SUPER STAGS WIN AT CHESTER
footnote: the winning goal was later credited to Kyle Perry.
Blue Square Premier
Chester City 0 - 1 Mansfield Town
Duffy (later credited to Perry) 2 mins
Attendance: 1734 (522 from Mansfield)
Date: 29 August 2009
Martin Shaw at the Deva Stadium
Super Mansfield Town won a tight game at the Deva Stadium with an early goal from Rob Duffy. It was the Stags fourth successive victory, the first time we have won four on the trot since September - October 2003, when a 2-1 win with 9 men at Cambridge sparked that 4 game run. The Stags had to dig deep at times, and could have won more comfortably but for a Speight goal ruled out, and a penalty shout turned down, both in the first half, while Chester slammed a shot against the post also in the first period. The Stags deserved their success despite some late scares as Chester brought on the lively Greg Blundell as substitute, a player with a pedigree of scoring against the Stags.
Stagsnet report in the Match Centre
Chester City 0 Mansfield Town 1
A DESPERATELY-NEEDED first victory of the season continues to elude Chester as their winless start stretched to four matches this afternoon.
Robert Duffy's second-minute strike settled a hard-fought contest at the windswept Deva Stadium to leave Mick Wadsworth's men 29 points away from Blue Square Premier safety going into Monday's derby at Altrincham.
The only goal of the game came in the second minute, but City started well enough. Ultimately, however, they lacked the penetration to break down a second-placed Stags side that may not have been pretty, but sure were effective.
Unsurprisingly, Blues boss Wadsworth named an unchanged team from the one that recorded an excellent draw at title favourites Luton Town seven days earlier. Given that result and given the nature of the performance that accompanied it, Chester supporters – who have not seen their side win at home all year – expected a flying start.
So it came as a rude awakening when Mansfield broke the deadlock through former Wrexham striker Duffy, who side-footed the ball through a host of bodies and past John Danby after Craig Armstrong's free kick into the box was not cleared.
City needed an instant response and they so nearly got one when Lewis Alessandra brilliantly brought down a lofted pass from fellow home debutant Chris Lynch and crashed a left-footed shot against the post.
It was an impressive response from the hosts and Neil Ashton and Alessandra then saw on-target efforts bravely blocked.
The giant visitors – boasting a whole host of 6ft-plus players – weathered the storm, however, and continued to look dangerous from set-pieces, with the unmarked Matthew Somner heading wide from a corner before Kyle Perry flicked-on a long throw to draw a full-length save out of Danby.
The Stags began the second half the stronger, too, and after Duffy fired wildly over, Armstrong cut inside and tested Danby from distance.
Mansfield, with a lead to defend, were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, so Wadsworth responded by replacing midfielder Adam Kay with striker Gregg Blundell, for whom it was his first appearance since re-signing for the club in the summer.
But despite some telling runs, Blundell could not inspire the Blues, who must now regroup for Monday's trip to Moss Lane.
CHESTER: Danby, Roberts, Lynch, Ryan, Lea, Wilkinson, Vaughan, Kay (Blundell 65), Ashton, Chadwick, Alessandra. Subs: Murphy, Meynell, Owen, Ellams.
BOOKED: Chadwick, Lynch.
MANSFIELD: Marriott, Silk, Garner, Jones, Armstrong, Briscoe (Clare 60), Somner, Nix, Perry, Duffy, Speight (Istead 77). Subs: Sandercombe, Graham, William.
BOOKED: Jones, Somner, Silk.
GOAL: Duffy 2.
REFEREE: Jermaine Simpson (Carnforth).
ATTENDANCE: 1,734 (522 away).
Match analysis: Chester 0 Stags 1
IN their obvious excitement, the Mansfield Town fans massed in the corner of the Deva Stadium's West Stand had got it wrong.
"We are top of the League," they chanted jubilantly as the full-time whistle blew to signal their team's fourth win on the spin.
As it turned out, they weren't. Oxford's 1-0 victory at AFC Wimbledon kept them at the Blue Square Premier summit.
But the Stags supporters could be forgiven for their momentary error in judgment, so rare has it been to even contemplate such a position of strength.
For what seems like a lifetime to many, Mansfield have been a moribund club, seemingly in terminal decline.
Just when it seemed it couldn't get any worse, it did.
From League Two play-off heartache came the steady drop down the table year-on-year, followed by relegation out of the Football League.
Then there was the first half of last season where the Stags had their first, disastrous taste of non-league football since the early 1930s.
But now there is an aroma of resurgence in the air – and the Mansfield faithful, desperate for success, can smell it a mile off.
Under previous boss Billy McEwan, the club did, of course, top the table just over a year ago.
Back then, though, there was always a perception that performances were far from convincing. That they were using up a hefty slice of luck. That it would not last.
The run that followed proved such thinking correct as an alarming slide down the table led to McEwan's dismissal.
However, the anticipation that under David Holdsworth things could be different this time, that the early-season form won't be a flash in the pan, has really got the pulses of the terrace faithful racing.
At last the fans can see there is method in what their team is trying to do.
Mansfield now have the capacity to dominate teams at home, yet fight tooth and nail for victories away.
They can be physical and direct when in a scrap, yet play some sumptuous football when given time and space.
And they are able to play 4-4-2 with two wingers one game, yet look equally effective with a narrower 4-3-3 in another – as they did at Chester.
In short, they can adapt to any given situation, a formula that promises to serve them well.
Going into this one, there was still a slight question mark over the Stags' ability to pick up points on the road.
Can they start to show the consistency on their travels that will allow them to challenge for promotion?
On this evidence at least, the answer appears to be yes.
With less than two minutes gone, Mansfield made the breakthrough with Rob Duffy's fourth goal of the season – his third in as many outings.
As Craig Armstrong's free-kick into the box wasn't cleared, Scott Garner teed up the Welshman and he angled a drive into the left hand corner from ten yards that flew in off the underside of John Danby.
Although the hosts had more possession, Mansfield arguably had the better chances.
But some things never change and Holdsworth's demands of his defence are one such example.
The Stags kept their fourth clean sheet in and the back four were outstanding in the second period.
Nevertheless, the gaffer, a self-confessed perfectionist, still gave central defenders Scott Garner and Luke Jones a half-time rollicking.
Holdsworth explained afterwards that there was too big a gap down the middle of the field in which the home strikers could prosper.
It was the very space that had so upset Holdsworth which afforded Chester's clearest opening just minutes after Mansfield scored.
On-loan striker Lewis Alessandra had the whole goal to aim at from close to the penalty spot, but he struck the right-hand post.
Alan Marriott did make one smart save, smothering the ball at Ben Wilkinson's feet, but otherwise Chester were kept at arms length.
At the other end, Jake Speight made an encouraging first start after being confined to the bench for the opening games of the campaign.
He took the place of Ryan Williams in the only change to the starting line-up and thrived alongside Kyle Perry and Duffy and was unlucky to have a goal disallowed.
More importantly for Mansfield, though, they secured a fourth consecutive win for the first time since September 2003.
It's back to Field Mill this afternoon for the Stags to face a Kettering side who have also got off to a flyer.
Another three points, together with an Oxford slip-up, and the supporters will be singing 'We are top of the League' for real.
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