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Season 10/11 Stagsnet Match Report
Blue Square Bet Premier
Cambridge United  
1 - 5
 Mansfield Town
Willmott 66.
 Murray 33, Adam Smith 37, Duffy 73, Coulson OG 90, Mitchley 90+3
Attendance: 2505 (281 from Mansfield)
Date: 28 December 2010


Martin Shaw at The Abbey Stadium

Magnificent Mansfield Town produced the complete performance to romp to a 5-1 win at Cambridge this afternoon. Mansfield were devastating going forward and after two contenders for goal of the season in the first half with thunderous shots from Adam Murray and Adam Smith, the Stags added three more goals, all from close range, in the second half, after Cambridge had threatened a comeback through a brilliant strike of their own from Robbie Willmott. But the Stags were great at the back as well, with Rhys Day in imperious form as captain at centre half, and Simon Grand impressive alongside him. Murray ran the show in midfield, and Kevin Pilkington made a couple of fine and crucial saves in the first half. A standing ovation for the players and Duncan Russell at full time, fully merited. A great start to Duncan Russell’s tenure as permanent manager.

The Stags hadn’t played a league game for a month and a day, since playing on the icy pitch at Wrexham. But in that month a lot had happened: the announcement of legal action against Keith Haslam, being locked out of Field Mill, playing an FA Trophy tie against Worksop at Ilkeston which we thought would become our new home, getting back into Field Mill, and the permanent appointment of Duncan Russell as manager.

The Stags started brightly and should have scored inside the first minute. Adam Murray’s free kick from 25 yards out, wide on the left, was cleared to Adam Smith, who took time to compose himself on the edge of the box, but fired his left footed shot over the bar. Chances were at a premium after that, though Wilmott was proving a handful for the Stags with excellent play down the left. On 14 minutes, a good clearance from Duffy in his own box. On 15 minutes, Briscoe chased down the right, and got to the ball just before the home keeper who chased out of his area on the right. Briscoe just managed to keep the ball in play, before crossing into the box and Duffy headed over the empty net, under huge pressure from a defender.

On 17 minutes, a glorious chance for Cambridge. A ball over the top reached Wright, who found himself 6 yards goalside of the Stags defenders and through on goal. Pilkington came out, and made himself big, saving Wright’s low shot with an outstanding save. Another good chance for Cambridge on 23 minutes, as Simon Russell did well down the right and got to the byeline, before crossing to Gray who from a good position goalside of the penalty spot, volleyed into the ground and this took all the sting out of the shot as it bounced up softly into Pilkington’s arms. On 27 minutes, McAuley was in acres of space and fired in a powerful shot from outside the box, which was heading for the roof of the net before Pilkington did well to palm it over the bar.

On 30 minutes, Parker did well down the right and put in a good cross to find Duffy on the edge of the box. Duffy trapped the ball, turned in one movement and fired in a right-footed shot that was heading for the bottom left corner before Naisbet tipped it round the post. Great play from Duffy.

On 33 minutes it was 1-0 to the Stags. Briscoe did well to earn a corner on the right. The corner was headed out to Murray. It bounced and sat up perfectly as Murray ran on to it, sending an exocet missile of a volley into the middle of the net from 14 yards. Naisbet couldn’t have seen it. A spectacular goal that was candidate for goal of the season. But it was to be bettered.

On 36 minutes, Cambridge tried to hit back, but Sandwith put in a brilliant block.

It was 2-0 on 37 minutes. Neat play from the Stags and the ball was swept out to Adam Smith on the halfway line wide on the left. Smith charged down the left, before cutting inside and belting a fabulous shot across the keeper into the top right corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area on the left. A wonderful strike, even bettering Murray’s effort. It had similarities to Smith’s goals against Altrincham and York earlier in the season.

Cambridge had a sniff of goal a minute into first half stoppage time as the ball was played into the box for Gray who was in space, and took one touch, before Briscoe got in a great challenge.

A fine first half for the Stags with immense defending especially from Rhys Day, well supported by Grand, and a couple of important saves from Pilkington. But the half would be remembered for two spectacular strikes.

Half time 0-2

On 48 minutes, Adam Smith found Briscoe on the right, Briscoe did well to get in a cross, but it was cleared. A minute later, Sandwith took a quick throw-on to Duffy, who spotted the keeper off his line and launched an audacious shot from 25 yards, but couldn’t get it over the keeper. A fine piece of thinking though.

It should have been 3-0 on 52 minutes, Briscoe fired in a low shot from a tight angle but it was saved by the keeper’s legs. Briscoe needs to be scoring from these positions and once again showed a lack of composure.

The Stags were playing some delightful football, full of confidence.

It so nearly was 3-0 on 59 minutes. Adam Smith’s corner from the left was met perfectly by Simon Grand rising above the home defence to power a header goalwards, but it was cleared off the line.

Cambridge grabbed a lifeline on 66 minutes with a brilliant solo goal from the excellent Robbie Willmott. Willmott made progress on the left, before cutting across to the middle and firing a fabulous shot into the top left corner of the net from 25 yards. Pilkington had no chance.

A minute later the Stags missed a double chance to restore the two goal advantage. Briscoe did well on the right, found Parker in the middle whose shot was blocked from 6 yards. It came out to Murray just inside the box who had all the time in the world but fired over the bar. What a couple of misses!

Medley replaced Parker on 71 minutes. On 72 minutes, a chance for Cambridge to equalise as Gray’s low shot was soft and easy for Pilkington.

It was 3-1 on 73 minutes. Medley did well to get down the right, his cross found Briscoe, who should have scored, but made a mess of it. However Briscoe did manage get the ball to his left to Duffy 6 yards out on the left and Duffy slid a low shot under the keeper. It was reminiscent of Duffy’s killer goal at Kidderminster which also gave a 3-1 lead (albeit that goal was Duffy’s shot from the right).

Mills replaced Istead on 74 minutes. The Stags were rampant now and on 77 minutes, a great run from Briscoe down the right, and his good cross was put just past his own net by Coulson. Coulson was to find his aim better a few minutes later! From the resulting corner from Adam Smith, Duffy flicked a lovely header six inches wide of the right post. Straight to the other end and a chance for Cambridge as Gray got goalside of the Stags defence and rolled a shot passed the left post - a real let-off for Mansfield.

Mitchley, fresh from securing a new contract, replaced Duffy on 78 minutes. Duffy received a standing ovation.

On 80 minutes, Adam Smith rolled a short corner on the left to Gary Mills, whose low shot was saved low down by Naisbet at the second attempt.

Medley was away from the defence on 87 minutes, but his soft shot was easy for Naisbet with other strikers better positioned. A Cambridge corner was headed on on 88 minutes and Gray headed straight at Pilkington.

The Stags made it 4-1 on 90 minutes. Briscoe burst down the middle and put Mitchley in on the right. Mitchley crossed into the middle and Coulson managed to slice the ball into his own net when he should have been able to clear. Cambridge fans piled out of the Abbey Stadium like Aussie fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

On 90+3, it was 5-1. Sandwith put in a great cross, across the edge of the six-yard box and Mitchley was in the right place to slot home on the right, with a similar finish to his goal at Forest Green.

That was the end of the scoring. If the game had continued, the Stags could have scored more, such was the domination at the end.

But five was enough, for the second away game on the trot.

Man of the Match: Rob Duffy and Rhys Day - couldn’t split them

Footnote: With a considerable amount of begging, I managed to secure a copy of the match DVD, and personal thanks to Martin Ling, who gave me the copy that was intended for one of his backroom staff and he was gracious in defeat when I said it was for the Mansfield official website. Will be editing it as soon as I get home.
UPDATE: Video highlights, now here, here.

Report by: Martin Shaw at The Abbey Stadium

Line Up:
Pilkington 8 One outstanding save in a one-on-one, and another good save to tip over a shot, were crucial in the first half. No chance with Willmott’s piledriver.
Cook 7 Good game, with some good clearances.
Day 9 Superb, captain’s performance. Won every header.
Grand 8 Great game alongside Day. Won lots of headers at the back, and unlucky that his header from a corner was cleared off the line.
Sandwith 7 Poor start, but recovered excellently with good defending. Super ball across for the fifth goal.
Briscoe 8 All action display, creating lots of danger. However still lacks composure in front of goal, typified by two misses.
Murray 8 Dominated the midfield, spraying nice passes about. Scored his first goal back at the club with an exocet missile.
Istead 7 Decent game.
Adam Smith 8 Missed a good chance in the first minute, but more than made up for it with an absolutely brilliant goal.
Parker 6 Did ok.
Duffy 9 Superb game, winning headers at both ends of the pitch, and working so hard. Scored crucial third goal, and unlucky with a terrific effort in the first half.
Sub Line Up:
Medley (for Parker, 71) 7 Great run for the crucial third goal. Pace terrorised the home defence.
Mills (for Istead, 74) 7 Looked good.
Mitchley (for Duffy, 79) - Goalpoacher’s goal. Gave the ball away on the edge of his own area, in moment of inexperience.
Subs not used: Collett, Naylor.
Opposition Line Up:
Naisbitt, Roberts (Patrick 46), Coulson, Partridge, Jennings (Marriott 61), Russell, McAuley, Stavrinou (Saah 62), Willmott, Wright, Gray. Subs not used: Brown, Platt.
Lee Collins 8 Good game, barely noticed.

Season 10/11 Reports