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Season 10/11 Stagsnet Match Report
FA Trophy Final
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town (AET)
Senior 120
Attendance: 24,668 (approx 15,000 from Mansfield)
Date: 7 May 2011


Martin Shaw and Svante Bernhard at Wembley

Mansfield Town were beaten by Darlington in the last minute of extra time in a hard-fought battle at Wembley in the final of the FA Trophy. In a very even game, the Stags had a number of heroes who were carrying injuries yet battled on but in the end it was Darlington who won the cup having just about shaded the game in terms of possession and chances. In front of a fabulous Mansfield following of 15,000 fans, Darlington won the game with a header from close range by sub Chris Senior after Alan Marriott slightly misjudged a throw-in and the ball bounced off the top of the bar and fell nicely for Senior to head home. It was a devastating time for the Stags to lose so close to a penalty shoot-out, and with several of the Stags side producing fine displays, but in the end too many players were carrying injuries or completely burnt out and just had no more to give. Special mention must go to Adam Murray for an all-action display despite carrying an injury and Paul Connor who incredibly completed 120 minutes despite a bad calf injury that saw him literally limping on to the Wembley turf at 1.30pm in the pre-match build-up. The defence also deserves a special mention with Naylor, Foster, Spence and Silk all performing very well. It could have been different if referee Stuart Attwell had awarded the Stags a penalty when Stags sub Ashley Cain was clearly bundled over from behind at the end of the first period of extra time, but ultimately Darlington just about shaded it and deserved to take home the trophy.

The build-up to the game had been dominated by worries about injuries to Stags players, appeals against suspension, and FA rulings that sidelined players. The Stags were down to 15 players eligible to play and so could not fill the bench. And several players were carrying injuries / burnt out by a gruelling spell of matches where the small size of the squad had made resting players difficult.
Referee Stuart Attwell last reffed a Stags game in our last match in the Football League - a defeat at Dagenham and Redbridge, when he sent off Jake Buxton (rightly).

The first action came on 2 minutes, Murray's ball over the top nearly put Connor through on goal. It was incredible to see Connor moving freely after he had limped onto the pitch in his suit 90 minutes earlier.

Marriott made a good punch from a corner on 12 minutes. Murray made a good start to the game, and on 18 minutes his great ball found Briscoe and was put behind for a corner. From the corner, Foster headed over. Marriott made a great catch from a Chandler cross on 19 minutes. On 21 minutes, Wright headed over for Darlington.

At this stage Connor was no longer moving freely and it looked like his injection had worn off. But he struggled on.

On 29 minutes, Murray's shot from the right hand side was blocked.

A controversial moment on 31 minutes, as Briscoe slid in with a tackle inside his own box and Darlington appealed for a penalty. The incident was not replayed on the big screen as usual for controversial moments. However video evidence later shows the ball appear to slight change direction indicating he got a touch on the ball and hence the ref was correct not to award Darlington a penalty.

A great tackle by Naylor on 32 minutes. On 35 minutes, Moore headed straight at Marriott.

A telling moment on 43 minutes. Connor should have been through on goal, but with his injury he couldn't get away from the defender and the ball ended up going for a corner. You would have fancied a fit Connor to have got a shot on goal. On 44 minutes, a Stags corner was flicked on by a defender and Briscoe headed over. Then on 45 minutes, Smith shot low from 25 yards to the left corner of the net and it was saved.

A tight half, but promising for the Stags. Marriott looked sound, Naylor was excellent, Foster solid, Murray superb - doing the running of two players as Connor was not fit - indeed twice a fit Connor would have been through on goal and it was questionable whether Russell's decision to play Connor ahead of Mitchely was the right one.

Half time 0-0

Darlington made a good start to the second half with the Stags under a little pressure. A Stags player (I wasn't sure who) played a terrible ball back into his own penalty area on 50 minutes but the Stags got away with it.

On 52 minutes, Smith cut inside from the left and shot into the side netting with a low effort.

The Stags best chance came on 54 minutes. Great persistence from Briscoe who lost the ball and won it back before powering into the box on the right and his cross-shot was flicked over the bar by Connor's right boot. It was the closest either side had come.

On 57 minutes, a good break by Darlington as Campbell fed the ball wide for Wright, but a great tackle by Spence. From the resulting corner, a free header for Miller was wide. The Stags defending had been good but this was awful marking.

A good move from the Stags on 62 as Murray found Briscoe, who fed Connor who swivelled just inside the box and his left foot shot was saved low down. On 65, Marriott caught a free header across the box.

On 76 minutes, a Darlington ball across the six yard box somehow evaded everyone. Then some great skill by a Darlington player down by the corner flag made Silk look silly but Marriott claimed the cross.

On 80 minutes a chance for Briscoe, but his effort was weak and summed up his disappointing performance.

On 82, the Stags tried to weave their way towards goal with Nix and others, but there was no way through, and nobody wanted to try to pot-shot from distance.

Two howlers from the inept ref Attwell on 88 minutes as great tackles by Thompson and Naylor were penalised. Following one of these, Bridge-Wilkinson fired a great free-kick off the inside of the left post and away. A real let-off for Mansfield. Robin Chipperfield wrote on my notepad "Name on the Cup?" Then on 90+2 a free diving header for Tommy Wright was wide of the left post. It was the last touch of normal time.

Darlington had had the better of the second half and nearly won it near the end. But 30 minutes of extra time beckoned and the Stags were still right in it.

FT 90 minutes 0-0

Marriott made a creat catch from a cross on 91 minutes. The Stags were looking leggy though in the early stages of extra time. On 95, Cain replaced Smith in an attempt to freshen things up. Good movement from Cain and Nix on 98 minutes and Briscoe shot well wide.

Murray went down in the box on 99 minutes but the ref waved play on. From my position it looked the correct decision and so far I have not seen video evidence of that incident. However some Stags fans on the other side thought it looked a penalty.

A half chance for Darlington sub Verma on 101 minutes but Silk just got in a tackle. Then Wright flicked a header wide.

Controversy on 102 minutes as Wright elbowed Spence but only received a yellow card.

Even more controversy in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the first period of extra time. Cain broke into the box on the right, getting goalside of left back Brown. Brown made contact and bundled Cain over. It looked a penalty at the time. My brother, who was on the halfway line on the opposite side, texted me to say it was a definite penalty and he had a great view. The video evidence, not shown on the big screen of course at the time, later confirmed it was a stonewall penalty.

Half time Extra time 0-0

Murray pulled up but had been heroic to last 105 minutes. He was replaced by Mitchley on 108 minutes. A good break by Connor on 109 minutes down the left, but his cross was cleared.

A chance for the Stags on 112 minutes as Cain's cross bounced up awkwardly and Connor headed over from a difficult position.

Darlington nearly took the lead on 114 minutes from a corner as a Darlington header hit the right post with Thompson stretching to clear it, and the ball rebounded out to Miller whose header was tipped over by Marriott. The resulting corner was headed by wide.

But the game was won on the stroke of 120 minutes. A long throw from Brown was headed on and headed onto the top of the bar with Marriott flapping. As Marriott tried to get back to retrieve it, he ended up inside the net allowing sub Chris Senior a free header as the ball dropped back down and he headed in from 3 yards.

The Stags just had time for one free kick, which Marriott went up for, but it was cleared and the ref blew for full time.

A devastating end.

And so the end of a long season which has been hugely frustrating with the Stags so horrendously inconsistent and clearly nowhere near good enough to mount a play-off challenge. The Stags have the spine of a good side, with Marriott, Naylor, Murray, Briscoe and Connor. And these 5 players are all contracted for next season. Whether Duncan Russell is the right man to manage the side for a promotion challenge next season has been much discussed by Stags fans. In our opinion, he has not done enough to show he is the right man, and we believe a more experienced manager like Dave Penney or Martin Foyle should be appointed. The new manager would then need to bring a number of quality players to supplement the spine of the side.

That's it. A devastating way to finish the season and it will take us most of the summer to recover. Thanks for reading the Stagsnet reports this season. See you next season.

Man of the Match: Adam Murray/Tom Naylor

Report by: Martin Shaw and Svante Bernhard at Wembley

Line Up:
Marriott 6 Performed well but was then slightly at fault for the winning goal.
Silk 7 Good game, with some good clearances.
Foster 7.5 Very good performance.
Naylor 8 Very good, and looked a class act yet again.
Spence 7 Some great clearances and generally defended very well.
Briscoe 5 Disappointing. Just one good piece of play when he set up a chance for Connor which Connor flicked over the bar. Had some chances but shooting was way off today.
Thompson 5 Poor. Gave the ball away too often and didn't get a grip in the middle.
Nix 5 Disappointing. Created very little and set pieces were disappointing.
Smith 5.5 Got himself into a few goalscoring positions but couldn't quite find the killer shot. Did little else.
Murray 8 Heroic performance considering his back injury. Did the running of two players up front to compensate for Connor's injury. Deserved a medal, literally.
Connor 7 Was also heroic to go through the pain barrier and complete the 120 minutes. Sadly his injury prevented him making the most of some good positions when he might have got through one-on-one. Had the Stags best chances.
Sub Line Up:
Cain (for Smith, 95) 6.5 Livened things up against a tiring defence. Got goalside of defender and was clearly bundled down but ref waved away penalty appeals.
Mitchley (for Murray, 108) - At least brought some pace to the attack towards the end, but unable to make the most of it.
Subs not used: Collett, Stonehouse.
Opposition Line Up:
Russell, Arnison, Miller, Hatch, Brown, Moore, G. Smith (Verma 39), Chandler, Bridge-Wilkinson (Terry 100), Wright, Campbell (Senior 74). Subs not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Gray
Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton) 5 Poor game. Two free kicks for Darlo at the end of normal time were ridiculous and one led to a shot against the post. Turned down a penalty for the Stags when Cain was brought down from behind.

Season 10/11 Reports