UNBELIEVABLE MARRIOTT GOAL SEALS COMFORTABLE WIN
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 2 - 0 Wrexham
Howell 13, Marriott 61
Attendance: 3665 (184 from Wrexham)
Date: 20 April 2012
Mansfield Town's remarkable run of good form continued with another thoroughly convincing victory, this time against second placed Wrexham, on Friday night, in front of the TV cameras at the One Call Stadium. The Stags have have now won 15 out of the last 19 games. The game will be remembered for Alan Marriott scoring with a kick from his hands from his own penalty area. The ball bounced on the edge of the D and bounced over hapless Wrexham keeper. Earlier Anthony Howell scored in the first half with a header from an Exodus Geohaghon long throw. The Stags were dominant throughout, always first to the loose ball, and finished with as comfortable a 2-0 win as you will ever see. Marriott had only two saves to make in the entire game, and both were fairly straightforward. Good performances throughout the side for the Stags, who rested Matt Green and Gary Roberts.
Man of the match: Lindon Meikle
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre
Stags book third place with Wrexham win
Andrew Webb reports from One Call Stadium
Alan Marriott proved to be the unlikely hero as magnificent Mansfield Town consolidated their place in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off positions.
The Stags, who will now finish in third place irrespective of results on the final day of the campaign, led after 13 minutes when Anthony Howell headed in Exodus Geohaghon's long throw.
However, the game's major talking point came on the hour mark when Marriott, who kept his 14th clean sheet of the season at one end of the field, sensationally scored at the other.
As a result, the Stags will now have home advantage in the second leg of the play-offs on Monday 7th May.
Before the game, manager Paul Cox announced two changes to the team that were comfortable winners at Hayes & Yeading United last weekend.
Lee Stevenson was given his first start in over four months in favour of talisman Matt Green, whilst Adam Murray replaced Gary Roberts in the centre of midfield.
On a wet and windy night in Nottinghamshire, the Stags were awarded a free-kick in the opening minute when Mark Creighton clattered into Stevenson. However, Luke O'Neill failed to trouble Wrexham keeper Joslain Mayebi with a tame set-piece delivery.
The visitors then survived a long throw from Geohaghon, before Mayebi's long punt downfield almost set Rob Ogleby free on goal.
With 13 minutes on the clock the Stags deservedly took the lead when Geohaghon's torpedo-like throw from the left was met in the six-yard box by Howell, who guided his header away from Mayebi and into the back of the net.
Ross Dyer could have soon doubled the lead, but under pressure from Creighton as the pair advanced into the area, the Stags striker could only find the side netting with a powerful left-foot shot.
Wrexham soon enjoyed a couple of chances of their own as Jake Speight fired wide from distance, before Marriott was called into action when Jay Harris hit a dipping volley towards goal in what ultimately proved to be the visitors only attempt on-target during the first 45 minutes.
Continuous rain throughout the half ensured that chances were at a premium for both teams, though the Stags were at least enjoying the majority of possession.
On 33 minutes, Howell collected a yellow card for failing to give the ball back to the opposition after he was judged to have handled in the middle of the park.
As the crowd roared their disapproval at the decision, the Stags suddenly sprang into action as the game meandered towards half-time.
Some brilliant work between Lindon Meikle and Ritchie Sutton on the left flank saw the latter of the two cut into the area and force Mayebi into action, before Meikle enjoyed a chance of his own.
The former Eastwood Town man danced his way past several Wrexham defenders, before eventually shooting just inches wide of Mayebi's left-hand post with an effort from the cusp of the area.
Comfortably in control of the game at this point, Dyer was the next Stags player to try his luck as he powerfully hammered a speculative shot towards goal from an acute angle, which Mayebi could only parry straight into the path of Murray. However, the Stags skipper lacked accuracy with his follow up as the Dragons continued to live dangerously.
Only moments later, Dyer went to ground in the box under a challenge from Creighton following a long ball over the top, which resulted in referee Richard Clark sounding his whistle.
Just as it appeared as though the official was about to point to the spot, he instead flashed a yellow card in the direction of Dyer and awarded Wrexham a free-kick.
The Stags conjured up one final chance before the break. Geohaghon's long throw from the left found Dyer with his back to goal, yet the striker still managed to loop a header towards the target, which fell only inches the wrong side of Mayebi's post.
After the break, O'Neill showed much thoroughly epitomised the Stags efforts when he brilliantly won possession back from Nat Knight-Percival and rifled an attempted shot into the side-netting from close range.
Buoyed by a noisy home crowd, Mansfield continued to press forward at every opportunity. An under the cosh Wrexham had already defended yet another long throw from Geohaghon, before Mayebi had to sprawl across his goal to prevent Stevenson from doubling the lead on 56 minutes.
Dyer flicked a long clearance from Marriott straight into the arms of Mayebi on the hour mark, before the Stags keeper was called into action two minutes later when he was equal to an effort from Harris.
Sensationally, it was Marriott that then doubled Mansfield's advantage.
In the most bizarre of circumstances, the Stags shot-stopper kicked a routine ball downfield that bounced only once, approximately 25-yards from goal, and sailed high over the helpless Mayebi into an empty net.
The goal prompted fantastic scenes as the entire team rushed back into their own half to congratulate Marriott on what was the first goal of his 14-year career.
Wrexham, visibly shell-shocked at falling further behind, were penned back for much of the remainder of the game and had little answer to Mansfield's superiority.
Adrian Cieslewicz and player-boss Andy Morrell replaced Danny Wright and Speight respectively as the Welsh side searched for a route back into the game.
The Stags had the ball in the net for the third time on 83 minutes when Meikle's floated delivery from the left was knocked into the net by Stevenson, but his goal was ruled out as he was judged to have strayed into an offside position.
Mayebi had one more nervous moment before the final whistle when he fumbled a cross from O'Neill, which nearly resulted in substitute Matt Rhead pouncing for a third goal.
Rhead then stabbed the ball wide of the target from close range in the final minute of normal time, as the Stags more than held on to comfortably record their 14th home win of the season.
Attendance: 3,665 (184 away supporters).
Mansfield Town 2 Wrexham 0 - 20th April 2012
CHAD report by Stephen Thirkill
Mansfield Town will have home advantage in the second-leg of the play-offs after their hugely impressive 2-0 win against Wrexham tonight (Friday) secured third spot in the Blue Square Premier.
A headed strike from goal-getting midfielder Anthony Howell on 13 minutes and the most unlikely of goals from goalkeeper Alan Marriott on 61 minutes wrapped up all three points to secure the coveted third place in what could be an eventual dress rehearsal for next month's Wembley play-off final.
In truth rampant Mansfield, who rested top scorer Matt Green, should have had more goals during a first half in which they put the faltering Welsh outfit to the sword.
The ever-dangerous Lindon Meikle caused constant threat down the left wing with his pace and trickery and was unlucky not to find the back of the net during an energetic and incisive first 45 minutes.
Sutton and Dyer also came close to stretching the Mansfied lead as Stags produced a classy display of attacking football, which combined a dogged work-rate with creativity in forward areas.
Mansfield, who have now clocked up 47 points from the last 63 on offer, continued in a similar vein during the second half to outclass Andy Morrell's struggling side as they continued to pour forward with numbers and confidence.
Recalled Lee Stevenson, Briscoe and O'Neill all saw efforts saved by Mayebi as Mansfield asserted their dominance to the final whistle with a performance that will no doubt have impressed the watching TV viewers.
The second-placed Dragons simply had no answer to Mansfield's superior workrate and desire and were left relying on long-distance pot-shots to try and breakdown the always solid Mansfield defence.
The convincing result sends out a strong message to Stag's promotion rivals and must leave Mansfield Town as the clear favourites to clinch a long-awaited return back to the Football League.
Boss Paul Cox made just one change as he gave top scorer Matt Green a well deserved rest with Lee Stevenson stepping into the starting line-up.
Stags, protecting an unbeaten home record stretching back to 5th November, knew that a draw would be enough to secure third spot and home advantage in the second-leg of the play-offs.
Wrexham, without a win in their last four, included former Stag striker Jake Speight in their line-up, which featured four changes.
And, after a cagey start, it was Stags who hit the front on 13 minutes when a trademark long throw by Exodus Geohaghon caused all sorts of bother allowing Anthony Howell to nod home from six yards.
A minute later a raiding run down the left flank by Meikle nearly doubled Mansfield's lead. But the tricky winger could only find the side netting with a powerful drive as he cut with purpose into the Wrexham box.
Former Stag striker Jake Speight nearly levelled the game on 16 minutes when he burst down the left flank as the home side got caught on the break
Speight, The Dragons top scorer, showed a superb turn of pace to cut inside O'Neill and Riley before firing high into the Quarry Lane end.
Following another quiet spell, Briscoe fired a warning shot on 29 minutes from all of 30 yards after pouncing on a loose clearance from a whipped in O'Neill corner.
Defender Ritchie Sutton then blew a decent chance to put Stags two up on 35 minutes when he combined well with Meikle inside the Wrexham box.
Sutton cut inside Wrexham full-back Stephen Wright but failed to connect with his shot as he tamely fired low into the waiting hands of Mayebi
The increasingly influential Meikle was a whisker away from double Mansfield's deserved lead when he picked up a loose ball in midfield and beat two men with his pace and trickery.
Meikle made his way just inside the penalty area before curling a right-footed effort just inches wide of Mayebi's left upright as Paul Cox's men began to put second-placed Wrexham under growing pressure.
Ross Dyer brought the best out of the Wrexham shot-stopper on 41 minutes as the shots reigned in on the visiting goal.
Meikle again came close to finding the back of the net when he cut inside and beat two defenders before seeing his thunderous effort charged down by Creighton as Stags became increasingly dominant.
There was a moment of controversy on 44 minutes when Dyer went down in the box following a challenge from Creighton after he had got goal-side of the Wrexham defence.
But with Stags fans expecting a penalty and a possible red-card, referee Richard Clark pulled out a yellow card after Dyer was adjudged to have dived, leaving Wrexham to survive a torrid first half at just one goal down.
Stags come out with a clear intent at the start of the second half and continued to put faltering Wrexham on the back foot.
Wrexham registered their first shot on goal of the game when Joe Clarke fired a shot down the throat of Marriott from the left angle of the box on 50 minutes.
But it was a rare foray at the Stags goal as the home side continued to look the most likely to find the next decisive strike.
Stevenson showed some neat footwork on the increasingly heavy pitch to get through a tangle of players and test Mayebi from distance on 54 minutes.
Jay Harris tried his luck for the visitors on the hour mark from distance as lacklustre Wrexham were left to long-range pot shots.
A minute later it was game over as a contest when goalkeeper Alan Marriott scored one of the most unlikely goals of the season when a long range clearance bounced high over the head of Mayebi to leave the Wrexham goalkeeper red-faced.
Mayebi had to be at his best on 74 minutes when he raced out of his box to dive at the feet of Briscoe and clear the ball with his legs to safety.
Stevenson should have made it 3-0 with one minute to when the ball fell invitingly to him 10 yards out after Wrexham had made a hash of clearing an O'Neill cross.
But Stevenson failed to add the icing on the Mansfield cake as he poorly scuffed wide with the goal begging.
Wrexham survived without any further scares as Mansfield comfortably held on to claim a fully-deserved three points.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott, Riley, Briscoe (Rhead 81 mins), Stevenson, Murray, Dyer, O'Neill, Sutton, Howell (Andrew 87 mins), Meikle, Geohaghon. Subs not used: Redmond, Hutchinson, Roberts.
WREXHAM: Mayebi, Ashton, Creighton, Harris, Wright (Cieslewicz 68 mins), Speight (Morrell 77 mins), Keates, Knight-Percival, Clarke, Ogleby, Wright. Subs not used: Maxwell, Westwood, Leslie.
ATTENDANCE: 3,665 (184 away).
REFEREE: Richard Clark of Northumberland.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Lindon Meikle.
BOOKINGS: Mansfield – Howell 33 mins (unsporting behaviour), Dyer 44 mins (Diving). Wrexham – Harriss 64 mins (foul), Ashton 90 mins (foul).
Match report: Stags 2, Wrexham 0
Nottingham Post report
IT WAS a night that will be remembered for one thing – Mansfield Town goalkeeper Alan Marriott scoring with a punt downfield from his own box.
And his 61st-minute goal, catching fellow stopper Joslain Mayebi out of position in the Wrexham goal as it bounced over him and into the net, put Mansfield 2-0 up and secured not only victory but third spot in the table.
It was a bizarre, yet incredible moment and helped the Stags make it 11 wins from their last 13 games, as they beat their second-placed opponents last night.
The match could prove to be a dress rehearsal for Wembley with Mansfield and Wrexham on course to meet in the play-off final.
If both clubs win their semi-final two-legged ties, they will come together for a showdown under the famous arch in north London on Sunday, May 20, for a place back in the Football League.
So, with their play-off spot already assured and this being the penultimate game of the regular season, Stags boss Paul Cox could have been forgiven for resting players.
Instead, he made just one change with Lee Stevenson coming in for top scorer Matt Green, who was left out of the starting line-up for the first time in the league this season.
The break will do the 29-goal striker no harm and it is vital he is fit for the play-offs. His importance was emphasised when he was named Mansfield's player of the season before kick-off.
After a forgetful opening, the game came to life in the 13th minute as the Stags took the lead.
Exodus Geohaghon launched a trademark long throw into the area from the right and Anthony Howell, just outside the six-yard box, headed beyond Mayebi.
Jake Speight, the ex-Stag, then burst down the left flank to cut inside but his drilled effort rose over the bar from the edge of the box.
Louis Briscoe hit one wide and then another softly at the goalkeeper before Lindon Meikle ran at the Wrexham defence, curling a shot from 20 yards beyond the keeper but inches wide of the far post.
Shortly before half-time Ross Dyer was played in behind the last man and shaped to shoot from near the penalty spot when he went down under what looked like a tug from Mark Creighton. The referee blew, only to penalise the Stags striker, booking him for diving.
Stags started strongly in the second half and Stevenson sent Mayebi sprawling to his left to save a 20-yard effort that was fizzing off the wet surface.
Jay Harris tried his luck from distance for the visitors but it was straight at Marriott and from it came that incredible goal. Marriott thumped it down field, out of his hands and when it landed outside the Wrexham box, Mayebi was all at sea and it bounced over him and into the back of the net sending the home supporters into a frenzy.
It turned the next 15 minutes into somewhat of a carnival atmosphere, Marriott cheekily being urged to shoot by the crowd at every opportunity.
In the last minute, substitute Matt Rhead saw a shot blocked and then fired the rebound wide of the far post from ten yards out.
Mansfield comfortably saw out the match, keeping a clean sheet in the process as they continued to build that all-important momentum going into the play-offs.
Mansfield: Marriott, O'Neill, Riley, Geohaghon, Sutton, Briscoe (Rhead, 82), Howell (Andrew, 88), Murray, Meikle, Stevenson, Dyer. Subs: Redmond, Hutchinson, Roberts.
Wrexham: Mayebi, Ashton, Creighton, Harris, D Wright (Cieslewicz, 68), Speight (Morrell, 76), Keates, Knight-Percival, Clarke, Ogleby, S Wright. Subs: Maxwell, Westwood, Leslie.
Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance: 3,665 (184 visitors
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