STAGS HANG ON FOR GOALLESS DRAW AT WREXHAM
Wrexham 0 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 7752 (266 from Mansfield)
MATCH REPORT: STAGS V WREXHAM
Evening Post, 02 April 2007
When the announcer at the Racecourse Ground informed the home crowd that former Wrexham loan player Matt Derbyshire had given Blackburn the lead at Manchester United, it brought the loudest cheer of the afternoon.
So considering the Welsh side drew their biggest attendance this season of nearly 8,000, that summed up just how lacking in excitement this game was.
Before kick-off, it was hoped among both sets of supporters that as Mansfield and Wrexham both like to try to get the ball down and pass, a thrilling spectacle was in prospect.
As it was, there was distinct lack of quality football on show, even if the sides could not be faulted for their effort.
The hosts' day was only marginally better than that of Derbyshire's, whose Rovers side eventually lost 4-1 at Old Trafford, because they are still deep in trouble despite claiming a point.
The Red Dragons have failed to win on home soil since before Christmas and that is something they will have to rectify quickly if they are to avoid the drop to the Conference.
But for the Stags, a draw was an ideal way to get back on track after two consecutive home defeats to lowly opponents.
At first glance, a 0-0 stalemate at the side second from bottom in the table may not represent a welcome return.
But when you take into account that the Stags are suffering injury problems and were playing a side fighting tooth and nail to avoid the drop, it was not a bad afternoon's work.
Boss Billy Dearden had accused his side of lacking the will to scrap and fight in the frustrating home losses to Boston and Macclesfield. He wanted a positive response in North Wales - and he certainly got one as Mansfield dug in and looked as assured defensively as they have done in a while.
Even the loss of central defender Jon-Olav Hjelde to injury towards the end of the first half could not throw them out of their stride. Gareth Jelleyman moved into a central role that was new to him and Asa Charlton made his first appearance since Dearden took over.
But in both cases you wouldn't have known they faced such difficult circumstances as they relished the challenge.
Wrexham's best chance of scoring came through the skills of Matty Done on the left flank. His pace and trickery caused problems for Stags' right-back Johnny Mullins all game.
But Brian Carey's side failed to capitalise on their number 20's excellent play because they did not feed him the ball enough, nor get on the end of his crosses when he did deliver.
Only Torquay have scored fewer goals at home than Wrexham.
But on this evidence, Wrexham's inability to turn possession into goals is a factor. Even new loan forward Michael Proctor - one of three players brought in on deadline day with the help of a donation from Liverpool and Wales star Craig Bellamy - couldn't make the difference.
The Stags were no more of an attacking threat and rarely tested home keeper Anthony Williams. Nevertheless, on a pitch where the high bounce of the ball restricted creativity, Mansfield did carve out the game's best opening.
Wrexham's Richard Walker may have hit the bar from a free-kick in the closing moments of the half, but that was a half-chance that saw him almost pull a rabbit out of the hat.
The opportunity that came Martin Gritton's way midway through the second period, though, was a gilt-edged opportunity and the only one of that ilk that either side saw in the 90 minutes. As the Scotsman acknowledged after the game, it was the kind of header he should have gobbled up.
Positioned no more than six yards out and in the centre of the goal, he seemed certain to score from Matt Hamshaw's pinpoint cross.
But Gritton headed wide of the far post.
After spending almost the whole game doing little more than basking in the sun, both goalkeepers were called into action late on.
Jason White produced a superb reflex save to instinctively flick away a far-post header from McEvilly following a corner. Then, from the last serious attack of the game, Anthony Williams pushed away Simon Brown's effort from a tight angle.
Wrexham fans may have left the ground disappointed, but, for the visitors, the fact the game lacked much in goalmouth action did not matter. They had stopped the rot and that was much more important.
So often before Christmas previous boss Peter Shirtliff preached to his players that the worst you can come out of a game if you keep a clean sheet is a draw. Maybe, with this result, that lesson will now be learned for the future. If Mansfield are to become promotion contenders in 2008, they will need to scrap for results like this on a regular basis.
The good news is that Dearden's initial points target of 50 has been reached with six games to go. Just how many more Mansfield can accumulate depends largely on the players that are available because of injury - and if the team can stay focused now the meaningful games of their season have come and gone. email@example.com
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn:
Stags Dampen Dragons Fire
Wrexham 0 Mansfield Town 0
Mansfield Town had to battle hard to earn a point at relegation threatened Wrexham. The Welsh side reduced admission prices for the game and drew in a season's best of 7,750, but the Red Dragons lacked any real fire in a game where both sides play in the last third, left a lot to be desired.
Stags were taking on the 3rd side in as many weeks who are battling for league survival and although one point from a possible nine is not the reward most would have expected, they can at least claim to have come away from the cauldron of the Racecourse Ground knowing that they were equal to the battle in difficult circumstances.
Stags started the game with Martin Gritton up front alongside Simon Brown with Conlon dropped to the bench, Michael Boulding and Bryan Hodge were also included in the starting eleven, while Wrexham, who were decimated with injuries and suspensions fielded a side desperate to build on their previous weeks 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers.
The opening period had few chances as both sides looked nervous. Stags though were doing enough to keep the large crowd quiet although the noise levels rose each time the exciting Done got onto the ball and ran at the Stags defence. In truth, Done was clearly the best player on the pitch for both sides and impressed throughout.
Stags first effort on goal came from Welshman, Gareth Jelleyman but his 20-yard drive flew high and wide and Simon Brown tested the Referee after a dive in the box.
Wrexham were forced into an early 6th minute substitution when Roberts, who was doubtful before the game, limped off and was replaced by Carvill.
The home side forced a succession of corners, but The Stags defence were holding firm, although Baptiste had to be at his best to block an effort from McEvilly.
On 12 minutes, Danny Williams was shown the yellow card for a harsh tackle and shortly afterwards, Gritton tried his chance from long range but to no avail.
Hjelde caused a little heartache when his under-hit back pass was pounced upon by McEvilly but Jason White was alert and cleared the danger.
Simon Brown was then presented with a great chance of giving the Stags the lead but with the Wrexham defence all in a muddle all he could do was weakly lob the ball towards goal, were the ball was cleared with ease.
Hodge then tested keeper, Williams, but his low drive was saved easily.
With just minutes to go before the half time break, Stags suffered an injury blow when Hjelde was forced to leave the field. He was replaced by Asa Charlton, who slotted into the left back position, with Jelleyman moving over to cover as centre back.
Four minutes from the break, the home crowd were screaming for a red card after White sliced down Done. The tricky Welsh-wingman had raced onto a break by the home side and was forced out wide only to have his run ended by White. The Referee after talking to White, produced only a yellow. From the resulting free kick, Walker crashed the ball against the Mansfield crossbar.
Billy Dearden made a change at the start of the 2nd half when Sleath replaced Dawson in the heart of the Stags midfield.
In a rare good forward move by Mansfield, Gritton almost gave the Stags the lead. A fine run and low cross by Brown though was saved by Williams at Gritton's feet.
Procter, on loan from Hartlepool should have done better with a header for the home side but put his effort over the bar.
On 62 minutes, Martin Gritton should have done better with what was to be Mansfield's best chance of the 90 minutes, but after getting on the end of a Hamshaw right-wing cross, he sent his header wide of the goal from seven yards. What made it worse was that he was unmarked.
Procter and Hamshaw were then shown the yellow card for an off the ball spat, Procter was then replaced straight after by the dangerous, Mark Jones.
The home side were claiming for a penalty kick when the ball struck Jelleyman but the Referee waved away their claims.
Williams did brilliantly out wide then cut the ball in from the by-line only to see McEvilly just inches away from making contact.
The home crowd were reaching almost desperation as they tried to will on their side to a much-needed three points, but Stags were holding firm despite the noise levels rising.
In the final minutes, both sides had a chance of claiming all three points. First White produced an excellent reaction save to deny McEvilly from a corner and then Simon Brown was frustrated to see his low drive saved by Williams.
The final whistle was greeted with a mixed applause from the home crowd, who yet again had failed to see their side win at home.
Stags have now gone four games without a win and will be hoping to improve next weekend when they take on play off hopefuls, Bristol Rovers at Field Mill.
Stags scrap for gritty point at strugglers
WREXHAM 0 MANSFIELD TOWN 0
MANSFIELD Town brought home a hard-earned point from a 0-0 draw at struggling Wrexham this afternoon.
The desperate Welshmen, in the bottom two and without a home win in their previous seven games since Christmas, lowered gate prices to £5 in advance to generate their biggest crowd of the season - 7,752.
But, despite the noisy backing, Wrexham failed to capitalise and had to make do with a point.
For Stags it was a fourth game without victory but this was a gritty display after two poor home surrenders to Wrexham's fellow relegation strugglers Boston United and Macclesfield Town.
And it was achieved with inexperienced Asa Charlton playing over half the game at left back and left back Gareth Jelleyman pushed to centre half after Jon Hjelde went off injured.
Indeed, Martin Gritton could have given the visitors all three points but sent a free header wide from seven yards on 62 minutes.
Also, Simon Brown forced a save from Anthony Williams in stoppage time at the end.
For Wrexham Richard Walker sent a first half free kick against the crossbar.
And after the break Lee McEvilly headed over before Jason White was called upon to make a good save in time added on as he adjusted to get a hand to a McEvilly header from a corner.
But goal chances were few and far between.
Mansfield made three changes from last weekend with Conlon, Arnold and Sleath dropped to the bench.
Michael Boulding came in to play wide left with Hodge back from international duty in the centre of midfield.
Gritton returned to partner Brown up front.
Both Buxton and D'Laryea failed in their bids to be fit in time for a return from injury.
The struggling home side were without seven players through injury and suspension.
Stags forced a corner within the first 60 seconds but this was cleared.
A thrilling burst down the left by Done ended in a dangerous cross which White took comfortably.
The next Stags raid ended with Jelleyman firing well over from 20 yards. Then Brown was lucky not to be booked for a dive in the box.
Wrexham were forced into a change as early as the sixth minute when Roberts limped off to be replaced by Carvill.
The Dragons forced successive corners on seven minutes but the visitors' goal survived.
Then it took a good challenge from John-Baptiste to prevent McEvilly getting away a shot after he had burst into the box, conceding another flag kick.
Danny Williams was shown the first yellow card on 12 minutes for jumping into a tackle.
Then Gritton sent a dipping shot over from 30 yards for Mansfield.
Hjelde put White under pressure with a casual backpass and the keeper did well to clear before McEvilly pounced.
Done wanted a penalty after going down spectacularly as he tried to burst between two defenders but again nothing was given.
Spender's short backpass at the other end almost put Boulding away. The keeper got there first and then Brown had a half-chance to find the empty net but Spender was already back to clear his harmless lob.
McEvilly's inch-perfect flick sent Carvill in on goal and John--Baptiste did supremely well to shepherd him wide and the final shot was harmless in the end.
Jelleyman was booked on 27 minutes for a trip on McEvilly.
Stags were back on the attack and Williams was safely down to gather a low Hodge shot from 30 yards.
But Mansfield suffered a pre half-time blow when Hjelde left the field injured and Charlton came on, Jelleyman moving over to centre half.
Four minutes from the break White raced out his box to slice down Done as he tried to home in on goal. The home crowd were screaming for a red card but Done was going wide and only a yellow was given.
When the free kick was eventually taken, Walker crashed it against the visitors' crossbar - the nearest we had come to a goal in a scoreless and untidy first half.
Youngster Sleath replaced Dawson in the heart of the Stags midfield for the second half.
Williams had to gather a superb low Brown cross at the feet of Gritton as he tried to get the vital touch in front of goal.
Sleath rolled in a pass from the left towards Hodge but his first time effort was sliced well over.
Hartlepool loanee Proctor almost broke the deadlock on 55 minutes as he rose to nod a long Done throw just over the bar.
Wrexham survived another Stags corner and the two subsequent crosses that came into the box, the ball finally going wide off the top of Gritton's head.
Gritton then really should have scored on 62 minutes. Hamshaw picked him out with a right wing cross straight on his head seven yards from goal. But he somehow sent his finish wide of Willaims' left hand post to the Dragons' relief.
Proctor and Hamshaw were both cautioned on 65 minutes for some afters and Proctor was immediately taken off and replaced by Mark Jones.
There was another penalty call for handball as the ball struck Jelleyman in the box but play went on and Done shot tamely at White.
Mike Williams did well to battle to the by-line and put the ball across the face of goal where McEvilly just couldn't makr contact.
The home side and home fans began to turn up the heat and three Wrexham corners followed.
Brown became the fourth Mansfield booking for his foul on Walker with 13 minutes left.
On 78 minutes Arnold came on for the ineffective Boulding.
McEvilly had an 85th volley deflect wide for a corner and, when Mark Jones sent it over, it was McEvilly again who got up to head over.
Both sides almost snatched it in stoppage time.
A Wrexham corner was headed back towards goal from the far post by McEvilly and went through everyone, forcing White into a very late save, clawing it up and over the top.
Then Stags broke down the left and Brown got in a low shot that Wiliams had to parry at his near post.
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