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Season 08/09 Stagsnet Match Report
Blue Square Premier
Salisbury City  
2 - 3
 Mansfield Town
Sandell 10, Feeney 58.
 Bartlett OG 56, Stallard 60, O'Connor 69.
Attendance: 1494 (209 from Mansfield)
Date: 27 September 2008


Martin Shaw at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium, Old Sarum

Mansfield Town earned a moral-boosting 3 points, after a torrid fortnight, with a terrific attacking display in the most exciting game of the season at Salisbury this afternoon. The Stags were terrible at the back in the first half and trailed 1-0 at the break, but a scintillating 13 minute spell saw them smack in 3 goals and concede one at the other end to lead 3-2. Aaron O'Connor returned from injury to put in an inspired display up front. It was the Stags first away win since March and was greeted rapturously by the 209 travelling Stags fans.

Manager Billy McEwan went for a 4-3-3 formation with Somner, Hurren and Blackwood in central midfield, and O'Connor, Stallard and Arnold up front, with O'Connor mainly on the right and Arnold mainly on the left. O'Connor was back from injury, and went off with cramp late in the game after having not trained much recently. Hurren replaced D'Laryea in midfield to freshen the side up. Salisbury included Darrell Clarke on the bench. Clarke left the Stags before the promotion season of 2001/2002 and subsequently played for Hartlepool.

The Stags started badly. On two minutes, O’Hare’s mistake allowed Salisbury to break on the right, and a cross was flicked wide of the near post.

Salisbury took the lead on 10 minutes. A good cross from the right to the far post found one Stags defender outnumbered by two Salisbury players, one of whom headed the ball down to the unmarked Sandell, who had time to steady himself before firing left footed past Gamble from 8 yards. Shambolic defending.

Two minutes later O’Hare and Moses got in a mess, allowing Tubbs a shot at goal, but it was a tame effort at Gamble. Billy McEwan was going mad with his defenders on the touchline.

On 17 minutes, the Stags attacked well for the first time, as O’Connor did superbly to turn a defender in the box but from a very tight angle his cross-shot flew across the face of goal. On 20 minutes there was nearly a repeat of the goal against Cambridge. Blackwood’s free kick level with the edge of the Salisbury box on the right, was perfectly floated for O’Hare who rose above his defender at the far post but headed two feet wide of the left post.

On 24 minutes, an incredible run from Arnold, as he ran from the edge of his own box to just outside the Salisbury box, where he played a great ball into O’Connor. As O’Connor was about to shoot, he was brilliantly tackled. It was an attack that deserved a goal. On 25 minutes, Stallard was booked for dissent, which was probably a result of frustration at not getting many chances recently. On 29 minutes, more terrible defending from the Stags as O’Hare and Moses stood and looked at each other and Sandell was allowed to chip a shot over the bar from the edge of the box. On 35 minutes, McEwan offered his glasses to the linesman after a throw-in was awarded the wrong way to the home side, and he was quickly censured by the fourth official. Gavin Hurren then demonstrated a long throw, to the nearside of the six yard box. From memory we haven’t had a long throw specialist since Bobby Hassell, with the brief exception of Richard Harris.

On 39 minutes, the Stags came close as Salisbury keeper Bittner punched Arnold’s corner onto O’Connor and was amazed to find the ball rebound straight back to him. Then there was a similar incident at the other end as Gamble came for a cross, missed it and found the ball bouncing off someone straight into his arms. On 42 minutes, O’Connor tried a spectacular volley from long range which was well wide. Two minutes later, Hurren’s long throw caused mayhem in the Whites box and O’Connor flicked a shot over the keeper and just over the bar from close range.

It was a poor first half for the Stags defensively but towards the end of the half, there was some promise that things were starting to come together at the other end.

Half time 1-0

Moses had limped off at half time and was replaced at the start of the second half by D’Laryea. Hurren moved from central midfield to centre half.

O’Connor made a great run down the right on 47 minutes, and his fine cross was just in front of Arnold. Then on 50 minutes, Stallard’s shot from the left was deflected into the side netting. The resulting corner from Arnold was perfect for O’Hare whose header was headed away.

The Stags were level on 56 minutes in bizarre circumstances. Arnold made a good run down the middle, but just as he was about to shoot from 20 yards, defender Bartlett tried to get in a tackle to prevent Arnold’s shot, and only succeeded in curling a left footed shot perfectly past his own keeper, and curling just inside the left post. What a finish. Just a shame for him that it was into his own net. There was some debate as to whether it may have come off Arnold, but from my position it did not look like it.

A minute later, Blackwood put in a great cross from the left which was brilliantly headed towards the top left corner by Stallard, but Bittner made an astonishing save.

The Stags were in a purple patch and completely on top so it was criminal that they allowed Salisbury to re-take the lead on 58. Feeney was allowed to run from the half way line, as Stags defenders backed off and backed off, until he fired a shot with the outside of his right boot from the edge of the box, which beat Gamble.

But on 60 minutes, the Stags were level again. O’Connor played Somner in on the right wing. Somner’s low cross was nicely weighted for Stallard at the far post to apply a great finish.

On 62 minutes, Arnold made a great break, but the keeper saved his effort. Two minutes later, Blackwood headed a bouncing ball over the bar at the far post.

On 69 minutes, the Stags were in front. Arnold fed O’Connor just outside the box slightly to the right of centre. O’Connor just had the keeper to beat and he fired expertly low into the net.

An amusing moment for me followed, as David Jackson on Radio Nottingham commentary, noted that it was so hot that one of the Stags fans had taken his shirt off on the far side. I had to admit that it was my brother!

Darrell Clarke entered the fray on 71 minutes. You might have thought that the script was written for him to score a late goal, but in fact he was largely anonymous.

The Stags could have extended the lead on 75 minutes. O’Connor showed good pace to get away from the defence, and round the keeper, but his angle was too tight to shoot, so he played the ball back to Arnold, who was unable to find a shot. Just as I was remarking on the commentary that it was a while since we had seen a better performance from a Stags player than O’Connor’s, O’Connor signalled to the bench that he needed to come off. The commentator’s curse. After the game, O’Connor said it was just cramp. Robinson came on in his place. Then Lee replaced Stallard who had taken over as captain from Moses at half time.

On 83 minutes, Stags frail defending continued as a Salisbury player was allowed a free header, to head wide from a corner. McEwan went ballistic on the touchline.

Robinson was completely through on 87 minutes, but surprisingly was caught by defender Bass who blocked his shot with a fine tackle. Robinson really should have scored and finished the game. But it wasn’t to matter as the Stags wound the clock down well with some good possession in the opposition half and there were no further scares.

So a great win after the traumas of 1 point from 3 games, and the news about a possible points deduction, in the last fortnight. O’Connor and Arnold were awesome going forward in a new look 3 pronged forward line. But McEwan still has a lot of work to do to cut out the silly goals and poor defending at the back. All in the all, the best entertainment of the season on a glorious afternoon in Wiltshire. Great stuff.

Man of the match: O'Connor

David Jackson (right) and Martin Shaw commentated on the game for BBC Radio Nottingham:

Report by: Martin Shaw at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium, Old Sarum

Line Up:
Gamble 6 Not many saves to make.
Silk 6 Did ok going forward, but struggled a bit defensively.
Moses 5 Poor first half. Went off at half time.
O'Hare 5 Very poor first half, but improved a little in the second.
Jeannin 6 Improved display going forward, but also struggled a bit at the back.
Somner 6 Did ok.
Hurren 7 Did well in midfield in first half, and was the best defender in the second half. Demonstrated a long throw.
Blackwood 6 Some good crosses and some bad ones. A mixed performance.
O'Connor 9 Outstanding. Ran at the defence all afternoon, causing them all kinds of problems.
Stallard 7 Took his goal well. Was starting to look frustrated before that. Won lots of headers and led the line well.
Arnold 8 Several great runs including one from one box to the other to set up O'Connor. Showed terrific skill throughout.
Sub Line Up:
D'Laryea (for Moses, 46) 8 Great defensive display from midfield to help out the ailing defence.
Robinson (for O'Connor, 77) 6 Held the ball up well, and one good run, but should have scored when clean through.
Lee (for Stallard, 81) - A couple of good headers away in defence.
Subs not used: Herriott, Wood.
Opposition Line Up:
Bittner, Beavan (Darrell Clarke 72), Bass, Cook, Clohessy, Bartlett, Herring, Turk, Feeney (Griffin 82), Sandell, Tubbs (Matthews 81). Subs Not Used: Davies, Widdrington.
Nick Kinseley (Essex) 7 Pretty good. Apart from a couple of strange decisions on directions of throw-ins, did well.

Season 08/09 Reports