STAGS BEATEN TO ALMOST KILL OFF PLAY-OFF HOPES
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town 0 - 1 Portsmouth
Attendance: 6819 (1459 from Portsmouth)
Date: 29 April 2017
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Mansfield Town were beaten 1-0 at home by Portsmouth to almost kill off the Stags’ hopes of reaching the play-offs. In a fantastic atmosphere created by the largest crowd for a Football League game since 2004, the first half was very even. Mansfield could have been ahead after 4 minutes when Lee Collins crossed and Rhys Bennett was unable to turn the ball home from 3 yards. Portsmouth’s best chance of the first half came when Kal Naismith fired towards the top right corner and Jake Kean pushed the shot wide. But the game exploded to life with controversy on 48 minutes. Portsmouth’s midfielder Danny Rose played the ball back to Matt Clarke, Mansfield’s Danny Rose nicked the ball off him and was clean through on goal for a 1-on-1 with the keeper and no other defenders anywhere near. Clarke deliberately pulled Rose down just outside the D. It was the clearest of goalscoring opportunities, no defenders could have got back, and the simplest red card decision you could imagine. But inexplicably referee Lee Swabey only brandished a yellow card to the disbelief of the entire stadium. Paul Cook, Portsmouth manager, told the press after the game “He’s got to go! You can sit on the fence all you want, but it was a poor decision by the referee. I’d love to know what he was thinking, but we’re obviously delighted that he only showed the yellow card!” Mansfield were incensed and then had the ball in the net on 51 minutes but Rhys Bennett was offside. Then in a cruel blow, Portsmouth took the lead on 56 minutes as Carl Baker turned and shot in the area and the shot deflected off a Pompey player (Conor Chaplin) and over Jake Kean into the net. But Mansfield then laid siege on the Portsmouth for the next half an hour with some fine football but unable to convert the chances created. Alex MacDonald headed wide at the far post, then his low shot was saved by the keeper, Mal Benning fired just over the bar, Ben Whiteman fired in a great shot that the keeper palmed away, then Shaq Coulthirst made a great turn inside the area but fired over the bar, and the best chance fell to Matt Green who was through 1-on-1 with the keeper but lifted his shot over the keeper and over the bar. Portsmouth held on for the victory which Paul Cook admitted was fortunate. Mansfield played really well in the second half, with the players giving absolutely everything and deserving the cracking reception they got from the fans at full time, who appreciated the effort. The Stags should have been playing against ten men for more than 40 minutes but it wasn’t to be, and we also have to acknowledge that Mansfield’s finishing wasn’t good enough.
Mansfield are two points outside the play-offs and still have a slim chance of reaching the play-offs.
The following sequence of results would see Mansfield reach the play-offs:
Mansfield win at Crawley
and 4 of the 5 following results:
Blackpool lose at home to Leyton Orient
Carlisle lose at Exeter
Stevenage lose at home to Accrington
Wycombe draw with Cambridge
Colchester lose or draw at home to Yeovil.
So, barring a remarkable set of results, we will just miss out on the play-offs. It was a tremendous coup by John and Carolyn Radford bringing Steve Evans to the club in November. It’s been a very enjoyable second half of the season.
Since the end of December and the opening of the transfer window, Mansfield have taken 38 points from 22 games, which averaged over a season is 79.5 points which is not far off automatic promotion form. Steve Evans has so far just had one January transfer window to improve the squad. We would expect that with his track record, he will further improve the quality of the squad over the summer, and we expect an exciting season next season.
However before that, on to Crawley and while there’s a small chance, we can keep hoping.
There was a fantastic atmosphere with a tremendous crowd of 6819. This was the biggest crowd at the One Call Stadium since we returned to the Football League in 2013. The biggest crowd for any game since the Liverpool FA Cup game in January 2013 (7574), the biggest crowd for a non-FACup game since the play-off semi-final against York in May 2012 (7295), the biggest crowd for a league (Conference or Football League) game since the Gateshead pay-what-you-want game in February 2010 (7261), and the biggest crowd for a Football League game since a 3-1 win against Notts County in October 2004 (7682).
Mansfield made one change to the side that won at Stevenage. Lee Collins came in for George Taft. Evans explained that Taft had been slightly fatigued when he came off at Stevenage, and he had not recovered sufficiently during training in the week. There was a change in formation with Collins sitting just in front of the back four in a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Whiteman starting in right midfield and MacDonald on the left.
Portsmouth arrived having already secured promotion but still with a chance of sneaking the title from Doncaster and Plymouth. Mansfield hadn’t beaten Portsmouth in the 7 games in the past 4 seasons since returning to the league (5 draws and 2 Pompey wins).
Mansfield Town secretary Keith Burnard is retiring in June, and he was given the honour of leading the teams out in his last home league game.
And at half time, the Stags youth team were paraded to the crowd to celebrate their league title, a tremendous achievement. Congratulations to the team and all the management.
Young Cameron Healey was awarded the Jack Retter youth team player of the year award, presented by Paul Taylor. Incidentally, there were no first team player of the season awards presented today, I think because there was so much at stake in the game, and they didn’t want any distractions.
FULL REPORT IN THE MATCH CENTRE
MATCH REPORT: Mansfield Town 0 Portsmouth 1
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Saturday 29 April 2017
Mansfield Town will go into the last weekend of the season relying on other results to give them any chance of the play-offs after a 1-0 home defeat by title-chasing Portsmouth at One Call Stadium this afternoon. Carl Baker’s goal on 57 minutes proved the difference in a tight, tense battle which contained much endeavour but little pretty football. The Stags will feel hard done to after referee Lee Swabey decided to only book Matt Clarke when he was last man and rugby tackled Danny Rose when in on goal on 48 minutes. It looked for all the world like a red card and proved a crucial moment. Rhys Bennett also had a goal disallowed for offside on 51 minutes before Baker’s breakthrough goal. After that the home side pushed forward relentlessly and man of the match Alex MacDonald missed a great headed chance on 63 minutes. But Stags knew it wasn’t to be their day when sub Matt Green went clean through only to lob his finish over the bar with 10 minutes to go. The home side had dominated the first half but rarly troubled the keeper and the visitors only woke up on 33 minutes with the first of their three first half attempts. The defeat left Stags in 12th, two points off the play-offs but reliant on several other clubs slipping up while Pompey are two points off the top with one to go. Mansfield made one change with Lee Collins replacing George Taft. Portsmouth made three changes with Chaplin, Rose and Burgess all starting. In a tense opening Mansfield almost went ahead in the fourth minute from a Byrom free kick. It found Collins to the left of goal who poked it across firmly to the near post where it seemed to strike Bennett and fly straight to the keeper from close range. Rose then sent a tame, low drive straight to Forde from 18 yards from a quickly taken free kick while MacDonald sent another free kick well over as the home side applied the early pressure. Baker saw the game’s first yellow card for his arguments over a throw-in on 11 minutes. Kean was a spectator for much of the first 25 minutes, but Pompey defended well against the home side’s enthusiastic attacking. White went into the book for a foul on 28 minutes. On 34 minutes Whiteman sent Coulthirst skipping into the box on the right where he beat the advancing keeper to the ball but was too wide to be able to control and the ball went out of play. On 35 minutes the visitors finally had their first goal attempt as MacDonald was caught in possession 25 yards from his own goal and Evans robbed him before pulling a low finish wide of the near post. Two minutes later Rose found Naismith on the right and his fierce shot saw Kean reach up to block at the near post. Great skill from Kyle Bennett saw him go past two opponents on 44 minutes before sending a left foot finish straight at Kean. The second half began in uproar as Rose managed to get goalside of Clarke and was rugby tackled to the ground on 48 minutes. Clarke was clearly last man and Rose was away in a central position less than 30 yards from goal, but only a yellow card was shown. On 51 minutes the stadium erupted as Stags had the ball in the net but Bennett was denied by an offside flag. MacDonald cut in from the left and saw his shot blocked. The ball ran to Bennett who rammed it high into the net from close range to no avail. On 54 minutes Byrom put over a corner from the left, met by the head of Rose who couldn’t keep the ball down as it sailed over. Stags had started the second half all guns blazing. But they were rocked by a goal for the visitors on 57 minutes. A left wing throw was helped on to Baker who, with back to goal, superbly spun Pearce and drilled in a low shot, which seemed to clip Chaplin and go across Kean into the net. On 59 minutes Bennett reacted angrily to a tackle by Whiteman and players raced in to start shoving each other. Once the dust had settled the referee booked Stevens, Kyle Bennett and Whiteman. Stags wasted a big chance on 63 minutes when Whiteman picked out MacDonald at the far post and, with time to pick a spot, guided a header across the face of goal and wide of the far post. Pompey came close again on 65 minutes as Chaplin got to the left by-line and sent a dangerous ball right across the face of goal. Two minutes later Collins burst down the right and pulled the ball back to MacDonald who forced Forde to save low to his left. Benning also did well to intercept the ball and race forward, his final shot curling just over the top as Stags pressed hard for a reply. Forde had to push away a Whiteman snapshot from 25 yards that seemed to swerve in the air on 71 minutes. The chances continued to come for the Stags as Coulthirst turned sharply and sent a rising shot over. Inevitably former Chesterfield star Roberts was roundly booed as he came on for Baker on 77 minutes. Green missed Stags’ best chance of the game on 80 minutes, sent cleat by Coulthirst’s flick with only the keeper to beat he lifted a lob over the bar. Aborah came on as sub and was booked for a trip on 83 minutes. Before play re-started Taft was sent on for Rose to add height to Stags’ final push. On 86 minutes the home side made their final change, throwing on Hoban for MacDonald. A minute from time Naismith put over a great chance to seal it from six yards. Six minutes were added in which Pearce was added to the book, but there was to be no fairytale finish for all the home side’s efforts.
STAGS: Kean, White, Bennett, Pearce, Benning, Collins (Green 68), Whiteman, Byrom, MacDonald (Hoban 86), Coulthirst, Rose (Taft 83). Subs not used: Jensen, Potter, Hamilton, McGuire.
PORTSMOUTH: Forde, Stevens, Rose, Clarke, Burgess, Baker (Roberts 77), Doyle, Chaplin (Whatmough 68), Naismith, Bennett (Aborah 77), Evans. Subs not used: O’Brien, Kabamba, Lowe, Linganzi.
REFEREE: Lee Swabey of Devon.
ATTENDANCE: 6,819 (1,459 away)
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Alex MacDonald.
Read more at: http://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town/match-report-mansfield-town-0-portsmouth-1-1-8519222
Mansfield 0 Pompey 1 - Neil Allen’s match report
by NEIL ALLEN, Portsmouth News
So it goes right down to the League Two wire. Not promotion, of course, that outcome having been decided almost two weeks previously.
An unexpected opportunity has suddenly tantalisingly presented itself to Paul Cook’s side.
The only divisional honour to elude the Blues in their Football League existence stands vacant as three clubs clamour to claim ownership.
Such has been the ghastly manner of Doncaster’s choking since sealing their promotion, they have been caught at the finish line.
Now the Fratton Park promotion party scheduled against Cheltenham could develop into League Two title celebrations. A remarkable scenario for Pompey players and management in the ongoing aftermath of that season-defining defeat against Crewe.
Saturday’s hard-earned victory at Mansfield marked 28 points from a possible 33 since that March 4 loss to the Railwaymen.
At that stage the Blues were fifth - 13 points off the summit. Today they sit third and a mere two points away from current leaders Plymouth, who wrestled the initiative off Doncaster at the weekend. League Two’s form side have transformed the impossible into the achievable.
During his post-match address following a 1-0 win at Field Mill, Cook joked how he was getting the sack had his team not defeated Crawley at the start of their run. A tongue in cheek utterance, of course, nonetheless another reminder of the magnificent turnaround in Pompey’s late-season fortunes.
The Blues have not occupied higher than second spot since September, while have not topped a League Two table since victory at Bristol Rovers on September 26, 2015.
Conceivably, those statistics could be gloriously surpassed next weekend at the death. Albeit Plymouth and Doncaster must both fail to win in their encounters on the road at Grimsby and Hartlepool respectively. Yet Cook’s men possess momentum and a home fixture against a Cheltenham side fresh from securing their Football League presence.
Stringing together a maiden fourth successive league win since early September could snatch the crown from their rivals’ grasp. Yes really.
So much for winding down after clinching promotion at Meadow Lane and forget about takeover talk distracting the players. Pompey’s tunnel vision remains transfixed on first place as long-time champions-elect, Doncaster, have wracked up three consecutive defeats.
Not that the Blues particularly deserved victory over Mansfield on Saturday during a smash-and-grab raid. Steve Evans’ play-off wannabees were mightily impressive, denied by the magnificent David Forde, awful finishing and one calamitous refereeing decision. Even Carl Baker’s 56th minute winner was against the run of play in an off-day for the visitors.
Read more at: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/sport/football/pompey/mansfield-0-pompey-1-neil-allen-s-match-report-1-7939957
Nonetheless, inspired by a mighty defensive display, Cook’s men fled with all three points to keep their own aspirations intact.
They call such an outcome the mark of champions, well that remains to be seen.
Still, victory was Pompey’s despite struggling as an attacking unit and barely putting the Mansfield back line under pressure.
Kal Naismith even ballooned a late attempt over the bar from eight yards out following excellent work from substitute Gary Roberts down the right.
Had that registered it would have given the scoreline an absolutely unjust reflection of a match the hosts should have taken. Perhaps such a statement is not giving enough credit to the visitors’ defence, who were the true stars in a 12th away victory of the campaign.
The Blues possess the best defensive record in League Two and once again stood firm, particularly under the late aerial bombardment engineered by the Stags boss’ substitutions. Christian Burgess was at his brilliant best, substitute Jack Whatmough provided essential late clearing power, while Forde behind them was immense.
As for holding pair of Michael Doyle and Danny Rose, they chased and harried everything, the latter demonstrating energy levels to be admired.
The outcome was a 19th clean sheet of the league season - and a stab at that League Two title on the final day.
For the Field Mill encounter, Cook made three changes, bringing back two of his trusted guard. Rose was restored to midfield in place of Stanley Aborah, whose neck problem had kept him out of training in the build up.
The other returning hero was Burgess, taking the spot of Whatmough, having been rested from the previous weekend’s victory over Cambridge United.
Elsewhere, Conor Chaplin was handed a first start since January, with Nicke Kabamba dropping to the bench. Yet such is the immense depth in this squad, once again the alterations yielded a Pompey victory.
The first half was largely lifeless, a dull affair perhaps only lightened by Naismith completely missing the ball and ending on the floor during an attempted left-foot shot on goal.
Although Pompey’s top-scorer did draw a fine near-post save from Jake Kean on 36 minutes with a right-foot effort.
The second-half livened up considerably, initiated by the Stags as they returned from the dressing room determined to grab the win they required to maintain play-off interest.
On 48 minutes, referee Lee Swabey’s decision not to send off Matt Clarke stunned even Pompey’s bench. Caught in possession by the Stags’ Danny Rose, the defender managed to bring down his opponent with only Forde left to face. Inexplicably, a yellow card was shown by the Devon match official - much to the home support’s disbelief. R
hys Bennett than had a goal disallowed for offside before Pompey broke the deadlock through Baker. Collecting Naismith’s pass down the left, the midfielder surged into the box before brilliantly swivelling and firing a right-foot shot home. It was a lead this Pompey defence was never going to surrender, despite the inevitable ensuring pressure piled on, taking in six minutes added on. Now it’s all eyes on Saturday. Surely it couldn’t happen. Could it?
MANSFIELD 0 POMPEY 1
portsmouthfc.co.uk, 29th April 2017, by Neil Weld
Blues win final away game
Pompey won their final away game of the season at Mansfield to keep title hopes alive.
A fractious contest was settled just before the hour mark with a goal that Carl Baker and Conor Chaplin both claimed.
The Stags thought Matt Clarke should have been dismissed earlier in the second half and could not make their late pressure count.
Read more at http://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk/news/article/2016-17/mansfield-town-0-pompey-1-at-field-mill-in-sky-bet-league-two-3697778.aspx#M1ev875oERZ8YVfI.99
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that beat Cambridge on home soil the previous week.
Chaplin, Christian Burgess and Danny Rose all returned, with Nicke Kabamba, Jack Whatmough and Stanley Aborah - the latter of whom had been struggling with a neck injury - dropping to the bench.
The hosts were desperately searching for a play-off spot, so it came as no surprise that they showed more urgency in the opening stages.
A free-kick led to a scramble in Pompey’s box and Lee Collins’ cross ricocheted off Rhys Bennett and straight into David Forde’s arms.
Another set-piece from the hosts was quickly given to the familiar-sounding Danny Rose, whose low drive was comfortably stopped by Forde.
In truth, however, neither side was able to get out of second gear in a drab half that yielded very few clear-cut chances.
Mansfield’s Rose had another effort easily dealt with by Forde, while Kal Naismith took a swipe at thin air and ended up on his backside - drawing laughter from Cook in the technical area.
Gareth Evans was looking lively for the Blues and he dragged a shot wide after stealing the ball from Alex MacDonald.
Naismith then had the best chance for the visitors with a fierce drive that was heading for the top corner until being beaten behind by Jake Kean.
Kyle Bennett also enjoyed an impressive run along the edge of the box, but his shot did not cause the Stags keeper too much trouble.
Half Time: Mansfield 0 Pompey 0
The first half might have been forgettable, but the second exploded into life in the opening few minutes.
Mansfield’s Danny Rose caught Clarke dithering and was brought down by the defender, who would have just had Forde to beat.
The home crowd - and players - were baying for a red card and left furious when referee Lee Swabey instead pulled a yellow one from his pocket.
There was more bad news for the Stags moments later when Rhys Bennett found the net, only to have his celebrations cut short by an offside flag.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 57 minutes - even if there was some confusion about who should claim it.
BAKER played a neat one-two with Naismith and curled a shot past the grasp of Kean and into the net.
He was certainly credited with the goal, although it might have got a touch off Chaplin - not that it mattered to the celebrating travelling fans.
There was certainly a fractious atmosphere, not helped by a late challenge by Ben Whiteman on Bennett.
That led to some pushing and shoving, with Swabey booking both Whiteman and Bennett, as well as Enda Stevens.
Mansfield knew they needed at least a point, so poured forward in search of an equaliser and MacDonald should at least have hit the target after being picked out at the far post.
But Chaplin then had an opportunity at the other end of the pitch and dragged his shot narrowly past the post.
MacDonald aoon had another chance for the hosts, but his effort was well saved low to his left by Forde.
Whatmough replaced Chaplin on 69 minutes as Cook looked to shore things up at the back and was immediately called into action to head clear a free-kick.
Cook completed his changes with the introductions of Gary Roberts and Aborah for Baker and Bennett respectively.
But Mansfield substitute Matt Green should have levelled soon after when he was sent through on goal and lifted the ball over Forde - but also over the net.
It was backs to the wall for Pompey as their hosts poured forward in search of a leveller, but that left spaces at the other end.
Naismith should have taken one of them late on, but could not keep his shot down after being teed-up by Roberts.
It mattered not, however, as the Blues saw out six minutes of stoppage-time to maintain hopes of adding some silverware to their promotion party.
Mansfield (4-4-2): Kean; White, Pearce, Bennett, Benning; Whiteman, Collins (c) (Green 68), Byrom, MacDonald (Hoban 86); Coulthirst, Rose (Taft 83)
Booked: White, Whiteman, Bennett, Pearce
Subs not used: Jensen, McGuire, Potter, Hamilton
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Roberts 77), Naismith, Bennett (Aborah 77); Chaplin (Whatmough 69)
Goals: Baker 57
Booked: Baker, Clarke, Stevens, Bennett, Aborah
Subs not used: O’Brien, Linganzi, Lowe, Kabamba
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 6.819 (1,459 Pompey fans)
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