Sunday, 4 May 2014

AFC Mansfield 2 v Thorne Colliery 1 - CMFL League Cup Final

Sunday 4th May 2014
CMFL League Cup Final
at the Impact Arena, home of Alfreton Town FC
AFC Mansfield (2) 2
Mark Carter 14, 37
Thorne Colliery (1) 1
Kirk Frost 28
Admission £4/£2
Programme £1
AFC Mansfield:
Dale Sheppard, Brad Wilson, Danny Tighe (Julian Capuano 60), Matt Draper (C), Sam Holmes, Danny Naylor, Phil Buxton, Joe Naylor, Dean Rick, Carl Haslam, Mark Carter.
Unused Subs - Toby Birch, Declan Brewin, Chris Timons, Ryan Fletcher.
Thorne Colliery:
Elliot Redmile, Mark Sneap, Robbie Spence, Luke Rafferty, Stuart Rodgers (Ross Ebbage 80), Trevor Hindson (Lugton 62), Glen Rafferty, Scott Rhodes (Callum Tiffany 73), Darren Fell (C), Kirk Frost, Adam Atkinson.
Unused Sub - Glen Hookway.
Click HERE for match photos
It was a big blow for Thorne, that their massive and imposing midfield presence Brett Thomas was missing in action this afternoon. Though I would imagine that any of the Bulls players who don't like getting clattered on a regular basis, weren't overly concerned by his absence. 
Thorne have played some decent passing football this season, but it never hurt anyone to have a big scary guy terrorising the opposition in the middle of the park. If I was asked to choose a CMFL North representative XI for this season, Thomas would be the first name on my team sheet.
I'd be too bloody frightened to leave him out ... nuff said!
Truth be told, this final, contested between CMFL North champions AFC Mansfield and third place Thorne Colliery, wasn't the prettiest game of football I've ever seen, but the effort, commitment and work rate of both teams couldn't be faulted.
I wouldn't have thought either management teams would thank me for saying this, but both teams played a very similar sort of game today and which led to them cancelling each other out all over the pitch, though Micky Taylor's side were probably more direct than their opposition at times. Horses for courses n' all that.
It wasn't one for the purists or the squeamish as both sides went head on into some (borderline) fair but (very) firm challenges. Brett Thomas would've been in his element.
I'm not saying it was a dirty game, but good old fashioned tackling was far more in evidence than any tippy, tappy stuff.
Mansfield opened the scoring on 14 minutes.
Robbie Spence cleared a goal bound Carl Haslam effort at the expense of a corner ... and Haslam swung the resultant flag kick towards the back post, where Mark Carter headed home from close range.
There were a few cynical murmurs in the stands, along the lines of  'How many will AFC Win by now!?', but you write this current Thorne side off at your peril.
Just check out the league table, where Tony Stroud's side still have three games left to play, for evidence of that.
Sure enough, the south Yorkshire side were back on level terms after 28 minutes, when Kirk Frost ghosted through a static back four and thumped the ball home via Dale Sheppard's outstretched hand.
One apiece, game on!
When the Bulls regained the lead in the 37th minute, it was, inevitably, from a long ball into the mix from out on the right flank. Luke Rafferty got his head to it, but he only diverted the ball towards Mark Carter, who leapt and planted his second headed goal of the afternoon beyond the reach of Elliot Redmile.
That was it as far as goals went, though both sides did create a few decent chances and miss a couple of sitters as the game trundled on, less than gracefully, towards its conclusion.
Haslam should've scored just before the break, after doing all the hard work, in getting free of his (close) marker Stuart Rodgers and homing in on the Thorne goal; but Redmile went down bravely at the Bulls number 10's feet and smothered the ball.
Thankfully, I was sat in a cheerful little clique of people (Hi Lee, Scott and Malc) because the banter and gossip throughout the second half was a welcome distraction for the most part, as the game ground to a virtual standstill.
If you are involved in local football and your ears were burning this afternoon, that was us gossiping about you ... but don't take it to heart, nobody was spared so it wasn't personal.
Thorne's spongeman (that is to say, their first aider, he wasn't actually made out of sponge) probably covered more ground than anybody else over the course of the second half as the tackling became ever more competitive, without actually turning brutal.
Both teams ended the game with a player apiece sporting bandages after an accidental and completely unintentional clash of heads.
Dean Rick went close for Mansfield in the 87th minute, while Thorne will be lamenting several missed second half chances from Luke Rafferty, Adam Atkinson, Ross Ebbage and, in particular Kirk Frost who shot over from close range right at the death, after they had instilled a bit of urgency into their game in the final ten minutes or so.
This was AFC Mansfield's last ever competitive game as a Central Midlands League club and the result, rather than the performance was what counted for them today. If they had played a more open and attacking game, they knew that Thorne are one of the few sides in the CMFL North who would've flourished in any space afforded to them.
In the event, the Bulls scraped home and won by the odd goal in three in an evenly matched and physically contested encounter.
Both sides have played in more entertaining games this season, I've seen them ... but Thorne can take heart from their cup exploits and final league position and use them as a springboard for further success next term.
And what of AFC Mansfield?
Promoted in just their second season in existence, having finished in the runners up spot last season and claiming a league and cup double in their final CMFL outing.
Congratulations "you Bulls!" and good luck in whichever league you end up in next season.
Now, with all due respect, of course ;-) ... bugger off and give somebody else a chance of taking next years title, in what will hopefully be a more evenly contested league.