Saturday, 31 December 2016

Mansfield Town 1 v Doncaster Rovers 1 - EFL Championship

Saturday 31st December 2016
SkyBet EFL League 2
at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill
Mansfield Town (0) 1
Matt Green 59
Doncaster Rovers (0) 1
Liam Mandeville 77 pen
Admission by Season Ticket
Programme £3 Attendance 5,042 (inc.1,618  away fans)
Mansfield Town:
Shearer, Bennett, Benning, Collins, Pearce, Clements (M.Rose 86’), Green, Baxendale (Hurst 86’), Howkins, Hamilton, D.Rose (Hoban 78’)
Unused subs - Jensen, Thomas, Hemmings, McGuire
Doncaster Rovers: 
Marosi, Mason, Alcock (Middleton 63’), Butler, Baudry, Rowe, Blair, Houghton, Mandeville (Keegan 85’), Marquis, Williams
Unused subs - Jones, Wright, Beestin, Calder, Longbottom
Clipstone FC on tour
League 2 leaders Doncaster Rovers made the short trip to the Mill for this dinner time kick off, sat proudly at the top of the basement division pile, in a neck and neck race for the title with Plymouth Argyle. 
The pair of  them started today a mere nineteen points ahead of the Stags. But results elsewhere this afternoon, sawDarren Ferguson's side slip to third place, with Argyle and Carlisle United both picking up maximum points, with wins over Crawley Town and Notts County respectively, with the latter result leaving the Stags county rivals just a solitary point above the relegation places.
"Hello, is  that Rampton Hospital? You can call the manhunt off, we found him!"
It would be fair to say that my eternal flame of optimism for all things Mansfield Town wasn't exactly burning brightly this morning, off the back of that particularly lame showing against Morecambe on Boxing Day. 
Things will get better, given time, I'm sure of that; but I was only present at this particular game out of a sense of duty and defiant stubbornness (... yes, me! Who would ever have thought it!? Or even knew that the letter n appears twice in stubbornness?), far more than through having any kind of confidence in the old adage, that states: it is better to travel in hope, than not to travel at all.
Besides, I wasn't going to Hope, I was heading towards bloody Mansfield again.
Image result for hope railway station
In their match preview, the Doncaster Star had billed this game as Rovers 'Biggest Scrap Yet', a headline that contained just one more letter than the three words that I had used to describe the Stags previous game.
But I feel that I must fess up, because on the face of things, I wasn't expecting a great deal of much from the Stags today at all, but it was nice to get an  unexpected surprise to see out what has been a great year for me on a number of levels, when Steve Evans and Paul Raynor's side, took the game to 'Donny', more than matched their high flying visitors and were actually unlucky not to win the game.
In the run up to this Notts v South Yorkshire derby match, I would've been very happy to contribute a weeks wages to slip into the referee's boots as an inducement to see to it that the Stags were guaranteed a point today.
Yet, as I left the ground enthused by much of what I had just witnessed... and somewhat relieved that there had been no repeat of last week's debacle, our post match assessment was actually tinged with disappointment, that Mansfield hadn't got the result that their performance actually warranted. 
What a difference a seven whole days can make in football.
Rovers fans could argue that they were unlucky not to have claimed a winning goal when Jordan Houghton's header came back off the left hand upright and into the waiting arms of Scott Shearer late in the game, but they would have to be fairly blinkered to do so, given that Liam Mandeville's seventy seventh minute spot kick was their first effort on target, in a game that the home side could have already put to bed by that stage of the game. 
Certainly, 'Donny' rallied late on, but they had struggled against a very attack minded and lively approach from Mansfield, up until the point that the referee awarded the visitors with a penalty, after Tommy Rowe went to ground over the top of Shearer, who was down at his feet attempting to pull off the second part of a double save.
Shearer had done well in the opening exchanges, nullifying the visitors attempts to open up the Stags defence from down the flanks, by cleanly taking several crosses.
But Doncaster's early optimism was soon quelled, as the home side found their stride and got to grips with the job in hand, making the top team in League 1 look very ordinary in the process.
Danny Rose started the game and was  obviously relishing the opportunity to have a go at the visitors defence, who in turn recognised the threat he posed, as they subjected him to a few quite physical challenges.
When (D) Rose left the field of play in the seventy eighth minute, it was to rapturous applause from the home crowd, who for once, seemed to unanimously agree with the sponsors choice of man of the match... well played and well deserved Danny Rose!
It was also pleasing to see that Matt Green, who had been out of sorts a week ago, was back on top of his game and doing what it is that he does best, i.e. putting the squeeze on opposition defenders, albeit in a slightly wider role than he might have been used to in the past.
But Green has the experience and quality to adapt and his versatility is pivotal to the attacking shape and approach that the new management is trying to implement.
It would be fair to say, that 'Greeny' has rediscovered his mojo... and you can only hope that the interest that MK Dons has been showing in the striker comes to nothing.
There was a brief flash point when Green and Andy Butler seemed to go face to face, in front of the Quarry Lane End, that the referee took some time to deliberate over, but the official had a better view of the incident that me so one can only assume that nothing untoward happened, even though Butler refused to accept Green's handshake afterwards.
One job I really wouldn't have wanted this afternoon was that of the fourth official, who will probably have the loudest shouting voice of an agitated Scotsman impregnated in his head when he tries to get to sleep later, but Darren Ferguson inherited that noisy trait from his father Alex, the most successful British manager ever. 
Likewise his assistant Gavin Strachan probably gets his shouty man gene from his dad too, though it could be argued that he is doing better in the game than Strachan senior, given that 'Gav' is the assistant manager at a League 2 (Divison 4) side, while his dad Gordon is only the manager of a third world and insignificant international team called Scotland.
OK! I possibly heard one or two comments aimed towards all four officials from the home bench too!
Steve Evans provided the afternoon's comedy moment, when the ball went out of play near him and he managed four keep ups in an impromptu public ball juggling display, two left footed and two right.
The man obviously has talents we didn't previously know about.
As the sides went in at the break with the game still goalless, Mansfield were still clinging on to their unique and unrivaled record for this season, insomuch as, they haven't scored a single goal in the first half of a home game, as of yet. 
Impressive stuff, eh!?
But fear not, because once that dam breaks, the goals are going to start flooding and you'll all regret the day that you were sniggering at them there mighty Stags.
Sammy the Stags puzzle page is proving popular
Finally, Rovers succumbed to the home sides pressing game in the fifty ninth minute, when they could only clear the ball as far as Malvind Benning whose thundering long distance shot was diverted past the Marko Marosi in the Rovers goal, by a cheeky back heel from Green. 
Only an in form striker who is brimming with confidence would ever attempt something quite so audacious.
A second Stags goal would have killed the game off, but try as they might, it wasn't to be forthcoming.
Against the run of play, the visitors equalised from the penalty spot in the seventy seventh minute.
Mandeville's shot was blocked by Shearer, who had no option but to venture from his line to claim the loose ball that had fallen into the path of Tommy Rowe... the keeper got there first, marginally, but the Rovers player left stud marks on Shearer's thigh as he went over the top of the Stags number 1 and hit the deck.
There is no doubt that Rowe's momentum meant he had no chance of staying upright as he came into contact with Shearer, it certainly wasn't a dive as such, but was it actually a foul?
The referee thought it was and his opinion carries more weight than mine... so as Mandeville stroked the ball past Shearer from the penalty spot, Rovers had drawn level and were on the way to claiming a point from a game that they were fortunate to have got anything out of at all.
A Rovers fan I spoke to in the aftermath of the game, said that he thought it was a stonewall penalty, but then added with a glint in his eye, that Rovers have been getting a few penalties of late when Tommy Rowe was in the area.
As we walked back to the car, I received a text message from a Rovers fan I know: "Mansfield should have won, best team. Happy New Year!" 
He was right of course, but those fine margins that people go on about these days, always seem to fall heads up for the teams at the top of the table.
It was disappointing to hear people blaming Shearer for costing the Stags a win, because I fail to see what more he could've done in the build up to the Doncaster's penalty and nobody seemed to be asking why there was no defender on hand to clear the ball away after the initial save, but football is a game of multiple and often conflicting opinions, where if you asked a dozen different eye witnesses to relate any given incident, exactly how they had seen it personally, you would get twelve completely unidentical versions of  events.
FT: Mansfield Town 1 v Doncaster Rovers 1
Mansfield... a tranquil beauty spot in Nottinghamshire
Versions of events:
Nobody seems to have mentioned that John Marquis was lucky not to have received two yellow cards this afternoon, so I'll let that go without a further mention, this being the season of goodwill n' all that.
Doncaster Rovers face Stevenage at home on Monday, while the Stags travel up to Blackpool. Never mind, eh!? There will be a couple more local derby options for bank holidays next season, if Lincoln City keep up their promotion push from the Conference and Chesterfield don't go bust before they are relegated.
Loads of positives in today's performance from Mansfield and a few new signings incoming to bolster the spine of the squad... it bodes well for 2017.
Next Saturday (7th January 2017) Mansfield Town play Doncaster Rovers, in the EFL U18 Youth Alliance. The game kicks off at 11AM and will be played at Rainworth Miners Welfare FC, Kirklington Road, Rainworth, NG21 0JY. 
All support before you head off towards your afternoon games, will be greatly appreciated.