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Season 07/08 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
2 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Scott 10, Rooney 37
Attendance: 2779 (414 from Mansfield)
Date: 24 March 2008

Luke Mawbey at Gigg Lane

Mansfield succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Gigg Lane this afternoon. Two poor defensive goals sealed the Stags fate and possibly their entire league history. Only when the game appeared to be dead and buried did management, staff and players alike seem to react. Once more results went against Mansfield and an absolute minimum of 2 wins from thee next 3 games is required to have any chance of league survival.

Following Saturday’s defeat to Grimsby, caretaker boss Paul Holland gave a full debut to Neil Wainwright in place of Will Atkinson. Keith Briggs was also given a starting berth in a more central midfield role with Arnold continuing alongside Boulding up front. Bury included Ben Futcher, ironically a target for Mansfield in the summer, who was to have one of his most comfortable games he has ever witnessed.

Snow in the Manchester area had put the match under threat, however a 9am pitch inspection was passed, and although the conditions were not ideal, the surface seemed in good condition.

As has often been the case this season the Stags were to have a poor start and took a significant while to come out of the blocks. This was somewhat surprising given the magnitude of this game. Bury were to force a corner and a dangerous free kick within the first five minutes. Mullins was able to slice his clearance from the corner away, whilst Barry-Murphy’s left footed free kick gave Jason White some much needed catching practice early on.

The next few minutes were to produce a similar, if not identical pattern, as the home side seemed to have the shape and organisation to be able to move forwards. Bishop turned neatly inside Baptiste, only to find his effort well blocked by Jelleyman. The Welshman the completed his duties by pumping the ball to safety.

It was however on 9 minutes that another sickening blow was dealt to the Stags as the home side took the lead. Elliot Bennett who was to show some tidy touches out wide was needlessly brought down by Mullins. This was on the left hand side of the Stags defence which does bring questions as to why he had to cover such a large area of space. Bennett got up to whip over a good ball which found the head of Bury skipper Paul Scott comfortably beating Buxton to the ball. With his header placed fairly centrally, Jason White could only palm the ball into the corner of the net. It looked a routine save, and one most goalkeepers of league standard would have easily tipped around the post. However with Mansfield’s recent away run, neither players, nor fans, seemed overly worried so early on in the encounter.

Mansfield’s only major threat seemed to be coming down the right hand side, as Mullins and Hamshaw were beginning to strike up an understanding. Hamshaw had an effort blocked, before cleverly beating Buchanan only to see his cross harmlessly go out of play due to a severe lack of numbers in the opposing penalty area.

Very little happened chance wise for the next spell, however when it did, it was once again the hosts who posed the threat. Bishop and Rooney combined to play in Buchanan. His cross was missed by Baptiste and fell to Bennett, who speculatively tried an overhead kick. It may have flown wide of White’s upright, but had it been on target would have given the visiting keeper no chance whatsoever.

Just three minutes later the Stags were put well and truly in their place as Bury deservedly increased their lead.

Once again the impressive Elliot Bennett found space and turned inside Jelleyman. He then played a neat ball into Rooney who with the presence of mind to take his shot early hit a right footed effort on the half volley which flew into the net. On second viewing the goal was not in the corner and once again Baptiste’s positional play and the goalkeepers lack of awareness could have prevented this from happening. It was sadly to prove decisive and gave the Stags a mammoth task in the second half with no other incidents of note to comment on before the first half came to a close.

With such a dire first half behind them, it came as no surprise that Mansfield were beginning to have more of an impact. Whilst Baptiste continued to struggle aerially and physically against the tidy and impressive Andy Bishop, it was just three minutes in that Mansfield had their only real chance of the entire game. Briggs found space before playing a one-two with Hamshaw. Then Dawson was involved and for once turned Futcher inside only to see his right footed effort smash against the post. On another day this may have been crucial, but on this occasion it simply wasn’t to be.

Whilst we are sure Holland did have severe words during the interval, no changes were made until five minutes after the re-start when the ineffective Wainwright was replaced by Simon Brown in what would appear to have been a more attacking 4-3-3 formation. Wainwright had a debut to forget but did seem to be playing well out of position.

Rooney then took a long pump from Ben Futcher neatly on his chest and couldn’t believe the amount of space he was given. With the entire goal to aim at his effort flew narrowly wide of White’s upright with the Mansfield keeper at full stretch.

This latest Bury attack, forced Holland into another change on the hour, Horlock replacing Briggs. We can only assume the former Manchester City man is not match fit as he immediately showed why he has played at a much higher level, with some quality touches and sensible thinking.

Bishop once again had the beating of Baptiste from a short Buchanan through, only to see his effort fly wide. Both Arnold and Horlock then tried their own luck from range, without even coming close to threatening the target.

At this stage Alan Knill introduced Richie Baker on 69 minutes in what appeared to be a move to hold on to Bury’s lead. However the home side seemed well in control and even with a more negative substitution were having the lion’s share of possession.

The only real incident of note saw the first booking on 86 minutes when substitute Baker was shown a straight yellow for kicking the ball away.

As the final few minutes drew to a close referee Steve Tanner brought the afternoon to a close with the Stags comfortably beaten by a side considered to be one of a similar level.

We don’t really need reminding how desperate the situation now is. An absolute minimum of 4 wins from 8, and possibly 5 is required to have any chance at all of league survival. Given the Stags have only won 9 from the 38 played so far, you would have to imagine with the players at our disposal this is beyond them.

As for today, Bury had two large centre-halves in Sodje and Futcher, and two tidy front men in Bishop and Rooney. Mansfield sadly had inferior players on the day in such crucial areas. Boulding had a better match than in recent weeks, but once again was often too isolated and was excellently marshalled by Futcher. The central midfield rarely made use of what possession did come their way, and Buxton and Baptiste were made to earn their corn against Bury’s front men. Man of the match has to go to Mullins, who although unspectacular did what he was asked, and made few errors.

There is still time, but even the most staunch Mansfield supporter is now probably believing the fat lady is beginning to clear her throat.

Man of the Match: Mullins

Report by: Luke Mawbey at Gigg Lane

Line Up:
White 4 Looked totally unassured and at fault for both goals.
Mullins 6 Pick of the back four. Steady and reliable.
Buxton 5 Won many headers but poor in possession.
Baptiste 5 Struggled at times and met his match in Bishop.
Jelleyman 6 Looked composed and one or two key interceptions.
Hamshaw 6 Often involved but good crosses were not responded to.
Dawson 6 Had the Stags best effort and gave his all.
Briggs 6 Combative but reluctant to go forward.
Wainwright 5 Struggled to make major impact.
M.Boulding 6 Better than in recent weeks.
Arnold 6 Well marshalled by a strong defence.
Sub Line Up:
Brown (for Wainwright, 51) 6 Very enthusiastic but still looks a little short.
Horlock (for Briggs, 61) 6 Some tidy passes but desperately needs match practice.
Subs not used: Muggleton, D'Laryea, Atkinson.
Opposition Line Up:
Randolph, Scott, Futcher, Haslam, Bishop (Hurst 90), Barry-Murphy, Buchanen, Adams, Bennett (Parrish 84), Rooney (Baker 69), Sodje. Subs: Provett, Rouse.
Steve Tanner of Somerset 7 An easy game to referee, sensibly done without incident

Season 07/08 Reports