DREADFUL STAGS KEEP CLEAN SHEET IN SCORELESS BORE
Blue Square Bet Premier
AFC Telford United 0 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 2,203 (474 from Mansfield)
Date: 19 November 2011
Martin Shaw at the Bucks Head
Mansfield Town and AFC Telford United were as bad as each other in a terrible game at the Bucks Head this afternoon. The Stags were very poor in the final third, creating almost nothing in the 90 minutes. The Stags were also guilty of giving the ball away needlessly on far too many occasions. Telford were just as bad though and I was astonished to hear one of the local media after the game say that this was a good Telford performance. I retorted that I wouldn't have liked to have seen a bad one. Telford did at least create the better chances and were unlucky when Richard Davies hit the bar in the first half. Davies had earlier missed a good chance firing wide from a good position, and Marriott had to make a fine block in the second half to deny Davies again. The only positive for the Stags was a good debut from John Thompson, plus that clean sheet which was Mansfield's first for 13 games. There was no lack of trying from Mansfield but there certainly was a lack of quality today.
Man of the Match: John Thompson
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match centre
AFC Telford 0 Mansfield Town 0, Saturday 19th November
chad.co.uk report by John Lomas
MANSFIELD Town had to be satisfied with a point on their return to league action following a two-week lay-off at struggling AFC Telford this afternoon.
An otherwise uneventful afternoon will be best remembered by a large away following for a sterling overdue debut from summer signing John Thompson.
But, despite good spells of possession in both halves, Mansfield lacked any cutting edge up front, home keeper Ryan Young enjoying a comfortable afternoon.
Indeed, the Bucks engineered the better chances with Richard Davies wondering how he didn't finish with a hat-trick, putting a great early chance wide, hitting the bar from distance and seeing Alan Marriot smother another effort.
But Thompson slotted in perfectly as the back four turned in a decent display on an afternoon when defences ended up on top.
JOHN Thompson made his long awaited Mansfield Town debut as the Stags returned to BSBP action after a two-week lay-off at AFC Telford this afternoon.
The former Irish international, who was Stags' star summer signing, has been working his way back to fitness since suffering horrendous facial injuries during the now notorious pre-season friendly at Ilkeston, which ended up being abandoned.
However, Thompson came through a full 90 minutes in a friendly at Eastwood Town on Monday and was declared fit and ready to fill the gap in the centre of defence vacated by Ben Futcher, who has returned to Bury at the end of his loan spell.
The Bucks' line-up included Ashley Cain, the young winger who left Field Mill in the summer.
Telford almost sneaked into a fourth minute lead when Farrell helped on a Salmon free-kick from the right which left Davies with sight of goal from 10 yards, only to bundle his finish wide.
Stags defended a home corner, then Sharp curled an attempt well over the far angle as Telford enjoyed the early edge.
It took 18 minutes for Stags to test home keeper Young, and that came from a ball in by Freeman that looked more of a cross than a genuine long range goal attempt.
Hegarty got in a glancing header from a Meikle right wing cross which lacked enough strength and direction to seriously test Young as we reached the 25 minute mark.
But on 28 minutes Howell allowed Davies to outmuscle him for the ball 40 yards from goal and Davies then ran on unchallenged to curl a fine effort against the crossbar, Sutton quickly heading the rebound for a corner for safety.
Two minutes later play swept up to the other end with O'Neill's dangerous cross half-cleared to Green who pulled a firm, low first time finish just wide.
Dyer, who had swapped with Meikle and was now up front, was too high with an off-balance header from a Freeman cross as Mansfield finally began to knock the ball around with some purpose.
Davies was booked for going in hard with foot up on Meikle six minutes from the break.
Three minutes later Newton was also shown the yellow card as he left a foot in to take out O'Neill after the full back had sent over a right wing cross.
The half ended with a 25 yard blast from O'Neill straight at Young as the sides went in goalless.
Connor replaced the disappointing Hegarty for the second half, Dyer dropping back to right wing.
But it was the Bucks who produced the first threat as Farrell had a 12 yard blast deflect wide for a corner from which he headed wide.
Dyer then slipped a great ball through for Green to chase only to see Young get down well as the forward, under pressure from a defender tried to flick the ball past the keeper.
Mansfield again began to construct a lengthy spell of possession with Green looking a handful.
He burst into the box after a great run down the right only to see his final ball cleared, then he had a shot charged down and soon after flicked a header over the bar from a Meikle cross.
Jones replaced Farrell and with his first touch forced Marriott to his right to keep out a 20 yard attempt.
Two more home corners followed, the second seeing Newton crash a rising drive over the top.
Davies once more came close on 67 minutes as he beat Howell to a Smith free-kick inside the box only to see Marriott quickly out to smother his attempted finish.
The game was then held up for a change of linesman after one of them appeared to pull a muscle.
In Telford's next raid Jones lifted the ball into Marriott's arms when trying to hoist it over him while sandwiched between two defenders.
Murray was booked for bringing down Davies just outside the box, giving Telford an inviting free-kick, the wall doing its job to thwart Davies.
That was Davies' final chance as he made way for Adams, making his 200th appearance for the Bucks for the final five minutes.
There were five minutes also added on at the end, but, although Murray and Meikle had shots blocked, there was no be no late twist as the sides shared the spoils.
AFC TELFORD: Young; Salmon, Whitehead, Killock, Valentine; Newton, Smith, Davies (Adams 85), Cain; Farrell (Jones 61), Sharp (90). Subs: Preston, Robinson.
STAGS: Marriott; O'Neill, Thompson, Sutton, Freeman; Dyer, Murray, Howell, Hegarty (Connor HT); Meikle, Green. Subs: Redmond, Day, Bolland, Moult.
REFEREE: Darren Bond of Lancashire.
CAUTIONS: AFC Telford – Valentine 39, Newton 42, Davies 51. Stags – Murray 78
Full-time: Telford 0 Mansfield 0
Nottingham Post report by Matt Halfpenny
MANSFIELD Town fought hard to keep their first clean sheet in 13 games and claim a point from a goal-less stalemate at AFC Telford United this afternoon.
In a game of few clear-cut openings, Richard Davies went closest to breaking the deadlock when his first half effort struck the woodwork.
For their part, the Stags looked lively on the counter at times, but ultimately lacked a cutting edge to truly test home keeper Ryan Young.
The most pleasing part of the day for the visitors was that summer signing John Thompson came through his first competitive game unscathed since suffering a horrific facial injury in pre-season at Ilkeston.
Telford should have gone in front in the fourth minute when Will Salmon's free-kick was touched on by Craig Farrell for Richard Davies, who somehow blazed wide from 12 yards out.
The home side were less close when Chris Sharp picked up the ball on the left-hand corner of the box only to curl well off target.
Mansfield were struggling to retain possession but a quick thrown from Matt Green allowed Kieron Freeman to whip in a cross that Ryan Young got to first.
Mansfield best move of the match just past the midway point of the half saw Adam Murray release Green down the left, who fed Lindon Meikle.
His cross towards the penalty spot was met by the head of Nick Hegarty whose header had good direction but lacked the power to trouble Young.
Davies was within inches of giving Andy Sinton's men the lead when he dispossessed Anthony Howell in midfield and ran on before unleashing a 20-yard drive that cannoned back off the bar with Alan Marriott beaten. Ritchie Sutton cleared the rebound.
Mansfield almost responded by going in front themselves. Hegarty released Luke O'Neill down the right whose cross was only cleared as far as Green and he blazed wide when he should have at least tested Young.
The visitors' next attack saw Freeman centre from the left for Ross Dyer but his header dropped well wide of the left-hand upright.
Young was relieved soon after when he dropped O'Neill's first Mansfield corner and Green prodded home but the referee pulled play back for a foul on the keeper.
In first half stoppage time, Murray squared for O'Neill to hit one and he didn't disappoint, although Young was always behind the right-back's effort.
Mansfield made a change at half-time with Paul Connor introduced at the expense of Hegarty, meaning Meikle switched to the left.
But Telford started the half better as Craig Farrell worked space in the box but his shot was deflected wide for a corner, which came to nothing.
At the other end, Young did well to thwart Green, diving at the striker's feet as he attempted to latch onto Ross Dyer's through ball.
As Mansfield enjoyed a good spell of pressure on the hour, Meikle crossed from the left for Green whose glancing header cleared the bar.
Telford brought on Stephen Jones, a new signing from Motherwell, and immediately he took advantage of a slip from O'Neill to get in a shot that Marriott fielded down to his right.
As the home side pushed forward again, a half-cleared corner was blasted over the top by Newton from 20 yards out.
Marriott made a fantastic save in the 67th minute to maintain the parity as Davies got the wrong side of the Mansfield defence, the keeper racing off his line to make a block at close range.
A good flick on by Connor from Marriott's clearance gave Green space to run at Telford but his attempted drive was well charged down.
Dyer then had the opportunity to put Meikle into space on the left, only to over-hit his pass badly.
In five minutes of added on time, Mansfield pressed for a winner but both Murray and Meikle had threatening strikes blocked.
AFC Telford: Young, Salmon, Whitehead, Killock, Valentine, Cain, Davies (Adams 85), Smith, Newton, Sharp (King 90), Farrell (Jones 61). Subs not used: Preston, Robinson.
Mansfield: Marriott, O'Neill, Sutton, Thompson, Freeman, Dyer, Howell, Murray, Hegarty (Connor 46), Meikle, Green. Subs not used: Redmond, Day, Moult, Bolland.
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire).
Thompson gives toothless Stags something to smile about
Nottingham Post considered report by Matt Halfpenny
IT'S no exaggeration to say it was an excellent, assured and confidence-inspiring performance in Shropshire that bodes well for the rest of the season. From John Thompson, that is, not Mansfield Town.
All who made the trip to were in no doubt that the Stags were far from their best, never clicking into top gear against a side so woefully out of form they had lost five and drawn two of their previous seven matches.
It was a display that disappointed fans and manager Paul Cox too, who felt his charges had flattered to deceive in the attacking third.
The verdict on Thompson's competitive debut in the amber and blue of Mansfield, however, could hardly have been of greater contrast.
When the 30-year-old former Championship player arrived at Field Mill from Notts County in the summer, his capture was seen as a real coup.
And after just a handful of friendly matches to get up to speed, the fit-again former Republic of Ireland international showed exactly why his signature was so coveted.
Thompson, of course, has missed the first three months of the season after suffering a horrific facial injury in a pre-season friendly at Ilkeston FC in early August.
Chasing a ball out towards the touchline, he was pushed into the railings that surrounded the New Manor Ground pitch by Robins striker Gary Ricketts, leaving him with a broken nose and needing more than 40 stitches.
It's been a long, hard road back since then for the former Nottingham Forest player, who still lives in the city where he broke through as a trainee.
But, on Saturday, you would not have known it.
So classy was Thompson, it looked as if he had been marshalling the side all season, rather than sat in the stands or, in the early stages of his comeback, on his settee at home, only able to drink through a straw.
First and foremost he passed the test of physical confrontation, winning his headers and tackles with authority, which was an examination of his mental strength as much as anything else.
He brought a positional awareness and reading of the game, together with organisational skills, that benefited the rest of the back four, young Forest loanee Kieron Freeman in particular.
And in possession, Thompson was calm and unflustered, being able to pick out the simple pass as well as spraying the ball 30 or 40 yards to unmarked team-mates on the wing from time to time.
It meant that though boss Cox has been frustrated in his attempts to bring in a new central defender following Ben Futcher's return to Bury, it must have felt like he had made a new signing anyway.
The fact Thompson's comeback coincided with a first clean sheet in 13 games – since the 5-0 victory over Newport in early September – means the shut-out will inevitably, in some circles, be entirely attributed to his presence.
But the truth was that all the Mansfield defence had a decent day at the office, with Freeman once again highlighting his promise in the left back slot by keeping former Stag Ashley Cain quiet on his Telford debut.
It was at the other end of the park where Mansfield's problems arose as Thompson's inclusion for Futcher was the only change in personnel made from the team that had lost two weeks previously to Cambridge United.
Lindon Meikle was deployed up front in a 4-4-2 formation alongside Matt Green, with Ross Dyer switching to the wing.
But it quickly became apparent that was not going to work and the move was reversed after about 15 minutes.
Even with Dyer and, in the second period, Paul Connor as targets to aim at, Mansfield barely fashioned a serious chance all afternoon.
If the Stags could insist they felt largely comfortable at the back, then so too could Telford.
It is a problem that needs to be rectified quickly if the team are to get their play-off hopes back on track because there will be plenty of opponents just as tenacious, if not more so, than the Bucks.
Ironically, considering goalmouth action was at a premium, Telford's Davies could have had a hat-trick.
The midfielder was guilty of blazing wide in only the fourth minute when Craig Farrell had flicked on Will Salmon's free-kick.
He was unfortunate later in the half when he robbed Anthony Howell and fired against the bar with Marriott beaten.
And he was left holding his head in his hands midway through the second half when Alan Marriott's block after racing off his line denied the home player a winner.
The closest Mansfield went was in the first 45 when Luke O'Neill's right-wing centre was cleared only as far as Green and he crashed wide of the left-hand post when he should have at least forced Ryan Young into a save.
The visitors' main problem was that their decision making in possession let them down time and again at the vital moment.
Just when it seemed a shot, the opportunity to whip in a dangerous cross, or the chance to spilt open the defence with an incisive pass was on, the execution was just not there.
Still, the point was enough to lift Mansfield a place in the table to ninth as a host of other sides around them failed to win too.
Five points off the play-offs with a game in hand, a victory at bottom club Bath this Saturday and some of the conviction that Thompson displayed on his return might suddenly begin to rub off on the rest of his team-mates
Stags need more punch in final third
Stags fan's view
IT'S been a few weeks since we've seen our beloved Stags in action and even longer since we've had a league game away from Field Mill…
Overcast skies greeted the big travelling contingent upon their arrival in Shropshire, even if the gloom was punctuated by the boots worn by ex-Stag Ashley Cain!
The game itself must be one the least memorable of the season. Neither goalkeeper had anything spectacular to do, if anything at all.
The Stags created nothing going forward and lack the penetration to break down opposition defences.
Even after a better performance in the second half, I cannot remember us testing the keeper.
Perhaps the return of Louis Briscoe is what we need to give opposing teams something else to focus on. I'm sure its as frustrating for Paul Cox as it is for us watching - I have faith that they will get it right.
The highlight of the game though was the debut of John Thompson after the horrific facial injury that he sustained in pre-season.
He bought organisation and a calmness to the Stags rearguard that has been missing. He was man of the match and was unflustered and untroubled by whatever Telford could muster.
Lets hope his Stags career is finally up and running and we can get the settled defence we have been missing. It was a resolute and disciplined away point coupled with a much needed clean sheet… but the feeling afterwards was that we should be coming away from these sort of games with a little more.
Match Report: Bucks 0-0 Mansfield Town
Match Report by Steve Humbles
A week on from the Chelmsford debacle, AFC Telford United produced a much-improved performance in taking a point against Mansfield Town at the New Bucks Head.
Boss Andy Sinton rang the changes for this visit from the Stags following last week's horror show, with new signings Jay Smith and Ashley Cain given immediate debuts and the experienced pair of Stuart Whitehead and Ryan Valentine drafted in. Sinton also took the opportunity to tinker with his formation by starting Valentine at left-back and pushing Sean Newton forward into a left midfield role.
Telford's bright start certainly belied their recent form and the Bucks should have taken the lead on 4 minutes. Will Salmon delivered a free-kick into the box and Craig Farrell's delightful flick teed up Richard Davies who shot just wide from ten yards. Telford continued to play at a fast tempo though and Newton – revelling in his more advanced position – played a neat pass inside to Sharp who curled over on 10 minutes as the hosts made much of the early running.
Mansfield's first half-chance came on 25 minutes when Nick Hegarty's header from Lindon Meikle's cross was easily gathered by Ryan Young but Telford came desperately close again to what would have been a deserved goal on 28 minutes. The Bucks broke forward three-on-three after Davies acquired possession in midfield. The midfielder advanced on goal before producing a dipping 25-yard shot which had Alan Marriott beaten, only for the ball to rebound agonisingly back into play off the crossbar.
Buoyed by their two lucky escapes at Davies' expense, Mansfield then started to exert a bit more pressure and Matt Green might have done better when he dragged a shot wide on the half-hour. The Stags certainly enjoyed much more territory in the Bucks' defensive third in the closing stages of the half and Luke O'Neill's fierce drive was well-saved by Young in first-half stoppage time, but it was Telford who could feel hard done by not to be ahead as the two sides trudged off at the interval.
Telford were straight onto the attack at the start of the second-half with Craig Farrell's shot being deflected out for a corner off John Thompson after Valentine picked out the striker in the penalty area. Mansfield threatened next though as both sides traded early chances. Former Hednesford man Ross Dyer engineered the opening as the visitors broke forward at pace. Dyer's pass released Green but the striker was denied by smart work from Young who raced off his line to smother at Green's feet.
Sinton introduced another debutant just after the hour by bringing on the experienced Steve Jones and he nearly made immediate impact, forcing Marriott into a diving stop with his first touch. Sean Newton's rising drive then cleared the crossbar after a good period of Telford pressure and Davies was then denied the opening goal for a third time on 67 minutes, Marriott making a superb block to deny the midfielder after he had burst onto Chris Sharp's flick.
There was brief hold-up to the action as one of the linesmen was forced off injured to be replaced by the fourth official but when play resumed it was Telford who continued to press forward in search of the crucial goal. Adam Murray was booked for fouling Davies on the edge of the area on 78 minutes and Sharp's resulting free-kick struck the defensive wall before Sinton made his second change of the afternoon, Jon Adams coming on to make his 200th appearance for the club in place of Davies.
In the end Telford couldn't force the winner that this spirited performance deserved, but Sinton will have been delighted with the response of his players to last week's crushing blow.
1. Ryan Young, 2. Will Salmon, 3. Sean Newton, 5. Stuart Whitehead, 6. Shane Killock (c), 19. Craig Farrell, 20. Richard Davies, 23. Ryan Valentine, 25. Chris Sharp, 27. Jay Smith, 28. Ashley Cain.
Substitutes: 11. Jon Adams (for Davies, 85 minutes), 16. Daniel Preston, 17. Craig King (for Sharp, 90 minutes), 29. Stephen Jones (for Farrell, 61 minutes), 32. Ryan Robinson (GK).
Mansfield Town Line-up:
1. Alan Marriott, 5. John Thompson, 10. Matt Green, 11. Adam Murray, 15. Ross Dyer, 16. Luke O'Neill, 17. Ritchie Sutton, 21. Anthony Howell, 24. Lindon Meikle, 29. Nick Hegarty, 30. Keiron Freeman.
Substitutes: 23. Shane Redmond (GK), 9. Paul Connor (for Hegarty, 46 minutes), 22. Rhys Day, 27. Louis Moult, 14. Paul Bolland.
Referee: Mr Darren Bond (Lancashire).
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