{ match reports }
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
League 2
Mansfield Town  
3 - 3
 Bristol Rovers
Arnold 14, Rundle 25, Russell 74.
 Hunt 28, Walker 41 pen, 90+2.
Attendance: 2357 (260 from Bristol Rovers)
Date: 28 December 2005


Report by Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Mansfield Town were held to a 3-3 draw by Bristol Rovers on a bitterly cold evening at Field Mill. It was a truly fantastic achievement by all the groundstaff to get the game played in such dreadful conditions and the players did more than enough to deserve all three points but were denied by an injury time goal. Goals by Nathan Arnold, on his full league debut, and a great goal from Adam Rundle gave the Stags a 2-0 lead after 25 minutes. Rovers pulled a goal back on 28 minutes, and then were gifted a penalty on 41 minutes as the referee saw an incident that no-one else in the ground saw, claiming that Russell pulled a Rovers player’s shirt. Not one single Rovers player appealed for a penalty. Russell scored his first Stags goal after 74 minutes, and it seemed to be enough to earn a priceless victory, but in the second minute of stoppage time, Uhlenbeek was guilty of losing the ball near his own corner flag, and within two seconds, the ball had been whipped into the middle and put in the net. It was probably the most disappointing end to a game since Cardiff.

It was a surprise to me that the game went ahead since it was bitterly cold and predicted to be minus 5 degrees as well as being snowy. But the club had organised covers for the pitch. Rumours about the covers ranged from the chairman having hired them because of frustration about the game being called off last Boxing Day, to Sky having left them behind from the Grays game. Whatever, congratulations to all the staff and to the chairman in getting the game on, and the pitch was absolutely fine. The pitch was much better, for example, than the games against Brentford and Wycombe (both 0-0 draws) in recent seasons.

Manager Peter Shirtliff made two changes from the side that lost at Northampton two days earlier: Uhlenbeek replaced Dawson, and played in right midfield; while Nathan Arnold replaced Birchall, and played up front for his first league start. Barker and Brown were still missing, though Brown was on the bench. Bristol Rovers included former Stag Craig Disley, playing his first game back at Field Mill, while Ryan Williams was on the bench. Disley was given a loud cheer when his name was read out, in stark contrast to Mendes, who was booed at Northampton.

On 6 minutes, the Stags had the first chance when Uhlenbeek tried a snap shot from 18 yards, which was comfortably held by the keeper.

But on 14 minutes Mansfield took the lead. Buxton’s throw-in from the right was headed away as far as Nathan Arnold, just inside the box. Arnold struck a first time shot left-footed just inside the right post.

Two minutes later, supporters in the Upper Tier of the West Stand released hundreds of yellow balloons, all saying “I O U £1m”, into the Director’s box. Large numbers of supporters then joined in with chants of “Haslam Out”. It is understood that at least one supporter has now been banned from Field Mill as a result of this safety breach.

On 20 minutes, a great run by Uhlenbeek including a superb one-two with Arnold, ended with a cross well-held by the keeper.

On 25 minutes, Mansfield extended their lead. Uhlenbeek was fouled near the corner flag. He took the free-kick, short to Rundle. Rundle cut inside a fired a hard low shot at goal from 16 yards. It took a slight deflection and nestled in the back of the net. A little luck with the deflection perhaps, but a superbly worked goal.

But the two goal cushion lasted just 3 minutes. Rovers broke down the left and Carruthers put in a fine cross which was headed past Pressman from the near post and ended up just inside the far post. It was unclear whether Rovers player Hunt or a home player got the vital touch.

On 32 minutes, Rovers had a goal disallowed. Pressman tried to punch clear a cross into the Stags box, but was fouled in the process. The whistle went, and a second later Disley hooked the ball into the net from 3 yards.

Four minutes later, Uhlenbeek tried a shot from fully 30 yards, but the keeper tipped it over the bar.

But on 41 minutes came the moment to change the game. A right wing cross came into the Stags box, Day and a Rovers player went up for it and it went behind. The referee blew his whistle and no-one thought anything of it - it had a to be a goal-kick or a corner. But the referee strolled over to the penalty spot and pointed at it. Everyone in the ground was totally stunned; no Rovers player had appealed. Eagle eyed Rob Wheldon, one of your regular Stagsnet correspondents, said to me he saw the referee pointing at Russell and make a shirt-pulling motion. Walker blasted the penalty high down the middle to make it 2-2. TV evidence later showed that Russell did indeed tug at a shirt and the referee was justified in his decision.

A minute later Russell tried a long range that the keeper held above his head.

As the players trooped off at half time, Shirtliff engaged in debate with the referee though it was impossible to tell from the stands at that time what was being said.

Half time 2-2

On 51 minutes Russell had a chance to make amends for his poor first half display when he showed good strength to barge past a defender, but in a one-on-one, he side-footed weakly towards goal, and the keeper dived to make a save.

On 58 minutes, Birchall replaced Arnold. Arnold got a good reception, mainly for his goal.

Three minutes later, Rundle got in a right footed snap-shot from 25 yards straight at the keeper.

The Stags got on top, but chances were at a premium.

However the Stags deservedly went back in front on 74 minutes. Uhlenbeek got in a cross from the right. The ball wasn’t cleared and fell to Russell whose low, hard shot whistled into the net from 10 yards.

Four minutes later it should have been 4-2. Brilliant play from Birchall put in Russell on the right wing. Russell’s cross was met by D'Laryea 4 yards out, right in front of goal. D'Laryea went at it with his right foot and stabbed it wide, when he should have gone with his left foot.

On 80 minutes, Rovers had a chance to equalise when Walker shot over the bar from 12 yards. A minute later, Ryan Williams replaced Disley.

Right on 90 minutes, as three minutes of injury time were signalled, it was so nearly all over. Rundle did well to get in a shot from the left which the keeper parried straight into the face of Coke. It bounced off Coke and flew inches over the bar. Rob Wheldon said “I hope we don’t rue that miss”.

After 92 minutes, we did rue that miss in disastrous fashion. Uhlenbeek lost possession down by his own corner flag and allowed Ryan Williams to get to the bye-line and cross to the far post where Walker swept it into the net. 3-3. Disbelief that the Stags had been robbed of victory. Frustration at Uhlenbeek who should just have belted the ball upfield when he the chance.

And so a vital two points went down the drain. Nevertheless a much improved display from the rubbish we saw going forward at Northampton. A number of good performances: Pressman still looks in good form, the whole defence played well, despite conceding three goals, and the midfield and forward line looked lively. Birchall also did well when he came on. The goals for Russell and Arnold should do them a power of good, though in truth we do need Brown and Barker back as soon as possible. And so on to Oxford, where the home side will have a massive advantage, being fresher after not having played on Wednesday night. Come on Mansfield!!

Man of the match: Jake Buxton

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pressman 7 Still in very good form. No chance with any of the goals.
Buxton 7 Fine game at right back. My man of the match.
Baptiste 7 Steady performance, won most things, though some poor distribution.
Day 7 Looking back to his best now.
Jelleyman 7 Another good game, generally comfortable.
Uhlenbeek 7 Fine performance but clearly at fault for the final goal.
D’Laryea 6 Missed a crucial sitter. Not involved enough for my liking.
Coke 7 Did well. Played with a Terry Butcher style head band in the second half.
Rundle 7 Caused problems for Rovers. Scored one and nearly created another near the end.
Arnold 6 Took his goal well; otherwise looked a little lightweight.
Russell 7 Poor first half; but very good second half and deserved his goal.
Sub Line Up:
Birchall (for Arnold, 58) 7 Played well and looked lively.
Subs Not Used: White, Dawson, Brown, Hjelde.
Opposition Line Up:
Shearer, Lescott, Hinton, Elliott, Carruthers, Disley (Williams 86), Gibb (Forrester 76), Hunt, Campbell, Agogo (Haldane 78), Walker.
Subs Not Used: Edwards, Book.
B Desmond (Gloucestershire) 6

Season 05/06 Reports