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Season 07/08 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
MK Dons  
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Andrews 58
Attendance: 9583 (370 from Mansfield)
Date: 1 January 2008

Martin Shaw at Stadium:mk

Mansfield Town continue to be struck down by ill fortune this season. After the well-documented fiasco against MK Dons earlier in the season, and losing to an offside goal on Saturday against Accrington, amongst many other incidents this season, the Stags were beaten by a wonderful free kick today from a free kick that never should have been. But to make matters many times worse, the bad luck on the injury front continued as top scorer Mickey Boulding limped off with a hamstring strain and manager Billy Dearden said that he would be very surprised if Boulding was back from injury in less than a month. Mansfield have 7 league games, plus an FA Cup game, in the next month. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse ...

The Stags put in a gutsy display at the impressive Stadium:mk and matched the top-of-the-table Dons all the way only to be beaten by an extra little bit of class as Keith Andrews whipped in a superb free-kick that Carl Muggleton pushed onto the underside of the bar and as the ball crashed back down again it hit Muggleton and went into the net.

It was Mansfield's first visit to this stadium, which was opened by the Queen just a month ago. The stadium was built by the same people who built Wembley and Arsenal's Emirates stadium, and it shows. The roof of the stadium is very high, giving it the feel of a big arena, and once the top tier of seats are in it will hold 30,000. Every seat in the ground is extra-comfortable, with padding, the same seats used just for the executive areas at the Emirates stadium. The Stags fans, probably around 300 (exact figure to be confirmed by MK Dons media coordinator for me on Wednesday), were housed behind one goal. I was lucky enough to be in the press box which afforded a very good view down the side, albeit not particularly close to the halfway line. The crowd of 9583 was the home team's second biggest gate of the season, but you could tell they are not real football fans as they failed to create any atmosphere and only seemed to be roused after Mansfield created chances as if it brought them to life.

Billy Dearden started with a 4-5-1 formation to match the home side’s 4-5-1 formation. Mickey Boulding was up front alone, with Sleath and Dawson joining the midfield. Sleath had recently returned from a loan spell at Conference North side Boston United, while Dawson returned from suspension. At the back, Jelleyman was fit enough to start in central defence, replacing the suspended McIntosh.

Mansfield made an encouraging start, knocking the ball around well and showing a confidence not expected after Saturday’s terrible second half against Accrington Stanley. But on 9 minutes, Dawson gave the ball away in the middle of the park, and the ball was swept to the right where a cross into the middle found Lloyd Dyer whose header was saved by Muggleton.

But on 13 minutes, a sight that no Mansfield fan could bare to see as Mickey Boulding was limping and signalling to the bench that he needed to come off. He came off two minutes later and after the game we found out he had a hamstring strain. Disaster is the only word for it.

Good defending by the Stags on 19 minutes kept out a double chance for the Dons. First Hamshaw cleared Andrews’ header off the line following a corner, then Mullins got in a great block on a shot. But on 26 minutes poor defending by Jelleyman allowed Andrews’ a free header from a corner. Luckily the header flew over the bar. The home side had got on top following the Boulding disappointment but incredibly the Stags bad luck continued as McAliskey, who had replaced Boulding, had to go off himself just 15 minutes after coming on. Holmes was the second sub. The Stags were now playing 4-4-2 with Brown having moved up front.

On 38 minutes came a glorious chance for a Stags goal. Hamshaw’s ball in from the right was dummied by Brown, allowing Sleath a chance to shoot from 18 yards. But Sleath’s body shape didn’t look right and his sliced effort was saved by Gueret. Almost immediately, Sleath returned the favour crossing for Hamshaw who volleyed wide from the edge of the box. As the Stags finished the half strongly, Mullins messed up two chances to cross, first putting one behind for a goal kick, then trying to pull a ball back for Hamshaw and finding a home player. On the stroke of half time, Brown shot over the bar.

It was a first half of three thirds. The first 15 minutes was even. Then for 15 minutes after Boulding went off, MK Dons got on top and created a few chances. But in the final 15 minutes, the Stags were on top and looking a decent side.

Half time 0-0

In the first minute of the second half, Buxton headed just wide from Hamshaw’s free kick. On 49 minutes Hamshaw broke into the box and heading for the byeline he went down. But it was a clear dive and he was rightly booked as no penalty was given. On 53 minutes, Holmes did really well on the byeline and crossed for D’Laryea whose shot was saved by the legs of Gueret. Soon afterwards, Dawson also had a shot blocked.

But poor defending on 55 minutes by Mansfield allowed a free header by Danny Swailes from a corner. Fortunately he headed wide.

The only goal of the game came on 58 minutes and again it was in controversial circumstances. The referee awarded a free kick to MK Dons 30 yards out for a handball, but it was never a handball and Stags players protested vociferously. Just as I was saying on the 103.2 commentary that Andrews usually scores from these positions, he did just that. With a body shape like Beckham, he whipped in a vicious kick that Muggleton managed to get a hand to, to push it onto the underside of the bar. But unluckily for the keeper, it bounced back down and into the net off his body. After the game, Muggleton told the assembled media that the free kick took a deflection off Brown making his save more difficult. The deflection was not visible to the naked eye, nor on the video of the goal.

Two minutes later, a confident Andrews shot over the bar.

Arnold replaced Sleath on 71 minutes. On 75 minutes, Andrews had another free kick from a similar position. This time it was low and Muggleton dropped onto it, but couldn’t hold it at the first attempt and was just able to grab it before a home striker pounced. MK put together a good move on 77 minutes which ended with Muggleton saving from Lewington. Then Muggleton made a fantastic save from a point blank shot by Swailes following a corner.

On 82 minutes Mansfield’s inability from set pieces was perfectly exemplified. About 30 yards out, Hamshaw played it to D’Laryea, who returned it to Hamshaw, who lofted a ball straight into the arms of Gueret. Clueless. Earlier Dan Martin’s free kick had harmlessly gone wide following a deflection. Contrast this with the two efforts from Andrews.

There was a better cross from Hamshaw in stoppage time as Mullins headed just two feet wide. Then Arnold shot over the bar as he was unable to repeat his last minute heroics from the same fixture last season.

And so the game ended in defeat for Mansfield. I thought the Stags deserved a point, as table topping MK Dons had precious few chances and only won the game through a moment of brilliance from Andrews. But it also has to be said that without Boulding, Mansfield do not look like finding the net. And the fact that Mansfield have only come back from behind once all season (at Brentford) makes it hard to be confident when we go behind. Boss Billy Dearden needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the transfer window if Mansfield are not to be even further adrift at the end of the crucial month of January when there are a further 7 league games, following the FA Cup tie at Brighton on Saturday. Come on Mansfield!

Stags man of the Match: Carl Muggleton

Report by: Martin Shaw at Stadium:mk

Line Up:
Muggleton 7 A couple of good saves, and unlucky with the goal, which apparently took a slight deflection.
Mullins 7 Defended stoutly, but crossing was poor.
Buxton 7 Very solid display, back to his best.
Jelleyman 6 Did ok in central defence.
Martin 7 Defended well throughout. Not so good going forward.
Hamshaw 5 Worked hard but just not creating anything for the Stags these days.
D'Laryea 7 His best game since returning from injury. Worked very hard and moved the ball around well. Missed a good chance.
Dawson 6 Worked hard but failed to create any spark moving forward.
Sleath 6 Tried hard but missed with one of the few good chances we had.
Brown 5 Poor. Did little either in midfield or when pushed up front. Needs to step up to the plate right now.
M.Boulding - Went off with hamstring injury after 15 minutes. A massive loss for the next 8 games or so.
Sub Line Up:
McAliskey (for M.Boulding 15) - The substitute had to be substituted just 15 minutes after coming on, with an injury.
Holmes (for McAliskey, 30) 7 Did well but didn't look like scoring. One good piece of play set up a good chance for D'Laryea.
Arnold (for Sleath, 71) 5 Showed poor control, just as he did on Saturday. Had a chance late on but couldn't find the same finish as last season.
Subs Not Used: White, Wood.
Opposition Line Up:
Gueret, Diallo, Swailes, Howell, Lewington, Dyer, Cameron, Andrews, Navarro (Hadfield 86), Wright, Broughton (Stirling 73). Subs Not Used: Johnson, Carbon, Abbey.
Steven Cook (Surrey) 6 Handled the game well, but the free-kick that led to the goal was never a foul.

Season 07/08 Reports