Rotherham United 2 Mansfield Town 3
by Martin Shaw

The View on the Box

This was Mansfield`s first live appearance on TV this season, against the team who won at Field Mill in front of the cameras last season.

Mansfield made 3 changes from the side that had beaten Macclesfield 6 days earlier as Fortune, Sisson and Linighan came in for Bassinder, Roscoe and Kerr.

Stags started positively but it was the home side that had the first chance as Steve Thompson shot just over the bar from distance. But on 8 minutes Stags were in front. Blake played a wonderful ball forward with the outside of his right boot to put Micky Boulding through with a clear run on goal. He took the ball forward and shot low and hard under the advancing keeper into the net. It was a great start for Mansfield but it was to get better within 7 minutes. Alistair Asher played a great diagonal ball forward to Greenacre which the young striker controlled excellently on his chest first time 30 yards from goal. Greenacre took a few steps to the right of the goal and crashed a remarkable shot from fully 30 yards in off the inside of the right-hand post. It was a fabulous goal, certainly his best of the season and probably the Stags best goal of the season. What a time to do it, in front of the live TV cameras.

Within minutes Greenacre could have scored again when he had a free header from 6 yards after a fine cross, but he could only direct it too close to the keeper who parried it well. Stags were playing scintillating attacking football with the pace of Greenacre and Boulding, and the wonderful play in midfield from Blake, Clarke and Sisson far too hot for the divisional leaders to handle.

It seemed too good to last and slowly Rotherham came back into the game. Mansfield had a major stroke of luck after half an hour when keeper Glyn Thompson dropped a corner into his own net as he got tangled with his own player Blake. But to Stags relief the referee disallowed the goal as it initially appeared that striker Fortune-West had bundled into the keeper. Exhaustive replays on TV proved that he didn`t and that the goal should have stood. However for Stags fans, justice was done, as Mansfield had a perfectly good goal disallowed in the live TV game at Field Mill last season against the Millers.

But within 5 minutes Rotherham did pull a goal back. Chris Sedgwick showed excellent skill to bamboozle the Stags defence with various shimmies before easily beating Glyn Thompson with a left foot shot from 15 yards. In another incident, Rotherham had claims for a penalty but TV replays showed that John Andrews had put in a perfect tackle on one striker before the other striker Warne dived over Linighan`s outstretched leg.

But it was Stags who finished the first half the stronger and Darrell Clarke had 2 chances to extend the lead. First from a Blake through ball he scuffed his left foot shot wide, but then he produced an exquisite chip from 20 yards which came back of the face of the crossbar. It was a magnificant piece of skill from the young midfielder.

Half time: Rotherham 1 Mansfield 2

As expected, the home side put Stags under considerable pressure as the second half got underway, and Stags looked shaky from a succession of corners. But on 65 minutes Stags re-established their 2 goal lead with another great finish. A determined header from Greenacre put Clarke through on goal with just the keeper to beat. Clarke produced a cool finish to side-foot the ball into the bottom left hand corner giving the keeper no chance.

But within 5 minutes Rotherham reduced the deficit, as Stags failed to clear another corner and Sedgwick was unmarked 8 yards out to fire an unstoppable shot under Glyn Thompson. From that moment on, I had the horrible feeling that Rotherham would somehow find an equaliser that they didn`t deserve but Stags found extra resolve from somewhere. In fact the home side were restricted to just one half chance when young defender Jon Fortune was caught in possession in his box as he tried to deal with a bouncing ball but to the huge relief of Stags fans the danger was just cleared.

Stags did well to hold onto the ball in the closing stages as 4 minutes of injury time were played. There was just one incident to sour an otherwise tremendous night for the Stags as young Michael Sisson landed awkwardly on his arm after jumping for a header in a midfield tussle. It transpired he had dislocated his arm and will be out for some time. It was very sad to see him carried of in pain on a stretcher - he has had rotten luck with injuries this season.

Full time: Rotherham 2 Mansfield 3

Overall a wonderful performance from the Stags who attacked well and always looked dangerous. For spells during the first and second halves the home side came back into the game strongly and Stags looked edgy at the back and lost a grip of midfield. But overall Blake and Clarke were quite superb in the midfield and Greenacre and Boulding were very sharp in attack. The defence was generally solid as Jon Fortune put in a good display against his uncle Leo Fortune-West, in his last game on loan for the Stags. Glyn Thompson, also in his last game on loan, was very lucky to get away with an own goal as it was wrongly disallowed, and did not command his box well, but did make some important saves.

The coverage from Sky Sports TV was as expected quite excellent. Pundits Barry Fry and Nigel Spackman were highly complementary to the excellent Stags performance, especially Clarke, Greenacre and Blake. The commentary of Rob Hawthorne and Chris Kamara was well-informed and although some mistakes were made (such as saying Greenacre was from Manchester United) these were usually corrected later. After the game, Clarke and Greenacre gave excellent interviews, as did boss Billy Dearden. It was a shame that Millers boss Ronnie Moore, whose interview was only shown on the re-run of the game in the middle of the night, was not more complimentary to the Stags, preferring to criticise his own team for poor defending for all 3 goals. At the end of the game, Stagsnet`s very own webmaster Craig Kerry was clearly visible on the TV holding a large Stags flag. A TV star in the making.

It was a night to be very proud to follow the Stags, who at last won their first game in front of the live TV cameras. It also carried on a remarkable statistic for the season, as it was the 10th time that Stags have led a match at half-time this season, and they have gone all to win all of them. Conversely Stags have been behind at half-time in 12 games, and lost 11 of them, gaining just one draw at home to Orient. Perhaps we shouldn`t bother playing the second half for the rest of the season and just let the half-time result stand. But then again, on this showing, that would deprive us of a tremendous level of entertainment.

Man of the Match: Darrell Clarke

Thompson 6 Some good saves but lucky to get away with disallowed own goal
Andrews 7 One fine tackle and generally solid
Fortune 7 Fine game - his last in a Stags shirt
Linighan 6 Fair game
Asher 7 Played well at right wing-back, and provided excellent diagonal ball for second goal.
Williams 7 Fine game on left side
Sisson 7 Did well in midfield until nasty injury late on
Blake 9 Superb performance, dominating the midfield
Clarke 9 Outstanding in middle and pushing forward. One fantastic chip against the bar, and one fine goal
Greenacre 8 Fantastic goal and all-round excellent display leading the line
Boulding 7 Fine finish for his goal, and generally did very well.

Kerr (for Williams, 77 minutes) 6 Hardly touched the ball
Bassinder (for Sisson, 86 minutes) 6 Little chance to impress in his second game.
Not used: Tye, Cowling, Roscoe.