STAGS WIN AT STEVENAGE AND ARE ALL BUT SAFE
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Stevenage 0 - 1 Mansfield Town
Attendance: behind closed doors
Date: 17 April 2021
Martin Shaw at the Lamex Stadium, Broadhall Way
Mansfield Town picked up their first away victory since January with a 1-0 win at Stevenage this afternoon that sees the Stags all but safe from relegation.
Mansfield are 12 points above Grimsby and 11 points above Southend. Grimsby would need to win 4 and draw the other of their remaining 5 games, while Southend would need to win all 4 of their remaining 4 games, to have a chance of overtaking Mansfield. The Stags may well be mathematically safe after Tuesday’s games, when the Stags are at home to Scunthorpe (7pm kick-off).
Stevenage had had a very good run to pull themselves well away from the relegation zone so were likely to be difficult opponents. Prior to last weekend’s defeat at Salford, they were unbeaten for 12 games with 6 wins and 6 draws. At home, they had won 4 and drawn 1 of their last 5 games, and only lost one of their last 14 home league games.
The only goal of the game came after 24 minutes. Tyrese Sinclair’s corner from the right came off the head of Stevenage defender Luke Prosser, who was trying to clear amongst a melee of bodies on the edge of the six yard box. The ball landed at the feet of Ryan Sweeney, three yards out and unmarked. Sweeney took one touch to get the ball out from under his feet and then stabbed it right-footed past keeper Jamie Cumming into the net. Clinical finishing! It was Sweeney’s 3rd goal in the league this season and 4th in all competitions.
Mansfield were very good value for the lead at half time and should have been further ahead.
The Stags had a glorious opportunity to take the lead inside the opening 45 seconds as Elliot Osborne gifted a clearance to Stephen McLaughlin 45 yards from goal. McLaughlin advanced forward and his low cross was towards Jamie Reid just inside the area. Reid got to the ball first and as he played it across to Jordan Bowery, Reid was brought down by Joe Martin. Bowery was unmarked 12 yards out but shanked his shot up in the air and the keeper caught it comfortably. From the video, it should have been a penalty for the Stags for the foul on Reid. After the game, Nigel Clough said he thought it was a clear penalty. Regardless of that, Bowery should have got a shot on target.
After 27 minutes, McLaughlin’s cross to the right side of the box was headed back across by Sweeney, and as Elliot Osborne was about to clear, George Lapslie nipped in to get the ball further across to Bowery, 16 yards out with his back to goal. Bowery did excellently to hold off his marker and bring the ball down for Tyrese Sinclair who had time to steady himself and fire a low shot goalwards from the edge of the area, but it was too close to the keeper when a yard or two either side and it would have been in the back of the net.
After 38 minutes, McLaughlin fed Stephen Quinn on the left. Quinn side-footed a fine low cross in to Reid with his back to goal 9 yards out. Reid turned well and his goalbound shot was blocked by Prosser. A minute later, a good move from the Stags involving Lapslie, Reid, and Bowery, to Sinclair who teed up George Maris for a shot from 25 yards but Maris shot wide. Then after 45+1 minutes, Sinclair tried his luck from 35 yards but despite a powerful shot, it was easily saved by the keeper.
Stevenage only went close once in that first half as a free kick from Chris Lines to the far post was headed down by Joe Martin and Aidan Stone got down well at his near post to push it away to safety.
So the Stags much the better side in the first half, but the second half saw Stevenage putting the Stags under pressure at times, while the Stags created precious little in the way of chances. After 50 minutes, Luther Wildin’s low cross from the right found Jack Aitchison unmarked 8 yards out but with the goal gaping he fired inches over the bar. A huge let-off for the Stags. And three minutes later, the home side went close again as Chris Lines’ cross from the right was met by Luke Norris who got away from his marker Bowery and headed goalwards from 6 yards, but Stone reacted brilliantly and saved on his line. Then on 58 minutes, Aitchison found the overlapping Elliott List on his left. List powered into the area, took one touch, but then his second touch just took the ball away from him, and Stone was out quickly to block his shot from point blank range. More fine keeping from Stone, though if List’s second touch had been better Stone might not have stood a chance.
However after that the Stags defended resolutely with Farrend Rawson and Sweeney in great form. There was one moment of controversy after 88 minutes as Rawson headed safely back to Stone from 25 yards out but after he did so he put his arm into the face of List to hold him off. Stevenage manager Alex Revell was convinced it should have been a red card for an elbow in the face, and indeed from the video it probably should have been. But the Stags have been on the wrong end of some decisions like this this season, for example when Reid was smacked in the face by Will Boyle in the FA Cup at Cheltenham and Boyle went on to the score the winner.
Six minutes of stoppage time were added on and Sweeney conceded a free kick 29 yards out in the final of those minutes after Jason Law failed to clear when he could have done. But Ben Coker’s free kick to the far post was over everyone and the Stags had their win, which was much-needed.
Nigel Clough summed it up after the game: "Two things today, that little break in the box (falling for Sweeney). Then we made no silly errors.”
Whilst safety is not quite mathematically assured, the Stags are pretty much all but safe.
Man of the match today would have to come from one of Sweeney, Rawson and Stone, all of whom were excellent. Sweeney edges it for me with his priceless winning goal.
Meanwhile, I apologise about the coverage today on iFollow today, with the commentary a second ahead of the video. Extremely annoying, and very annoying that it was not fixed.
The game was moved from 3pm to a 12.30pm kick-off on Saturday lunchtime due to the funeral of Prince Philip. There was also a minute’s silence before the game. RIP Prince Philip.
Nigel Clough told me after the game that both managers wanted to play the game on Friday night, which would have given extra recovery time before Tuesday night’s games, but that the Stevenage safety officer wouldn’t allow it. You couldn’t make it up with no fans in the ground.
Mansfield made one change from the side that drew with Newport. Jamie Reid returned to the side in place of Ollie Clarke, who was off the pace against Newport dallying on the ball three times in the first half and losing it. Clarke dropped to the bench in an unchanged 18. Clough kept faith with Aidan Stone and George Maris who both were at fault in conceding the goal to Newport. It was a 4-3-3 formation with Reid (right) and Sinclair (left) either side of Bowery up front.
DETAILED REPORT IN THE MATCH CENTRE
Sweeney goals sinks Stevenage and takes Stags within a whisker of 50-point mark
Ryan Sweeney’s fourth goal of the campaign all but removed Mansfield’s lingering relegation fears as Nigel Clough’s draw specialists finally found a way to win again.
Town kicked-off without a win in eight games but had drawn six of those outings including last time out to Newport County.
So, Sweeney’s first half effort and a clean sheet lifted Mansfield 11 points clear of the bottom two and up to 18th place with four games remaining.
Mansfield faced opponents who prior to a 2-1 loss at Salford City a week earlier hadn’t tasted defeat in 16 matches.
Despite that impressive run the Broadhall Way outfit still required an unlikely sequence of results to make the play-offs.
The sides drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture last October. Joe Martin almost ensured there would be no repeat of that stalemate but Aidan Stone produced a smart save-the first of several vital stops.
Lapslie collected a 14th minute booking for a poor challenge but it was soon one-all in yellow cards as Stephen Quinn was poorly tacked by Terence Vancooten.
More importantly, the Stags struck the opening goal after 24 minutes to again raise expectation of that elusive next victory.
Tyrese Sinclair won a corner at List’s expense and defender Sweeney fired home his first goal since a 3-2 win at Oldham on January 13.
Stevenage made the game’s first change in personnel taking off Elliot Osborne during the break and replacing him with Jack Smith.
Jack Aitchison and Luke Norris fashioned chances for the home team-the latter’s header excellently saved by Stone as Town stayed resolute in protecting their lead.
The keeper was called into action again shortly after, this time racing off his line to thwart to thwart the onrushing Elliott List.
Despite Stevenage’s best efforts and six minutes of stoppage time Mansfield held on to secure a massive victory.
Teams: Stevenage, Cumming, Wildin, Vancooten, Prosser, Martin (Coker 72), Osborne (Smith 46), Pett, Lines, Aitchison, List, Norris; Substitutes: Vincelot, Cuthbert, Hutton, Johnson, Stevens.
Mansfield: Stone, Perch, Rawson, Sweeney, McLaughlin, Maris, Lapslie, (Law 62), Quinn (O Clarke 54), Sinclair (Charsley 87), Bowery, Reid; Substitutes: Stech, Benning, Gordon, Ward.
Referee: Samuel Barrott.
Early start catches Stevenage sleeping as Mansfield claim the three points
Stevenage's impressive unbeaten run ended last week at Salford City and they have now embarked on another - albeit an unwanted one thanks to a second successive defeat.
The 1-0 loss at home to Mansfield Town will have hurt too, for the poor performance as much as the result.
The second half was better but there was too much frustration in Stevenage's play.
They had hoped that the final five games would have cemented their place in mid-table, and also altered the perception of them as perennial strugglers.
But with back-to-back games against the division's top two to come, Cheltenham Town on Tuesday followed by a trip to Cambridge United next week, they will have to regroup in a hurry too.
The goal in the first half was one to forget for Stevenage. A corner from the right was nodded down to Ryan Sweeney, who seemed shock at the time and space he had inside the six-yard box.
Once his thoughts were gathered though he simply slid the ball through the couple of defenders on the line and in.
For the 20 minutes or so before that though Stevenage had been decent. The ball was moved quickly between players with only the decision and timing of the final pass needing work.
One such occasion saw Boro break quickly but Luther James-Wildin could only flash it across the face of goal and well away from anyone in white and red.
After the goal though it wasn't so much the final ball that was at fault, more the first and second ball.
Play was rushed, wayward, and if anything Mansfield were likely to score again as Boro continued to keep giving the forward players of the Nottinghamshire club way too much space in the box.
Jamie Reid was a recipient of one, having time to take a touch before turning to shoot. Fortunately that was blocked and two other drives from distance were straight at Jamie Cumming.
Dean Wilkins had been noticeably absent from the technical area in the first half, sitting at the far end of the main stand.
Mark Sampson joined boss Alex Revell in shouting instructions although even here the passion displayed before the goal dwindled afterwards.
Whatever was said during the break was obviously laced with intent and drive as Stevenage started strongly.
They really should have been level inside the opening 10 minutes of the second period too.
Jack Aitchison blazed over from just eight yards after a nice pull-back from James-Wildin and then Luke Norris found a gap between defenders as a Chris Lines cross came in.
His header though was too close to Aidan Stone and the keeper made the save.
He did so again shortly after as Elliott List bore down on his goal, reacting quickly to a heavy second touch from the forward to block the attempted lifted shot.
Stevenage continued to enjoy more of the possession but the longer the game went on, the more frantic they got in their attempts to grab an equaliser and more.
A good one-two between List and Jack Smith allowed the former to get in down the right. However, his low cross was behind Norris, who had made the run to the near post, and there was nobody coming in at the back.
List and Smith then had shots blocked as the pressure was cranked up.
Six added minutes, played after a coming together between List and Farrend Rawson - a clash that had the Boro bench incensed at what they said was an elbow, took place almost exclusively with Stevenage on the ball and inside the Mansfield half.
Like the rest of the game though while the build-up play was good at times, the final touch and pass was lacking.
The one big chance came from a Ben Coker free-kick, 25 yards out and out to the right-hand side.
It came to nothing, as did the game for Stevenage.
Stevenage: Cumming, James-Wildin, Prosser, Osborne (Smith 46), Vancooten, List, Pett, Aitchison, Martin (Coker 72), Norris, Lines.
Subs (not used): Johnson, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Hutton, Stevens.
Booked: Vancooten 21
Mansfield Town: Stone, Sweeney, Rawson, Bowery, Maris, Perch, Quinn (Clarke 54), Reid, McLaughlin, Sinclair (Charsley, 87), Lapslie (Law 62).
Subs (not used): Stech, Benning, Gordon, Ward.
Goals: Sweeney 24
Booked: Lapslie 14, Maris 72
Referee: Samuel Barrott (Brighouse)
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