UNLUCKY STAGS DENIED BY WOODWORK
Brentford 1 – 1 Mansfield Town
Connell 14. M.Boulding 23.
Attendance: 4,909 (407 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw at the Griffin Park
Mansfield Town opened the season with an impressive performance at Brentford this afternoon and were only denied victory by the woodwork (twice) and some fine saves by the home keeper. The Stags went behind thanks to sloppy marking from a corner on 14 minutes, but Michael Boulding's magnificent 25 yard screamer on 23 minutes equalised for the Stags. In the second half, the Stags poured forward and were so unlucky not to come away with all three points.
Man of the match: M.Boulding
Stagsnet report now in the Match Centre
Brave Stags full of style and promise
Evening Post report
In recent times, a Mansfield Town win on the opening day of the season has become almost as rare as finding a four-leaf clover.
Only once in the last decade, when Plymouth were beaten 4-3 in the first match of the 2002-2003 campaign, have the Stags got off to a perfect start.
But even though three points were once again not forthcoming at Griffin Park, rarely can the Stags have played so well or deserved victory more in their curtain-raiser.
Going into the game, the odds seemed stacked against Billy Dearden's men - and not just because the bookies had the hosts as massive favourites. The Stags were coming off the back of a disappointing 4-0 home defeat to Huddersfield while relegated Brentford had bolstered their squad with ten new signings in their bid to bounce straight back up to League One.
There was also the Stags' appalling record in West London to take into consideration. Not since 1974-75, when Ray Clarke, Jim McCaffrey and Kevin Bird netted in a 3-2 victory for a Stags side en route to the old Division Four title, had Brentford been conquered on their own patch.
It has to be said that many observers, including injured midfielder Jonathan D'Laryea who was up in the press box working for local radio, feared the worst for Mansfield when they went behind in the 14th minute. But the players defied expectations to not only fight their way back into the match but also create more than enough opportunities to win it.
Even Bees boss Terry Butcher was under no illusions that Mansfield might have travelled back up the M1 victorious. His first instinct was to talk of the contribution of on-loan keeper Ben Hamer, who he felt kept his team in the game. When an opposing manager admits as much, it is a telling indication he feels a little fortunate to have escaped defeat.
Dearden was disappointed a game-clinching second goal was not secured, but there were still plenty of positives for him to draw on.
While annoyed at the set-piece goal the Stags conceded, he could have been very pleased with his new-look back four which limited Brentford to just a handful of half-chances. The midfield quartet were industrious, not only helping out their defence but also getting forward to support the attack at every opportunity.
But the most satisfying performances came from front men Michael Boulding and John McAliskey, who gave the Bees' rearguard a torrid time. Many have questioned where Mansfield's goals will come from, but if this showing is anything to go by, the duo have the makings of a dangerous partnership.
So often the best strike pairings are a little and large combination and in that regard, Boulding and McAliskey seem the perfect fit. Boulding showed he has the pace to upset even the best defenders at this level, scoring a superb equaliser and was also denied on four other occasions.
McAliskey held the ball up adroitly, brought others into play on a regular basis, won a decent share of balls in the air and was unlucky not to score when his shot struck the angle of post and bar.
It is still early days but, on the evidence of this, Mac and Michael can be the goal threat needed.
Perhaps a little anxious after the humbling in their last outing, the visitors were slow getting out of the blocks and Brentford held sway in the early exchanges. It was from a corner they forged ahead when the Mansfield defence failed to clear Grant Basey's left-wing cross after the kick was taken short, leaving Allan Connell to pick his spot with an angled drive from 12 yards.
But the Mansfield response was swift. After Boulding went close with a shot that was well saved, he made no mistake with an early contender for goal of the season in the 23rd minute.
Picking up the ball more than 30 yards out he swivelled before drilling an unstoppable shot into the top left-hand corner. Mansfield visibly grew in confidence and more than held their own.
But it was after the restart they really carved Brentford opened and only poor finishing and smart goalkeeping kept them at bay. Dan Martin blazed wide when clear and McAliskey struck the woodwork, while Boulding (three times) and substitute Nathan Arnold forced decent saves.
There was a scare for Mansfield in the final seconds, even though a Brentford winner would have been unjust, when Bees substitute Ryan Peters went down under challenge from Jason White. Referee Andy Penn waved away the hosts' claims.
One game is not a true barometer of how the season is going to pan out for Mansfield. It is, after all, just one game out of 46. But the early signs are good and should give the Stags fans a lot more cause for optimism than they had a week ago.
Football Post report:
BOULDING STRIKE SUCH A STUNNER
A Wonder goal from Michael Boulding gave Mansfield an opening day share of the spoils at Brentford here this afternoon - but it could have been more.
The striker netted in the 23rd minute with what was an early contender for goal of the season from long distance to cancel out Alan Connell's early opener.
They might have gone on to take all three points, which their play had deserved after an excellent second half performance.
But a combination of good goalkeeping from Brentford keeper Ben Hamer and wasteful finishing meant the Stags had to settle for a draw.
Bell almost put Mansfield in trouble in the seventh minute with a misplaced pass only for White to smother the ball at the feet of Ide.
Brentford won a corner in the 14th minute and from it they went in front. The ball was played short to Basey whose right-wing cross was not cleared.
Waiting at the far post was CONNELL whose angled shot from 12 yards was deflected into the left-hand corner.
Mansfield came close to levelling twice in a matter of seconds just before the midway point of the half.
McAliskey's perfectly-weighted pass allowed Boulding to ghost into the left-hand side of the box but his low finish was blocked by Hamer.
As the ball rebounded, Hamshaw looked to head home but the heavy spin on the ball carried it past his dive.
But the danger was not over as John-Baptiste curled over an excellent right-wing cross to the far post for McAliskey.
He headed back across the face of goal and only a last-gasp intervention from Pettigrew prevented Boulding nodding home.
However, a minute later the Stags were back on level terms thanks to a piece of individual brilliance from BOULDING.
A half-cleared long ball forward was picked up by the diminutive front man 30 yards from goal and he turned before unleashing a stunning strike that found the top left-hand corner and gave Hamer no chance.
Mansfield looked to capitalise on that goal with another and McIntosh was only inches over with a header from Hamshaw's free-kick.
Then, Dawson's pinpoint ball found John-Baptiste in space in the box but he was caught in two minds whether to cross or shoot and fired high into the crowd behind the goal.
Connell looked to double his tally after cutting in from the left and getting in a powerful shot, but White was equal to the task.
And as the hosts began to get back on top, Dawson got in a timely tackle to halt Connell's progress right on the edge of the Mansfield area.
Just before the break, Mansfield were pressing again when McAliskey's right-wing cross was not cleanly punched by Hamer under pressure from Boulding.
Dawson arrived late looking to fire home but he was just beaten to the ball by the alert Mackie, who hooked clear.
Hamshaw then played a diagonal ball towards Boulding and only a header at full stretch from Pettigrew stopped him getting another sight of goal.
Brentford introduced Brooker in place of Poole at the break and he should have made an instant impression, firing over inside the box after the ball broke fortuitously to him.
Moments later, the Stags won a free-kick 25 yards from goal only for Hamshaw to shoot straight at Hamer.
Moore reacted angrily to a 52nd minute challenge by Martin but the Mansfield man escaped a booking.
A minute later, Martin should have put Mansfield in front when he was released through the inside left channel by Boulding's neat flick, only to blaze wide of the near post with his left foot.
In the 58th minute, Mansfield were desperately unlucky not to go in front after more fine play from Boulding.
He controlled a high ball into the box and picked out McAliskey just outside the six-yard box superbly with a deft flick.
The former Huddersfield man chose to hit the ball first time and held his head in his hands as the ball crashed off the crossbar with Hamer beaten.
As the home side went back on the attack, an unmarked Pettigrew headed wide from Moore's right-wing corner.
But the Stags were soon back on the front foot as McAliskey set Boulding free and his off-balance finish was blocked by the knees of Hamer.
The Brentford supporters were becoming increasingly restless and their mood was not lifted when Brooker fired well over from the edge of the box.
Ide then played a neat one-two before bringing White to his knees with a stinging low shot that the Mansfield keeper claimed at the second attempt.
Mansfield made their first change in the 73rd minute when Hamshaw was replaced by Arnold.
In the 75th minute, Brentford were appealing for a penalty when Ide claimed to have his shirt tugged, but the referee was unmoved.
Hamer came to the Bees' rescue a minute later with a decent save to keep out Boulding's volley.
But Brentford broke quickly and it needed a desperate lunge from John-Baptiste to block Connell.
Mansfield were denied again with five minutes to go as Hamer clawed away Boudling's header after Dawson stood up a deep cross from the left.
Arnold then ran at the home defence and Hamer had to pull out another great stop to push away his low 20-yarder.
In injury time, Brentford's Peters went down in the box but the referee waved play on.
Brentford 1 Mansfield Town 1, 11th August 2007
By Stephen Thirkill
STAGS turned on the style to earn an impressive 1-1 draw in their League Two curtain-raiser away to Brentford today.
A 30-yard wonder-strike from man-of-the-match Mickey Boulding was the highlight of a dominant individual and team performance as Billy Dearden's charges defied the pre-match predictions to claim a highly creditable opening day draw.
Striker celebrates wonder goal
Mansfield outfought and outplayed their much fancied opponents in the punishing summer sun and created a host of quality chances to bag all three points.
But Boulding, Matt Hamshaw and John McAliskey all failed to convert a succession of glorious second half chances and sparkling Stags had to accept a share of the spoils.
Stags received a major pre-match lift when influential defenders Martin McIntosh (dead leg) and John-Baptiste (tonsilitis), as well as winger Dan Martin (calf) and Mickey Boulding (tonsilitis), were all passed fit for the Griffin Park clash.
The fitness boost meant boss Billy Dearden fielded an unchanged side from Stags' previous friendly thumping against League One Huddersfield Town.
Much-fancied Brentford, who are expected to feature strongly in the promotion shake-up after last season's relegation from League One, gave League debuts to new signings Ben Starosta, Grant Basey and Chelsea loanee Adrian Pettigrew.
The Bees started the brightest and penned Stags back in their defensive area with some sustained pressure.
Striker Alan Connell nearly nipped in to head home a right wing cross from Glenn Poole on three minutes, but on-the-ball keeper Jason White quickly came off his line to clear the danger.
And the pressure continued to mount as Brentford took firm control of midfield with some crunching tackles and high tempo football to put the Stags goal under constant threat.
The lively Charlie Ide nearly latched on to a through ball from Alan Connell on seven mins after Lee Bell carelessly gave the ball away with a sloppy pass. But full-back Gareth Jelleyman remained cool and calmly shepherded the ball back to relieved goalkeeper Jason White as Ide sniffed an opening day strike.
The overwhelmed Stags defence, marshalled by the assured Martin McIntosh, was again severely tested on 12 minutes when a deep cross by the increasingly dangerous Glenn Poole was nearly steered home by the powerful Connell.
And from the resulting corner the unrelenting pressure finally told as Stags failed to clear their lines after some sloppy defending.
Hit-man Connell found himself in space and calmly steered home his right foot shot into the bottom corner past the despairing Jason White on 13 minutes.
And the strike spurred Brentford on as they continued to pepper the Mansfield goal with a succession of deep crosses.
The combination of Poole and Ide down the right wing nearly extended Brentford's lead, but White leapt well to pluck the ball from the head of Ide as he prepared to power home a header.
Stags should have equalised when Boulding latched onto a neat through ball to break the Brentford offside trap on 22 minutes. But Boulding tamely fired his shot straight at Ben Hamer in the Brentford goal from a narrow angle after he was pushed wide by the keeper.
Quick-thinking Boulding then latched onto the rebound to play it back across goal, but Hamshaw was unable to nod home the neat cut back as the ball spun agonisingly over his head.
But the danger was not gone as a charging Alex John-Baptiste whipped in a testing cross deep to the back post, which was cleared by a stretching Pettigrew as McAliskey prepared to pounce for a debut goal.
However, against the run of play Stags did level on 23 minutes when Mickey Boulding let rip with a thunderbolt drive from 30 yards to leave Hamer with no chance.
Boulding swivelled after collecting a loose ball in midfield and unleashed a screamer into the roof of the Brentford net to send the small band of Stags fans wild.
And the shock strike gave Stags a new-found confidence as they began to gain a good foothold in the game.
John-Baptiste began to get forward with increased freedom and should have done better on 25 minutes, when he fired a cross-cum shot nearer the corner flag than goal after he found himself free in the box.
Brentford's Connell nearly added to his goal tally on 36 minutes when he unleashed a powerful shot straight down the throat of Jason White.
The shot was the first time White had been tested in 15 minutes and showed Mansfield's growing control of the game.
Stags began the second half where they left off and Hamshaw tried his luck from distance, but his 25 yard curler was easily gathered by Hamer in the Brentford goal.
Mansfield should have taken the lead on 53 minutes when a neat flick on by the hardworking McAliskey played Dan Martin through on goal.
But as he burst into the box at speed the debutant winger lost his balance at the crucial moment and fired his shot yards wide of the goal.
The impressive McAliskey was then inches away from opening his Stags goal account on 58 minutes after he broke the offside trap to send his powerful drive crashing against the crossbar from the corner of the six yard box.
Target man McAliskey, who linked up well with his new team-mates throughout the game, then played in Boulding with a neat touch on the hour mark. But energetic Boulding was unable to finish off the move in style as he scuffed his low shot tamely at the keeper.
Rampant Stags continued to pour forward in search of a deserved the lead as Brentford began to wilt in the London sunshine.
And a neat move involving Hamshaw, McAliskey and Boulding on 70 minutes nearly unlocked the Bees backline, but McAliskey was unable to fire home through a crowded box.
Flowing Stags were agonisingly unable to find the deserved breakthrough and Brentford began to come back into the game.
And the Bees nearly won a penalty when Ide appeared to have his shirt tugged in the box in the 75min.
But the referee waved away the appeals of the noisy Griffin Park crowd and Brentford players to the relief of the Stags' faithful.
Skillful Boulding again missed a glorious chance to fire the Stags ahead when he found himself free eight yards out after a neat through ball by Bell on 76 minutes.
But Hamer rushed off his line quickly to bravely smoother at the feet of a frustrated Boulding to concede a corner.
And from the resulting corner Brentford broke at lightning pace and nearly took the lead after Stags were caught napping. Stags were left a man short at the back as Brentford surged forward in numbers, but as Ide pulled the trigger inspirational defender John-Baptiste threw himself to the ground to block the shot.
And with time running out determined Stags once again roared into life and nearly found the net on 83 minutes when Stephen Dawson cleverly picked out the head of Boulding following a surging 40-yard run.
Boulding's delicate header appeared destined for the top corner, but as the Stags fans began to celebrate the three points Hamer tipped the ball wide with a magnificent save to the disbelief of the travelling yellow army.
And from the corner Boulding once again came close to giving Stags a much deserved winner, but his bullet was blocked in the crowded penalty box.
With three minutes to go substitute Nathan Arnold found Hamer in inspired form as his stinging 30-yard piledriver was heroically tipped wide by the diving keeper.
Stags survived an injury time scare when Ryan Peters took a tumble in the box after rounding Jason White.
But despite loud shouts for a penalty from the stands, the referee once again waved away the appeals and Stags hung on to claim a more than deserved draw.
Mansfield Town: White, Jelleyman, Buxton, McIntosh, John-Baptiste, Martin; Dawson, Bell, Hamshaw (Arnold 73mins ), McAliskey (Reet 79mins), Boulding.
Brentford: Hamer, Basey, Mackie, Pettigrew, Starosta, Mousinho, Moore, Poole (Brooker 45mins), O'Connor, Ide, Connell (Peters 78mins).
Referee: Mr A. Penn
Man of the Match: Mickey Boulding
Latest | August 2007