Wednesday, 2 December 2015

AFC Mansfield 1 v Knaresborough Town 2 - NCEL LC R3

Wednesday December 2nd 2015
Toolstation NCEL League Cup 3rd Round
at Forest Town Arena
AFC Mansfield (0) 1
Craig Mitchell 70
Knaresborough Town (1) 2
Will Lenehan 39
Luke Jeffs 49 OG
Admission £4. Programme £1.50. Attendance 58
AFC Mansfield:
Jason White, Perry Marriott, Luke Jeffs, Grant Allott, Chris Timons, Danny Naylor, Ryan Williams, Phil Buxton, Dean Rick (C), Sam O'Malley, Craig Mitchell
Subs - Brad Wilson, Adon Spencer, Danny Williams, Dan Hartshorn
Knaresborough Town:
Jack Rushworth, Toby Lees, Dan McDaid, Will Lenehan (C), Jonathan Maullin, James Bradley Scott Eustance, Ben Clayton, Joel Freeston, Blaine Hobson, Gary Collier
Subs - Brad Walker, Tom Clare, Ben Joyce
The tone for the first half was set, when the home side's captain Dean Rick missed a sitter, with an open goal at his mercy, inside the first minute.
Jack Rushworth, the visitors keeper was kept busy, but he had a good game and was unfazed by having to cope with the Bulls prolific attack force of Craig Mitchell and Dean Rick.
Ryan Williams picked out Mitchell with a left wing cross, but his shot deflected wide off of a defender.
Luke Jeffs planted the corner kick into the six yard box, but Rushworth went down bravely among a flurry of boots and held onto the ball.
Knaresborough Town's lone frontman Joel Freeston will always pose a threat to any opposition defence and Dan McDaid was a whisker away from sending the big frontman clear, with a long range free kick into the Bulls goalmouth.
Freeston himself, powered his way through between two challenges and was felled by Grant Allott just outside the penalty area. Allott was booked for the challenge, but he could quite easily have been given his marching orders, because 'the Boro' striker had made himself a clear run on goal.
However McDaid didn't get enough purchase behind his free kick and Jason White made an easy save.
McDaid had the opportunity to make amends five minutes later, from 35 yards out, but White thwarted him once more.
Mitchell let fly at the visitors goal from the right hand side of the area, but his shot skidded away across the cycling track that surrounds the pitch at Forest Town.
The same player pushed forward again and dropped an inviting cross in between Rick and Sam O'Malley, but Rushworth had read the situation well and beat both of them to the ball.
Williams cued up Mitchell twenty yards out, but the Knaresborough keeper was on hand to make yet another save.
Having soaked up a lot of pressure from the home side, Knaresborough pushed forward again and went in front on 39 minutes when Will Lenehan rose above the Bulls defence to powerfully head McDaid's left wing corner past White and into the back of the net.
AFC Mansfield had two chances to pull things level before half time, when Williams crossed to Chris Timons whose header was saved by the ever dependable Rushworth and and O'Malley played a sideways pass to Williams who wriggled his way past a challenge, before chipping the ball over the Knaresborough defence, but his effort come back off the upright.
HT: AFC Mansfield 0 v Knaresborough Town 1
As the first half had reached its conclusion, officials from both sides had been seen throwing their arms incredulously in the air, in response to several 'curious' decisions that the match referee had been making.
I've seen Ashley Guest take charge of quite a few games and he is usually a very competent official, but I think it would be fair to say that at times, he had a bit of a 'mare tonight, especially in the second half.
It is neither my place, or intention, to do a character assassination on the guy; but I'm sure that almost everybody present at the game, whichever camp they were in, be it home side, away side, or neutral, would probably agree that Mr Guest made a fair few unfathomable decisions/mistakes along the way, nit picked as regards a lot of trivial things and turned a blind eye to (or missed completely) quite a lot of more serious stuff that was going on.
But, least said soonest mended... for now.
The second half was just 4 minutes old when the visitors went two goals in front.
McDaid's inswinging cross from out on the left was destined for Gary Collier at the back stick and Luke Jeffs had no option but to try hooking the ball away, around the right hand post, but instead of clearing his lines the Bulls left back turned his attempted clearance into the roof of the net.
George Eustance came close to giving the visitors a three goal cushion from Freeston's right wing cross but Allott arrived in the nick of time to clear his lines.
The battle for midfield began to live up to it's name, as an air of niggling discontentment descended over the game, both on and off the pitch; as the referee missed several late challenges and seemed oblivious to the rule pertaining to players tackling opponents with their studs showing at chest height.
Amidst all of the acrimony, Williams pulled the ball back from the left touchline and crossed to Mitchell who fired home a goal from ten yards out, to half the home side's arrears.
AFC Mansfield picked up the ball from the restart, but their attempted attack fizzled out in the visitors area.
Mitchell, attempting to get back down the field towards play, ran into the back of a Knaresborough defender who had stopped dead in front of him. Both players collided and fell to the floor.
The referee pulled out a yellow card, which I initially thought was a harsh booking for obstruction by 'the Boro' player, who hadn't deliberately blocked Mitchell's run... but he showed to card to the Bulls attacker instead.
He (Craig Mitchell) couldn't avoid the collision and hadn't intentionally committed any sort of foul, but he was cautioned anyway. Sixty seconds later Mitchell was shown a second yellow and red carded, for dissent, for continuing with his protest about the unjust booking.
Dissent is indeed an offence, but the initial caution was called wrongly in my opinion.
Dean Rick shot over from Danny Williams through ball, while Freeston drilled a chance wide of the mark from 18 yards at the other end.
Rushworth pumped a long kick forward towards the AFC Mansfield box, White came from his line to collect the ball, but Freeston ran forward and quite deliberately jumped into the Bulls keeper and shoulder charged him in the ribcage. But that, apparently, wasn't an offence in the eyes of the match official.
I must add, for purposes of redressing any bias I will doubtless get accused of... it wasn't just the home side who were incensed by a number of the decisions made by Ashley Guest, because the Knaresborough officials in the stand were aiming quite a lot of disbelieving catcalls his way too.
Blaine Hobson passed the ball into the path of Eustance, who saw off a challenge as he burst into the penalty area before going to ground under a trip from Perry Marriott, who obviously seemed to think the Knaresborough player had made a meal of it. But, if you put in a challenge in that position and contact is made, there is usually only ever likely to be one outcome.
A few people around me (including neutrals) didn't think it was a penalty, but I did... but ultimately the referee had a split second to make the only judgement that mattered.
Jason White got down well and saved Eustance's spot kick... and Marriott triumphantly punched the air and declared that: "Justice has been done!" The referee took exception to the Bulls right back's celebration and having already booked him, decided that another yellow card was in order and he could go and join Craig Mitchell in the shower.
So the home side were now 2-1 down and chasing the game with just nine players.
Collier charged after a long ball over the top of the Bulls midfield forward and with what was left of his side all AWOL chasing an equaliser, White had no option but to race from his area to try clearing the ball... and the two players crashed into each other, head on and heavily. "Here we go again!" came a call from the clubhouse balcony, but Mr Guest ruled that this one had been a 50/50 innocuous, unavoidable and purely accidental collision.
In the closing minutes, Phil Buxton was fouled just outside the visitors eighteen yard box, AKA Ryan Williams territory. Sure enough the diminutive playmaker, undaunted by the defensive wall stood five yards in front of him, found the bottom right hand corner of the goal... and Rushworth's outstretched left hand!
Once again, the Knaresborough keeper was the north Yorkshire sides hero... and definitely my man of the match.
Eustance could've put the game beyond the Bulls reach, not that they would've fancied an extra thirty minutes of extra time with nine men anyway, but his shot crashed to safety off of White's left foot.
With 'Boro' seemingly content to run down the clock by the corner flag now, Eustance broke forward again, but White dived in at his feet to claim the ball. However before they could mount a last ditch attack, time was up for the Bulls and Knaresborough celebrated moving onto the next round of the league cup, while AFC Mansfield quite possibly had several post match questions they wanted to put to the match referee.
It would be fair to say... he's probably had better games.
I'm glad I don't have the job of marking and grading referees any more.
FT: AFC Mansfield 1 v Knaresborough Town 2
At the end of the night, there were a few disgruntled home supporters walking away from the ground, lamenting the performance of the match officials and they probably had good reason to be, even though he had baffled both teams with decisions that went against them at times.
But, if the Bulls had found the target more often when they had created a string of chances and Jack Rushworth hadn't pulled off an impressive array of saves, there could have been quite a different outcome.
Knaresborough Town worked hard throughout their team for this result, over the ninety plus minutes, even though they rode their luck, once or twice.