IMPROVED STAGS COMFORTABLY BEAT BATH
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 2 - 0 Bath City
Higginson 62, Nix 74
Attendance: 2026 (59 from Bath)
Date: 14 April 2011
Martin Shaw at Field Mill
A much improved performance from Mansfield Town saw a comfortable win over Bath City at Field Mill on Thursday night in the Stags' third game in 5 days. Youngster Conor Higginson, an early substitute for Luke Medley, put the Stags in front following a corner, and Kyle Nix added a second with a great free kick after he had been brought down himself just outside the box.
podcast of StagsPlayer Bath City commentary, by Martin Shaw and David Jackson with Steve Hartshorn :
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Evening Post Report by Matt Halfpenny: Mansfield Town 2, Bath City 0
CONOR Higginson has begged all season for a chance to play up front for his beloved Mansfield Town. Last night he showed why.
The teenager did not have the most sparkling of games when he came off the bench early on to replace Luke Medley who succumbed to a hamstring injury.
He did not go past two or three players at a time, nor he did not win header after header or hold the ball up particularly well.
But what he has always vowed to do, if given a go, is find the knack of the net – and he showed that was no idle threat.
His opening goal was nothing special; little more than a tap-in amid a goalmouth scramble.
But it was a priceless strike – certainly from boss Duncan Russell's point of view – and paved the way for the comfortable victory.
There is no doubt that Higginson still has plenty to learn and could also do with continuing the work he has started on beefing up in the gym.
But his 24 goals on loan at Glapwell and second in four game back at Field Mill suggests he has that predatory instinct for finding the net, which might make him worth a punt more often between now and the campaign's end.
For Russell, a victory was not important, but essential. With his future up in the air after disappointing performances against Hayes and Yeading and Barrow, nothing less than three points was likely to satisfy watching chairman John Radford.
Yet just one good result will not secure him the reins for next season. Only more successes, such as when they play high-flyers Luton on Saturday, will convince the man that matters he deserves the role long-term.
What was arguably the biggest plus was a first clean-sheet in ten games.
Without Kevin Sandwith, most likely out of the FA Trophy final at Wembley with a knee injury, replacement Steve Foster marshalled the back line sturdily in what is a real confidence-booster ahead of the weekend's visit of the Hatters.
And the rest of the back four followed suit, looking as assured as they have done in a good while.
Mansfield almost went in front inside the first 90 seconds as Adam Murray fed Luke Medley on the right and he turned his marker brilliantly to reach the right byline.
His low ball across the box beat keeper Robinson, but Marley Watkins just managed to toe the ball away from the path of Louis Briscoe as he was about to tap home.
Bath were close to taking a lead in the seventh minute from the game's first corner.
The Stags failed to clear Marc Canham's right-wing delivery, allowing Joe Burnell to fire in a low shot from 10 yards that David Grof managed to react quickly to block.
It was after 15 minutes that Medley hobbled off to be replaced by Higginson in a straight swap.
Within minutes, Higginson was in the clear as he raced onto Briscoe's flick, only for Charlie Clough to recover well to slide the ball off the striker for a goal kick.
Tom Naylor made an important clearance soon after when he hooked away from his own six-yard box after Gethin Jones had headed down Canham's clever free-kick into the box.
A neat turn from Adam Connolly on the edge of the box saw him work space to curl a shot that was only just too high.
Higginson then got goal side but was too unselfish in trying to pick out the marked Murray when he should have tested Robinson.
As the second period got under way, Grof was twice fortunate to get away with gaffes as he came out of his box to clear through balls, the second occasion seeing Naylor tidy up behind him.
With Mansfield suddenly stepping up the tempo, they went close when Briscoe's drilled across the face of goal just inches in front of Higginson.
However, from the corner, Mansfield were in front when Nix's right-wing delivery was headed back into the area by Foster.
Higginson reacted first and though his first effort was blocked on the line, he made no mistake from the close-range rebound.
After Briscoe's drive had been saved by Robinson, justice was done when Nix double the Stags' advantage.
It was the midfielder who was fouled 20 yards from goal as he was about to shoot. But he picked himself up to curl a left0footed shot over the wall and into the left-hand corner.
As Bath pushed for a way back into the game, Lee Phillips and Joe Lennox tested Grof in the closing stages.
But this time the Stags did not drop deep, as they had done in giving away leads in their previous two home games against Barrow and Southport, to hold firm.
Out-of-contract in the summer, it remains to be seen whether Higginson will be on the Field Mill staff next season.
A few more fox-in-the-box goals in the next few weeks, though, would certainly do his case no harm at all
Mansfield Town 2 Bath City 0, Thursday 14th April
CHAD report by John Lomas
SECOND half goals from Conor Higginson and Kyle Nix at last gave Stags fans something to cheer about as their tired side, playing a third game in six days, saw off Bath City at Field Mill on Thursday night..
It was also a welcome first clean sheet in 10 games. But it could all have come at a cost as striker Luke Medley limped off with a hamstring strain after only 15 minutes with the FA Trophy final at Wembley just over three weeks away.
Again it wasn't the best of first half displays as Stags tried to find their first win in four successive games with struggling side.
And a few fans booed as they left the field goalless at half-time with manager Duncan Russell feeling the pressure growing on him to earn a new deal in the summer and potential replacements Dave Penney and Martin Foyle watching from the stand.
But Stags somehow managed to up a gear on their weary legs for a better second half and youngster Higginson, on for Medley, broke through on 62 minutes before Nix's 74th minute free kick sealed it.
A £5 admission offer also boosted the crowd over the 2,000 mark but, with Paul Connor suspended and Medley injured, Stags will be sparse up front for Saturday's mouthwatering rematch with Luton Town.
The evening began with two Stags strike stars on the field as Richie Barker handed Paul Connor a trophy for most man of the match awards for the season.
However, that was Connor's only on-field involvement as he sat out the second of his three match ban.
Despite saying he would be rotating his squad, Russell's only change was at centre half where Foster returned after Kevin Sandwith hurt a knee on Tuesday night.
Stags almost swept into a second minute lead after Murray found Medley wide on the right and he clever turn sent him racing to the by-line.
Once there he drilled the ball hard and low past the keeper across goal and, only needing a touch into the empty net, Briscoe found Watkins doing just enough to get a touch.
Stonehouse then found Mitchley who turned well enough but sliced horribly wide.
On seven minutes the visitors won a corner and Canham's kick ricocheted around before bouncing for Burnell whose low on-target effort was blocked by the legs of Grof.
But Stags suffered a real blow on 14 minutes when Medley pulled up with a pulled hamstring. He hobbled around for a short time but finally had to go off to be replaced by Higginson.
Higginson was soon into the action from a flick by Mitchley. But he was unable to break free from the chasing Clough though did think he had won a corner to no avail as the referee pointed for a goalkick.
Enterprising Bath played some neat football and failed to make anything of a second corner while a cross from trick winger Watkins flew straight to Grof.
Briscoe, as always trying to make things happen, lashed a low 25 yard shot wide.
Bath threatened again when Canham's free kick was headed into the six yard box by Jones and the alert Naylor had to hook clear.
A curling Stonehouse cross finally produced a first corner of the night for Stags on 31 minutes, but the catch was easy for keeper Robinson.
Bath broke downfield to win two flag kicks of their own, Grof forced to claw away the second as it bent it the air above him.
Briscoe delayed a shooting chance too long after good work from Cain and Mitchley, gaining only a corner in the end.
On 41 minutes Connolly turned on the edge of the Mansfield box and curled a delicious chip just over the far angle, clipping the back stanchion.
A minute from time Briscoe went on a powerful burst down the right and crossed to the near post where Mitchley, facing away from goal, did well to improvise and get a firm touch goalwards, but was unable to guide the ball on target as the half ended without a goal.
Mitchley was well over with the first shot after the restart.
Stags had a let-off when Phillips chased a through ball, Grof left his box to clear but completely missed his kick and was relieved to see the ball bobble out of reach of Phillips.
At the other end Murray burst into the box only to be robbed by Jombati who was tackled by Briscoe who lashed a shot over.
Mitchley's persistence won corner number three for the home side which Naylor failed to get over and saw his header loop well over.
A great turn from Briscoe on the left saw him loose his man and drill a low ball across the face of goal where Higginson couldn't get a touch as it bounced for a corner.
But Higginson was the hero with a goal from the resulting 62nd minute corner. It was sent long from the right by Nix where Foster headed it goalwards at the back and Higginson turned it on target from close range only to see it handled on the line.
Before Stags could get a penalty decision out of the referee, the alert Higginson rammed the loose ball home at the second time of asking.
On came Bath sub S. Murray and found Grof behind his low 20 yard shot a few minute later.
A short free kick from Cain cued up Briscoe with a well-struck low shot that Robinson had to make the save from.
But Mansfield were 2-0 up on 74 minutes.
Mitchley's clever flick gave Nix sight of goal but, as he pulled his foot back to shoot from 20 yards, he was crudely fouled by Connolly who was lucky not to be booked.
But Nix had the last laugh as he curled the free kick up and over the wall and wide of Robinson's fingertips.
Cain picked out Briscoe with a right wing free kick that offered a free header which he planted powerfully wide.
Grof kept out Harris' 20 yard shot and soon after Higginson was too high from the same range for Mansfield.
Phillips couldn't find a way past Grof with a low shot at the near post and Lennox also saw the Hungarian down and in his way as Bath plugged away for a consolation in vain.
STAGS: Grof; Silk, Foster, Naylor, Stonehouse; Cain, Nix, A. Murray, Briscoe; Mitchley, Medley (Higginson 15). Subs not used: Collett, Smith, Preece, Istead.
BATH: Robinson, Simpson, Jones, Connolly (Lennox 75), Phillips, Mackie (S. Murray 62), Canham (Canham 78), Burnell, Jomabti, Clough, Watkins. Subs not used: Henry, Webb.
REFEREE: Jez Simpson of Carnforth.
ATTENDANCE: 2,026 (59).
City's long-distance travellers succumb to Stags' second-half show [WITH AUDIO]
By neil rose, thisisbath.co.uk
MATCH REPORT: Mansfield Town 2 (Higginson 62, Nix 74) Bath City 0
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO ADIE BRITTON'S POST-MATCH COMMENTS
Bath City's proud record of not having lost back-to-back league games all season came to an end tonight when they succumbed to a strong second-half display from Mansfield Town.
The teams had been well matched during a goalless first half which had plenty of chances at both ends, including a goalline clearance to deny City skipper Gethin Jones.
However, Mansfield took control after the break and struck from two set pieces to condemn City's weary travellers to another defeat following last Saturday's 3-1 reverse at Darlington.
City boss Adie Britton made a couple of changes to the side which started that game, with captain Jones returning from a dead leg.
He replaced Jim Rollo at the back, while Leigh Henry - who started in a five-man defence on Saturday - dropped to the bench as Britton opted to include winger Hector Mackie in a 4-3-3 formation.
Not that the wide men were to shirk their defensive duties, though, as Marley Watkins demonstrated in the opening minute as he made a superb last-ditch interception to prevent Louis Briscoe tapping Luke Medley's low cross into an empty net.
Danny Mitchley then found space on the edge of the box but sliced his shot high and wide as FA Trophy finalists Mansfield made a confident start.
However, it was Mansfield's David Grof who had to make the first save of the match after Marc Canham's seventh-minute corner hit Charlie Clough and dropped perfectly for Joe Burnell, who was denied his first goal in City colours by the keeper's legs.
Following a lively opening, the game was held up for a couple of minutes while Sekani Simpson received treatment after being caught by a late challenge but the right-back was able to continue.
That was more than could be said for Medley in the 14th minute as he pulled up with a hamstring strain while trying to outpace Clough during a chase for a long ball. The Stags striker immediately signalled that he couldn't continue, although that didn't stop Briscoe attempting to play him through on goal again.
Medley was eventually replaced by Conor Higginson, whose first involvement was to test Clough's pace again following another ball over the top. However, the on-loan City defender was equal to the task once more and even earned his side a goal-kick with a perfectly-timed tackle.
Defensive partner Jones almost made a telling contribution at the other end in the 28th minute after nodding Canham's lofted free-kick across the six-yard box but Tom Naylor managed to beat Lee Phillips to the loose ball and cleared off the line.
Canham had picked out Jones superbly on that occasion but was guilty of overhitting a cross two minutes later with Phillips totally unmarked in the 18-yard box.
The game was now wide open, with Mansfield still looking threatening whenever they played a quick ball forward, and the home fans were in uproar when Ashley Cain tangled with Clough as he attempted to run through on goal. However, referee Jez Simpson said the Stags striker had not been impeded, probably because Cain didn't go down until the ball was in onrushing keeper Robinson's hands.
The Field Mill faithful were not impressed by that decision but they did produce a sporting murmur of appreciation for a wonderful curling shot from Adam Connolly which was just an inch away from giving City a half-time lead.
There was no change to the attacking approach in the second half, which began in frenetic style. Stags keeper David Grof had a lucky escape when he came out of his box to clear Jones' through-ball and mis-kicked under pressure from Phillips but he was able to scramble it clear at the second attempt.
At the other end, Sido Jombati did well to dispossess Cain as he lined up a shot, only to give the ball away himself as he attempted to dribble out of defence but Briscoe's strike missed the target.
Simpson and Clough also had to make timely interceptions, then Robinson just managed to get an important touch on a dangerous Briscoe cross to divert it behind as Mansfield began to crank up the pressure.
And it told from the resulting corner, with sub Higginson smashing the ball home from close range after his initial shot had been blocked on the line by Jombati.
Scott Murray came on for Mackie during the goal celebrations as City boss Britton made his first change but Mansfield were now on top and looked like adding to their lead every time they went forward.
So it was no surprise when the second goal duly arrived in the 74th minute. Jones was forced to make a desperate lunge on the edge of the box to halt a surging run from Higginson and the resulting free-kick was brilliantly rifled past the helpless Robinson by Kyle Nix.
Again the goal was the cue for a City change, with Joe Lennox coming on the quiet Connolly, and Canham was also replaced a couple of minutes later as Adie Harris came on for his first appearance in three months following a hamstring tear.
The two subs combined well in the 86th minute, with Lennox showing good energy and composure to win possession before teeing up Harris for a 20-yard shot which Grof held comfortably.
The keeper had to make better stops in injury-time to keep out Phillips' angled drive and a low Lennox shot but there was to be no consolation for the visitors, who will now have to lift themselves for another away match at Grimsby Town on Saturday.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Grof, Silk, Foster, Briscoe, Nix, Naylor, Stonehouse, Medley (Higginson 15), Cain, Murray, Mitchley. Subs not used: Collett, Smith, Preece, Istead.
BATH CITY: Robinson, Simpson, Jombati, Jones, Clough, Burnell, Canham (Harris 78), Connolly (Lennox 75), Watkins, Mackie (Murray 62), Phillips. Subs not used: Webb, Henry.
REFEREE: Jez Simpson.
ATTENDANCE: 2,026 (59 away fans).
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