Monday, 7 May 2012

Mansfield Town 0 v York City 1 (AET), BSBP Play Off Semi Final 2nd leg

Monday 7th May 2012, at Field Mill/the One Call Stadium
Blue Square Bet Premier, Play Off semi final 2nd leg
Mansfield Town 0
York City 1
(Matty Blair, 111 minutes)
York win 2-1 on aggregate - After Extra Time
Admission £17 (West Stand), Programme £3, Attendance 7,295
Mansfield Town:
Marriott; O’Neill, Riley, Geohaghon, Sutton, Murray, Howell (Rhead 64),
Roberts, Briscoe (Stevenson 104), Dyer, Meikle.
Unused Subs - Redmond, Thompson, Andrew.
York City:
Ingham, Oyebanjo, Meredith, Smith, Parslow, Walker, Chambers, Blair,
Challinor (Moke 60), Doig (Fyfield 87), McLaughlin (Potts 72).
Unused Subs - Musselwhite, Reed
After several false starts and some silliness on the roads in North Notts, we eventually got going and were at the 'Ian Greaves West Stand' turnstiles before they even opened.
All seating was unreserved today, but season ticket holders could enter the ground 30 minutes before everybody else to snap up their regular, or the best, seats.
Every single ticket for the game had been sold, with the local health and safety body capping the capacity.
There was nothing much to choose between the two teams this afternoon, or over the season as a whole.
Back to back games over the festive period and last Wednesday's Play Off first leg, between these two sides, had all ended all square, so it was no surprise to anyone, that the sides were locked at 0-0, when the whistle sounded for 90 minutes.
York City finally broke the deadlock and Mansfield hearts, after 111 minutes, when Matty Blair topped off a man of the match display for York, by heading home a cross from Jason Walker.
Shortly afterwards, the Stags misery was compounded, when Richie Sutton got his second yellow card for a late challenge on Blair and the home side were reduced to ten men.
The voices in my head that make me think, say and do evil things some times, were screaming "Yeah, dead right he was late. He should have kicked that **** out of the game five minutes ago!", while my calm and rationale alter ego, who occasionally makes an appearance at games that are vital for the Stags, but not very often, chipped in to say "If anybody deserved to be on the winning side today, then it was probably Matty Blair"
And though it pains me to say it, I'm magnanimous enough to admit that the latter theory, was 100% correct. Ouch!So here we all were. Well, those of us packed into the home sections of the ground anyway; united by our pride in the way Mansfield had finished the season on such a high and willing them on to the victory, that would put them just one game away from a return to the Football League.
But as celebrations go, it was a laughter free and fairly tense one.
There was just too much riding on the result, for us to become a seething mass of happy clappers.
I took an end of row seat, right at the back of the lower tier, so I could spend most of the game stood up, ranting, stamping like a mardy kid who's just been denied sweets and flailing my arms around in frustration, without injuring anybody in my close proximity too seriously.
I love the fact that Mansfield Town are on the way back up, from the downward spiral of decline that threatened to swallow them up altogether, in the not so distant past.
And in a nutshell, that is what reaching the play offs today represents.
The promising green shoots of recovery are fair blooming.
But I hate the whole experience of watching a game as tight as this one, when there is so much at stake.
If Mansfield had capitulated and completely caved in, then I'm sure that after a while and a bit of realistic reflection on how far the club have actually come this season, I could have accepted that it just wasn't their day and found some cold comfort in gallows humour therapy, combined with a whole load of reborn optimism for the future.
And if they were absolutely spanking York, then everything would have just rushed by in an ecstatic blur.
But a tight game, with both clubs battling gamely, where neither actually gained the ascendancy and took control, with so bloody much hanging on the outcome; well, to be frank, when you've got a vested interest in a game like that, it's agony to watch.
Emotionally draining even.
By the end of 120 minutes, I was completely knackered.
Losing top scorer Matt Green for a game of this magnitude, was a massive blow for the Stags.
He was sent off in the first leg and served his punishment today.
His absence proved to be a big, BIG factor, as to how the game panned out
But Mansfield aren't a one man team and they have other performers who can step up to the mark.
Alas, there are also a couple of players who aren't fully fit and that started to show as the game entered the extra half an hour.
Over a fairly tight 90 minutes, the home side just about shaded things, if only marginally, possession wise, but they needed to find a bit more quality and sharpness around the York box, as time and time again, they struggled to find the final touch at critical times and the ball was scrambled away to safety.
Ross Dyer, playing as a lone forward, is a good target man and foil for a strike partner, but today he didn't have one, until Matt Rhead joined the fray in the 64th minute.
And Briscoe must score! 'Kinnel! That was close

Lindon Meikle, on the left, bust a gut and ran himself into the ground for the Stags cause, working hard to link up with the attack.
He was definitely a contender for Mansfield's man of the match and would've walked away with that honour had it not been for Adam Murray's immense contribution in the middle of the park, where he put in a real captain's performance.
Louis Briscoe tried adding a bit of muscle down the other flank, but without wanting to sound too disparaging, he didn't look fully fit and seemed to be struggling with his pace. In truth he's looked like that for a while now, but he's got a good track record of coming up with the goods for the Stags, in the big games, when it matters.
Exodus Geohaghan must've dropped a dozen long throws within a yard of York City's penalty spot over the course of the game, but it was all to no avail.
It was always going to be a struggle for Mansfield if they didn't finish the job inside 90 minutes, because they obviously had a couple of very tired players, who wouldn't have been relishing another half an hour.
And so it proved to be.
Alan Marriott really came into his own during extra time and when it looked as if the game was heading for penalties, in light of his goal scoring prowess against Wrexham (during a brief respite from my cussing, stamping and manically chucking my arms aloft behaviour), I asked the person sat next to me, if they thought Marriott might fancy taking a spot kick himself.
"Oh, you've come back from that stressful outer dimension, you've been muttering to yourself in all afternoon, have you Mr Intense. How long have you been into the self harming stuff?", they replied.
Hmm, a fair point , well made, I suspect.
9 minutes of extra time to go, what could possibly go wrong now?

Of course, Blair's goal, quickly followed by Sutton's dismissal, meant there wouldn't be any need for penalties now.
In fact if Alan Marriott hadn't of come out on top in his personal duel with Jason Walker, several times in the closing stages, the final score could've looked a lot worse for Mansfield.
Walker took that duel to a nasty conclusion, with a X rated late challenge on Marriott, but the Stags goalkeeper managed to jump over Walker's potentially dangerous foul and avoided any serious and lasting damage.
The game really ought to have finished 10 aside, with the York number 9 walking for that reckless, cowardly and completely unnecessary act, but it didn't and only the referee will ever know why.
The last few minutes were suffocating to watch and my inner demons went to war with each other.
If any of you good people out there, don't have an emotional attachment to a football team, keep on top of that sensible life choice option and never let yourself get too close, or involved, because getting drawn into that vortex, will only lead to heartache.
The rest of us however, fully understand the sentiment behind Joy Division's epic, best selling, hit parade topping, song 'Love Will Tear us Apart', don't we!?
My nice guy alter ego started the trouble by opining, that: "It is only a game, worse things happen!".
Frankly, he'd had it coming all afternoon and that was the last straw, so I sided up with my evil streak, to do battle with the twat.
Nobody won that particular scrap, which attracted a few puzzled looks of consternation from worried onlookers, but for me personally, it was quite cathartic never the less.
No minutes of extra time left :-(

Anyway, good luck to York City, in the play off final.
You've been in this league for far too long now, so make the most of your chance to escape while you can, because it looks like the BSBP will be even harder to get out of next season.
I've heard that it's going to be a real pain in the arse, to go through the process of obtaining Play Off Final tickets, from the agency who are dealing with them.
Never mind, eh!?
That's not my problem now, after this afternoon's result ;-)
But York fans, whose team have already qualified for the FA Trophy final, now face two expensive trips to the national stadium over the next two weekends, while I'll be saving a small fortune watching cheaper football matches elsewhere.
Ah, just think of all the diesel and train tickets I won't have to buy now as a consequence of Matty Blair's headed goal.
Ha, ha! I'm having the last laugh now!
Yes, it's a poor attempt at being ironic, very poor in fact.
I'm absolutely gutted really.
But even though I'm hugely disappointed at today's result and it's longer term consequences, my last two experiences of play off games involving Mansfield Town, were far more unpleasant.
Or possibly, I'm just getting used to dealing with these 'so close, yet so far' situations by now.
The defeat on penalties to Huddersfield Town at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, that preceded one of the best Stags teams I've ever seen breaking up and moving on, after having had a perfectly legitimate goal ruled out (TV replays, showed just how wrong the referee got that one, from a variety of angles, in glorious, high definition, technicolour), hurt more than today. And of course, there was *that other time*, at the biggest dump of a ground in the country, where the Stags capitulated in extra time against their deadliest rivals; which you may talk to me about, if you really want to, when our paths next cross, if you really must. But I hereby serve due warning and notice, that I will probably reorganise the shape of your head, with half a house brick, if you do. *That one* was bloody horrible.
By the way, try me! If you don't believe I would carry out that cautionary threat, to it's painful conclusion. I'm a man of my word ;-)
Yes Trinity fans, that is Paul Connor on the Stags season ticket cover

I told some York fans I was talking to at Glasshoughton Welfare (v Rossington Main) a few weeks ago, that if the Stags didn't go up; then out all of the play off contenders, I would prefer it if they did, instead of any of the others ... and I stand by that. In spite of them sticking a spanner in the Stags works at Field Mill/the One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Safe journey home guys, no hard feelings, you can't win 'em all :-(
Now, come on Coxy, get the new contract signed and put the finishing touches to what you've already started.