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Season 07/08 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
1 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Proctor 70
 Boulding 53
Attendance: 4865 (303 from Mansfield)
Date: 1 March 2008

Luke Mawbey at the Racecourse Ground

Mansfield returned from the Racecourse Ground with a 1-1 draw. Whereas many would have right settled for a point before the game, this must be 2 points dropped considering developments over the 90 minutes. A slightly fortunate goal, Mickey Boulding's 20th of the season on 53 minutes, put the Stags in front. However a needlessly given away free-kick and a poorly positioned defensive wall cost an equaliser by Proctor after 70 minutes.

A respectable number of supporters made the trip west to North Wales in what many fans of both sides will have earmarked as a must win game with both facing a real challenge to avoid non-league football next season. However, although most Stags fans would have gratefully accepted a point, the fact that Mansfield did have considerably the better of what was in all fairness a poor game, means most will be disappointed, and consider this to in fact be two points dropped.

Due to the absence of Stephen Dawson, manager Billy Dearden was forced to re-shuffle his pack. Young Chris Wood came in at right-back, whilst Keith Briggs was moved into what appeared to be a position just in front of the back four. Many had stated it was a routine 4-4-2, but it seemed evident Briggs was that bit deeper, albeit quite effective. Wrexham included a number of their recent new recruits, among them, former Spireite Paul Hall who came on as a second half substitute.

For the second away game running, a dreadful pitch made passing football very difficult. Bobbles, and divots every which way you looked certainly didn’t help matters. To add to this, the occasion clearly was getting to both sides in the opening exchanges with passes going astray left, right and centre, along with a high number of balls being belted out of play.

In fact the only effort of the opening ten minutes came when Wrexham full back Tremarco played in former Manchester City man Jeff Whitley, however he could only aimlessly drill his effort well wide of Muggleton’s upright.

The next ten minutes equally saw very little of not, although Wrexham’s Llewellyn and Stags’ Will Atkinson seemed to have that extra bit of quality which may open the game up. The home side then forced a series of corners, none of which posed the Stags back line any real danger.

Hamshaw seemed well off the pace (later to be contributed to an illness), however it was his cross which produced the Stags first real effort on 23 minutes. To be fair to Louis the ball was slightly behind him and his header lacked any real power to beat Ward in the Wrexham goal.

Although Mansfield were having far more possession than the home side, passes continued to go astray as the nerves were clearly beginning to show. On 32 minutes another Wrexham corner was missed by Buxton, however Chris Wood came to his rescue by beating Broughton to the ball and clearing to safety.

Llwellyn (twice) and Tremarco had further efforts, albeit from some way out, and none of which were ever endangering the Stags goal. The first half then drew to a close, with the Stags comfortable, and confident if they pushed one or two people forward things could well open up.

During the half time interval, Hamshaw was replaced by Arnold. Although it seemed a straightforward tactical switch, given Matty wasn’t having the best of games, it was later revealed he had been suffering from a cold and not feeling fully fit.

Just two minutes into the second half, the Stags made their intentions known as the regularly-involved Briggs and Arnold combined to play in Micky Boulding. Although on his favoured left foot, the striker decided to shoot early when he may have taken an extra touch, and saw his effort blaze harmlessly wide.

Then on 53 minutes, a goal which threatened a fifth consecutive away win. Keith Briggs was beginning to see more of the ball in his free defensive role, and exchanged passes with Arnold and D’Layrea. Then he neatly turned inside Bolland before deciding to go for broke with his weaker left peg. Whilst the shot was on target, it was to take a cruel deflection of Boulding and divert into the opposite corner, giving Ward no chance whatsoever. OK, a very fortunate goal, but such moments are needed when in amidst a huge relegation scrap.

Many expected this to spur the home side into action, however this was not to be.

Atkinson was not only showing some neat touches, but a real willingness to run at players and commit them. D’Layrea was also in the thick of things, but was still failing to find much of an end product. The Stags then forced two corners in the space of sixty seconds. With Hamshaw off, the duty was given to Nathan Arnold, and sadly both set-pieces were totally wasted.

What chances were being created came from scraps and mistakes. Muggleton’s kicking was the worst I’ve seen all season and this was beginning to invite a little pressure on the Mansfield goal. On the hour mark, many Stags fans thought it may be their day when the home crowd vented their fury at the substitution of fans’ favourite Chris Llewellyn. Former Shrewsbury winger Sam Aiston was also introduced in what appeared a very attacking move.

Atkinson was next to test Ward, however a neat run inside Spender could only see him fire wide of the far post. Briggs then also tried his luck from distance, only to find the home keeper more than equal to his effort. At this stage the Stags were in complete control and it seemed likely only one team either could, or wanted to win the game.

But, as we have seen way too often, a careless mistake was to prove costly. After what seemed an initial foul on Michael Proctor (who until this point had been totally and largely anonymous), the referee waved play on. As he headed towards the penalty area, young Chris Wood made a rash decision in bringing him down when it looked like either Buxton, Muggleton or possibly both would have dealt with any danger.

As Muggleton was in the process of assembling his defensive wall given the free-kick was more or less on the edge of the area, it became frighteningly obvious that a huge gap could be seen to our left, and Muggleton’s right. Whilst all believed this would be corrected, up stepped Michael Proctor to hammer home into a gap large enough to drive a double-decker bus through and bring Wrexham level. It has since been cited that the ball bobbled above Muggleton at the last minute, however this cannot be used as an excuse for a desperately poor piece of defensive organisation.

Robert Duffy replaced Broughton on 70 minutes and it was becoming clear both sets of supporters, and players would be happy if the result remained as it did.

Particularly Wrexham who dropped an extra 10 yards deeper and were insistent on simply clearing their lines if and when necessary. Indeed the final 20 minutes were to bring only one remotely interesting incident, which was close to providing a winner. Louis was providing a threat and won many balls, but was sadly inconsistent in retaining possession and finding team-mates.

On 82 minutes Buxton played one of his trademark “pumps” up the field, which had sufficient distance to force Richard Hope into back pedalling towards his own goal. Realising the danger of Jefferson Louis breathing down his neck, the big centre-half decided to slip, and bizarrely through his chest at the ball whilst laying on the ground. The Stags faithful were clearly convinced it had been handled and denied Louis a clear goalscoring opportunity. I personally, am not sure. Either way nothing was given and despite the ball still finding its way to Boulding, his left footed effort was blocked by Bolland and cleared away for another corner. Arnold also had an effort but couldn't keep his effort down. One another day he may well have found the top corner.

Muggleton had seemingly been under instruction to slow proceedings down, and whilst his kicking remained erratic he was also very shrewd in running down the clock in the final 10 minutes. The Stags by this stage had also dropped much deeper, and after allowing 3 minutes of stoppage time, Mr. Taylor brought the crowd’s nervous, but uneventful afternoon to a close.

It is difficult to know what to make of this. Not many of the lads had outstanding matches, in fact most were distinctly average. However given they had little to do, it is hard to be overly critical. Muggleton and the back four had little to do, yet one costly mistake earned Wrexham a draw. Young Will Atkinson continues to get better, showing some fine touches and a real willingess to have a go and take players on. However my man of the match goes to Keith Briggs, who in an unaccustomed role seemed composed, focused and enthusiastic with some good quality to go alongside it, and of course was key in the visitor’s goal.

Where does this leave Mansfield now? Well with Bury, Notts County, Macclesfield and of course Wrexham failing to win, whilst Dagenham and Lincoln managed to do so again, it would seem any two from five now will be plying their trade in the Blue Square next season. I said I felt the four games against Wrexham and Bury could be key, and so far we have 2 points from 2 of them. Much will depend on results against other teams, starting with Rochdale next week. All still very much to play for, even if this was, a good opportunity not taken.

Man of the Match : Keith Briggs

Report by: Luke Mawbey at the Racecourse Ground

Line Up:
Muggleton 5 Quiet afternoon but attrocious kicking.
Wood 5 OK but wasteful in possession, and costly mistake led to equaliser.
Mullins 6 Reasonably composed but the odd careless mistake.
Buxton 6 Competed well with few mistakes.
Jelleyman 6 Rarely under threat. Linked well with Atkinson.
Briggs 7 Played just in front of back four. Some key tackles and useful when going forward. Key in setting up Stags goal with shot that was deflected.
Hamshaw 5 Saw plenty of the ball but use was poor.
D'Laryea 6 Very combative and some nice passes.
Atkinson 7 Regularly involved from start to finish. Good all-round performance.
Louis 6 Worked hard but lacked composure when necessary.
M.Boulding 6 Slightly fortuitous goal but showed real commitment.
Sub Line Up:
Arnold (for Hamshaw, 46) 6 Saw plenty of the ball out wide but final ball and in particular set pieces were poor.
Subs not used: White, Martin, Brown, Holmes.
Opposition Line Up:
Ward, Bolland, Hope, Mike Williams (Aiston 61), Spender, Whitley, Spann, Llewellyn (Hall 61), Tremarco, Broughton (Duffy 71), Proctor. Subs Not Used: Anthony Williams, Nicholson.
Paul Taylor 6 Very fussy, but fair to both sides.

Season 07/08 Reports