STAGS RECOVER TO EARN POINT IN FIRST GAME
Ebbsfleet United 2 – 2 Mansfield Town
Moore 7, Long 25. Blackwood 62, Stallard 89.
Attendance: 1,872 (426 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw at Stonebridge Road
It was the first match post the Keith Haslam era. It was also the first match out of the Football League for over 70 years. Stags fans arrived at the ramshackled Stonebridge Road and knew they had arrived in the Conference such was the state of the ground. The game itself was a real story of two halves. In the first half, the Stags defence was an absolute shambles and the Gravesend and Northfleet side went 2-0 ahead, and should have been further ahead by the break. But a tremendous fightback, which started with man of the match Michael Blackwood's goal on 62 minutes, culminated in Mark Stallard's equaliser on 89 minutes. The end of the match was celebrated by the 400 Stags fans like a cup final win, not a draw at Ebbsfleet, such was the relief after the first half performance.
Man of the match: Michael Blackwood
Stagsnet report now in the Match Centre.
To view a picture gallery with photos by Richard Parkes, visit the report at CHAD.co.uk here
Man of the match Michael Blackwood is interviewed by David Jackson after the game:
David Jackson and Martin Shaw commentated on the game for BBC Radio Nottingham:
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn:
STALLARD IS STAGS SAVIOUR
Ebbsfleet United 2 Mansfield Town 2
To be two goals down in the first 25 minutes was hardly an auspicious start to life in the Blue Square Premiership for Mansfield Town, but a spirited fight back with a goal from Blackwood and then a dramatic 89th minute equaliser from Mark Stallard gave The Stags a share of the spoils against Ebbsfleet United.
The Fleet, who at the end of the previous season celebrated winning the FA Trophy at Wembley came into the game in obvious buoyant mood against a McEwan created Mansfield side who had been pieced together with hurried thought.
The Stags, who due to off the field politics are a few weeks behind their Conference rivals will though be extremely pleased to have come away from a damp and blustery Stonebridge Road with a deserved point.
The usual 'new season' atmosphere was strangely missing from the day, as a healthy following of Stags fans huddled close together on the rain soaked terrace. Gone were the plush plastic seats, replaced instead by rusty corrugated roofs and pealing paint. This was life out of the football league and after the first 25 minutes, didn't everyone from Mansfield know it!
It took a mere five minutes before the first shot in anger, a daisy cutter that went well wide from United's, Ricky Shakes, but just two minutes later, the home crowd were celebrating the kind of fortuitous goal your team gets when the world is smiling on you. Ebbsfleet centre forward, Michael Gash getting on the end a fine through ball before unleashing a shot which thudded against Gamble's left hand post to then rebound off the keeper before falling nicely for the inrushing Luke Moore who just couldn't miss from three yards.
Just seven minutes later and another fine break by the home side resulted in Stacy Long blasting over the Stags bar, when in truth he should have done much better.
The home side at this point were in dominant mood and Somner had to be at his best to block an effort by Gash. Stags at the other end of the field, were struggling to get any cohesion going.
On 25 minutes, Ebbsfleet made it two nil with a fine effort from Stacy Long. Again the goal came out of nothing, a long ball forward where Long received the ball 22 yards from goal before curling an unstoppable shot into the net despite the despairing dive of Paddy Gamble.
Gash was proving to be a pain for the Stags centre half pairing of O'Hare and Moses, the latter getting the better of the United centre forward on 28 minutes by heading clear for a corner. However from the resulting kick, Charles was given a free header that thankfully he placed over the bar.
It took Mansfield just over 30 minutes before they fashioned what can be called their first real opportunity; Arnold crossing in for O'Connor who failed to apply a finish. Moments later D'Laryea crossed for Blackwood who sadly for Stags, sliced his effort wide of the right hand post.
The only effort Stags had on target in the 1st 45 minutes came from an effort by Stallard, which the keeper got down easily to save on 40 minutes.
It was not the start to the new campaign that had been hoped for but the 2nd half proved to be a different matter.
On 50 minutes good link up play between Arnold and Blackwood saw Blackwood shoot narrowly wide. It was the start of a good period of play for the visitor's but unfortunately it saw the end of the game for Aaron O'Connor because just three minutes later a clash between O'Conner and Sacha Opinel resulted in the Mansfield man needing attention and eventually having to leave the field looking a little dazed. His replacement, Jason Lee.
On 63 minutes, Opinel was in the thick of it once again, this time earning himself the first booking of the game when he crudely stopped Arnold. The free kick coming to nothing.
There was though soon after, a chance for the rain soaked Stags fans behind the goal to shake off a bit of the damp when Blackwood scored. Good work by Moses saw Stallard hold up the ball for the run of Blackwood who then clipped over a cross from the left hand side, which eluded all to drop in behind the line. Nathan Arnold was so close in attendance that it looked like he had the final touch, something after the game, he honestly denied.
Stags now looked more than up for the challenge and on 67 minutes a fine through ball from Jeannin towards Lee saw the Stags striker with a chance, unfortunately with one eye on the ball and another on the out-rushing keeper, the ball just ran away and the chance was gone.
On 69 minutes good work and a tight one-two between United's Gash and captain, Smith resulted in Smith firing over. It had been the home sides best chance of the 2nd period, a period that from being comfortable in the 1st, now saw a side on edge.
Less than 60 seconds later, Nathan Arnold caused manager, McEwan to throw his arms up in frustration as he hammered a shot well wide to end what had looked a promising move.
72 minutes saw another booking for the home side as Barrett hacked down Blackwood to end a fast moving Mansfield attack. Minutes later Lee headed just wide as The Stags pushed to find the equaliser.
With 15 minutes to go, the home side, desperate to try and kill the game off made a change bringing on the dangerous looking, Jon Akinde for Moore.
Moments later, O'Hare made a fantastic challenge to deny Akinde after the striker had been played through and was powering down towards the Mansfield goal. O'Hare's tackle was perfect as he slid in to put the ball out for a corner.
With 10 minutes to go, Gash had the chance to put the game out of Stags' reach but after Stone had pulled the ball back, Gash headed wide when to hit the target seemed easier.
With just eight minutes on the clock, Arnold headed wide after good work from Jeannin and Blackwood.
The game was now stretched as Stags hunted for an equaliser and the home side searched for the goal that would surely have given them all three points.
On 86 minutes Akinde did well to get past the Stags last man, but his effort was poor and well wide. Neil Barrett also had a chance but from 30 yards, hit his effort away from Gamble in the Mansfield goal.
Then with just one minute of normal time to go, Stags equalised. Again, good work out wide by Blackwood saw a cross from the left hand side seemingly get missed by Lee but put into the net by a reaction header from Mark Stallard. Asked about the goal afterwards, Stallard confirmed, “To be fair I gave Jason a shout to leave it as he would be stretching.” Whatever the way the goal came about there was one thing for certain, the goal was greeted in excitable celebratory style from on the pitch, to the terraces to even off the bench as Manager, Billy McEwan leapt onto the pitch in joy.
There was in the added on three minutes, even a chance for Mansfield to hit a winner, but Jason Lee's shot was blacked and sailed out for a corner.
In the end the result although only yielding just a single point, felt after coming back from two nil down, like a win. It is the start of a new age for all at Field Mill, one that if the evidence of the togetherness and never say die attitude shown at Ebbsfleet is anything to go by, could see much, more happier times ahead.
Stags entertain Histon this coming Tuesday before taking on Kidderminster Harriers at Field Mill on Saturday 18th. Two games that hopefully the public of Mansfield will come out in force to support to help give the Stags a great start to the new campaign and a new page in the clubs history.
Observer Man of the match – Michael Blackwood. Good game from start to finish.
report from Kentonline:
Fleet throw away two-goal lead
by Tim Ashton
Ebbsfleet United 2 Mansfield 2
Ebbsfleet started their Blue Square Premier campaign in disappointing fashion by drawing 2-2 at home with Mansfield having been 2-0 up on Saturday.
Luke Moore gave the Fleet the perfect start on seven minutes forcing home Michael Gash's shot, which had hit the post and keeper.
It was 2-0 on 25 minutes through Stacy Long's curling effort from 18 yards and Fleet were dominating a poor Mansfield side from then until the half-time whistle.
Mansfield manager Billy McEwan must have read the riot act at half-time as the visitors came out fired up and Michael Blackwood halved the deficit on 63 minutes when his cross eluded Lance Cronin and nestled in at the far post.
Fleet had chances to finish the game - substitute John Akinde went close and James Smith also missed when well placed.
However, the Fleet's hearts were broken on 89 minutes when Mark Stallard's header somehow squeezed between Sacha Opinel and the post to level the scores and send the Mansfield fans behind the goal into delirium.
Liam Daish's men must now regroup and try again at Rushden and Diamonds on Tuesday night
Ebbsfleet 2-2 Mansfield Town, Saturday 9th August
A MEMORABLE second-half fight-back from Stags earned them a well-deserved 2-2 draw away to Ebbsfleet United on Saturday.
Mansfield began life in their new Blue Square Premier surroundings in shaky fashion and found themselves trailing 2-0 at half-time following strikes by Luke Moore and Stacy Long.
But Billy McEwan's men did themselves and the band of away fans proud after battling back in the season-opener with a fantastic second-half display.
The game turned with the introduction of substitute Jason Lee and the growing influence of tricky winger Michael Blackwood, who began to terrorise the Ebbsfleet rearguard with their height and pace respectively.
Goals from Blackwood on 65 minutes - though Nathan Arnold may have got a touch to his cross - and a last-gasp strike by Mark Stallard then capped a wonderful comeback and brought Stags' a well-deserved away point.
Mansfield will now be looking to build on their impressive final 45 minutes and earn their first Blue Square Premier victory when they entertain Histon at Field Mill on Tuesday.
New-look Stags, who were relegated from the Football League for the first time in 75 years, came into the season-opener looking to hit the ground running.
The Blue Square newboys, who were trounced 3-0 by Unibond North Division One side Boston United in their last pre-season friendly, named nine debutants for the curtain-raiser.
On-loan goalkeeper Paddy Gamble took his place between the sticks, while there were also first starts for experienced defender Adie Moses, former Notts County forward Lee and veteran striker Stallard.
Midfielder Jon D'Laryea and Arnold - the only players to feature in last season's relegation heartbreak - also took their places in the starting line-up.
But Stags' life in the Blue Square Premier got off to the worst possible start after just seven minutes when a long ball from the Fleet midfield picked out forward Michael Gash on the edge of the box.
He then unleashed a sweetly-struck shot which hit the foot of post and agonisingly rebounded off the back of the diving Gamble to trickle into the back of the unguarded net, helped over the line by the alert Luke Moore who reacted quickest to the loose ball.
The shock goal seemed to deflate Mansfield as they fell back to the edge of their box to defend a spell of good pressure from upbeat Ebbsfleet.
The increasingly confident home side then missed a glorious chance to double their lead after 15 minutes, when goal-scorer Michael Gash blazed over the bar from 12 yards out with the goal at his mercy.
He had been picked out after tricky winger Ricky Shakes outpaced his marker down the right flank to fire in a cutting cross, which caused confusion amongst the Stags' rearguard.
The lead was finally doubled on 25 minutes when Stacy Long picked up the ball in midfield and started running at the retreating Stags' back four,
He then unleashed a pin-point curling shot into the top far corner from 22 yards, which left Paddy Gamble with no chance and put the band of traveling fans into despair.
It was nothing more than rampant Fleet deserved following a spell of sustained pressure, which saw wingers Long and Shakes and Michael Gash boss the game.
As the rain continued to fall powerful Shakes nearly made it 3-0 moments later after he sent a firm header narrowly over the bar from a Stacy Long corner.
Stags' debutant Stallard gave the lacklustre away side a glimmer of hope on 40 mins when he drilled a shot from 25 yards into the chest of home keeper Lance Cronin.
Ebbsfleet, who won last season's FA Trophy at Wembley, soon responded with a shot of their own when Neil Barrett placed his neat shot two yards over the Mansfield bar shortly before half-time.
And as the bleak weather began to improve so did Stags' second-half performance.
With Mansfield's first attack of the half winger Blackwood went close when he drilled a shot wide of the goal from a narrow angle following neat interplay with Arnold on 50 minutes.
Stags brought on former Forest and Notts County forward Lee in search of a goal to bring off-the-pace Mansfield back into the game for the injured Aaron O'Conner on 57 mins.
And Mansfield finally hauled themselves back into the contest after a swift counter-attack caught the home side napping on 65 mins.
Stallard and Blackwood broke at pace from a corner to find space through the middle.
Blackwood then fired in a deep cross over the head of a stretching Cronin which appeared to be just missed by Arnold and go in off the back post.
The strike lifted the Stags side as they began to grow in confidence and demonstrate a new fighting spirit in midfield.
Delight nearly turned to ecstasy for the drenched away fans as substitute Lee was picked out in the Ebbsfleet box just moments later.
But the experienced striker failed to control a long ball coming over his shoulder and the glimpse of a chance was gone.
Pacy Blackwood become increasingly influential along with Arnold as their speed from deep midfield positions began to cause bother for the stretched Ebbsfleet defence.
Lee nearly leveled the scoreline on 72 minutes, but his glancing header from a D'Laryea free-kick just drifted over the Ebbsfleet bar.
Stags continued to plug away in search of an equaliser, which nearly came when Lee nearly picked out Arnold with a flicked on header from a deep free-kick on 85 minutes.
Ebbsfleet sub Jon Akinde nearly put the game out of sight moments from time when he broke at speed down the right flank as Mansfield pushed on, but his cross-cum-shot drifted wide to the relief of Paddy Gamble.
Mansfield's sustained pressure finally on 90 minutes told as Blackwood burst down the left flank at pace and cut inside past his defender.
He then dinked a neat cross over to the back post which was headed home by Stallard through the legs of despairing keeper Lance Cronin.
Lee nearly won the game in injury time, but his piledriver was well blocked by diving defender Sacha Opinel to the relief of the home fans, leaving Stags to settle for a well-deserved point.
Ebbsfleet United: Cronin; Hawkins; Opinel; Smith; Long; Gash; Stone; Shakes (Akinde 77 mins); Moore; Barrett; Charles. Subs not used: Mott; Ricketts; Purcell; Appiah)
Mansfield Town: Gamble; Silk; D'Laryea; Moses; O'Hare; Arnold; Sumnor; Stallard; Blackwood; Jeannin; O'Conner (Lee 57 mins). (Subs not used : Shaw; Hurren; Herriot; Robinson)
Referee: Ray Lee (Essex)
Stags man of match: Michael Blackwood
Goals ( Moore 7mins, Long 25mins, Blackwood 65mins; Stallard 89 mins)
Evening Post report:
FULL TIME: Ebbsfleet United 2 Mansfield Town 2
MARK Stallard grabbed a dramatic late equaliser as Mansfield came from 2-0 down at half-time to earn a point on their Blue Square Premier debut at Ebbsfleet United.
The former Notts man struck with a close range header from Michael Blackwood's deep left-wing cross in the penultimate minute of regulation time.
That completed a determined fightback started by Nathan Arnold's strike midway through the second half.
A visiting team featuring nine new signings were outplayed in the first half as a lack of pre-season preparation was evident.
Liam Daish's men went in front from the first shot of the game in the seventh minute – debutant Michael Gash's shot hitting the right-hand post before cannoning in off Paddy Gamble's back.
It was 2-0 to the visitors in the 24th minute when Stacy Long curled brilliantly into the top corner from 22 yards.
And with Mansfield at sixes and sevens, Long and Gash wasted good chances to make it 3-0.
All the Stags could muster in the first period was a shot from Mark Stallard straight at Lance Cronin and an off-target volley from Michael Blackwood.
But it was a different Stags in the second period and it was not long before Blackwood blasted wide of the left-hand post after being teed up by Nathan Arnold.
Mansfield gave themselves a lifeline in the 63rd minute when Stallard held the ball up before feeding the ball into the path of Blackwood whose deep cross from the left defeated Lance Cronin and was headed in on the line by Arnold.
With spirits lifted, the Stags could have been level within minutes as Lee – on for Aaron O'Connor – failed to control an Alex Jeannin through ball when he would have been clean through.
And the former Notts County man was only just wide from Arnold's left-wing free-kick soon after.
Gash could have made sure of the points for Fleet with eight minutes to go but headed wide in a goalmouth scramble.
That proved costly as Stallard pounced with a predatory strike to send the Stags fans home happy.
Mansfield had handed competitive debuts to no less than nine of their starting 11 at Ebbsfleet.
Among them was striker Aaron O'Connor, who only completed his move to the club last night after a successful trial.
Only midfielders Jonathan D'Laryea and Nathan Arnold remained from the Stags squad relegated from Football League Two at the end of last season.
The Stags had five other new players on the bench at Stonebridge Road, including three other players snapped up yesterday - Tom Shaw, Luke Herriot and Anthony Robinson. Ebbsfleet, bossed by former Birmingham defender Liam Daish, featured former Brentford midfielder Ricky Shakes and new striker signing from Cambridge City, Michael Gash.
Ebbsfleet: Cronin, Hawkins, Smith, Charles, Opinel, Shakes, Stone, Barrett, Long, Gash, Moore. Subs: Akinde, Mott, Ricketts, Purcell, Appiah.
Mansfield: Gamble, Silk, Moses, O'Hare, Jeannin, Arnold, D'Laryea, Somner, Blackwood, Staalard, O'Connor. Subs: Lee, Shaw, Hurren, Herriot, Robinson.
Referee: Ray Lee (Essex).
Latest | August 2008