stags turned the formbook on its head with an inspiring 2-1 victory over League leaders, Walsall at Field Mill. The visitors, with an impressive run of results were undone by Mansfield's determination and vigour and by two goals from home debutant strikers, Barry Conlon and Martin Gritton.
Billy Dearden was forced into one change with midfielder Giles Coke unavailable through injury; his place was taken by Simon Brown.
The Stags started the brighter but it was Walsall who took the lead on 9 minutes. A left side corner was floated over by Fox to the far post where the Stags defence hesitated, Walsall striker, Butler headed down for Roper to score from close range. It was a hammer blow for up until then it had been the home side who were forcing the pace in the game.
On 13 minutes though, Stags should have drawn level. Brown superbly won a tackle on the halfway line and clipped a perfect ball forward for the run of Conlon. The new big Stags striker went steaming towards goal only to be denied by the legs of the Walsall keeper, Ince as he tried to poke the ball home.
Obviously his miss had not fazed Conlon because only one minute later he made no mistake to bring The Stags back into the game. Dawson fired in a low cross perfectly for the run of Conlon, who from 7 yards slammed the ball into the top of the net giving the keeper no chance. It was Conlon's 3rd goal in Mansfield colours and his 3rd in as many games.
Following a Hamshaw free kick, Alex John-Baptiste required treatment after he was flattened by Ince in the Saddlers goal. The young defender gamely carried on for a time but eventually in the 37th minute he limped off and was replaced by Hjelde.
Stags striker, Conlon was clearly buzzing with confidence and was shooting on sight as Stags forced the pressure onto their table-topping visitors.
Attention was turned off the field when photographer, Dan Westwell was escorted from the ground, that signalled off even more boo's and chants towards Keith Haslam.
With just a minute on the clock before the half time break, a cross from Brown was superbly met by Conlon. His technique was perfect but unfortunately his well-hit volley flew just inches wide of the post.
The start of the 2nd period saw Walsall have plenty of possession but without any end result. It was the visitor's best period of the game but The Stags were digging in well and weathering the storm.
There was a set back though when on 53 minutes Mullins had to leave the field injured and was replaced by Lloyd, the competitive midfielder dropping into a right back birth.
Just five minutes later Field Mill erupted in delight as Stags went 2-1 in front. Simon Brown, who was proving to be a right thorn in the Walsall side, sent over a teasing cross towards Gritton. However the ball was a little too close to Ince in the Saddlers goal but instead of claiming an easy catch the keeper with his eye on the inrushing Gritton, fumbled and dropped in neatly for Gritton to bundle the ball home. For a brief second or two the ground held its breath waiting for a free kick to be awarded, none came and the Stags celebrated going in front.
The Saddlers then sent on Keates who had caused the Stags problems in the visit to Walsall earlier on in the season, but this time he was largely ineffective. His brightest moment came when he forced White into a diving save from a deflected 30-yard free kick.
On 74 minutes, Gritton almost added to his tally when he got onto the end of a through ball. The Stags striker just managed to get a toe on the ball before being flattened by the out rushing Ince. However the ball dropped agonisingly inches past the post.
Walsall were desperate to get back into the game as the minutes ticked by and almost stole a point deep into added on time. Keates shot was blocked by White and as the ball was fired in once more, there was Captain, Jake Buxton to clear the ball away from on the line.
The final whistle was greeted by a standing ovation from the Field Mill faithful. The league table still does not look an altogether healthy place for Mansfield at the moment but one can't help but feel that the tide is beginning to turn in The Stags favour.
This weekend Stags travel to Chester City. The Deva Stadium side sit in 12th place in League 2, but only a mere 4 points above Billy Dearden's Mansfield and with The Stags still with a game in hand.
Latest | January 2007