GRAYS KEEPER FRUSTRATES STAGS AGAIN
Mansfield Town 0 – 0 Grays Athletic
Attendance: 2,726 (8 (eight) from Grays)
Video highlights of the Grays game here.
Audio highlights of StagsPlayer commentary of the Grays game here.
Nigel Pinnick talks to Harry and Jay - winners of a competition through Football in the Community, during Saturday afternoon's StagsPlayer broadcast here.
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Martin Shaw and Neil Shaw at Field Mill
For the second time this season Mansfield created a hatful of chances against Grays Athletic and for the second time failed to win the game thanks to an inspired goalkeeping display. Down in Essex it was on-loan keeper Butcher who kept the Stags out with some amazing saves as the Stags created over 20 chances. Today it was Stuart Robinson who saved Rob Duffy's penalty and went on to make a string of amazing saves in the final 30 minutes including tipping Hotchkiss's shot onto the bar, as the Stags somehow couldn't score. Even when the keeper couldn't save them, other chances went begging as Duffy hit the underside of the bar and Briscoe headed the rebound over an empty net. The second half was like the Alamo and the failure to win was terribly deflating for everyone, but there were plenty of positives to take from the performance.
Man of the match: Ollie Hotchkiss
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre
Mansfield Town 0 v 0 Grays Athletic
by michael casey, December 5,2009
report from yourthurrock.com
GRAYS produced the defensive performance of the season to grab a vital point in the goal-less draw at Field Mill.
The first half was a scrappy affair but Grays did their best to dig in and compete.
In the 3rd minute Harlee Dean produced a fine shot that Alan Marriott did well to turn away while a fierce Bradley Hudson-Odoi free kick screamed past the far post.
Cissoko tried to get the team forward but silly fouls meant Grays were conceding acres of territory.
Mansfield took their time and the dancing feet of Briscoe and Perry illustrated the gulf between the two teams.
In the 18th minute, Rob Duffy edged past Billy Crowther but Stuart Robinson did well to smother the shot.
A minute later good work down the right hand side by Paul Heckingbottom saw the ball fall to Jon Challinor but he couldn't find the target.
Louis Briscoe was the difference between the two teams. In the 35th minute, he turned Danny Bunce in and out on the dead ball line, cut back to Challinor who just couldn't get his shot in. A minute later he tried again but his shot blazed over.
The confidence of Stuart Robinson and the defenders started to ebb away as the keepers kicking became wayward and players dwelt on the ball.
Harlee Dean tried to drive the team ahead but many of the attacks frittered away to nothing.
Ryan James, the ex-Millwall defender looked a fish out of water up front. Dean's “competitive” tackle saw him receive a yellow in the 43rd minute as Grays went into the half time break still in the game.
Mansfield picked up where they left off with a great cross from Michael Brough that Cammy Mawer did well to turn away for a corner.
In the 50th minute, Perry whipped in a free kick but Robinson took it safely. A corner a minute later saw more robust defending by Grays.
Ryan James thunderous shot only troubled the side netting
In the 55th minute Hoyte tackled Briscoe with a nicely timed challenge in the area but the referee saw it differently and pointed to the spot.
Grays players were incensed, Hoyte was booked. Duffy stepped up to take it and Robinson guessed right, dived to his left and saved the pen.
A minute later a fantastic thirty yard shot by Duffy struck the bar and bounced down on the line. The Stags were going for the kill. Mawer again made a last ditch tackle to save his team as the pressure really mounted.
Hudson-Odoi was forced into a foul as the Stags hunted in packs but again the free kick was fended off by Grays. Billy Bigham came on for the injured Rnkovic as Odoi went up front. Bingham immediately went very close with a 20 yard shot.
Julian Dicks was imploring his men to not lay so deep but the wave of attacks kept pushing them back. Mansfield started playing neat triangles as a base for their attacks.
In the 75th minute Gray earned their first corner as the influential Bingham was able to put his foot on the ball and direct play.
The Stags once again thought they had broken the deadlock for sure when Kyle Perry's shot looked like it was dipping over Robinson but the keeper produced an outstanding save to tip the ball on to the crossbar and away.
To top that he produced a wondrous double save from close range as the Stags just couldn't beat him.
Grays were tired and no wonder but they still going and the defence played as a real unit desperate to cling onto the vital point.
Silk produced another fine run down the right, his wicked cross skimmed right into the six yard box but Lee Morris just couldn't stretch long enough to convert it.
Sub Agombar had the chance to steal the points in stoppage time as Grays broke with Bingham, he found Agombar free on the right but he shot straight at the keeper.
As the final whistle went, the boos rang out for the frustrated Stags but Grays Athletic can be proud of such an “Alamo” performance.
Due to reporting restrictions, YourThurrock are unable to interview any of the Grays Athletic players and staff.
Stags 0 Grays Athletic 0, Saturday 5th December
CHAD report, 04 December 2009
By John Lomas
ROB Duffy had a penalty kick saved as Mansfield Town were frustratingly held by a dogged Grays Athletic side for the second time this season at Field Mill today.
There were few chances in a poor first half on a wet surface that cut up quickly as Stags went a fourth successive home game without a victory.
But, like at Grays, it was one-way traffic in the second half with keeper Stuart Robinson the hero with his save of Duffy's 57th minute spot kick and a string of other stops, including a brilliant double save on 82 minutes to thwart Lee Morris and Andy Burgess.
He also clawed an Ollie Hotchkiss effort onto the crossbar and saw a Duffy shot come back down off the bar and fail to cross the line as he sometimes rode his luck with the odd error.
Stags utility player Michael Brough shook off an ankle injury to fill in for the suspended Scott Garner at centre half.
Paul Heckingbottom returned to left back from a rib injury to replace Craig Armstrong while Ollie Hotchkiss was rewarded for a fine goalscoring performance in midweek with a central midfield slot, Matt Somner dropping to the bench.
Up front Rob Duffy was back from his one game ban to partner Kyle Perry.
Grays keeper Robinson nervously punched clear a Brough cross in the opening seconds.
Then Dean sent in an easy low shot at Marriott from outside the box.
Brough conceded a free kick in a similar position soon after but Hudson-Odoi sent the ball straight at the wall.
A free kick the other way from just inside the visitors' half saw Perry head on and Robinson just gather ahead of Duffy.
Bunce found himself in space 30 yards from goal but his hopeful effort was always sailing well wide.
Burgess drilled a low effort well wide for Mansfield with Perry arriving just too late to turn it home at the far post.
Stags were taking some time to get going but a neat move saw Perry control a Heckingbottom ball into the edge of the box and then lay it off where Challinor screwed his finish wide as team mate Duffy went for the same ball.
Duffy then headed on a long Challinor throw and the ball was kicked clear right in front of goal.
A deliberate handball to prevent Burgess getting away down the left earned Mawar the game's first caution on 23 minutes.
Three minutes later Briscoe deserved a goal as he started a move that saw Perry engineer a hole with his return pass and Briscoe skipped past a defender before sweeping a strong low finish just wide of the far post.
However, dithering defending from a right wing throw attracted Grays pressure which, after several attempts to clear, ended with Rnovik scooping a poor shot on the turn straight at Marriott,
Hudson-Odoi managed a much crisper effort from the left of the box a minute later but again it was never likely to seriously test the Stags keeper.
Challinor's name was added to the book when he was late with his tackle on Dean on 31 minutes.
Burgess launched an inviting long first time ball in from wide on the left just inside the Grays half which bounced nicely for Briscoe to attack, Robinson just getting there first to clear. Seconds later he was also behind a low Briscoe shot.
Another cutting pass from Briscoe again saw the winger step inside a defender but, from a central position, blaze over the top.
Robinson failed to catch a long Challinor throw from the right but, as it dropped in front of goal, an off-balance Perry could only offer a poor stab at it towards goal and it was easily cleared.
Mansfield's frustration at their first half showing was summed up when Hotchkiss hoisted a shot well wide from over 40 yards.
Dean was lucky only to be booked a minute from the break when he clearly led with an elbow which smashed Challinor in the face in a midfield heading duel.
In stoppage time there was a brief worry as Graham was allowed to get in a low shot 15 yards out which Brough got in the way of before it could test Marriott.
Stags tried to break quickly down the left through Duffy but he was halted by Crowther and the yellow card was show to a visitor for the third time.
There was still time for a fourth card as Briscoe was brought down by Hudson-Odoi.
The two added minutes had already stretched into five as Robinson smothered the first corner of the game and the sides went in all square with Mansfield not having produced their best form.
Challinor had not recovered from the elbow incident and Somner replaced him for the second half.
Within seconds of the restart Duffy had a testing cross cleared for a corner which was cleared as Stags stated their intentions.
The biggest cheer of a largely dull afternoon came when a clearance saw the ball drop through the hole in the roof of the old Bishop Street Stand.
Another Stags corner was cleared with Burgess sending the ball back in low first time with no one anticipating the pass.
Perry looked long and hard at the linesman after he felt he was blocked off by Graham in the box and deserved a penalty.
Hudson-Odoi was to high with Grays; first attempt of the half from long range.
But James was much closer as he blasted into the Stags sidenetting with Marriott beaten on 55 minutes.
However, Stags wasted a great chance to break the deadlock on 57 minutes when Duffy failed from the penalty spot for the first time this season.
In fairness Hoyte looked to have got the ball as he dived in with a tackle on Perry but the referee pointed to the spot and Hoyte was booked for his protests.
Duffy tried a cheeky chip straight down the centre which Robinson reached up to Parry and then just managed to claw away before Duffy could follow up.
Duffy's frustration increased further two minutes later as he crashed a superb shot against the underside of the bar from 20 yards and was celebrating the goal as he ran over to the assistant referee who felt it hadn't crossed the line by which time Perry had headed over.
A superb cushioned header from Duffy set up Perry for a volley which he slightly mistimed and the ball trickled to the keeper.
But Stags were on it now and the home fans responded with increased noise volume.
Grays sub Bingham found the other sidenetting to James from 20 yards in a rare attack for the away side.
Mansfield forced their fifth corner of the half on 68 minutes but still Grays stood strong.
Stags needed a hero and with 18 minutes to go Briscoe made way for loanee Morris, who had scored on his debut in midweek.
Grays forced their first corner of the afternoon on 77 minutes, Hoyte meeting it but heading well over with Marriott untroubled.
Mansfield's luck was out again on 80 minutes as Perry was halted as he tried to bundle his way into the box and the ball ran back to Hotchkiss 18 yards from goal who hit a shot that looked destined for the top left corner until Robinson jumped up and clawed it onto the crossbar.
Robinson produced an amazing double save on 82 minutes as Perry laid the ball back to Williams to cross in front of goal where Morris controlled and saw Robinson beat away his shot and then do the same to Burgess' close range follow-up, both from six yards.
Robinson was lucky a few minutes later when he didn't hold a low Morris shot from the left.
The chances and frustration continued as Perry headed over at the far post and Morris sent another header straight down Robinson's throat.
Silk curled the most inviting of low crosses in front of goal on a right wing overlap and Morris was so unlucky not to reach it and hit the empty net in front of him as he slid in.
A Burgess free kick hit the wall on the right but his follow-up was seen late by Robinson who was still able to parry and preserve a precious point.
STAGS: Marriott; Silk, Brough, Jones, Heckingbottom; Briscoe, Challinor, Hotchkiss, Burgess; Duffy, Perry. Subs: Sandercombe, Somner, Williams, Armstrong, Morris.
GRAYS: Robinson; Mawer, Hoyte, Crowther, Bunce; Hudson-Odoi , Cissoko, Dean, Graham; Rnkovic, James. Subs: Edwards, Agombar, Logocombe, Hall, Bingham.
REFEREE: Darren Bond of Wigan.
How did Stags fail to score?
MANSFIELD Town could still be playing Grays today and they still wouldn't have scored. But that is not an indictment of the way they performed, more of a reflection of how things went in front of goal.
Following a relatively quiet first half, the Stags could hardly have done any more in their quest to earn all three points. They threw the kitchen sink – and probably one or two pots and pans as well – at their visitors in a bid to pick up their first home win in four matches. In doing so, they created enough chances to win two or three games, let alone one.
On another occasion, they would have racked up a four or five-goal win. In some ways, Mansfield only had themselves to blame in that they failed to show a ruthless streak in front of goal.
Indeed, top scorer Rob Duffy squandered the clearest opportunity of all when he missed a 57th-minute penalty – the first time he has been unsuccessful from the spot this season in six attempts.
But even when Mansfield did get it right, they found goalkeeper Stuart Robinson in inspired form.
It was a frustrating case of déjà vu for management team David Holdsworth and Gareth Holmes, who watched an almost identical script unfold at the New Recreation Ground back in September.
Then, Lee Butcher, on loan from Spurs, had kept Mansfield at bay with a string of top drawer saves to help his team to a 1-1 draw.
This time it was Robinson, after a less than impressive first half, who was the one to stand between the Stags and a deserved victory.
He dived to his left to keep out Duffy's spot-kick and he also clawed away the rebound before those following up could pounce.
Robinson also pulled off a superb double stop to keep out substitute Lee Morris and Andy Burgess from the rebound, while tipping Ollie Hotchkiss' drive onto the woodwork.
When he was beaten, luck was also on his side as Duffy's shot crashed off the underside of the bar but not, according to the assistant referee, over the line.
The big Welshman begged to differ on that point, but the fact the decision went against him and Mansfield summed up their afternoon.
It is fair to say that the hosts will play a lot worse this season and still come out as easy winners. In all but putting the ball in the back of the net, they were superior.
But the bottom line is that the club and supporters will still see it as two points dropped against a team they should be beating.
As expected, Grays came to Field Mill ready to pack men behind the ball whenever Mansfield were in possession and it was rare for them to threaten.
In fact, goalkeeper Alan Marriott had nothing other than routine to do in the match to secure his clean-sheet bonus.
Knowing such tactics would be adopted, Holdsworth made three changes to the side that won 3-1 at Gateshead in midweek.
He opted for an attacking 4-4-2 formation and included the ball-playing Hotchkiss to partner Jon Challinor in midfield, with Louis Briscoe and Andy Burgess operating on the wings to provide the ammunition for Duffy and Kyle Perry.
At the back, Michael Brough recovered from an ankle injury to play in central defence in place of the suspended Scott Garner and Paul Heckingbottom returned from a rib injury at left-back ahead of Craig Armstrong.
Initially, the Stags struggled to make inroads and they were restricted to two decent openings in the first period.
First Briscoe took a Perry lay-off in his stride and burst into the box, only to drag his finish past the far post. Then Perry out-jumped Robinson to get a head to a Jon Challinor throw-in but, as the ball dropped, he could not force the ball home while off balance.
The second period – with Matt Somner on for Challinor – was a different story, though, as Mansfield laid siege to the Grays goal.
Duffy's penalty miss, and subsequent misfortune with his pile-driving shot, only seemed to drive the Stags on.
But the closest they came was when Hotchkiss – who enjoyed a decent game in the midfield engine room – was denied a second goal in as many games when the ball squirmed through Robinson's fingers, but crashed against the frame of the goal.
It made for a happy journey home for the Essex club who brought just eight – yes eight – fans with them to north Notts. Surely a record low?
Mansfield's followers, on the other hand, were again left thinking what might have been.
One or two booed at the final whistle, which was surely borne out of frustration rather than disapproval of the display.
But the vast majority clapped their team off, acknowledging that a seventh home league win of the season was not down to a lack of effort.
Fortunately, Mansfield's failure to clinch victory did not see them drop out of the play-offs, as other teams around them also slipped up.
But they will have to avoid more hard luck stories like this one if they are going to stay in the top five long term.
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