AWFUL STAGS BEATEN AT HOME BY STANLEY
Mansfield Town 1 - 2 Accrington Stanley
Holmes 90+4. McIntosh sent off 90+2. Mullin 75, Proctor 90+2 pen.
Attendance: 2494 (94 from Accrington)
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Observer report by Steve Hartshorn:
It has certainly not been a festive season of cheer at Field Mill with just one win in three for Billy Dearden's men who will begin 2008 in the perilous position of the threat of relegation from the football league.
Hopes were quite high of a derby day surprise away at Chesterfield but despite a promising first half performance the season long problem of not being able to recover from sloppy goals once again reared it's ugly head as goals from Lester and Ward condemned The Stags to a demoralising defeat at the hands of a side who for long periods certainly looked no better than the struggling Stags.
Boxing day came and with a scratch side due to injuries, Mansfield boosted hopes of a brighter new year with a convincing 2-0 victory over Peterborough United. The Posh high flyers and big spenders in League 2 were no match for a Mansfield side who looked the more hungry and in Micky Boulding, looked the more dangerous. But those bright lights that shone were quickly diminished by yet another lack-lustre home performance this time against Accrington Stanley.
With off the field problems all too obvious to all in and around Field Mill, two home wins on the trot would have been the ideal tonic for a side many think too good to go down. But as is often the case at Field Mill this season, that chance of a bit of breathing space was slung away with a performance that left a lot to be desired.
The first half offered very little in the entertainment stakes as only a shot from Micky Boulding that was turned around for a corner was all Stags could offer to provide a bit of warmth for the Stags faithful. Stanley in the meantime looked threatening but lacked a cutting edge. At half time, 0-0 seemed a distinct possibility as neither side looked sharp enough in the last third
In the 2nd half, Stags lost the services of Gareth Jelleyman who was admirably fitting in the centre of midfield for the suspended Stephen Dawson, but after he left the field it seemed as if Mansfield lost cohesion.
It has to be said that Stanley's first goal on 75 minutes by Mullin looked for all to be miles offside. Carl Muggleton that incensed that he name was taken by a Referee that at times seemed to not quite know what to do.
Stags then to many looked a defeated side. It is a big worry for all that if The Stags are not the side to take the lead in a game, then they inevitably go onto lose. Brentford away on the opening day of the season being the exception. Worrying times indeed.
Mansfield huffed and puffed their way towards the final whistle without really causing Accrington much trouble despite boss, Billy Dearden shaking the pack and changing formation. Indeed as the game entered added on time, almost everyone had settled for a 1-0 defeat. But it was to get worse for the home side when McIntosh was penalized for a foul in the area, a penalty awarded and McIntosh shown his second yellow then red card. Proctor easily put away the spot kick to heap more misery on an already deflated looking Stags side.
There was one moment of delight when for the first time in the game Stags got it right in the last third and Ian Holmes scored his first league goal, but by then it was scant consolation and Stags ended the game defeated by two goals to one.
So what does 2008 hold for Mansfield Town? It is certainly not going to be an easy ride and one that will most certainly see many disappointments but League 2 survival is a must if the football club is not to die.
Signings must be made in the January transfer window and those signings must be sufficient quality to grab the club up off its knees and away from the threat of relegation. There is no doubt that individually Mansfield have a set of players capable of being much higher in the table, but for one reason or another, those players are not performing as a team and that is the problem Dearden and his staff have, they need to find the key and they need to find it fast.
The prospects of starting next season as a non-league club are all too evident and all too scary. The off the field problems rumble on and it is certain that they are getting to the players as well as the hardy souls who week in week out come along to support their football club. For Mansfield to survive the drop and to move forward needs the change to happen and to happen fast. At the moment Mansfield Town Football Club is like a dying animal. Its wounds seem fatal but every now and then there is a twitch of life and hope but inevitably those wounds will see the animal pass away. This situation must change in 2008 so that once again Stags can stand proud and stand tall
2007 will not be a year fondly remembered at Field Mill here's hoping the next 12 months shine brighter.
Mansfield Town 1 Accrington Stanley 2, Saturday, 29th December 2007
CHAD.co.uk, by John Lomas
MANSFIELD Town wasted a golden chance of ending 2007 out of the bottom two when they flopped against Accrington Stanley at Field Mill on Saturday afternoon.
Hopes were high of a second home win after the thrilling Boxing Day defeat of Peterborough which would have been enough to get them out of the relegation spots.
But time after time, season after season, Stags seem to turn in 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' performances in this situation and so it proved once again.
True, they were forced to play left back Gareth Jelleyman in the centre of midfield due to injury and suspension and then lost him on 52 minutes with missing teeth and concussion after a bang in the face.
True, referee Gavin Ward's decisions seemed to largely go against the home side in the first half and Paul Mullin's all-important breakthrough goal on 75 minutes looked offside at first glance.
Also the conditions were horrendous with powerful swirling winds mixed in with heavy rain showers.
But on the day Mansfield failed to create enough against a busy Accrington side who are starting to become a regular bogey team for Mansfield and were chalking up an impressive sixth away win of the campaign.
Stags made the one enforced change with Stephen Dawson serving a one-game ban, Buxton returning from illness, though far from his usual self, to play central defence and Jelleyman pushed forward into Dawson's central midfield slot.
In-form Boulding tested Dunbavin as early as the fourth minute. Martin lifted a pass into his path to the left of the box and he bore down on goal before seeing the keeper turn his low shot aside for a corner at his near post.
The visitors' first raid on eight minutes saw Martin race across to tackle the incoming D'Sane as he entered the box and concede a corner. Soon after McIntosh powerfully headed clear a Craney free kick.
McIntosh conceded a free kick 30 yards from goal which Craney curled straight at Muggleton.
Then D'Sane warmed Muggleton's hands with an 18 yard snapshot that he held at the second attempt.
Mansfield broke down field and Boulding toe-poked a low effort straight at Dunbavin.
Miles managed to get a cross in from the left by-line that he should never have been allowed to get over and Stags were lucky when Harris lashed at fresh air with his volley attempt.
There was another let off for Stags when Buxton sold himself into a tackle and allowed D'Sane to loft in a high cross which caught on the wind and Muggleton did really well to keep his eye on the ball's movement as Mullin went in for the first attempt with McIntosh and get in the way of Harris' close range finish as it dropped.
Stags were constantly falling foul of the referee, giving away a succession of free kicks. From one of these 25 yards out, Craney curled well over.
Boulding pulled a shot wide on the turn from the same distance two minutes later.
Tempers were getting hotter as the referee warned first Arnold and then McAliskey with the home fans furious that their side were not getting their share of decisions.
McAliskey was finally booked for a foul on Edwards, even thought it seemed the big striker was being fouled by Webb at the same time.
Stags forced their fourth corner which Hamshaw sent to the near post and Buxton flicked onto the roof of the net.
Arnold tricked his way between two defenders on the byline on 42 minutes and put the ball into the danger zone where D'Laryea's header and Boulding's flick were both blocked and Hamshaw finally scooped over from close range as Stanley clung on.
That proved to be Stags' best chance of the afternoon until they were 2-0 down.
Arnold led a four on three break for Stags in time added on but showed too much of the ball and was robbed by Roberts just outside the box, a drab first half ending goalless.
Harris whistled a shot just over the near angle from 30 yards early in the second half.
Jelleyman took a bang in the mouth which needed lengthy treatment and was eventually led down the tunnel by the physio on 52 minutes.
With Jelleyman already a makeshift central midfielder it left Stags even further stretched.
Brown came on to play wide right with Hamshaw moving inside.
McIntosh was yellow carded for a foul on D'Sane on 53 minutes to further antagonise the home fans.
A Hamshaw corner was cleared to Arnold 30 yards out who controlled and zipped a volley over the top as Stags tried to force the pace in the heavy rain.
On 59 minutes Mullin set up Harris 30 yards out for a low shot which Muggleton was behind but couldn't hold, Buxton hooking clear.
The keeper made a much better stop a minute later as Mullin's ball in from the right went through everyone to Miles who saw Muggleton spread himself well to block.
Mullins got in an important challenge on Craney as he got away a shot which Muggleton still had to save.
It was a good spell for Accrington though Stags might have done better when Martin's ball forward caught the visitors' defence square and either Arnold and McAliskey could have gone clear. However, Arnold took responsibility and his first touch ran away from him and the chance was gone.
A lucky ricochet offered a shooting chance to Harris on the right of the box which again Muggleton was safely behind.
Mullin was booked on 72 for bringing down Brown.
Roberts flicked a header that dropped just over the top from a Miles cross, then D'Laryea got in a good tackle as Craney spun in the box as the visitors continued to look the most likely to find a breakthrough.
And it came on 75 minutes in controversial circumstances. Harris drilled in a low shot from the right of the box which Muggleton parried.
Mullin appeared in an offside position right in front of goal but was allowed to put away the tap in and, despite Stags' protests and a yellow card for Muggleton, the goal stood.
It was the first goal the Stags had let in at home in 533 minutes of football.
And, like buses, it wasn't long before another arrived.
Mansfield could not find that extra yard or bit of luck to trouble Dunbavin in their search for an equaliser.
Instead the visitors exploited the space that was opening up in front of them and Harris strode into the box in the last minute only to be upended by McIntosh.
A second yellow card saw McIntosh first in the showers and Andrew Procter stepped up to crash home the spot kick and seal the points.
In stoppage time Stags substitutes Brown and Holmes carved out a late consolation. Brown crossed low from the left as Stanley switched off and Holmes was there to turn home his second League goal.
But by then the stands were emptying fast and it was too little too late for a side that must now head to League Two leaders MK Dons on New Year's Day.
STAGS: Muggleton, Mullins, Jelleyman (Brown 52), D'Laryea, McIntosh, Hamshaw, McAliskey (R. Boulding 76), M. Boulding, Buxton (Holmes 83), Martin, Arnold. Subs not used: White, Wood.
ACCRINGTON: Dunbavin , Richardson , Roberts , Procter , Harris , D'Sane (Dennehy 83 ), Mullin , Miles , Edwards, Webb, Craney. Subs not used: Fearon, Williams, Brown, McGivern.
REFEREE: Gavin Ward of Surrey.
ATTENDANCE: 2,494 (94 away).
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: John Mullins.