STAGS GRIND OUT 3 POINTS AT LAST
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 1 - 0 Forest Green Rovers
Attendance: 2008 (32 from Forest Green)
Date: 7 January 2012
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at Field Mill
Mansfield Town picked up a welcome three points with their worst performance in the last four games, after the good performances against York (twice) and Southport had yielded just two points. On a windy afternoon, the Stags created few chances but the one moment of quality, involving man of the match Gary Roberts and full back Luke O'Neill, ended with Lindon Meikle bundling in the only goal from close range on 64 minutes. Forest Green created the better chances and were wasteful in front of goal, and even after they went down to ten men on 77 minutes, looked the more likely scorers, and after Alan Marriott made a good save with his feet on 85 minutes, Forest Green missed a sitter in stoppage time as substitute Uwezu missed from close range. So a fortunate win for the Stags but no matter because it was the three points that were important after the heartbreak of York.
Mansfield made three changes from the side that was so unlucky to draw at York, as Joe Kendrick returned for his first game for a long time in place of Kieron Freeman who had returned to Nottingham Forest and found himself in their first eleven today. John Dempster returned from suspension in place of Martin Riley, who lost his place after his costly injury time error at York. And Louis Briscoe came into the starting eleven in place of Howell. The Stags started with a 4-4-2 formation with Briscoe and Meikle on the wings, and Dyer and Green up front.
Man of the match: Gary Roberts
Stagsnet player ratings on the Match Centre
Mansfield Town 1 Forest Green 0 - full time
Pete Orchard, thisisgloucestershire.co.uk
MANSFIELD TOWN 1 FOREST GREEN ROVERS 0
NEW loan signing Matt Paterson was sent off 12 minutes into his debut as Forest Green slipped to a third defeat in four matches at Field Mill.
Second-half substitute Paterson, recruited on a month's loan from Southend United yesterday, saw red for flooring John Dempster with a studs-first lunge.
Rovers were already trailing to Lindon Meikle's 64th minute strike, which proved enough to put another dent in their Blue Square Bet Premier play-off ambitions.
An excellent counter-attack in the 23rd minute saw the ball fed wide by Charlie Griffin to James Norwood, whose ambitious shot from a tight angle was tipped over by Alan Marriott.
Mansfield were struggling to find any fluency with a strong wind behind them, and an outrageous attempt from near halfway by Gary Roberts – straight at James Bittner – was the best they could muster in the opening half.
Griffin and Norwood combined well again shortly before the interval, the latter bringing a low save from Marriott after a sharp turn.
Marriott was similarly tested a minute into the second half, as Liam Henderson teed up Kieron Forbes for a low attempt which was confidently fielded.
Moments later the roles were reversed, Forbes' brilliant reverse pass putting Henderson in the clear, but once again Marriott was alert and saved at the near post.
Rovers looked well in control, only for Meikle to bring an acrobatic save from Bittner with a curling effort at the other end.
Meikle had been switched at half-time from the left wing to striker, and it paid off for home boss Paul Cox when he was quickest to react to a low ball across the Forest Green area and managed to prod it over line.
Dave Hockaday responded by replacing Griffin with Paterson, but it was Eddie Oshodi who wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise when Jake Thomson's free-kick was not cleared and the big defender blasted wide from 10 yards.
Paterson's only notable contribution to the game followed, a reckless and needless challenge on Dempster near the byline which brought an instant red card from referee Tony Harrington.
The 10 men maintained an admirable push for a leveller, and it should have arrived in stoppage time when substitute Michael Uwezu contrived to divert Norwood's low cross wide from the middle of the box.
See Monday's Citizen for Peter Orchard's match overview and match reaction.
Forest Green: J. Bittner; J. Hodgkiss, J. Turley, E. Oshodi, C. Stokes; Y. Klukowski, K. Forbes, J. Thomson; J. Norwood, L. Henderson (M. Uwezu 74), C. Griffin (M. Paterson 66); Subs not used: L. Graham, W. Turk, C. Allen
First trip of the year ends in defeat
FOREST Green's failure to again convert their chances in front of goal on their first away trip of the year left Rovers pointless at Field Mill, writes Richard Joyce.
Rovers boss Dave Hockaday handed Liam Henderson a starting berth following his return to the club on loan from York City as a replacement for the injured Matty Taylor in a game dominated by a strong wind which caused both sides trouble.
The opening quarter of an hour was bossed by visiting Rovers as the visitors made best use of a spacious surface in Nottinghamshire that saw the Black and Whites moving the ball around well.
It wasn't until the 22nd minute however that Forest Green were trying their luck on the Mansfield goal when a Rovers breakaway saw Charlie Griffin feed James Norwood with a delightful pass which led to Mansfield shot stopper Alan Marriot tipping over a powerful Norwood effort.
The subsequent corner saw Eddie Oshodi head a Jake Thomson corner narrowly wide whilst Mansfield debutant Gary Roberts produced the hosts first effort on goal in the most audacious of ways when the midfield man attempted to find the back of the net with a free kick from just over the halfway line.
Rovers continued to dominate the first period with the visitors midfield men doing their best to get the ball on the floor and Thomson produced a fabulous 34th minute ball which fed the advancing Jared Hodgkiss down the right whose low cross in to Yan Klukowski led to a Forest Green corner.
Klukowski then dragged a low shot wide from the resulting corner whilst Thomson tried his luck from distance when his long range strike was hit straight at Marriott as the Stags keeper was illustrated to certainly be the busier of the two.
With the clock ticking on the first period Marriott foiled Norwood again with a low save after fantastic work by Charlie Griffin and Henderson scuffed a shot wide a short while later to ensure both sides entered the break with a clean sheet.
Rovers kick started the second half in a similar fashion to their performance in the first forty five minutes with Henderson producing a fine reverse pass to set up Kieron Forbes whose low strike was stopped by Marriott.
Henderson and Klukowski then had attempts fail to threaten the score line which led to a series of chances from the pacey Mansfield winger Lindon Meikle around the hour mark as Mansfield began to threaten the Rovers goal.
And the persistent Mansfield pressure finally led to the games only goal as Meikle's hard working attitude in front of goal finally paid off when he slotted home a low cross at the back post for the hosts.
Oshodi then incredibly blasted wide from point blank range in response after Thomson had lifted a splendid ball in to the box from a free kick and minutes later Rovers task grew to be even more difficult as the visitors were reduced to ten men.
Substitute Matt Patterson, who had come off the bench just a few minutes earlier to make his Rovers debut after joining on loan on Friday from Southend, saw straight red for a rash challenge on John Dempster which caused the defender to limp off with an injury.
A late surge from ten man Rovers saw Oshodi again fail to challenge Marriott as the defenders surge forward ended with a stumble and another substitute, Michael Uwezu, failed to tap in right in front of the target after Chris Stokes had shipped in a superb low ball in second half injury time.
A late surge was not enough however for Rovers who slumped to defeat for the first time in 2012 with a failure to convert their chances leading to another goalless game for Rovers attack
Mansfield Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 0, Saturday 7th January
chad.co.uk report by John Lomas
LINDON Meikle's moment of opportunism on 64 minutes proved the ultimate difference between the division's draw specialists as Mansfield Town edged out Forest Green Rovers 1-0 at Field Mill this afternoon.
For long spells it seemed the strong downfield wind was going to be the only winner as both sides plugged away in difficult conditions.
But Meikle popped up at the far post to turn home Luke O'Neill's low cross and break the deadlock.
Rovers then did themselves no favours as they laboured hard for an equaliser when sub Matt Paterson was sent off for his challenge on John Dempster 12 minutes from time, though they battled hard to the very end when they came desperately close to an equaliser.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox had said after recent excellent displays that didn't produce a win, he would love an ugly 1-0 - that is exactly what he got today.
Forest Green arrived with the second meanest away defensive in the division behind leaders Wrexham, letting in 10 in 13 games, and have drawn 11 of their league games, one less than Stags.
A frustrating first half ended goalless but, despite wasting as much time as they could at every opportunity, Rovers, playing against the strong wind, had the better of the half and saw Alan Marriott made the only difficult save of a half short on real chances.
However, Meikle made the difference in a tight second half in which both sides had their chances.
New signing Ben Hutchinson had to be content with a place on the bench today as Stags made three changes to face Forest Green Rovers.
The former Celtic and Middlesbrough striker was not quite fit enough to start, though made a debut right at the end.
But John Dempster returned from suspension, Louis Briscoe was given a start on the right for the first time since the game at Southport on 17th December while Joe Kendrick returned to the side after injury at left back for his first game since 22nd October.
Martin Riley and Anthony Howell were dropped to the bench while loanee Keiron Freeman has returned to Nottingham Forest this week and would have been delighted to find himself in their starting line-up today.
Thomson was lectured almost straight from the kick-off for his late lunge on Murray on the halfway line that left the Stags skipper needing treatment with less than 10 seconds of the game elapsed.
When the free kick went out for a goalkick, the length of time it took before the ball came back into play offered a glimpse of how frustrating an afternoon Rovers were planning to give the home side.
Briscoe almost skipped Green in down the middle of the massed ranks of defenders, but the ball reached keeper Bittner before Green could get onto it.
A poor ball in from Briscoe was easily cleared from Mansfield's first corner, taken short, as Rovers soaked up early pressure
In Rovers' first attack on six minutes Kendrick's tackle stopped Henderson getting onto Forbes' through ball.
Then Green was inches from getting on the end of Dyer's flick from a Kendrick free kick, Bittner again there first.
Forbes went on an exciting run down the centre, took a return pass into the box and O'Neill slid in to concede a corner and stop him crowning the move with a goal.
Rovers were starting to come out of their shells and Forbes drilled a dangerous ball across goal which earned him only a corner from a deflection that could have gone anywhere.
Norwood was booked on 17 minutes for deliberate handball on the halfway line.
Green almost got on the end of a Dempster header when Turley let it run, Bittner yet again quickly off his line to save the day.
Stags again pressed hard but were almost caught out on the counter on 23 minutes as Griffin slotted the ball out to Norwood to his right who made ground before getting away the first on-target shot of the game only to see Marriott turn it over.
That earned a corner from which Oshodi headed wide.
Rovers conceded a free kick almost on the centre circle which Roberts cheekily tried to lift over Bittner with a quickly taken effort. However, Bittner was once more alert to the danger.
Sutton had to block a Klukowski shot as Rovers again looked sharp and quick on the break. And from the corner the same player saw a low 15 yard effort pass through everyone and fractionally wide.
On 36 minutes good approach play from Briscoe and then Meikle saw the ball finally with Roberts, who turned one man on the edge of the box before shooting narrowly wide.
Two minutes later Meikle came inside two players to shoot just over.
When Bittner, for the umpteenth time, took an eternity to get the ball back into play, the referee at last had words with him. But, staggeringly, he continued to waste time before taking the kick no further action taken.
Briscoe saw a loose ball bobble as he hit it well over the far angle while, on 43 minutes, Marriott was always behind Thomson's hopeful first time shot from 25 yards.
Norwood had Marriott diving to his left to save soon after when the keeper was almost punished for a poor kick out.
And, in stoppage time, a lucky break off Kendrick's header saw Henderson get forward and shoot low and wide.
Rovers almost snatched a lead inside the opening minute on the restart as Henderson's pass into the box caught the home defence asleep and Forbes, thankfully, shot straight at Marriott.
Sutton's clearance out only reached Forbes who quickly fed Henderson for a low shot that Marriott had to tip round his near post.
From the corner Oshodi lunged in late as Marriott gathered and was shown a yellow card for his troubles.
The wind was getting stronger and a Marriott goalkick was launched back past him and the post by Klukowski from distance.
The ineffective Briscoe made way for Howell on 54 minutes as Paul Cox looked for a spark.
Finally on 58 minutes Bittner had a real saver to make as Meikle stumbled wide on the left but was still able to get away from two opponents and, looking up, tried to find the top far corner, Bittner just able to reach high and tip away.
Then from a good pass by Roberts, Meike, in space on the left, went for goal from a tight angle with exasperated team mates in better positions in front of goal as the ball sailed well over the far angle.
Dyer sent the ball into the middle from the right where Miekle couldn't force it on target and the ball bounced the Green and off him for a goal kick right in front of goal.
But the opening goal wasn't far away and arrived on 64 minutes.
Roberts chipped the ball forward to O'Neill on the right by-line and his low ball across goal was bundled in at the far post by Meikle as he slid in for glory.
On 70 minutes Forbes somehow stabbed a finish wide centrally from six yards when Stags didn't clear their lines from a low free kick.
Paterson, who had come on as a sub on 65 minutes, lasted just 13 minutes as he was sent off 12 minutes from time.
He went in late to flatten Dempster right in front of the home bench. Off went both players, Paterson for an early shower and Dempster injured, replaced by Riley.
The ever-eager Forbes wasn't far wide with another speculative low 20 yard shot as Rovers continued to look for a leveller, despite their numerical inequality.
Five minutes from time Green went down under Oshodi's challenge in the box but no penalty was forthcoming.
Oshodi then burst into the Stags box and Marriott did well to smother at his feet before he could shoot.
Stags broke quickly but Roberts was over-ambitious with his finish, blasting well over from 20 yards.
Hutchinson made his Stags debut a minute from time, replacing home debutant Roberts, who had produced an excellent first display in front of the home fans.
Hoping for help from the wind, Norwood was just over from 25 yards. Then Uwezu should have hit the target in stoppage time when he got on the end of a low left wing cross at the near post as the 10 men plugged bravely away.
An offside flag denied Green as he tucked away the ball from Hutchinson's through ball. But it didn't matter as the whistle heralded Mansfield's first win of 2012.
STAGS: Marriott; O'Neill, Dempster (Riley 79), Sutton, Kendrick; Briscoe (Howell 54|), Murray, Roberts (Hutchinson 89), Meikle; Dyer, Green. Subs not used: Redmond, Stevenson.
FOREST GREEN: Bittner; Hodgkiss, Turley, Oshidi, Stokes; Thomson, Forbes, Kulukowski; Norwood, Griffin (Paterson 65), Henderson (Uwezu 74). Subs not used: Turk, Graham, Allen.
REFEREE: Tony Harrington of Hartlepool.
ATTENDANCE: 2008 (32 away).
Full-time: Mansfield Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 0
Nottingham Post report by Matt Halfpenny
A FIFTH goal of the season from Lindon Meikle earned Mansfield Town a hard-fought first win of 2012 against ten-man Forest Green at a windswept Field Mill this afternoon.
The Stags were far from their best and played second fiddle to the visitors for chunks of the game and rode their luck at times.
But they held on to secure what was only their second victory in 13 matches, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 at York on New Year's Day, two tactical and one enforced, and reverted to 4-4-2.
John Dempster, after returning from suspension, was preferred in central defence to Martin Riley, while Louis Briscoe came in on the right of a four-man midfield, Anthony Howell making way.
With Kieron Freeman having returned to Forest after his loan spell – and going straight into their team for their FA Cup tie with Leicester – Joe Kendrick made his first appearance since the 3-2 home win over Alfreton on October 22 at left-back.
Striker signing Ben Hutchinson, formerly of Middlesbrough and Celtic, was named on the bench.
Having twice played against the Stags for York, Liam Henderson lined up against Mansfield for the third time in a row having signed on loan for Forest Green.
Ex-Stag Luke Graham was on the Rovers' bench.
Matt Green was almost in on goal in the fourth minute, but he failed to control an excellent pass from Louis Briscoe on the edge of the box.
Kendrick was in the right place at the right time to dispossess Liam Henderson after Kieron Forbes looked to play in the striker.
At the other end, Ross Dyer's flick on from Kendrick's long free-kick forward was inches out of Green's reach.
But Forest Green were pressing on well at every opportunity and Luke O'Neill had to be alert to head off Forbes.
Mansfield were almost caught on the break midway through the half when Charlie Griffin released James Norwood and his shot from 15 yards had to be tipped over by Alan Marriott.
From the resulting right-wing corner Eddie Oshodi out-jumped the home defence only to head wide of the left-hand post.
Mansfield's first shot on target came on the half hour – and it was from close to the centre spot. Gary Roberts tried an audacious chip from, but James Bittner scurried back to claim.
But the visitors continued to hold the upper hand and Yan Klukowski was not too far wide with a shot from the edge of the box following a half-cleared corner.
Mansfield finally showed some purpose when Briscoe and Meikle helped tee up Roberts whose shot flew just past the right-hand upright from 18 yards.
With half-time approaching, both Meikle and Briscoe were off target with curling efforts.
Forest Green were still dangerous, however, and Marriott had to be on his guard with a powerful shot from Jake Thomson.
Soon after, Griffin fed Norwood who squeezed in a shot that Marriott held diving to his left.
In stoppage time, Rovers' Henderson was given space to shoot but dragged into the advertising hoardings.
Soon after the restart, Henderson picked out Forbes in the box, only for the resulting shot to be too close to Marriott to find the net.
Henderson went close himself in the 51st minute when he was denied by Marriott's reflexes with Forest Green making all the running.
Mansfield did respond when Bittner pulled out a fantastic stop to foil Meikle in the 58th minute, pushing a goalbound far post chip over around his left-hand post.
Meikle had another opportunity when put into space by Roberts but his angled, left-footed drive failed to hit the target.
But it was third time lucky for the diminutive winger in the 64th minute when he broke the deadlock.
Roberts played an inch-perfect ball over the defence for O'Neill to run onto down the right.
He cut back before sending a low centre across the six-yard box that Meikle slid home at the far post from point blank range.
The visitors should have been level in the 70th minute when Mansfield failed to clear a free-kick only for Forbes to somehow stab wide from six yards when it seemed easier to score.
The Stags' task was aided when Matt Paterson, 13 minutes after coming on as a substitute, was shown a red card for a very late tackle on Dempster, who had to be replaced by Riley.
With five minutes to go, Mansfield had penalty claims waved away when Green went down under challenge from Oshodi.
At the other end, Oshodi was thwarted by Marriott who slid in to clear as the defender cut into the box.
Roberts had a chance to kill the game as the Stags swept forward but blazed well over.
And they were almost made to pay in the five minutes of stoppage time when substitute Michael Uwezu blasted wide at the near post following a left-wing cross when he should have levelled.
Mansfield: Marriott, O'Neill, Sutton, Dempster, Kendrick, Briscoe (Howell 54), Murray, Roberts (Hutchinson 89), Meikle, Green, Dyer. Subs not used: Redmond, Stevenson.
Forest Green: Bittner, Hodgkiss, Turley, Oshodi, Stokes, Klukowski, Forbes, Thomson, Norwood, Griffin (Paterson 65), Henderson (Owezu 74). Subs not used: Turk, Graham, Allen.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Hartlepool).
Stags not at their best but claim vital victory
Nottingham Post considered report by Matt Halfpenny
THERE have been plenty of occasions this season when Mansfield Town fans have left Field Mill wondering how their team have not claimed three points. On Saturday evening they must have wondered how they had.
The Stags have played pretty well since their ignominious FA Trophy exit at Droylsden in mid-December, but only two league points have been forthcoming as a reward.
In contrast, this performance against Forest Green was not up to those high standards, yet they still managed to emerge with the precious victory they have been yearning for a quite a while – giving manager Paul Cox a belated present to celebrate turning 40 on Friday in the process.
Not since winning five times in a row early on in 2011-12 have Mansfield put together a consistent run of form that suggests they can claim a much-coveted play-off place.
But with new players having already arrived in the January transfer window and the promise of more to come, maybe this triumph can act as a catalyst.
Deserved? Barely. Lucky? Maybe. Vital? Definitely.
Even though Mansfield remain in ninth place in the Blue Square Bet Premier table still seven points off the play-offs.
Had they not secured a tenth league victory of the season, it would have raised serious questions as to whether the team could still bridge a not insubstantial gap between themselves and the top five.
As it is, the Stags will now have a renewed spring in their step when they next take to the field a week on Saturday when they host Hayes and Yeading, the extended break coming as a result of their early FA Trophy exit.
In the interim, Cox will have plenty of time not only to work on bringing in the acquisitions he seeks, but also galvanise those already in his squad on the training ground.
Forest Green, it has to be said, can consider themselves desperately unfortunate to make the trip back down the M1 and M5 without at least a point to show for their efforts. A 1-1 draw that would have mirrored the October New Lawn meeting would not have been unjust.
For large chunks of the game they were in the ascendency and certainly seemed to handle a strong wind and a pitch that cut up better than the hosts.
With the breeze at their backs in the first half, Mansfield barely created an opening, while Rovers continually threatened on the counter.
After the restart, however, Mansfield switched from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, bringing on Anthony Howell, and looked more effective, making the all-important breakthrough with Lindon Meikle's 64th-minute strike.
Even so, they were still left hanging on at times and it was more by luck than judgement that both Eddie Oshiodi and substitute Michael Uwezu missed gilt-edged openings to restore parity.
Undoubtedly the biggest plus of the afternoon for Mansfield was the performance of home debutant Gary Roberts.
The central midfielder was simply superb with his clever passing that ranged from 40-yard switches of play to simple first-time five-yard lay-offs.
For too long, Adam Murray has seemingly battled alone for the control of the centre of the park, but, in the shape of the Port Vale man, the skipper could now have the ideal sidekick.
Mansfield's line-up showed three changes to that which started the 2-2 draw at York. One of them was enforced, with Kieron Freeman returning to Forest following his loan spell to be replaced at left-back by the fit-again Joe Kendrick.
The others were tactical, with John Dempster returning from suspension to partner Ritchie Sutton at the expense of Martin Riley, while Louis Briscoe was given a recall in preference to Howell.
Only Wrexham have conceded fewer goals on their travels than Forest Green this season and the visitors quickly showed why by frustrating the Stags.
Even so, they counter attacked quickly and were closest to opening the scoring in the first 45 minutes when Alan Marriott tipped over James Norwood's rising shot and Yan Klukowski dragged wide from the edged of the box.
In the second period, Marriott denied lone striker Liam Henderson while, at the other end, James Bittner used all his agility to tip a cross-cum-shot from Meikle around the post.
But it was one moment of quality from Mansfield that was to prove enough. Roberts played an inch-perfect ball into the path of Luke O'Neill rampaging down the right and after he checked back, his low, inviting centre across the six-yard box was swept home by Meikle from close range for his fifth of the season.
Mansfield's task was seemingly helped when substitute Matt Paterson was sent off for a late tackle on Dempster that saw the defender replaced by Riley for the closing stages.
Still, though, it was far from a comfortable finish for the hosts through five minutes of added on time that must have felt like an eternity.
In the end, it was all down to taking a chance when it came along – not the overall quality of approach play or passing.
As they say in golf, you drive for show and put for dough. The Stags, this time at least, were in the money
Latest | January 2012