Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Mansfield Town 1 v Luton Town 1 - BSBP

Tuesday 23rd August 2011 - at Field Mill
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town (1) 1 (Matt Green 27)
Luton Town (0) 1 (Will Antwi 78)
Admission £15, Programme £3,
Attendance 2,592 (437 from Luton).
A refreshing welcome for the teams

Mansfield Town: Marriott, Kendrick, Riley, Futcher, O'Neill, Meikle, Howell, Murray, Briscoe, Dyer, Green.
Subs Not Used: Redmond, Worthington, Stevenson, Connor, Wood.
Luton Town:
Tyler, Osano, Beckwith, Antwi, Asafu-Adjaye (Gleeson 56), Howells, Watkins, Dance, Morgan-Smith, Crow, O'Connor (Walker 61).
Subs Not Used: K Pilkington, Barnes-Homer, Poku.
Their are lies, damn lies and statistics.
A phrase with it's debatable origins attributed to such luminaries as Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain ... today it's being utilised as an opening gambit, by a sub literate football supporter on a self indulgent bullshit blog.

The yin and yang of Mansfield Town circa 2011-12:
Mansfield Town are unbeaten in three of their opening four matches.
Mansfield Town haven't won any of their first four games.
Outwith the 'no show' at Gateshead, the Stags have scored first in their other three games.
The Stags haven't built on their single goal advantage in three attempts, nor have they held onto a lead yet.
The goals Mansfield Town have scored thus far have all come from different players, demonstrating they have goalscoring capabilities throughout the team.
Mansfield Town have scored an average of less than one goal a game and need a 20 goal a season striker to do the business ... ex Stags players scored for several other Blue Square Bet Premier sides tonight and Conor Higginson netted (again) for Sheffield FC in an Evo-Stik League fixture.
The goals for and against column shows that the Stags have shipped in twice as many goals as they have scored.
Following the debacle on Tyneside, the Stags manager Paul Cox moved swiftly to plug some obvious weaknesses in defence ... weaknesses that wouldn't have needed addressing in the first place, if two of the players he had brought in pre season hadn't been injured in a by now infamous 'friendly' game ... the circumstances of which are well documented elsewhere and are currently pending legal action.

You've had a great American literary genius, a twice serving British prime minister (who also wrote a couple of trashy novels) and some Taoist philosophy, to keep you on the edge of your seats so far ... but from now on, you're lumbered exclusively with lil' ol me.

So do the positives outweigh the negatives at this early stage of the season for Paul Cox's prototype Stags?
Hell yeah!
Pondering over the above 'stats' at face value and dissecting them, one would probably come to a fairly negative conclusion.
But having seen all four of their games so far this season, I would have to say ... taking everything into account, especially following the high level of performance during the last two games and considering there are still players coming back soon from injuries to strengthen the squad that was decimated on the eve of the new season, who'll provide a whole range of different options ... I'm genuinely optimistic for the rest of the season ahead, not merely cautiously optimistic ... but genuinely.
I've read comments on the internet and heard guys at work telling me what a crap start the Stags have had to the 2011-12 season. But most of that criticism emanates from people who haven't seen the team in action yet, or who at best went to the £2 admission game on the first day of the season - a game incidentally, that Bath City were fortunate to come away from with a point.
It is notable, that while those who were absent have been pouring scorn on performances they haven't even seen for themselves, the spectators who were at the last two Stags matches stood and applauded the team off at the end of both games.
There is no getting away from the fact that the performance away to Gateshead was poor, but Paul Cox took on board what needed doing to avoid a repeat of that dire showing and took immediate remedial action.
In spite of a minority of Mansfield fans already claiming that Cox is another David Holdsworth, I'd say on the evidence I've seen so far, the comparison is way off the mark ... he has my backing.
It's going to take a while to rebuild Mansfield Town, on and off the pitch, but the appointment of Paul Cox is a big step in the right direction ... and quite a bold one given his lack of previous experience at BSBP level.
Paul Cox on duty at Braintree on Saturday

Holdsworth completely baffled me at times, his departure from the club wasn't exactly an unpopular decision amongst the Field Mill faithful, his 'interim' successor was only a stop gap appointment and as such I will spare Duncan Russell the criticism his limitations probably warrant ... but I personally hope Paul Cox will remain at the club and see the job through that he's still in the process of laying the foundations for.
There is far too much clambering for immediacy and overnight fixes in the modern game ... a little bit of good old fashioned patience and steady progress that can be sustained, is what Mansfield Town need right now.
So what of tonight's game?
Fairly even to start with, but as the game progressed Mansfield's dominance increased and though taking a point against a team of Luton's standing must always be regarded as a good thing, the Stags could justifiably feel this was a case of two points lost tonight.
Though the visitors were always likely to pose a threat to the Stags at some point of the game, given the undoubted quality of some of their personnel, the Hatters found the home side hard to handle tonight and will be grateful to have hung on for a draw.
A friend of mine (Hi! Dan) put a load of photographs on Facebook after the game under the heading 'The most one sided 1-1 draw you'll ever see' which just about summed up the night.
Matt Green's opening strike on 27 minutes was an absolute screamer, that left the Luton keeper grasping at thin air ... the Stags number 10 almost doubled his tally for the night when he hit the post a few minutes later.
One of the more lively tussles throughout the game was the one between Green and Dean Beckwith the visitors centre half, which ultimately saw the Stags player booked in the second half, while the Luton number 5 avoided any kind of censure by staying marginally inside the line of what is acceptable within the rules of the game ... at least while the referee Mr Stockbridge was looking! ;-)
Against the run of play, deep into the second half, Luton had a couple of attempts on goal during a four minute spell.
On 74 minutes Jake Howells hit a free kick which Alan Marriott did well to tip over ... and a few minutes later the same play swung another free kick into the box which Will Antwi headed home for an unlikely equaliser.
Last season, the Stags players heads would have dropped and having conceded a sucker punch goal, they would most likely have caved in and got beaten ... but they have more backbone this term and for the last ten minutes put Luton on the rack.
A winning goal wasn't forthcoming, despite chance after chance going begging and the game finished all square.
But despite the disappointment of having seen a win being snatched away from them, the home fans rose to their feet and applauded Cox and his team off the pitch at full time.
Gary Brabin, the visitors manager, said after the game that Mansfield were Luton's bogey team ... and they've definitely had a good run of results against the Bedfordshire side of late. But what he really should of said was "Bloody hell, how did we escape from here with a point tonight!?"
My son is going away to the University near Luton Town's ground at the end of this month, so I guess I'll be heading to Kenilworth Road later in the season once more, even though I'm not very fond of the place.
I was asked earlier tonight if the66pow is becoming exclusively a Mansfield Town blog this season ... it isn't and I'll be popping up all over the place as the season progresses, but at the moment I'm enjoying my rub of Stags games ... it's nice to see they're on the verge of recovery after the downward spiral that seems to have been pulling the club into some undesirable void since they lost a play off final at Cardiff v Huddersfield Town in 2004.
Next up Stags U19 v Blidworth Welfare U19 tomorrow and Stags v Kettering Town on Saturday, I'm not going to White Hart Lane to see Tottenham v Hearts on Thursday as I'd originally planned, it's a big night for my son and that's more important than a game that's likely to be played between two weakened sides following the 0-5 result in the first leg.