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Season 07/08 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Bradford City  
1 - 2
 Mansfield Town
Conlon 45+1
 Arnold 14, M.Boulding 51
Attendance: 13611 (569 from Mansfield)
Date: 15 March 2008

Luke Mawbey at Valley Parade

So here we are again. The Stags this afternoon recorded yet another superb victory on the road at Bradford this afternoon. In fact had it not been for a very poor equalising goal at Wrexham a fortnight ago this would have been the sixth consecutive away triumph.

Caretaker boss Paul Holland was without the services of the injured Carl Muggleton, with Jason White continuing in goal. Baptiste earned another start alongside Buxton, with Mullins preferred to Keith Briggs at full back. Once again there was no place in the starting eleven for Jefferson Louis, who had to make do with a place on the bench. Nathan Arnold was given a start in a less accustomed role up front alongside Michael Boulding. Needless to say Bradford included former Stag Barry Conlon in their line-up.

For the first time in several away games, the pitch appeared to be in superb condition, although ironically neither side seemed intent on getting the ball down and passing it during the opening exchanges.

Jason White was called into action after just three minutes when Mullins conceded a corner. However Johnson’s in-swinger was easily caught by the Mansfield ‘keeper to give him some early catching practice. It was however to be a rare incident throughout the 90 minutes, as White was to punch many balls from that point in, some more effectively than others.

It became clear even this early that Conlon was the home side’s only major asset, as balls were being played both diagonally and straight for him to flick on and hold up. Buxton was given the task of keeping him at bay, and was starting to frustrate the big man, forcing Conlon to concede several free kicks.

The Stags first real attack came on 12 minutes. Dawson and Jelleyman combined to find Boulding, who with Hamshaw in space to his right, decided to try his luck from all of 25 yards only to see his effort fly wide without troubling Roach in the opposition goal.

This had clearly given Mansfield a massive boost, and it was just 90 seconds later that the visitor’s opened the scoring, albeit slightly against the run of play. Jelleyman played the ball down the left touchline for Boulding, whose neat decision to allow the ball to run past him saw him free of Williams. A quick look inside saw him slip in Arnold, who cleverly shimmied inside Moncur and drove a cracking 20 yard effort low past Roach. It was a superb strike, albeit one the home keeper may be disappointed with given it was not actually in the corner.

The home side looked rattled, and forced another corner straight from the restart. Although Evans’s centre found Eddie Johnson unmarked, he could only direct his header straight at White. Conlon then attempted a speculative curler from 20 yards having been played in by Colbeck, and although White managed to palm the ball away to safety, many believed he should have been able to catch and hold on to the ball given the effort lacked any real power.

As the rain started to team down, very few other incidents of note were to be witnessed in a drab first half, succession of fouls, free kicks, with defenders well on top keeping any clear cut chances to a premium. However as the Stags fans and players were looking forward to their half time break, Jelleyman brought down Johnson on the left hand side of play a fraction inside the Mansfield half. With few seconds of time added on remaining, Heckingbottom whipped a high ball into the box, which White and Buxton both moved towards. Then, as we had all feared in nipped Conlon to beat both and head into an empty net. It’s hard to be overly critical, although had White stayed on his line, he would have simply caught Conlon’s effort. It was an awful time to concede, and meant that a promising half drew to a close with the scores level at 1-1.

As expected, neither manager made a change, either tactically, or in personnel during the half-time interval.

Arnold was beginning to make a real difference. Not only a threat with his pace, but some key movement, and intelligent decisions to drop deep if and when required. Dawson was regularly involved, and indeed it was he who was behind the visitor’s first attack of the second half, only to see his pass over-hit and deny Hamshaw a chance to cross. A minute later Jelleyman found Atkinson, who in spite of turning Williams inside out, again sadly over-hit his cross out of Boulding’s and Hamshaw’s reaches.

After a few more minutes of Stags pressure, the goal which delighted the travelling fans and which could still define Mansfield’s season. From deep D’Layrea slipped in Dawson whose neat pass between Evans and Wetherall found Atkinson in space. The wide man then played in a very dangerous ball which bobbled in front of Moncur and found its way through to Hamshaw. Unselfishly, and perhaps realising a challenge was on its way, he squared it to Boulding, who took one touch and with his right foot scuffed his effort wide of Roach. There was to be however an agonising two seconds wait as the ball struck the right hand post before trickling along the line. Whilst it looked like it may hit the other post and rebound to safety the ball finally diverted over the line and into the side netting. OK, maybe a tad scrappy, but who cares - it was to give Mansfield a stranglehold on the game they never from this point really looked like letting go.

Paul Evans was having more of the ball than D’Layrea of Dawson and although he continued to drive the home side forward, there was little end product, and what set pieces the Bantams did manage to get, were largely wasted. It did come as some surprise when Evans was substituted on 61 minutes, much to the disappointment of the home crowd. Paul Holland responded by narrowing his midfield and replacing Atkinson with Jefferson Louis on 63 minutes.

Five minutes later Bradford had their best, and arguably only real chance of the second half to bring themselves level. Yet again it came from a set piece. On this occasion Rhodes found again an unmarked player, this time in the shape of former Leeds centre half David Wetherall, however with the goal at his mercer, his header went wide of White’s left hand post.

Bradford were running out of ideas, with the Stags defence remaining firm. This forced Stuart McCall into making his final two throws of the dice, Topp replacing Colbeck, and the pacey Omar Delay being introduced in place of Rhodes.

Wetherall’s long clearance was then flicked on by Conlon into Daley’s path, however a superb interception from Jelleyman forced a corner. It was Penford who this time whipped another half decent set-piece into the Mansfield box, however once again it was Jason White who came to Mansfield’s rescue by punching the ball clear. Once again you could question this decision, but it was most effective.

Thorne was next to test White, however his 20 yard effort never even came close to worrying the visitors. This forced the home crowd to vent more fury, when at least three other players were better placed with Mansfield on this one occasion short of numbers at the back.

The slightly ineffective Hamshaw was replaced by Briggs on 75 minutes in what seemed a more defensive move.

On 78 minutes Daley beat Jelleyman for pace, and played in Topp on the right hand side of the Mansfield area. Topp then showed Baptiste a clean pair of heels (a rarity by all accounts), however with both Conlon and Thorne in the Mansfield box, he again decided to go for glory and blazed his shot harmlessly wide and over White’s goal.

Daley and Williams were next to test Mansfield, and both long range efforts were comfortably held by Jason White. As was the only real chance of the last 10 minutes. Another long ball was met by Conlon into the path of Peter Thorne. The experienced striker held off Buxton before laying the ball back to Wetherall, whose effort once again was straight down the throat of Jason White. It was to be Bradford’s final effort in a match where real clear cut chances were at a premium.

And so the additional three minutes passed away without any real threat, or incident and Mansfield had recorded another superb victory on the road.

Whilst the Stags created little themselves, they were more than a match for their more lofty opponents and few if any will deny they deserved to win this game. Solid at the back for a change, and what I found most encouraging was the fact the midfield kept the ball much better than they have done in many games this season. Buxton handled Conlon superbly well, and even though the latter won many headers, Bucko’s positional sense was again much better than we have seen. Only when Daley was introduced did Jelleyman have a real test, one he more than stood up to. However my man of the match goes to Nathan Arnold, who in a slightly unaccustomed centre-forward role was here, there and everywhere. Providing an outlet for balls into the channel, regularly attacking balls delivered from wide, and dropping deeper to link up when necessary. Let’s hope he can keep this form going in the coming weeks if, as it would seem, Holland prefers him to be Boulding’s strike partner.

No doubt there will be many more twists and turns before game no. 46, and again given results elsewhere this win was made even the more crucial. If only we could sort our home form out, we’d be almost safe. That MUST begin next Saturday against Grimsby. With 10 games to go, it is still very much, in the melting pot.

Report by: Luke Mawbey at Valley Parade

Line Up:
White 6 Little to do, but key punches.
Mullins 7 Crucial interceptions and a high octane performance.
Baptiste 6 Good positional play and sensible use in possession.
Buxton 6 Handled Conlon well at crucial moments.
Jelleyman 6 Rarely tested but sensible use of possession.
Hamshaw 6 One or two key touches but regularly outmuscled.
D'Laryea 6 Broke down possession well, however occasionally squandered possession.
Dawson 6 Tireless work ethic but not inventive enough going forward.
Atkinson 5 Largely anonymous.
Arnold 8 Excellent. Ran his socks off. Excellent goal
M.Boulding 7 Much better than in recent weeks. Regularly involved and good link up play.
Sub Line Up:
Louis (for Atkinson, 64) 6 Made a physical presence, but struggled to make a major impact.
Briggs (for Hamshaw, 76) 6 Saw very of the ball. Little impact.
Martin (for Arnold, 90) -
Subs Not Used: R.Boulding, Wood.
Opposition Line Up:
Loach, Williams, Wetherall, Moncur, Heckingbottom, Colbeck (Topp 68), Evans (Penford 62), Johnson, Rhodes (Daley 71), Conlon, Thorne. Subs Not Used: Bower, Nix.
Scott Mathieson 8 Anonymous. Reffed fantastically from start from start to finish.

Season 07/08 Reports