STAGS BEATEN BY KIDDIE
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 1 - 2 Kidderminster Harriers
Murray 79 McPhee 15, Briggs 63
Attendance: 2079 (350 from Kidderminster)
Date: 26 March 2011
Mansfield Town 1 Kidderminster 2, Saturday 26th March
DESPITE Adam Murray's late reply, Mansfield Town were well beaten by Kidderminster Harriers' play-off chasers at Field Mill this afternoon, reports John Lomas.
The Stags had in-form keeper David Grof to thank for being a single goal down at the break, the Hungarian loanee making a string of early saves as Kidderminster set off in top gear to try to extend their unbeaten streak to 12 games.
But he could do nothing to keep out Chris McPhee's 15th minute finish.
Stags were second best in every department in a poor first half, played in cold, windy conditions.
After harsh words at half-time in the dressing room, Mansfield came out with more fire in their bellies and created chances.
But, unable to put one away, almost inevitably ex-Stag Keith Briggs crashed home a second goal on 63 minutes to all but seal the points.
Mansfield rallied again near the end and skipper Adam Murray pulled one back 11 minutes from time to give them an unlikely chance to grab a point.
But it wasn't to be as Stags once again flopped against a side in the top six and Kidderminster were a class above Mansfield on another disappointing day at the Mill.
Stags were forced into two changes through injury as Dan Spence (hamstring) and Danny Mitchley (groin) were ruled out.
Silk returned from injury at right back while up front teenager O'Rafferty came in for his home debut alongside Connor.
Grof was down to his right to block one-handed a Blair drive after he had cut in from the left in the second minute. And Stags eventually cleared the resulting corner after a few nervy seconds.
Canham's 25 yard pot shot was then straight at Grof.
The visitors continued to threaten as Blair came inside Naylor and fired a powerful shot that Grof beat away for a corner on seven minutes.
From that corner Blair had a free header which again Grof beat away.
Stags were gifted an 11th minute corner to relieve the pressure but keeper Lewis gathered unchallenged.
On 13 minutes Blair's flick past Naylor gave Shaw sight of goal from 12 yards and Grof again produced the goods, getting his body behind the powerful finish.
Naylor had to produce a great tackle to stop Canham going through from Blair's flick-on.
But on 15 minutes the pressure finally told as Wright latched onto a loose pass by xxx and helped the ball on through a square defence and McPhee bundled the ball low under the helpless Grof from six yards.
It had been one way traffic to that point and Stags could have no complaints.
The goal provoked Stags' first shop in anger on 18 minutes as Lewis parried Stonehouse's 25 yard blast.
A persistent O'Rafferty then did well to slide in as a defender shepherded the ball out for a goalkick and hook it back across goal where it took a smart block by Michael Briscoe to deny Connor from eight yards.
A second Mansfield corner saw Naylor flick his header well over from Smith's kick.
Wright lashed a half-volley over Grof and just wide of the far angle from 25 yards in the 26th minute as Mansfield continued to labour.
Great approach work from Louis Briscoe a minute later set up a shooting chance from 20 yards for O'Rafferty who pulled a tame low finish wide of Lewis' right hand post.
O'Rafferty was shown a yellow card on 32 minutes after leaving his foot in on a tackle on Shaw.
Grof showed neat footwork coming out his box to sidestep an opponent and launch the ball upfield where Louis Briscoe's attempted curling effort into the far top corner caught on the wind and sailed well over.
Another Harriers move saw Blair cross from the right and Wright soar above a rooted silk to power an almost free header over the top.
A poor backheader from Naylor almost sold Grof short but he managed to get his body in the way of Wright's poke at goal.
At the other end Rafferty delayed too long with a shooting chance from a poorly cleared cross and Murray sent the follow-up well over the top.
Ex-Stag Shaw limped off on 44 minutes to be replaced by Gittings.
Two minutes were added on but Stags could still make no headway in their second dismal first half of the week.
They came out energised and almost levelled within the first minute as Smith twisted and turned on the left before crossing from the by-line.
It reached Louis Briscoe at the far post who controlled and then sliced a finish off the outside of his left foot across the face of goal back to Smith.
He then found Stonehouse whose shot was blocked.
A minute later another Smith centre found the head of Murray who could not direct the ball out of the reach of Lewis.
Good skills from Briscoe saw him juggle the ball into position for a dipping half-volley that dropped wide of the far post.
On 52 minutes Connor sliced wide from 20 yards. Then passes from Murray and Connor worked the ball to Smith who cut inside four opponents before seeing his finish deflect wide.
An intelligent chip on the turn by Connor was only just too high from 20 yards as Stags continued to harry the Harriers.
But there was a let-off as Vaughan crossed long from the right towards Canham and Naylor did well to get up and head the ball onto the waiting Harrier and out for a goal kick.
Unable to find a goal during their spell of pressure, Stags were punished by a second Harriers goal on 63 minutes.
They were down to 10 men at the time with O'Rafferty on the floor at the other end after taking an accidental kick in the ribs in a challenge.
Kidderminster broke down the left and, when Wright rolled a pass inside, Briggs blasted an explosive first time finish past Grof from 16 yards.
Lewis smothered a Connor effort from close range from a tight angle after Murray tried to put him in on goal.
So for the second time in five days, Mansfield were two goals behind with a massive task ahead.
On 67 minutes Gittings found himself clear on goal with only Grof to beat and the Hungarian did superbly well once more to block his low finish.
O'Rafferty came off on 68 minutes to allow Nix into the action, Louis Briscoe pushing up front and soon firing over after a one-two with Silk on the edge of the box.
Sub Morris saw Canham headed wide after the visitors' fifth corner was taken short.
Nix's 20 yard thunderbolt brought an acrobatic tip-over save out of Lewis on 76 minutes.
Tempers flared on and off the field as the referee turned down a call for handball only to book Louis Briscoe seconds later for showing his studs in a high challenge.
But Stags were given a lifeline 11 minutes from the end as Louis Briscoe fed Murray scampering into the box and he dispatched an excellent finish across Lewis and inside the far post.
Frustrated Stags began to pick up yellow cards near the end, three in 12 minutes, as decisions continued to go against them.
STAGS: Grof; Silk, Naylor, Sandwith, Stonehouse; L. Briscoe, Murray, Thompson, Smith (Istead 84mins); Connor, O'Rafferty (Nix 68). Subs not used: Marriott, Foster, Preece.
KIDDERMINSTER: Lewis, Vaughan, Williams, Shaw (Gittings 44), Albrighton, Briggs, McPhee, Wright (Morris 73), M. Briscoe, Blair, Canham. Subs not used: Byrne, Matt, Stevens.
REFEREE: Steve Martin of Staffordshire.
ATTENDANCE: 2079 (350 away).
GOALS: Stags – Murray 79mins. Kidderminster – McPhee 15mins, Briggs 63mins.
CAUTIONS: Stags – O'Rafferty 32 mins (foul), Briscoe 78 (foul), Thompson 85mins, Naylor 90mins (dissent). Kidderminster – Vaughan 81mins (foul).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: David Grof
Mansfield Town 1-2 Kidderminster Harriers
Evening Post report
DISAPPOINTING Mansfield Town slumped to their seventh home league defeat of the season to slick play-off chaser Kidderminster Harriers at Field Mill this afternoon.
The Stags got off to an extremely slow start as the visitors deservedly swept into a half-time lead through Chris McPhee, which could have been more but for keeper David Grof.
After a brief Mansfield flurry as the second half began, Kidderminster looked to be cruising when former Stag Keith Briggs struck just after the hour.
A strike from skipper Adam Murray made for an interesting last few minutes. But Steve Burr's men held out.
The result should end any Mansfield play-off talk once and for all with 11 games of their season to go.
Kidderminster had an early shot on target when Matty Bair cut in from the left and had a low shot aimed for the left-hand corner that Grof had to push around his post.
Another effort from Harriers saw Sean Canham try his luck from distance but Grof was able to make a simple stop.
It was all the visitors as Blair twice went close to opening the scoring within seconds of each other.
First he nipped past Naylor and shot for Grof to save with his legs and, from the resulting corner, the left midfielder's free header from eight yards was clawed away by the diving Hungarian keeper.
Grof again came to Mansfield's rescue in the 13th minutes as Blair's flick gave Tom Shaw a shooting chance in the box, but his drive was well repelled thanks to some smart reflexes.
But the pressure was building and in the 15th minute, Kidderminster deservedly went in front.
Naylor tackled Canham well to deny him a run on goal, but a misplaced pass allowed McPhee in through the middle and he kept his cool to slip the ball under the advancing Grof.
Mansfield finally tested Danny Lewis when Adam Smith broke down the left and teed up Paul Stonehouse whose drilled effort was held at the second attempt.
Determined work by Niall O'Rafferty, making his home debut, saw him get a foot in close to the right byline and pick out Paul Connor, only for the striker to have his first-time shot charged down by Michael Briscoe.
Midway through the first period, Naylor had a free header from Smith's right-wing corner but could only divert his effort well over the top.
At the other end, Nick Wright was not too far away as the ball sat up nicely for him on the volley and he fired just past the right-hand post.
As Louis Briscoe switched to the left flank, he cut inside to give O'Rafferty room to let fly, but his tame effort trickled well wide.
A neat flick from Connor gave Briscoe the chance to try a curling shot, but it flew high into the stands, bringing ironic cheers from the Harriers fans.
And Kidderminster were soon back on the attack as Wright beat Silk in the air to head just over from Blair's right-wing centre.
For all their struggles, Mansfield might have gone in level at the interval when the Harriers failed to clear a Stonehouse left-wing cross and the ball dropped for O'Rafferty, who took too long in lining up his shot and had the ball nicked away from him.
Mansfield started the second period on the front foot and Smith's centre from the left found a way through to Briscoe, whose snapshot flew wide.
Soon after, Murray's header from another Smith delivery was fumbled by Lewis, but his defence were on hand to clear the danger.
A precise pass forward from Murray then saw Connor try his luck and find the advertising hoardings when he might have been better advised picking out Smith in space on the left.
The Stags were now starting to create openings, but Lewis was once again inactive as Connor chipped wide of the right-hand upright.
But Harriers sounded a warning when Lee Vaughan's pinpoint right-wing centre was headed inches wide by Canham, although Naylor did just enough to put the former Notts County man off.
The visitors were two goals in front in the 63rd minute, though the strike was shrouded in controversy.
Home fans felt O'Rafferty had been fouled before Wright squared across the box for Briggs to thump first-time into the top right-hand corner from 16 yards.
Mansfield tried to hit back quickly but Connor was denied at close quarters following Murray's smart pass into the area.
It should have been 3-0 to Kidderminster when substitute Callum Gittings broke clear, only to see his powerful shot clawed away by Grof.
The Stags made a change in the 68th minute, with Kyle Nix coming on for O'Rafferty. Briscoe moved up front while Nix went out on the left.
Mansfield eventually called Lewis into action as the keeper tipped over a blast from the edge of the box by Nix.
Suddenly, though, the hosts were back in the game as Briscoe fed Murray, who sliced his way into the box before drilling into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
But, while Mansfield pressed in the closing stages, they were unable to force a clear cut opportunity, leaving them to reflect on another home setback
Stags fail to repeat cup form as they lost in league once again
Evening Post considered report
THE same, nagging question occupied all of a Mansfield Town persuasion as they drifted away from Field Mill to watch England's triumph over Wales – fans, players and management alike.
Why is it the team can lift their performances to beat the best in the FA Trophy, but cannot reproduce that same form when it comes to league competition?
To supporters, the Stags' inherent inability to beat teams at the top end of the Blue Square Bet Premier has been evident for some considerable time.
In their minds, doubts over Mansfield's strength to hold their own against the cream of non-league football sprouted during David Holdsworth's only full season in charge and have abounded ever since.
It's slightly different for a good chunk of the playing staff, many of whom can only recall Mansfield's struggles against the big guns as far back as the beginning of the season; others less than that.
Yet even during that time, neither skipper Adam Murray nor defender Paul Stonehouse could argue that the club's performances against the teams they hoped would be promotion rivals in 2010-11 have been anything but underwhelming.
As for manager Duncan Russell and assistant Paul Hall, who took charge in November, they have the least time of all to assess why such a poor record against high-flyers exists.
Nevertheless, they are just as bemused as everyone else that Mansfield cannot put three points on the board against in-form sides.
What makes it more frustrating, whether following loyally from the terraces, in the thick of the action or issuing orders from the sidelines, is that it's plain to see the Stags are capable of mixing it with good teams – their FA Trophy exploits since Christmas have proven that.
The most obvious example came in the two-legged semi-final at Luton Town where they showed fortitude, desire and no little skill to see off Richard Money's Hatters.
But there have been other cases to highlight the point, not least the 4-2 home win over a Newport County side who, at that juncture, were flying high, and a battling replay victory at Blue Square North champions-elect Alfreton Town.
For some reason, though, it seems to be a different matter altogether in the league – and the latest beneficiaries were Kidderminster Harriers.
Rolling into town on the back of an 11-game unbeaten run, it soon became easy to see why Steve Burr's men have swept close to the summit of the table, despite a five-point deduction, closing down quickly, passing crisply and defended doggedly.
Yet Mansfield once again did themselves no favours by only threatening to approach top gear when the game was all-but out of reach.
It's another recurring theme that has plagued their season and was just as apparent at doomed Histon in midweek.
The difference this time was that the visitors were in no mood to give up a two-goal lead – and had the resilience to do it.
It's only fair to point out that Mansfield have not been helped in the last week or two by a succession of injuries.
Ashley Cain (thigh), Dan Spence (hamstring) and Danny Mitchley all missed this game through their injuries, while Gary Silk (foot) and substitute Kyle Nix (concussion) were returning from their own ailments. However, the squad is looking wafer thin, too thin, for comfort.
In the second period, with Niall O'Rafferty struggling to make an impression up front, partly due to an injury, Mansfield had no striker on the bench to shake things up.
Instead, they had to throw Louis Briscoe into attack and play Nix out of position down the left.
And even if Mansfield do recall some of their players currently out on loan, their squad is still going to be pushed to the limit with a colossal ten games in April and the transfer window for temporary signings having now closed.
Early on, as Harriers dominated, goalkeeper David Grof kept the home side in it by making a hat-trick of smart stops to deny Matty Blair.
But there was a sense of inevitability that a Kidderminster goal was coming and it duly arrived when Chris McPhee capitalised on some poor defending to race away and tucked the ball under the advancing Grof.
It was no more than the West Midlands club deserved at the break as Mansfield had failed to truly test Daniel Lewis.
However, it was a more purposeful Mansfield who came out for the second half and for a time an equaliser looked on the cards.
That was until a moment of controversy saw Harriers go 2-0 in front.
Mansfield claimed a foul on O'Rafferty for a high challenge but, as play continued, Nick Wright picked out former Stag Keith Briggs, who hammered into the top right-hand corner.
Another excellent save from Grof prevented Callum Gittings making the game safe for Kidderminster before Mansfield reduced the deficit to ensure it was game on once more.
Briscoe picked out the surging Murray who advanced into the area before slamming into the roof of the net.
From there, the hosts huffed and puffed in a bid to claim an equaliser but, in truth, rarely did it look like arriving as the visitors secured a well-merited success that avenged a 3-1 Stags triumph at Aggborough last August.
For weeks, plenty in the Mansfield camp have enthused about a late play-off charge, but that can now be consigned to the refuse pile.
With just 11 games to go, any claims of a top-five finish are, quite frankly, laughable.
The Harriers defeat means the Stags have now lost more games (seven) at Field Mill than they have won (six). That is not top-five form.
It's blindingly obvious that those at the club are tired of being asked what goes wrong for Mansfield in the big matches.
Yet until they manage to string together two or three positive results against teams that are chasing a play-off place, it is a question that will not go away.
There are, of course, those who say Mansfield simply aren't good enough; that the team is not as good as they think.
It is an accusation that is sure to sting the players, but the onus is on them to prove such a claim incorre
Match facts: Mansfield Town v Kidderminster
Mansfield: Grof, Silk, Naylor, Sandwith, Stonehouse, L. Briscoe, Thompson, Murray, Smith (Istead 84), Connor, O'Rafferty (Nix 68). Subs not used: Marriott, Foster, Preece.
Kidderminster: Lewis, Vaughan, Albrighton, M. Briscoe, Williams, Shaw (Gittings 44), McPhee, Briggs, Blair, Wright (Morris 73), Canham. Subs not used: Byrne, Matt, Stevens.
Referee: Steve Martin (Staffordshire).
Attendance: 2,079 (350 visitors).
Goals: Mansfield: Murray (79). Kidderminster: McPhee (15), Briggs (63).
Shots on target: Mansfield 5 Kidderminster 7.
Shots off target: Mansfield 8 Kidderminster 2.
Fouls: Mansfield 13 Kidderminster 9.
Corners: Mansfield 6 Kidderminster 4.
Offsides: Mansfield 1 Kidderminster 3.
Bookings: Mansfield 4 (O'Rafferty, 32, foul on Shaw; L. Briscoe, 78, foul on McPhee; Thompson, 86, foul; Naylor, 90+1, dissent) Kidderminster 1 (Vaughan, 85, foul on Nix).
Sendings off: Mansfield 0 Kidderminster 0.
Mansfield's man of the match: David Grof. The young goalkeeper had an excellent game and an outstanding first half during which he made several fine saves, otherwise Kidderminster would have been out of sight by half-time
Harriers slay Stags to keep on play-off march
Saturday 26th March 2011
Mansfield 1 Harriers 2
HARRIERS stretched their unbeaten run to 12 games in the Blue Square Bet Premier and kept the pressure on the sides chasing play-off spots.
With the game at Field Mills kicking off at noon because of England's Euro qualifier in Wales, Steve Burr's men threw down the gauntlet to the likes of Fleetwood, Darlington and Grimsby, who were still chasing a spot in the end of season promotion party.
Instead, for a short period at least, Harriers increased their lead over sixth-placed Fleetwood to five points and tightened their grip on the final play-off spot.
Goals for Chris McPhee and Keith Briggs made sure of the points and but for the heroics of Stags keeper David Grof they would have won the game comfortably.
In the end, Adam Murray's late goal ensured a tense end to the match but they held onto make sure of all three points.
Wideman Matty Blair signalled Harriers' attacking intent inside the second minute, cutting in from the left and firing in a low shot which Grof saved at his near post.
Striker Sean Canham, whose loan deal from Hereford had been extended until end of the season, then saw a 30-yard shot comfortably taken by Grof after a driving run from central midfield by Tom Shaw.
Harriers' opponents, who booked their place in the FA Trophy final at Wembley after seeing off Luton over two legs, looked nervous and Blair almost took full advantage. The winger drove through non-existant marking and saw a low shot blocked by the keeper's legs and then from the resulting corner, Blair's close range header was punched away by Grof.
Mansfied's shot-stopper denied the visitors again in the 13th minute. Keith Briggs started a well-worked move when he swept the ball to the left wing. Canham cleverly nodded the ball into the path of the late arriving Shaw on the edge of the box but Grof made a fine reaction save.
But he was beaten in the 15th minute. Nick Wright's incisive pass allowed McPhee to race clear and despite stumbling under pressure from Mansfield's defence, he did well to knock it past Grof into the back of the net.
Mansfield, awakened from their slumber by the goal, threatened to reply almost immediately. Keeper Danny Lewis was equal to Paul Stonehouse's firm effort from distance, while centre back Michael Briscoe swept the danger away from Paul Connor as he was about to pull the trigger with a last-ditch tackle.
With Mansfield seeing more the game, the match developed into a more balanced affair, although with Harriers holding a one-goal advantage.
Wright flashed a long-range effort wide, while Stags midfielder Tyrone Thompson slid a low effort from the edge of the box off target.
Wright could have doubled Harriers' lead in the 38th minute after a typically flowing move by the away side. McPhee's slide-rule pass released Blair down the right and he delivered a pin-point cross which the forward headed over the bar at the far post.
Striker Niall O'Rafferty, who had been booked earlier in the game for a strong challenge on Shaw, was Mansfield's biggest threat and it took a last ditch challenge by Shaw to deny him in the box in the 42nd minute. The Harriers man had to be replaced by Niall Gittings after sustaining an injury puttimg his body on the line for the visitors.
The hosts turned it up a gear in the second half, with Louis Briscoe firing a shot across the face of goal after good work by Adam Smith on the left wing. Danny Lewis then parried a Murray header.
Connor then signalled Mansfield's newfound goal threat when he controlled Murray's pass and flashed a low shot wide from the edge of the box.
There was another scared when a flowing counter-attack involving Murray and Connor unleashed Smith, who drove to the edge of Harriers' box with menace and saw a shot deflected wide.
Canham squandered a good chance from a pacey Lee Vaughan cross, heading a tough chance just wide at the far post.
Harriers doubled their lead in the 63rd minute, when captain Keith Briggs fired in a unstoppable rising shot into the top corner.
However, the home fans were livid as they felt Mark Albrighton had fouled O'Rafferty at the start of the move which lead to the goal, although the defender's challenge was tough but fair.
With the game still frenetic, Burr decided to take off Wright and bring on Lee Morris to give Harriers someone capable of holding up the ball.
However, Murray half Harriers' lead in the 79th minute to ensure a tense end to the game.
But the Aggborough outfit held onto avenge a 3-1 loss at home in August.
Harriers: Lewis; Vaughan; Albrighton; Briscoe; Williams; Wright (Morris, 73); Briggs; Shaw (Gittings, 43); Blair; McPhee; Canham.
Unused substitutes: Stevens; Matt; Byrne.
Mansfield: Grof; Silk; Sandwith; Briscoe; Thompson; Smith (Istead, 84); Naylor; Stonehouse; Connor; O'Rafferty (Nix, 67); Murray.
Unused substitutes: Marriott; Foster; Preece.
Referee: Steve Martin. Attendance: 2,079 (350)
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