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Season 08/09 Stagsnet Match Report
Blue Square Premier
2 - 1
 Mansfield Town
O'Hare 44 og, Walker 88.
 Lee 41.
Attendance: Att: 2063 (app 300 from Mansfield, no exact figure will ever be available)
Date: 23 August 2008

Mansfield Town fell to their first defeat of the season at Holker Street this afternoon. Having played reasonably well and created several decent chances, the Stags will be bitterly disappointed to have conceded at the end of each half, especially having the taken the lead in the first half. There were however many positives to take, and with two home games to follow in the next week, many will not only hope but believe from today’s showing that six points is more than within our grasp.

Mansfield manager Billy McEwan kept the same eleven which started against Kidderminster seven days ago, whilst Barrow's starting line up looked decidedly unfamiliar, given they had a storming end to last season which culminated in a play-off final win and promotion to the Blue Square Premier League.

A confidence you would expect from such a team was evident as the home side began very brightly. With many Stags fans believing the full backs had been weak in the first three games, Barrow may well have had a scout to see this as their main tactic was to knock long balls out wide with major effect. Particularly through the impressive Carlos Logan, who rotated from left to right, and showed some neat touches and decent pace in the opening ten minutes.

Whilst both sides forced some corners, which predominantly resulted in more catching practice for Gamble and his counterpart Deasy, it was in fact the home side who had the first real chance of the game on 25 minutes. Boyd was clipped by Somner just outside the box. Whilst it appeared to just seem a tangle of legs, it seemed the referee was about to book Somner, only to show some common sense and simply walk away. From the resulting free kick, Logan fired over. In all fairness it was a bit of a waste as Barrow's back line of Jones and McNulty, whilst looking to have a combined age of 120, had some major height.

Jason Lee was beginning to win the majority of headers, and D'Laryea and Somner where beginning to get a hold of the midfield tussle. Whilst Logan and Boyd started brightly, Silk and in particular Jeannin were beginning to win those battles as well, as Mansfield started to get a stranglehold on the match.

Blackwood had one of his now trademark runs on the half hour which was cynically ended by Boyd. Jeannin popped up to flick in a high ball, which was superbly nodded down by Lee into Blackwood's path. However his spectacular left-footed bicycle kick could only flash agonisingly wide of Deasy's right hand upright.

It was another Jeannin free-kick which saw the Stags next opportunity on 32 minutes. Yet again Lee held off the challenge of McNulty superbly to lay the ball perfectly into the path of his strike partner. Stallard's effort on this occasion lacked any composure and flew harmlessly over.

Yet just a minute later the Stags had the biggest let off during the opening exchanges. Bond took a quick through in to release Boyd. At a canter he skipped around Jeannin and found himself at the bye-line. With O'Hare charging towards him Boyd clipped the ball over, and whilst it clearly struck a raised arm of O'Hare as he slid across the ground, a penalty to the fury of the home players and fans was not awarded. It did look to me like more of a case of ball to hand, but they have regularly been awarded.

Despite this scare, Mansfield continued to press and it came as no major surprise when they took the lead on 41 minutes. Jones for the umpteenth time fouled Jason Lee (although many were awarded the other way!), just a yard outside the box on the far right hand side. Up stepped Blackwood to curl in a quality ball met by the diving head of Lee himself with the ball perfectly placed into the bottom corner. If I am not mistaken the Stags have now scored as many goals from set pieces as they managed in the whole of last season!

Whilst it seemed like a great time to score, a cruel turn was to hit Mansfield just three minutes later as Barrow almost immediately drew level. Some neat inter-play between Winn and Logan saw the latter whip in a ball high towards the penalty spot. Moses cleared a header with some distance, although it fell into the path of Barrow's Lee Hunt. He lashed a powerful volley, which despite the fact it seemed to be heading well wide, it smashed against the head of O'Hare and flew into the goal with Gamble absolutely stranded.

Whilst it seemed only seconds would remain Blackwood was clean through in stoppage time only to see his effort well saved by Deasy, and Stallard found himself clear of McNulty on the left hand side of the box. With a clever outward turn he then appeared to be tripped, only for the referee to wave away the protests again. There did appear to be contact, but in my opinion the experienced front man went down a little too easily. This was the final action of the first 45 minutes.

Half time 1-1.

As expected this gave Barrow a lift and they started much the better of the two teams at the beginning of the second half. Hunt headed over from another Logan cross when it seemed easier to score, and Winn's 20 yard effort was easily held by Gamble.

On 57 minutes Blackwood and Arnold were sensing they had the beating of their part-time opponents and it was the former who went on one of his trademark mazy runs only to see his shot blocked by McNulty. Six minutes later a neat move involving Jeannin, Blackwood and Arnold put Stallard through. With Deasy racing out to meet him, Stallard tried to chip him, however the execution was poor and the ball simply dribbled into Deasy's hands. Four minutes later Stallard was to have an even better chance. Once again it was Blackwood, who turned Bond inside out before whipping in a cross from the left. The unmarked Stallard found himself central and just eight yards out but could somehow only head the ball straight down Deasy's throat.

This was Mansfield's best spell. Arnold and Blackwood running at defenders, full backs involved, D'Laryea making a solid contribution and front men holding the ball up when not needlessly giving away free kicks.

However this rhythm was broken when on 76 minutes, Blackwood ran through three defenders before being cynically tripped. He fell to the ground clutching his left knee. Initial signs were it was just cramp and he did return to the field of play two minutes later, only to then fall awkwardly again. Billy McEwan had no option but to replace him with Hurren, and let's all hope the news is not too serious.

A second change was made on 80 minutes, with O'Connor replacing Stallard, who on the day had been less effective than Jason Lee.

At this stage, both teams appeared happy if not totally content with a draw. Arnold had a series of positive runs, but as on many occasions throughout the 90 minutes, Barrow seemed to get the rub of the green with fortunate ricochets and slices of good fortune.

Then, as we believed may not happen this season, disaster struck on 88 minutes. Moses was forced to give away a rather needless corner when tracking back towards his own goal under pressure from Barrow substitute Brown.

Boyd ran up to swing the ball in. It looked a routine catch for Gamble, whose handling once again had been immaculate all afternoon, yet the ball appeared to get caught up in the sea gale and swerved away from him onto the head of Walker who simply headed into an open net for Barrow's winner. Whilst you could clearly see a deviation on the ball, it sadly must go down as a goalkeeping error, albeit an unfortunate one.

Mansfield tried everything in the final few minutes, but it wasn't to be, and defeat was confirmed after 3 minutes of additional time.

So the Stags were cruelly beaten by one very fortunate goal and one unfortunate error, and hence suffer their first defeat as a non-league club. Just to prove what an unpredictable league this could be, what ended up as looking the most straightfoward of the first six fixtures has ended in a loss. I personally however, only see this as a minor set back, as the defence remained solid, with Gamble up until his late error having another commanding performance. In central defence we again looked organised, and both full backs had their best games to date. Out wide we have pace and up front two very experienced players who will score goals. I believe if a victory is provided on Monday when Northwich visit Field Mill, this minor blip will have already been forgotten. There is more than enough in the team, if not the squad to be a major competitive force in this division.

Man of the Match : Michael Blackwood

Report by: Luke Mawbey at Holker Street

Line Up:
Gamble 7 Excellent handling and control of his area, but at fault for the winning goal.
Silk 7 Much better performance. Linked well with Arnold.
O’Hare 6 Unfortunate OG, but looked reasonably solid.
Moses 6 Performed ok, but struggled against Barrow’s direct style.
Jeannin 6 Best performance of the season, but lost shape too easily in the second half.
Arnold 7 Showed a willingness to run at people but lacked an end product.
Somner 6 Competed well but struggled at times going forward.
D’Laryea 7 Looked lively and as per recently showed a willingness to get forward.
Blackwood 7 Good link up play with some clever runs. Let’s hope injury is not too serious.
Lee 7 Won an awful lot of headers, and will be a real threat if his fitness can improve.
Stallard 7 Showed some tidy touches but not as effective as in recent games. Missed excellent chance with score at 1-1.
Sub Line Up:
Hurren (for Blackwood, 76 mins) –
O’Connor (for Stallard, 80 mins) -
Robinson (for Lee, 90 mins) -
Subs not used: Herron, Shaw.
Opposition Line Up:
Deasy, Bond, McNulty, Jones, Black, Henney, Winn, Boyd, Logan (Brown 69), Walker, Hunt (Rogan 78).
Subs Not Used: Sheridan, Bayliss, Taylor.
R West (Beverley).

Season 08/09 Reports