Mansfield 4 Torquay 3
Stags’ boss Billy Dearden made a surprising change to the formation by omitting Gary Tallon and thus having no left-sided wing-back. Instead he started with young Micky Boulding up front in a three-pronged attack. Torquay included former Wales’ keeper Neville Southall in their side but ex-Stags loanee O’Neill Donaldson was missing from their line-up. Despite the forecast of rain, which might have put the game in doubt, it was in fact a dry day at Field Mill and once again the pitch looked in good condition.
The game started in very lively fashion with both teams seemingly intent on attack and Stags went ahead after just 4 minutes. Micky Boulding embarked on a run down the right, cut inside the defender, and shot left-footed from 20 yards. There was no power in the shot and Boulding had already turned away in the thought that it would be easily saved, when Neville Southall inexplicably let the shot under his dive and the ball nestled in the bottom right hand corner. Stags could not believe their luck but it just went to show that if you shoot on target, anything can happen. But the luck was not to hold and after Torquay had missed two good chances, the Devon side equalised on 13 minutes. The pacey Bedeau cut inside from the left, beat his marker Andrews, and shot goalwards. Ian Bowling made a good save palming the ball away but it hit Stags’ defender Leigh Bromby on the shin and rebounded into the empty net. It was tough luck on Bromby who simply could not get out of the way of it.
However, 5 minutes later, the Stags were back in front again. Darrell Clarke picked the ball up in the penalty area from a clearance, after it seemed the chance of a goal had disappeared, and worked the ball on to his left foot before shooting powerfully from 12 yards to beat the hapless Southall inside his near post. But once again the Stags could not hold on to the lead and Torquay equalised for the second time on 28 minutes. Ian Bowling came out and attempted to punch clear a cross into the Stags’ box. Unfortunately he could not get any purchase on the punch and it fell straight to the feet of Mark Platts 15 yards from goal who coolly lobbed the ball back over the stranded keeper into the net. It was a bad mistake by Bowling and one that could have knocked the stuffing out of Stags.
But incredibly just 4 minutes later, the Stags were ahead for the third time. Greenacre seemed to be surrounded by defenders on the edge of the box but forced his way forward and managed to somehow bundle the ball past Southall and the ball rolled slowly into the net. So slowly in fact that my brother pointed out to me that I was celebrating a good 5 seconds before the ball crossed the line. It was a great time to go back in front and showed great character in the side.
Finally it seemed the Stags would get on top and Lormor had a great chance to open up a two goal cushion when he received the ball on the edge of the box, jinked past a defender and from 15 yards with only Southall to beat, chipped a shot wide and high when he should have scored. Soon afterwards, Greenacre also had a chance to score but his powerful shot was this time well saved by Southall. Then Lee Williams made space for himself down the right hand side, cut inside, and with players screaming for the ball in the middle, he elected to shoot left footed but put it well wide. There was one final scare for the Stags when Bowling dropped another cross but fortunately this time the loose ball was blocked for a corner.
At half time, Stags deserved to be in front but the absence of a recognised left wing back was an area of concern as Torquay consistently found space down the wing. However the extra man up front had paid dividends with 3 goals scored.
After half time Torquay got very much on top as Stags gave the ball away too much with Blake being guilty on several occasions. It seemed only a matter of time before the Devon side equalised but Ian Bowling came to the rescue with a fine save from a blockbuster from Mark Platts and generally much better claiming of crosses. Somehow Stags held on and it came as a real surprise when completely against the run of play, and with their first chance of the second half, they made it 4-2 ten minutes from time. Micky Boulding received the ball from a poor clearance 20 yards from goal and belted a left footed shot low into the bottom right hand corner of the net as Neville Southall stood motionless. On this occasion however, Southall could not really be considered at fault. There was relief all around Field Mill as it seemed the game was made safe, although I immediately commented to my dad and brother that if Torquay could snatch a goal, as often seemed likely, the game was not over. Sure enough, 4 minutes from time, a Torquay attacker went down in the box after challenges first from Andrews, and then from Blake. I immediately thought it was a penalty although it was interesting that after the game, Billy Dearden said he thought it was a harsh decision. From the resulting spot-kick O’Brien sent Bowling the wrong way and put the ball in the top left hand corner. Stags immediately brought on Tallon for Boulding to try and shore up the defence and perhaps surprisingly in the circumstances, the Stags held on to possession very professionally to prevent any chance of a Torquay equaliser. The referee brought an end to the proceedings after only 2 minutes of injury time to the great relief of the Field Mill faithful.
Given Torquay’s domination of the second half, I think Stags were probably a little fortunate to gain the three points on this occasion, but it should be remembered that there have been numerous occasions this season where Stags have deserved victories and not got them (for example, against Southend and Carlisle). The first half was certainly terrific entertainment fore the fans even though bad goalkeeping and bad defending led to several of the goals. But the way Stags were out-played in the second half was a cause for concern and Torquay could easily have come away with the points. It was also fortunate that Stags came up against Neville Southall in the Torquay goal who should have been embarrassed after this performance and I was amazed to see him laughing and joking as he came off the field at the end of the game.
After the game, boss Billy Dearden commented how unhappy he was with the defending but hinted that he might keep the same formation saying that he would settle for 4-3 every week. Clearly we all would, but perhaps we will not be so lucky every week. I found it strange that the strikers seemed to take turns to play at left wing-back and cannot see that this can ever be the ideal position for Tony Lormor!
My man of the match was Micky Boulding whose pace caused problems for the Torquay defence and whose late snapshot goal ultimately sealed the points.
MOM: Micky Boulding
Bowling 5 Badly at fault for the second goal and fluffed another cross, though did recover well with a good second half performance.
Williams 7 Good game down the right hand side.
Andrews 7 Some good tackles though gave away an unnecessary penalty.
Bromby 7 Once again his pace was useful against a fast forward-line and he was very unlucky with the own goal.
Richardson 6 Fair.
Sisson 7 Another good game for the young midfielder though he did not deserve the sponsor’s man of the match in my opinion.
Clarke 8 Fine game. Scored a good goal and once again was behind much of what was good in the Stags going forward.
Blake 6 May still be recovering from flu and tonsillitis and seemed to give the ball away too often.
Lormor 7 Held the ball up well as ever, missed one good chance and did his best when pushed into the left back position.
Greenacre 7 Generally quiet game though looked skilful as always, and battled well for his goal.
Boulding 8 Pace caused problems for the defence. Two more goals today means he has scored 4 goals from only 5 starts.
Kerr (for Sisson, 84 minutes). Little opportunity to impress and win back a place in the team.
Tallon (for Boulding, 86 minutes). Brought on to shore up the defence.
Not used: Tye, Roscoe, Andy White (youth team player, squad number 29)