Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Derby County U23 2 v Mansfield Town 3 - EFL Trophy

Tuesday 8th November 2016
(Checkatrade) EFL Trophy
at the Ipro Stadium, Pride Park
Derby County (1) 2
Jamie Hanson 24
Andreas Weimann 84
Mansfield Town (2) 3
Ashley Hemmings 2
Darius Henderson 5
Chris Clements 90+3
Admission £3. Programme £1.
Attendance 870 (inc. 357 in visiting supporters corner)
Oh heck! I am a wrong 'un!
Attending a game in a tournament that people are apparently still boycotting.
Well, so was I, until the successful veto of the opening games in this competition, probably helped to force the hands of clubs who were still sitting on the fence, to all but unanimously vote for the non-introduction of Premier League and Championship club's U23 sides being admitted into the Football League, as part of some half baked re-organisation and restructure, or at least gave them a firm but fair nudge in the right direction.
So it's not going to happen, therefore, the need to make a stand and man the barricades, has now become obsolete.
Not that the outcome and results of voting, ballots, referendums and a quick best of three heat of paper, scissors, stone, are particularly legally binding any more, in this day and age.
Not in this country anyway.
I won't personally be feeling compelled to stand on anyone's naughty step as a consequence of watching a football match in Derby on a bitterly cold November night and my conscience is clear.
If indeed, I ever had such a thing.
The EFL have tried to make the make the competition more interesting, adding penalty shoot outs, with an extra point available for the winners at the end of drawn games, but that hasn't worked.
In fact, if anything, it has had a totally reverse and adverse effect.
The format of the competition is crap, let's make no bones about that.
But it's inconceivable that this season's cock up of a tournament will continue without some fairly drastic alterations in the future. There is no doubt that the 'B teams experiment' was a way of testing the waters, by misguided and out of touch league officials, as a means of monitoring how feasible and popular their cock-eyed ideas were. But that has backfired dramatically and the current format is neither of those things.
However we musn't lose sight of the fact, that any of the forerunners to this much maligned lower league knockout competition, were ever really all that glamorous or desirable in the first place anyway, which kind of makes a bit of a mockery of the 'higher ground' that the purists are so keen to be seen defending. Attendances have historically always been piss poor in the opening rounds of all previous Checkatrade EFL Trophy campaigns, under it's various previous names and guises.
Even when the mighty Stags won the Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley, way back in 1987.
Attending these sort games was always a matter of personal preference, priority and (most importantly) choice.
If you don't want to go to these sort of games, then don't, nobody is forcing you to. But, by the same token, should you chose to watch a game of football, you're thoroughly entitled to do so, without having to be be subjected to criticism.
The Stags were playing at Pride Park for the first time ever tonight, which will always attract a certain element of supporters out into the cold, i.e. people like me!
Moreover, one of the young players who I travel far and wide around the Northern Hemisphere with every weekend (and quite a few midweek afternoon's too), was earmarked to be involved tonight.
So I'm hardly going to miss out on that... now am I!?
Your time will come Kieran Harrison and it's good to see that you are finally getting the overdue recognition for the sustained level of consistency that you have shown in both Under 18 and 21 games.
For the record, I am, first and foremost, a football fan and sometimes my passion leads me into temptation and territory that possibly wouldn't appeal to many other people. I even attended Mansfield Town's only appearance in the short lived Setanta Shield tournament, when they were a non-league club a few years.
I'm like that!
Each to their own, innit!
Under 23 sides and B teams from Premiership and Championship clubs are not going to be entering the lower divisions of the Football League.
And just to reiterate, the vainglorious attempt to ever bring about such a change, has already been nipped in the bud and dispatched to never, never land, where it will hopefully curl up in a quiet corner to die a natural death any time soon... hoorah!
Chris Weale, Derby Under 23's thirty four year old keeper must have wondered what on earth he had let himself in for, as crash, bang, wallop! The Stags took the game firmly by the scruff of the neck straight from kick off and stormed into a two goal lead inside the opening five minutes, as the cheers of the visiting Mansfield supporters echoed around the 33,000 empty seats inside Pride Park.
The first goal after two minutes, saw Ashley Hemmings follow up his stunning goal on Saturday against Plymouth Argyle, with a calmly struck shot under the despairing Rams keeper, from Darius Henderson's flick on.
Weale's nightmare start continued, when he miss kicked a clearance, with Hemmings bearing down on him and the ball landed at the feet of Henderson, who added a second goal.
There was already a bizarre kind of strangeness about the atmosphere, given the emptiness of most of the stadium and the unexpected scoreline contributed to that other worldliness of the occasion.
Jamie Hanson's heavily deflected free kick from twenty yards out, completely wrong footed Scott Shearer in  the Stags goal and County halved the deficit on twenty four minutes.
"Oh well, it was nice while it lasted" commented my significant other two thirds as a barely audible murmur of appreciation could just about be heard from a small gathering of Rams fans, sat in the lower tier near the players tunnel.
The game continued to be played out in the home side's half but the nearest either side came to scoring gain before half time, was when Henderson found the side netting when he opted to shoot instead of laying the ball across the face of the goal.
But hey! He'd been involved in both Mansfield goals thus far, so give him some credit.
HT: Rams 1 v Stags 2
The home side were less generous about leaving acres of space for the Stags to knock the ball about in after the break, but the visitors manager Adam Murray, who turned out 54 times for tonight's hosts during his distinguished playing career, could still draw plenty of positives from his side's performance, who were still creating more chances than their hosts, even if the tempo of the game had slowed down by now. The Rams were, in the main, being restricted to long range efforts, while: , Howkins, Benning and Clements all went close to adding a third goalfor Mansfield with off target efforts and CJ Hamilton saw his goal bound effort charged down by Farrand Dawson.
With a little over five minutes remaining, County drew level with another deflected strike, as Weimann’s shot from just outside, was blocked by Oscar Gobern, but the ball spun up and dropped over Shearer and bounced just over the goal line.
Given the claim the B teams in this competition have been entered to give development age players a taste of first team football, it was quite fitting that the Rams equaliser was scored by a  twenty five year old Austrian.
Rip it up and start again Football League, the original dubious intentions that this season's format was leaning towards, have created your very own Frankenstein monster of a competition.
In stoppage time, Matt Green was almost presented with the easiest of chances to clinch a win for the visitors as County's calamity keeper scuffed another clearance, but with a penalty shoot out looming, Chris Clements finally put the game to bed and claimed a deserved win for the Stags, with a twenty five yard shot that bulged the top corner... and the £10,000 prize money (the pot for all wins in the group stages) was heading towards Mansfield Town's bank account, to add to the cash they won at Port Vale.
FT: Derby County 2 v Mansfield Town 3
Footnote: Added Thursday 10/11/2016.
Having gone through to the 'regionalised' knock out stage by virtue of finishing second in their qualifying group, the Stags have been drawn away at Carlisle United on Tuesday 6th December (correct date according to the Cumbrians website) in the next round, which is just 172 local miles away from Mansfield. 
A sick punchline to a poor joke of a tournament, if ever there was one.