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Season 07/08 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Accrington Stanley  
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Mullin 26
Attendance: 1408 (approx 250 from Mansfield)
Date: 22 September 2007

Luke Mawbey at The Fraser Eagle Stadium

What a difference nine months CAN make. The monsoon-esque rains which forced the December meeting at Accrington to be abandoned at half time last season were replaced by a fresh breeze and sunshine as Mansfield took on Stanley in what many had marked down as a must win game.

What a difference nine months COULD make. This is the average length of a league two season, and another sadly abject performance against decidedly mediocre opponents gave the small number of travelling Stags further worries about preserving football league status which has been in existence since the 1930s.

Mansfield boss Bill Dearden was forced into two changes from last week’s unfortunate derby defeat. Young Chris Wood came in for the suspended Jake Buxton, with Ian Holmes handed a first start in place of the supposedly injured John McAliskey. Wood came in at right back, with Johnny Mullins moved inside to centre half, and made captain. Stanley included Paul Mullin and impressive skipper Peter Kavanagh. Mullin had scored three times in the meetings last year, and the two have racked up over 600 Accrington appearances between them.

Yet again ironically Mansfield did start the better of the two sides. Within 2 minutes Boulding was through, and although forced to take his shot early, failed to trouble Arthur as his right footed shot blazed over. Within a minute Dawson found space down the right, but as too often this season, failed to deliver a ball of any real quality.

The jitters, and genuine lack of real quality was evident from both sides in the opening stages, with many balls being played out for throw ins and given straight back to their opponents. Although many Mansfield fans had commented after 10 minutes that it was refreshing not to be behind so early in a game for a change, it was on 11 minutes that the first alarm bells began to ring. A total breakdown in communication between ‘keeper Carl Muggleton and Martin McIntosh allowed former Crystal Palace and Aldershot front man Roscoe D’Sane to run through unchallenged, however to the relief of all, he could only wildly lash his shot over and out of the ground. It was the first of many balls to be lost during the 90 minutes, as on one side of the stadium, the ball will often leave the ground by bouncing only once by the touchline!!

The under-fire Gareth Jelleyman had started better than in recent games, but was again beaten far too easily on 13 minutes by Stanley’s David Brown. To no avail however, as another cross was cut out by McIntosh.

Mullin and D’Sane were starting to link up much better, and the two combined once more before another wild attempt by D’Sane failed to trouble Muggleton from the egde of the area. At the other end, Holmes was showing a decent first touch, without really looking to have the weight and power to thrive at this level. It will of course take the former Matlock man time.

As if Mansfield’s current injury list isn’t bad enough, Martin McIntosh appeared to pull up following an innocuous challenge from Brown and was replaced by Dan Martin on 15 minutes. It was difficult to see how exactly the pack was shuffled. Bullock appeared to be moved into a defensive midfield role, with Wood, Mullins and Jelleyman forming a back three.

23 minutes in, and the Stags produced their best moment of the game to date. McAllister and Dawson combined neatly before the latter played in Micky Boulding. On his favoured left peg, Boulding from a reasonable angle, could only slice his shot wide without coming close to testing Arthur.

Yet, just four minutes later that awful sinking feeling, which has been experienced too often this season struck again. Peter Kavanagh found acres of space down the Mansfield left, and with no challenge likely, whipped in a good cross met by the head of Mullin. Although Mullin seemed to be relatively unchallenged, he still had a lot to do and arced his header past Muggleton high into the top right stanchion. The travelling fans looked at one another with the facial impressions as if we knew the game was going to be lost.

The remainder of the first chance saw few further chances, with Boulding caught offside far too often. It could however have been far worse as the whistle approached. Andrew Proctor, a centre half by nature, found an ocean of space in the final third. With little else on, he decided to try his luck from all of 35 yards, and was very unfortunate to see his swerving effort crash off the underside of the bar and bounce the “right” side of the line. Muggleton was beaten all hands up, and the Stags were handed a lifeline. Mark Roberts then failed to connect from another Kavanagh cross when it looked easier to score. By this stage Robbie Williams and Sean Webb were starting to control the midfield tussle as referee Alan Wiley brought the first half to a close.

Half time score 1-0.

The second period failed to start with any major purpose, bar a few Stanley moves between Kavanagh (again), D’Sane and Webb, all of which failed to deliver, and all of which yet again came down the opponent’s right flank. The right hand side was slowly but surely becoming the best route of success for both sides, as the impressive Chris Wood and Hamshaw started to strike up an understanding with some good interplay. However, as all too often the final ball, whether crossed, or played back, simply wasn’t good enough. The ineffective Holmes was replaced by Simon Brown on 56 minutes in a like-for-like swap.

On the hour mark the Stags had another let off and were fortunate not to be two behind. Yet another Kavanagh cross appeared to pose no danger, however it was fumbled by Muggleton. With Mullin and Branch waiting for a simple tap in, Wood came to Mansfield’s rescue by sliding the ball out of play for a throw in. It was then Wood again, but this time at the other end, who raced onto a neat ball from Hamshaw only to see his cross cleared behind by Webb for a corner kick. Finally Mansfield were at least starting to show some urgency, and on 68 minutes McAllister was replaced by Nathan Arnold, with Dearden reverting to a more uniform 3-5-2 formation.

60 seconds later a slip by Jelleyman let in D’Sane. With a huge amount of space to run into, the nippy striker powered away only to see his right footed effort saved by the knees of Muggleton and ricochet to safety, before Jelleyman was fouled on the touchline by Mullin. Then, with everyone forward Jelleyman put the free-kick straight out of play without bouncing, something I haven’t seen in professional football since Martin Pemberton at Kidderminster all those years ago. It was to sum up Mansfield’s afternoon in a large nutshell.

Arnold and Brown were slowly, but surely beginning to make a difference. The two combined to play in Dawson. With players pouring forward the Irishman clipped a neat ball into the channel for Dan Martin to run on to. But, as we’ve seen all too often, Martin lacked composure and blazed his half volley over without asking any questions of Kenny Arthur.

It did however then spur the Stags on into enjoying their best spell of the game as other chances were created, albeit ones of the “half chance” nature. On 76 minutes Mansfield wasted their best opportunity of the afternoon. Martin played the ball for Boulding to run on to, and as he escaped from the attentions of Proctor, could only hit his left footed effort straight at Arthur. The ball then fell into the path of Dawson who with a half empty net, and a keeper grounded, saw his side footed rebound cleared to safety.

Further moves down the right then produced a string of corners. The basics of defending were adhered to by Accrington, as the Stags failed to capitalise with a series of poor deliveries and lack of players attacking balls of a better quality. The final and Stags’s second best chance came with just five minutes to go. Dawson appeared to be fouled on the half way line. Mr. Wiley waved play on, with the Dubliner bombing on towards the Accrington box. He then nicely picked out Brown on the left hand side of the area. Having turned Kavanagh, Brown with the goal at his mercy failed to test Arthur, and instead of driving his shot across him with his left foot, could only scuff it into the side netting at the near post. It was a desperately poor finish, or rather one reminiscent of a player with ability, but short of match practice.

The final few minutes ticked away, and another embarrassing defeat was confirmed.

With the greatest of respect Mansfield should not really be playing league games at places like Accrington. One is a story of major success, the other one of major failure. We don’t need reminding which one is which. A club struggling to get gates of 1,500 appears to have players capable of basics, and the know how to win games at this level. The pitch-side view at Accrington was such that you could not fault any of the players’ commitment, as the energy levels were high. It is a genuine lack of quality from top to bottom, defensive mistakes, wasteful in midfield, and unable to take chances which come their way.

OK, the season is only 7 games in, but following three good performances, this was another sickeningly worryingly poor one. The visit of Dagenham, who many experts consider to be the weakest team in the division on paper, will either give Mansfield a chance to kick-start their season, or prove, what many already fear, that one of the longest, hardest winters in the club's history, lies around the corner. Major plus of today was the form of young Chris Wood. Looked accomplished as a full back, made few, if any mistakes, and was willing to get forward when he could. Let’s hope he can keep that going, and let’s at least try and “keep the faith”

Man of the match: Chris Wood

Report by: Luke Mawbey at The Fraser Eagle Stadium

Line Up:
Muggleton 6 Surprisingly quiet afternoon.
Wood 6 Looked promising. Not many mistakes. Man of the match.
McIntosh - Injured after just 17 minutes. Had started ok.
Mullins 6 Reasonable performance. Captain.
Jelleyman 5 Again beaten far too easily too often.
Hamshaw 6 Regularly involved but inconsistent final ball.
Dawson 6 Usual hard fought commitment, but poor decision-making.
McAllister 5 Wasteful in possession but did ok in spells.
Bullock 5 Largely anonymous.
Holmes 5 Tried his utmost but will take time to adjust at this level.
M.Boulding 5 Ran the channels well but looks out of confidence when chances come his way.
Sub Line Up:
Martin (for McIntosh, 17) 5 Poor distribution and still does not look fully fit.
Brown (for Holmes, 57) 6 Looked a threat, but rarely given a chance to shine.
Arnold (for McAllister, 65) 6 Did well, seemed to ignite rest of the team into action.
Subs not used: White, Sleath.
Opposition Line Up:
Arthur, Williams, Roberts, Webb, Cavanagh, Branch (Richardson 72), Brown, Proctor, Carden (Boco 86), D'Sane (McEvilly 70), Mullin. Subs Not Used: Dunbavin, Miles.
Alan Wiley 7 Controlled the game well, and allowed it to flow sensibly.

Season 07/08 Reports