STALLARD WINS GAME OF TWO HALVES
Mansfield Town 3 – 2 Northwich Victoria
O'Connor 25, 29, Stallard 90+3. Stamp 60, Steele 86.
Attendance: 2,741 (148 from Northwich)
Monday 25th August 2008
Martin Shaw at Field Mill
In a remarkable game, Mansfield Town scraped a win in the final minute of stoppage time against Northwich Victoria at Field Mill this afternoon. The Stags had been so much on top at half time, leading through two Aaron O'Connor goals, that the talk at the break was of how many the Stags would rack up. But a nervy second half performance allowed the Vics back into the game and an equaliser on 86 minutes left Stags fans barely able to comprehend what they were witnessing. But just when it seemed it would end in a draw up popped Mark Stallard to smash home a close range winner to send the ground into raptures.
Billy McEwan made two changes with Gavin Hurren in for Blackwood and O'Connor in for Lee. Lee missed out with an ankle injury, Blackwood had a calf problem. McEwan said after the game that he didn't know if they would be fit for Saturday.
Man of the match: Aaron O'Connor
Stagsnet player ratings now in the Match Centre
report from http://www.northwichguardian.co.uk
Mansfield 3 Vics 2: Stallard strike breaks Vics hearts
By Andrew Simpson »
MARK Stallard's stoppage time winner foiled Vics' comeback bid.
He steered home Nathan Arnold's set piece to pinch the points for the hosts.
Before that Dino Maamria's men had fought back from 2-0 down to draw level.
Aaron O'Connor tortured them before the break, prodding home from close range on 25 minutes after Alan O'Hare headed Alex Jeannin's corner across the face of the goal.
Stallard sent O'Connor clear four minutes later and he drilled an emphatic shot past Scott Tynan.
Darryn Stamp halved his side's deficit on the hour, heading home Michael Byrne's set piece.
Sub Lee Steele claimed the leveller four minutes from time, swerving an unstoppable rising shot beyond Paddy Gamble to send Vics' travelling hordes into raptures.
But their joy was cruelly cut short by Stallard's last gasp winner.
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn:
SUPER STALLARD SAVES STAGS BLUSHES
Mansfield Town 3 Northwich Victoria 2
Mark Stallard saved The Stags blushes with an injury time winner at Field Mill after visitors; Northwich Victoria had crawled their way back from being two goals down.
The game got off to a nervy start for Mansfield who were looking to bounce back from the weekend 2-1 defeat at Barrow. But two goals in 4 minutes from Aaron O'Connor looked to be easing Stags home as the sides made their way off the field for the half time break. However, as becoming accustomed with McEwan's side there was a questionable 2nd half downturn in form. And as in the previous home win over Kidderminster Harriers, it took a late goal to ease the 2nd half jitters.
The Stags began the game without the services of Lee and Blackwood, both injured in the 2-1 defeat away at Barrow just 48 hours previous and in truth it took Mansfield just over 20 minutes to find any kind of rhythm, by then the visitor's should have been one goal to the good but none of the green shirted Vic players could get on the end of a tantalising right wing cross.
Stags eventual injury time goal hero, Mark Stallard looked as if he had done enough to score early on, but after showing great strength to force an opening, he fired a tame shot that went well wide.
On 10 minutes, Sutton drifted over a cross to the head of Allan but Gamble was more than equal to it.
Somner was presented with the best chance of the game seconds later, after superb work by Stallard out wide. Stallard neatly setting up Somner from 15 yards out, only for the midfielder to blaze his shot off target when it looked easier to score.
The game was flowing from side to side without either side controlling the game enough to take the lead. However on 25 minutes Stags did take the lead with a well-created corner. Arnold took it short to Jeannin who knocked the ball over to the far post and onto the head of Moses who neatly nodded down to O'Connor who made no mistake.
Just 4 minutes later and Stags were in dreamland when O'Connor stuck his second and what looked like, game killing goal. O'Connor raced clear of Victoria's offside appeals to latch on the end of a through ball from Stallard. O'Conner showed great calmness to round the keeper and casually slot the ball home, despite a desperate lunge on the line from a Northwich defender.
O'Connor almost completed an eight minute hat trick but agonisingly watched his glanced header fly past the far post.
The atmosphere at half time was of just how easy things were for the home side. Those emotions were quickly diminished as the visitors came out for the 2nd half with the bit between their teeth. It took only five minutes before they threatened and Stags had to be grateful for a timely block by O'Hare after Allan had forced space on the right hand side of the Stags six-yard area.
Victoria were pushing hard for a foothold in the game and Stags looked like they wanted to give it them with some poor positional play and poor distribution. O'Hare was lucky to not put one into his own net again, as his sliced clearance caused concern. Stamp also went close with a header.
Byrne drifted over a far post corner where Stamp this time made no mistake to send the small band of travelling support wild.
Stags though should have gone a further goal ahead on several occasions. Arnold, Stallard and Somner all guilty.
Northwich almost grabbed an equaliser when Lee Steele lifted the ball over Gamble but O'Hare was on hand to clear from off the line.
Stags boss McEwan replaced O'Connor with Robinson who almost straight away had a chance to wrap up the game, but wasted his chance, as the ball bobbled at the last minute giving the impression of poor execution.
Stallard raced away, only to take an extra touch too, many which gave the Victoria keeper the chance of getting down to the ball to block. When the ball came back to the feet of Stallard, he tried to chip it towards goal but was denied by the outstretched hand of Tynan.
Steele and Allan went close to equalising as the nerves came once again. Stallard though looked like he was destined to have a day to forget when he again took a touch too much and allowed Tynan to force him wide when zooming in towards goal.
Steele tested his sights with an effort with the outside of his boot that caused Gamble a worry. Just four minutes later and Steele found the range to pull the visitors level with an excellent well taken finish.
Victoria could taste blood and came in search of what at half time seemed an unlikely winner but it was their hearts that were to be broken when Stallard crept in with an injury time winner,
With four minutes up on the clock Stags won a free kick out wide right, which Arnold sent into the danger zone, the ball seemed to ping around before dropping to Stallard four yards from goal who suck his head down and fired home.
The result moved Stags back into 5th place in the table and with struggling Grays Athletic due to visit Field Mill on Saturday, what's betting on another nervy time?
Observer Man of the match – Gary Silk. Growing in stature.
PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Mansfield Town 3 Northwich Victoria 2, Monday 25th August
Photos by Roger Grayson
Mansfield Town v Northwich Mansfield Town FC
« Previous « PreviousNext » Next »View GalleryADVERTISEMENTMARK Stallard was the late hero as a stuttering Mansfield Town stole a stoppage time victory after plucky Northwich Victoria had drawn level from a 2-0 half-time deficit.
Stags were totally on top in the first half after Aaron O'Connor had bagged two goals in four minutes against a poor Vics side and it seemed at that point that the points were all but in the bag
To watch a video slideshow of match action photos by Chad's Roger Grayson from the 3-2 thriller, click on the green play icon
It has been a long time since the Stags won three home games on the trot and Stags fans had big smiles on their face at the break.
But Mansfield were a huge disappointment after the break, failing to capitalise on their advantage and allowing Northwich back into the game on the hour.
Billy McEwan post-match reaction
Still there were chances for the home side to wrap it up. But wastefulness in front of goal and sloppy defending continued to encourage the Vics who must have thought they had finally secured a hard-earned point secured when former Stags target Lee Steele levelled four minutes from time.
But veteran striker Stallard, who had already been denied in a one on one with Scott Tynan, was offered another chance which he made no mistake from at the death.
After three games unchanged, injury forced Lee and Blackwood out of the starting line-up.
O'Connor replaced Lee up front while there was a full debut for Hurren in place of Blackwood in midfield.
Stallard was the lone central striker with Arnold on the left and O'Connor on the right pushing on down the wings.
Stags survived an early bouncing ball across the six yard box from a right wing cross and then threatened when Stallard showed good strength to shake off two defenders before pulling a poor low shot wide.
Vics had a chance on 10 minutes as Allan sent a far post header straight at Gamble from Sutton's long cross.
But within seconds Somner should have put Mansfield in front.
Stallard did all the hard work, beating three men as he cut inside from the left with a superb run before rolling the ball into Somner's path. But, from almost on the penalty spot, he stroked his finish wide when he should have scored.
Stags' formation shifted with D'Laryea playing left midfield, Arnold on the right and O'Connor joining Stallard up front.
Stallard was too high with a far post header from Silk's curling ball in on 15 minutes.
Alan did well to pull the defence to the left before laying a good ball back to Crowell but his finish was woefully wide for the visitors.
Stags continued to probe and Arnold won a tackle and jumped between two challenges before finding O'Connor who shot straight at Tynan. Then Stallard got into the box but Welch produced a saving slide tackle as the striker set his sights.
But the home side got the goal they needed to settle themselves down on 25 minutes. Arnold took a short corner on the right to Jeannin who launched it to the far post.
Moses was there to head it back in front of goal and O'Connor got there first to swing in a close range finish.
Four minutes later he doubled his tally to put Mansfield firmly in the driving seat.
Northwich defenders looked at the linesman as O'Connor was allowed to race clear onto Stallard's through ball. No offside was given and he skipped round the helpless keeper before rolling the ball just inside the far post.
More Stags pressure saw Moses put Jeannin in space on the right and his cross was sent wide by a flicked O'Connor header as he looked to complete a quickfire hat trick.
Northwich were offered very little threat though Byrne did get free 20 yards out just before the break but launched the ball well over.
Mansfield had a scare five minutes after the break as they struggled to clear on the byline to the right of goal and Allen eventually got away a low shot which struck O'Hare in front of goal and lifted up and over the target.
The visitors then had to defend two successive home corners while Flynn was booked for a late challenge on Silk.
But O'Hare was lucky to see his sliced clearance go wide of his own goal. And Stamp was not too far way with a firm header from Byrne's corner.
But the same combination proved successful a minute later as Stamp stole in unmarked at the far post to head home another Byrne flag kick.
Arnold had a shot blocked at the other end soon after and then set up Somner for a shot that curled over the far angle as Stags quickly looked to re-establish their two-goal cushion.
Stallard was inches away from getting his head onto a long Arnold free kick.
But there was more danger on 68 minutes as Steele lifted the ball over Gamble on the left by-line and O'Hare had to hook the ball off the line before it bounced in. Still Stags laboured to clear the ball and finally it was bundled wide by Flynn.
Robinson replaced O'Connor and almost made an immediate impact as a block on a low Arnold effort bounced to him but just bobbled at the last minute as he hooked his finish over the top.
A minute later Stallard got away down the left but saw Tynan get his body in the way of his first effort and then brag his second chipped effort out of the air.
It was nervy stuff now as more shaky home defending allowed Steele to turn and shoot goal wards, Gamble making a fairly comfortable save. Then Allan was well over two minutes later as the result remained in doubt.
On 80 minutes Stallard did really well to wrestle his way goalside of Welch. But, having done the hard bit, the ball rolled too near the keeper who was quickly down on it.
But home fans were more worried about the number of half chances Victoria were still created and Allan, with two home players in attendance 20 yards from goal, was allowed to turn and shoot just wide.
Then Steele tried his luck from the same distance off the outside of his right boot but was well wide of the far post.
And with four minutes to go the plucky visitors got their reward as Steele got away a left footed 20 yard finish that curled round Gamble's dive and inside the far post.
It looked like Stags had thrown away two points. But talismanic Stallard popped up in the third minute of stoppage time to grab a crucial winner.
Arnold sent a free kick in from the right which bounced around before Stallard lashed it home from four yards from the right of goal to secure an unlikely win.
STAGS: Gamble, Silk, D'Laryea, Moses, O'Hare, Arnold, Somner, Stallard, Hurren, Jeannin, O'Connor (Robinson 70). Subs not used: Herriott, Wood, Shaw, Trimmer.
NORTHWICH: Tynan (Aspin 57), Sutton, Brown, Welch, Roberts, Cromwell (Mullen 33), Byrne, Flynn, Williams (Steele 57), Stamp, Allan. Subs not used: Jones, Bailey.
REFEREE: P. Davison.
ATTENDANCE: 2,741 (148 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Aaron O'Connor.
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