Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Mansfield Town v Rushden & Diamonds - Blue Square Premier

Tuesday 13th April 2010. Blue Square Premier

at Field Mill, Mansfield

Mansfield Town (0) 3 (Speight 2, Duffy pen)
Rushden & Diamonds (1) 2 (O'Connor, Smith)

Admission £16, Programme £2, Attendance 2031 (178 away fans)
Mansfield Town have 2747 season ticket holders, most of who took advantage of a pre season special offer and paid £195 to spend 2009-10 at Field Mill.
Given recent results and the less than convincing way the Stags have been playing, one can only assume that tonight's attendance was, in the main, made up of people squeezing every last drop of 'value for money' out of their investment, rather than people (like me) who paid to get in on the night.
This summer, the season tickets are back up to full price again and it will cost £18 a game to watch MTFC from the upper tier West Stand seats as they attempt to get back in the Football League, at the third attempt.
It is anticipated that there won't be quite as large an uptake by eager supporters willing to part with their money now the offer hasn't been extended by another year.
However seats in the Quarry Lane End are actually going down in price on a match by match basis at the turnstiles, from £16 to £15, so to those who are moaning about the prices on the Stagsnet forum, might I suggest that there is an alternative if you really are skint and don't just log on there to moan about anything and everything.
To my shame, I haven't seen the Stags play since Boxing Day at Bootham Crescent.
That was a good day out, on ice, spent with some good friends of both the Mansfield Town and York City persuasion, spoilt by an inept, and rudderless performance by the visiting side.
As I left the ground that afternoon I had decided that if David Holdsworth's sides played like that and weren't going to put any tangible effort in, then I was buggered if I was prepared to put in the mileage and financial outlay required to watch them again for a while either.
Not an act of petulance you understand, more of a frugal decision based on the logic that I wasn't prepared to pay that much to watch such poor football on a regular basis.
By all accounts some recent performances by the Stags have been woeful too, but I dragged myself along anyway. Like you do.
As it turned out, it was a decent match tonight and the Stags (maybe a case of too little too late as regards the whole season) finally put in a convincing, match winning performance ... well, for the second half at least.
Over in the North Stand, 178 visiting supporters, with a drum

Rushden & Diamonds came with a game plan.
They were a very strong side and well organised.
Louis Jefferson and Aaron O'Connor, who've both turned out for the Stags in the past, seemed to be the two pronged battering ram set up at the front of this tight knit unit.
On 15 minutes the latter former Stag, O'Connor, fired his current team ahead ... it wasn't against the run of play at this point.
The visitors kept this frustrate the opposition and unleash the big men at regular intervals format up for the remainder of the first half.
The man from the Chad (Mansfield Chronicle & Advertiser), a charming bloke who I bump into quite often at punk rock gigs in the area, said the first half was dull. But from my perch, it was actually an intriguing insight into a team, playing to their strengths and nullifying any threat at all Mansfield had to offer.
Justin Edinburgh (R&DFC manager) had obviously run the rule over the Stags and knew exactly how to contain them for the first half.
It was duly noted that Dale Roberts in the Rushden goal had been on a time wasting mission from the 15th minute onwards, which is probably why Kyle Perry kicked him instead of the ball when an unexpected chance to equalise presented itself in first half injury time.
A section of the Mansfield support have evidently taken a dislike to Kyle Perry, it's not my place to say whether it is warranted or not, I haven't seen him play often enough to comment.
But over the years, there was always a 'boo boy' element at Field Mill who pick out a player from their own side to target this way regardless of how he was performing.
Some things never change.
I was under cover during the first half, but in regular contact with another guy sat in the Quarry Lane End by text message, the author of this fine blog --> http://ontheroad2009-2010.blogspot.com/2010/04/stags-3-2-rushden-and-diamonds.html ... Hiya Malc & Kev!
But I was also getting messages from a female of the species who was far too keen to find out where I was sat for my liking because she had, as her sinister message said "Something to give you for your birthday! Lucky boy ;-)" and then sent me a picture of what the pair of presents were.
Eek! It isn't my birthday for another two days, if I get in my car and start driving tonight I could be a safe distance away by then.
So I wrapped my stylish and understated maroon scarf around my face, pulled my cap down, put my hood up and sat fretting in the shadows about how the police don't take the crime of male rape very seriously.
I got some odd looks, but maybe if Malc couldn't see me sat 15 yards away from him then the 'young lady' in question (she is neither young or ladylike btw) wouldn't spot me either.

I met Malc and Kev in the catacombs beneath the stand at half time.
My distress and concern didn't seem to be worrying them too much and they were chuckling at my demeanour.
So I replied to my 'stalker' "Men from Hucknall with big beards are Tigers in bed and I know where there is one at Field Mill tonight."
Play your cards right Mr Storer and you never know where it might all end ;-)
There were a few stifled murmurs of discontent from the Field Mill faithful as the teams left the field for the break with the visitors one goal ahead.
Apparently at full time on Saturday, after the home defeat v. AFC Wimbledon where the Stags had failed twice from the penalty spot, it was a real angry mob who jeered them off the pitch at the end of the game.
Five home games had now passed since their last home win and tonight's visitors looked like an hard nut to crack.
What the Stags really needed right now was a dose of 'Mansfield Magic'

The Stags 1987 Freight Rover Trophy Final pop record, with
totally unconnected video footage. They won at Wembley btw :-)

But, without further ado ... on with the second half.
Three minutes after the restart Louis Briscoe seized on a mix up in the Diamonds defence and put Kyle Perry through in the box, Dale Roberts ran across to block Perry so he side footed the ball to Jake Speight who fired home from close range.
Perry himself should have scored a few minutes later but headed his chance onto the bar when he really ought to have done better.
David Holdsworth obviously though so too and he replaced him with Rob Duffy on the hour mark ... at least Kyle Perry had created a goal on a night when he was out of sorts, so his shift wasn't entirely a bad day at the office.
The fans roared their approval of Duffy's introduction, though I have no doubt that many of them were cheering because Perry was leaving the field too ... that's going to do wonders for his confidence then. I wonder if 'fans' like that ever wonder how counter productive their vocal 'support' and 'constructive criticism' is some times.
Of course they don't!
On 61 minutes Cliff Akurang of Rushden went down in the box and was booked for diving. I must've been slightly unsighted at the far end of the pitch because it looked to me as if Alan Marriott, the Stags keeper, had taken him out with his outstretched arm.
A friend of mine who was sat up in the West Stand had a perfect view of the incident and agreed with me. The referee called this one wrong it would seem.
The action switched back to the other end and Speight almost scored a second but lobbed the ball over the bar from three yards out.
On 71 minutes Sam Smith charged towards the Stags goal and restored Rushden's lead with an unstoppable shot.
At this point what impressed me about the Stags play, was they didn't resort to hoofing the ball and they didn't panic because they were losing, but kept plugging away in a patient manner.
So it was ironic that the equaliser on 78 minutes came from a long ball up the field ... the Stags had a corner, which they messed up with so badly, that after just two passes the ball had found it's way back in their own half.
Out of frustration Marriott raced out and hoisted the ball deep into the visitors half.
The well drilled Rushden defence were all still moving out assuming the danger had been cleared, but Jake Speight followed the trajectory of the ball and chased it into the box, he got their before Dale Roberts and neatly lobbed it over the keepers head into the back of the net.
On 80 minutes 'big bad' Jefferson Louis was dismissed for a second bookable offence and half of the Rushden & Diamonds battering ram double whammy was removed from the equation.
With two minutes to go Speight came close to scoring his hat trick but narrowly failed to get on the end of a cross.
It looked as if a draw was on the cards.
I moved down near the exit to get a quick getaway at the end. By coincidence, it meant I would be in the right place with my camera when a late twist in the action unfolded, but also blew my cover as a horny woman with vulgar intentions spotted me hanging around the exit.
Kyle Nix was bought down in the box in the very last minute and Rob Duffy was given the responsibility of snatching all three points from the spot.
The visiting team did all they could to put Duffy off, delaying the kick being taken for as long as possible.
Roberts came out of his goal and stood shouting in Duffy's face trying to psyche him out. So after Jez Simpson (the referee) ordered Roberts back to his goal line it was time to see if Duffy had kept his nerve.
He had.
And Mansfield won the day.
With ninety minutes on the the clock, Rob Duffy steps up to score
a last gasp wining goal from the penalty spot

Alas the action had distracted me and I'd dropped my guard ... out of a throng of celebrating fans bounced somebody I thought I had managed to avoid all night.
I'm still too distressed to recount what happened next, but the scarf that was around my chin is now covered in the drool of a woman who's hormones seem to have gone mad with the onset of spring and I feel more than a little violated.
It must be rutting season in Stagshire.

I never thought I'd be calling a David Holdsworth team entertaining, but credit where it's due after tonight.