{ match reports }
 
Stagsnet wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Season 19/20 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town  
0 - 1
 Plymouth Argyle
 
 Conor Grant 13
Attendance: 4499 (550 from Plymouth)
 
Date: 28 September 2019

STAGS BEATEN AT HOME BY PLYMOUTH

Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town were beaten at home for the second home game running, this time 1-0 by Plymouth Argyle. Plymouth were good value for their 1-0 lead at half time, thanks to a spectacular goal from Conor Grant, who fired in from 28 yards after 13 minutes. Plymouth also forced two good saves from Conrad Logan, had a shot against the post, another free shot from the edge of the area blocked after poor defending from the Stags, and a free header over the bar after more poor defending. The Stags though should have been ahead before all of that, after just 3 minutes when Danny Rose had a chance to run at goal, but unselfishly laid off perfectly for CJ Hamilton who was clean through on goal in a central position, but Hamilton over-ran the ball to the keeper, and didn’t even get a shot away. It was a dreadful miss. It was a similar situation to Danny Rose’s miss at Crawley, where his poor first touch saw a golden chance evaporate, and to Andy Cook who had a golden chance at 0-1 after 85 minutes against Cambridge when his poor first touch let him down. All three chances were at a critical time and surely directly impacted the outcome of all three games.
Into the second half and the Stags dominated in terms of possession but a lack of quality in the final third meant they created precious little in the way of chances. Far too many times, the final ball from open play or a set piece was poor. For example, Mal Benning on three occasions failed to beat the first man from a free kick delivery. The best chance for the Stags to equalise came after 89 minutes as sub Andy Cook’s low shot was saved by the keeper with his legs.
John Dempster has previously talked about wanting bravery from his players, and after 90+4 minutes, Neal Bishop, unmarked on the edge of the area with a great chance to shoot, instead laid the ball wide to Gordon, whose cross was deflected to the keeper. The failure to shoot showed a lack of confidence and a lack of bravery.

In his programme notes before the last home game, against Cambridge, chairman John Radford wrote: “Whilst nothing is won or lost after 10 matches, it is certainly a time where progress, or lack thereof, can be measured.” After that game with Cambridge, which resulted in a 4-0 defeat, I wrote that “No-one could be surprised if this result leads to a similar outcome” (to the sacking of manager Billy Dearden after the last time the Stags lost 4-0 at home), and I also wrote that “It would seem therefore that only a big performance in the 10th game of the season, at Port Vale on Saturday, can prevent manager John Dempster from being relieved of his first team managerial duties and perhaps a return to a position in the Academy from where he came.”
The best performance of the season last Saturday at Port Vale, albeit only earning one point, coupled with bringing in Drewe Broughton as full time Performance Coach a week ago, suggested that Dempster would get more time to turn things around and I wrote last week that I thought that was the right approach.
In his programme notes before today’s game, chairman John Radford wrote: “Performances are becoming better and I am confident that results will follow. We cannot allow further daylight between us and the early pacesetters. Expectations (of promotion) have not and will not alter.”
This defeat to Plymouth clearly does not help John Dempster’s position at all. It remains the case that results need to pick up very quickly. With 11 games gone, the Stags have just 10 points, and are 8 points behind the play-off places, and 11 points behind the top 3. The Stags go to Grimsby next week. If the Stags were to lose, they would be at least 10 points outside the play-off places, and considerably nearer to the bottom of the table. As it stands, only Stevenage, Scunthorpe and Morecambe are below the Stags on points.


The Stags made one change from the side that drew at Port Vale. Hayden White had been admitted to hospital with serious stomach cramps. It was a big blow to lose him and it’s not clear how long he will be out. Conor Shaughnessy dropped back into central defence, and Alex MacDonald returned to the side in midfield. The Stags kept the 3-4-3 formation from last week with CJ Hamilton (right) and Otis Khan (left) either side of Danny Rose. Nicky Maynard returned from injury to the bench (in place of Sterling-James). Keeper Bobby Olejnik had been expected to return from long term injury to the squad, but he dislocated a finger in the training during the week.
Plymouth arrived at the One Call stadium in the bottom half of the table, like Mansfield, two points ahead of Mansfield. Both sides had been pre-season favourites for promotion, and were under-achieving. Plymouth, managed by Ryan Lowe, who led Bury to promotion last season, included Danny Mayor who was so impressive for Bury last season. Mayor though was to have little impact on this game.

There was heavy rain in the couple of hours before kick off. A few years ago you would have worried about the game being in doubt, but the pitch is now in much better condition with all the money spent on it and great work from the groundstaff led by Mez Merriman, and it generally held up well.

The Stags should have been ahead after just 3 minutes. Rose had a chance to run at goal, but unselfishly laid off perfectly for Hamilton who was clean through on goal in a central position. But Hamilton over-ran the ball to the keeper, and didn’t even get a shot away. It was a dreadful miss, but great play from Rose to set him up. It was a similar situation to Danny Rose’s miss at Crawley, where his poor first touch saw a golden chance evaporate and Andy Cook who had a golden chance at 0-1 after 85 minutes against Cambridge when his poor first touch let him down. All three chances were at a critical time and surely directly impacted the outcome of all three games. Hamilton is a confidence player and as I predicted in commentary he went on to have a poor game, and should have been subbed earlier than 66 minutes when he was finally withdrawn.

A minute later at the other end, a chance for Plymouth as Joel Grant curled a shot just wide from the just inside the box.

Khan did well to get to the byline after 7 minutes, but his low cross was cleared.

Plymouth hit the post after 11 minutes as Callum McFadzean’s shot from a tight angle on the left hit the upright with other players unmarked in the middle.

Plymouth went ahead after 13 minutes with a spectacular goal from Conor Grant, who crashed a shot from 28 yards into the top right corner of the net, giving Logan no chance, just seconds after Logan had made a good save withhis body from Joel Grant. Conor Grant ran the length of the pitch to celebrate with the Plymouth fans.

Good defending from a combination of Pearce and MacDonald as Mayor dribbled forward after 18 minutes.

Poor defending from the Stags after 26 minutes. A Plymouth free kick from the left was cleared to Conor Grant who was inexplicably left completely unmarked to shoot from the edge of the box, but his effort this time was blocked.

A free kick for the Stags after 31 minutes, in a good position 23 yards from goal just to the right of centre after Hamilton was brought down. But Khan wasted it, firing over the bar.

Logan made a very good save after 35 minutes, pushing away a low shot from Conor Grant from 25 yards, just moments after some good defending from Shaughnessy. A minute later, good defending from MacDonald to nick the ball away from McFadzean.

A good run from Gordon after 38 minutes, across the pitch before he was fouled. It was poor movement off the ball though as he had no outlet to go forward. Benning took the resulting free kick and curled it out for a goal kick.

MacDonald tried his luck with a shot from 28 yards after 44 minutes which was just over the bar.

Plymouth had a great chance to extend their lead after 45+1 minutes as Sweeney allowed George Cooper to get away from him and head a cross over the bar. Terrible marking. Sweeney was so good last season, but like his central defensive partners, has not been so this season.

A good break by Hamilton after 45+2 minutes, to the overlapping Gordon, but his low ball in was cleared.

Gordon was booked for a foul on McFadzean after 45+3 minutes.

So the Stags were behind at the break and Plymouth were good value for the lead, with a spectacular goal, two good saves from Logan, a shot against the post, a free shot from the edge of the area blocked after poor defending, and a free header over the bar after more poor defending. The Stags though should have been ahead before all of that with Hamilton’s golden chance. It was the same script for Mansfield, poor defending and missed chances.

Half time 0-1

After 47 minutes, the Stags had a throw-in 20 yards inside the Plymouth half, but played it all the way back to Logan. Puzzling.

A minute later, a brilliant ball from Rose forward for Benning to run on to, and Benning’s cross was cleared for a corner.

After 50 minutes, Khan’s free kick didn’t beat the first man. The ball came back to him, he played forward to Rose, whose shot was deflected onto the roof of the net.

MacDonald then twice did well battling to win the ball.

Two more free kicks, this time take by Benning, and both times he didn’t beat the first man. Wasteful.

Good defending by Benning after 56 minutes as Mayor got away from Shaughnessy and laid the ball off but Benning intercepted.

The Stags went close after 60 minutes. Great play from Khan to the edge of the box with a tricky run, his shot was blocked and fell for Bishop, whose free shot was deflected over the bar.

At the other end a minute later, Joel Grant made a mess of a chance for Plymouth, the Stags broke to the other end and Gordon’s cross was headed behind. From the resulting corner, from Khan from the left, a right footed shot from Benning was on target and blocked by his own man Shaughnessy after the ball was cleared to him. As the ball came back to him, Benning tried an overhead kick and accidentally kicked George Cooper in the face. Cooper had to go off and suffered nasty facial injuries.

Dapo Afolayan replaced Hamilton after 66 minutes. Hamilton had looked low on confidence after his early miss.

After 69 minutes, a good corner from Benning, Rose flicked on and a defender headed behind for another corner.

Great play from MacDonald after 72 minutes to find Gordon on the right, but Gordon made a Horlicks of his cross-shot.

A minute later, Benning played inside to Afolayan on the left. Afolayan did well to cut inside and he curled a shot over the bar. A minute after that, a great run from Khan into the area. He went down but there was no penalty.

Andy Cook replaced Shaughnessy after 76 minutes.

Nicky Maynard then replaced Khan after 80 minutes.

Both players were on too late in our opinion.

Maynard immediately won a couple of free kicks. From the second of those free kicks, Benning’s set piece didn’t beat the first man, again.

A good chance for the Stags to equalise after 89 minutes as Cook’s low shot with his left foot from 14 yards was saved by the keeper with his legs. Then Gordon crossed from the right and Cook headed down straight to the keeper.

Eight minutes of injury time were added on.

After 90+4 minutes, an inexplicable moment as a cross from Gordon reached Bishop, unmarked on the edge of the area with a great chance to shoot. But Bishop instead laid the ball wide to Gordon again, whose cross was deflected to the keeper. The failure to shoot showed a lack of confidence and a lack of bravery from Bishop, surprising from such an experienced player.

At full time, boos echoed around from the stands at another Stags defeat. Plymouth had been good value for their lead in the first half, but the Stags dominated the second half in terms of possession but a lack of quality in the final third meant they created precious little in the way of chances. When you get that amount of possession you need to be better and make it count. The Stags didn’t do enough to deserve to win the game.

Man of the match: Alex MacDonald


Report by: Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill



Line Up:
(3-4-3)
Logan 7 Two good saves. No chance with the goal which was a great strike.
Shaughnessy 6.5 Did ok in his first game in central defence for the club. One good piece of defending.
Pearce 6.5 Solid display, no mistakes. One good block against Mayor.
Sweeney 5.5 Terrible marking to allow Cooper to get away from him and head over the bar. Sweeney was so good last season, but like his central defensive partners, has not been so this season.
Gordon 6 Mixed game. A couple of good runs, but quality of crosses was variable.
MacDonald 7 Won the ball a number of times. Did his best to make things happen but was let down by a lack of quality around him.
Bishop 5 Unlucky when an on-target shot was deflected over the bar. His decision not to shoot when in space on the edge of the area in stoppage time showed a lack of confidence and a lack of bravery, surprising from such an experienced player.
Benning 4 On three occasions failed to beat the first man from a free kick delivery. One good interception at the back, and one good corner.
Hamilton 4 Bad miss after 3 minutes. Went on to have a poor game.
Rose 6.5 Great lay-off for Hamilton’s chance. One brilliant ball to set Benning away down the left. One shot deflected onto the roof of the net, but otherwise didn’t get good enough service.
Khan 7 A couple of great runs in the second half.
Sub Line Up:
Afolayan (for Hamilton, 66 mins) -
Cook (for Shaughnessy, 76 mins) -
Maynard (for Khan, 80 mins) -
Subs not used: Stone, Smith, Mellis, Tomlinson.
Opposition Line Up:
(3-4-3): Alex Palmer; Scott Wootton, Will Aimson, Gary Sawyer (capt); Joe Edwards, Antoni Sarcevic, Conor Grant, Callum McFadzean; George Cooper (Ryan Taylor 66), Joel Grant (Joe Riley 79), Danny Mayor (Klaidi Lolos 71). Subs not used: Mike Cooper, Niall Canavan, Adam Randell, Josh Grant.
Referee:
Anthony Backhouse 7 Good game. Correctly booked 6 Plymouth players, along with Gordon and Benning for Mansfield.


Season 19/20 Reports