STALLARD PENALTY WINS FOURTH SUCCESSIVE HOME GAME
Mansfield Town 1 – 0 Grays Athletic
Stallard pen 22
Attendance: 2,378 (36 from Grays)
Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Mansfield Town won their fourth successive home game, the best run since September 2004, thanks to a Mark Stallard penalty in a 1-0 win over Grays Athletic. It wasn't a great performance from the Stags and was poor entertainment overall, but the Stags are now in second place, just one goal behind leaders Forest Green on goal difference. The Stags were perhaps a little fortunate to get the penalty, which struck defender Jamie Stuart's arm, as only a few minutes earlier in a similar incident at the other end, a ball had struck Jeannin's arm, and the ref waived away penalty claims. After the game, Billy McEwan told me that he thought the Stags one was a penalty, but that anyway we should have had a stonewall penalty at Barrow last week so these things even themselves out. Mark Stallard told me after the game that it was the sort of penalty that sometimes you get and sometimes you don't, but that last week at Barrow the referee had apologised to him after the game and admitted he made a mistake with that penalty incident.
Billy McEwan made two changes with Blackwood back in for Hurren, and Lee back in for O'Connor. Thus it was the same starting eleven as at Barrow. It turned out that O'Connor was not allowed to play, in an agreement with Grays, the club from whom he was transferred.
Stagsnet player ratings now in the Match Centre
Stagsworld commentary on winning goal here
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
STALLARD PENALTY EARNS ALL THREE POINTS
Mansfield Town 1 Grays Athletic 0
Mark Stallard again proved to be the Field Mill hero when his 23rd minute penalty edged Mansfield to a somewhat nervy and narrow 1-0 victory over Grays Athletic.
In the end performance wasn't too much to shout about but at least the weekend league table was with McEwan's men climbing to 2nd in the Blue Square Premiership, level on points but just behind leaders Forest Green on goal difference.
Grays came into the game with a poor start to their away campaign with no wins and just one goal scored, but they can feel really hard done too to come away from the game with nothing to show for all their efforts. Indeed, Stallard's penalty apart, The Stags hardly threatened in front of goal whilst the visitors caused problems all afternoon.
Stags though got off to a lightning start with an enterprising run from young, Nathan Arnold that took him into the Grays penalty area, however after seemingly doing all the hard work he allowed the Athletic defence to get back enough to deny a clean shot on goal.
The visitors earned their first corner on 3 minutes but it came to nothing and from it The Stags broke away. Again the ball fell to the feet of Arnold but as before the run ended in disappointment.
Sloma, who was to cause problems for the Stags back line throughout the game caused the first real threat on the Mansfield goal, but his cross come shot was saved down well by Gamble.
On 13 minutes there were strong claims for a penalty when the ball veered up from close range and clearly struck Jeannin on the arm, strangely there were no real protests from the Grays players and Stags broke away to force a corner kick. It was a real let off for Mansfield and if it had been the other way, Field Mill would have been in uproar.
Moments later, Jeannin was in the thick of the action once more when his sliced block clearance went dangerously close to his own goal
On 17 minutes, Grays were unfortunate not to take the lead when a right wing cross came over finding a two on one situation, Taylor was the first to react but his powerful shot was parried away by Gamble, Jeannin being on hand on the line to clear the ball away from any more danger.
It was clear that Grays were by far the better of the two sides in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Stags were struggling to get their game going against a side that somewhat surprisingly were playing neat passing football, not the kind of opposition Stags have been used to playing so far this season.
On 23 minutes and against the run of play, The Stags took the lead. Blackwood, who seems to impress each time he pulls on a Stags shirt, put in a delightful cross from the right hand side where the Grays defence seemed to get in a real mess, the ball taking a deflection and striking the hand of Jamie Stuart. The Referee instantly pointed to the spot. Stallard sending the keeper the wrong way. It was a fortunate lead.
Just three minutes later and slack defending from the Stags should have seen the visitors draw level but after a scramble Kedwell wasted the opportunity.
To be fair to Mansfield they were trying to link together with slick passing but unfortunately far too often the promising moves broke down. Jason Lee controlled the ball well but flashed at his chance wildly high and wide.
10 minutes before the half time break, Taylor positioned himself well for a strike on goal but his toe-poked effort flew harmlessly wide.
The visitors were enjoying a fine spell of pressure without any reward and they almost caught out as Mansfield broke with speed. Blackwood finding Arnold who ran with the ball from the halfway line only to shoot straight at Flitney in the Grays goal.
Another dangerous run on the left hand side saw O'Hare slice the ball clear for another Grays corner on 41 minutes.
Mark Stallard did well out on the right before knocking the ball over towards Blackwood, but just as the Stags midfielder was preparing to shoot, a Grays defender just got a vital touch to knock the ball out of his reach.
Hopes were that the 2nd half would be better fair, and that Mansfield would raise their game but the 2nd half pretty much followed the first.
Stags though could have taken an early 2nd half lead but after good combination work out wide by Arnold and Blackwood, O'Hare left the crossed ball to sail just wide of the post.
Stallard played in Lee, who moved towards goal, unfortunately just as he shot Stuart got in a challenge that resulted in both players requiring treatment. Lee taking no further part and was replaced by Robinson.
Grays made numerous substitutions as they sort to gain a foothold in the game, but Stags by one way or another were holding firm. It certainly wasn't pretty on the eyes but as the game ticked by the realisation that Stags could gain their 4th straight home win for the first time since 2004 began to hit home. Sometimes, winning ugly just doesn't matter.
Taylor warmed the hands of Gamble and Ashton rose well only to head wide.
Nathan Arnold received the ball and went on a mazy run that resulted in a curling shot that looked all for the world that it would end up nestling in the top left hand corner of the net but at the last minute the ball veered off giving the keeper a chance to save.
Grays gamely tried and Stags continued to frustrate but there was to be no more goals and as the final whistle blew it was more of relief than of joy.
The game was not a classic but did provide Stags with another three points and their 4th home win on the trot, something they had not achieved for four years.
Stags travel to York City in midweek before entertaining Eastbourne next weekend.
Observer Man of the match – Alex Jeannin – timely tackles and solid performance, the best of the bunch.
Report from http://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk
Grays in the drop zone after shot-shy forwards fail again
Mansfield Town 1, Grays Athletic 0
GRAYS dropped into the Blue Square Premier relegation zone after their third defeat in a row against last season's Football League drop-outs Mansfield Town.
Grays never really got going over the 90 minutes although they started quite brightly.
In the fourth minute, wily Sam Sloma whipped in a vicious cross but there was no-one there to meet it. That was to be typical of the day as Jamie Taylor and Danny Kedwell couldn't make any impression at all.
Tricky Stags midfielder Nathan Arnold went on a couple of mazy runs in the eighth and 10th minutes but Jon Ashton effectively shackled him.
Grays were taking a measured approach with good work down both wings. In the 13th minute they counter-attacked with venom as Stefan Bailey linked up with Ishmael Welsh and then Sloma but once again the cross had no-one to meet it.
Stags' Michael Blackwood started to rampage down the right and he had the measure of veteran Fabian Wilnis. In the 25th minute he once again flew past the Dutchman sent a low cross into the box. In the ensuing confusion Ashton handled as he fell. Michael Stallard hit the penalty hard and to the right to put the Stags 1-0 up.
Grays tried to fight back but with a toothless attack it was difficult. Barry Cogan flourished down the right and Welsh and Sloma down the left but to no avail with the impotent Kedwell and Taylor effectively shackled by the physically imposing Stags defence.
In the second half Mansfield continued to be organised but hardly threatening. In the 54th minute, Kedwell and Taylor at last combined well with Taylor's close range header well smothered by Paddy Gamble.
A minute later, Grays keeper Ross Flitney did well to parry away a nicely curled shot from Nathan Arnold. Boss Mike Woodward rang the changes on the hour as Mark Molesley and Craig Reid came on for Bailey and Cogan but they made little impact.
In the 70th minute Kedwell once again dithered in the box when last year's model would have shot. A minute later Stuart Elliott's snap shot from close range went straight to the keeper.
Mansfield, looking every inch a League team, held their form over the next ten minutes to record their fourth home victory of the season.
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