Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Mansfield Town 1 v Wycombe Wanderers 2 - EFL Trophy

Tuesday 24th January 2017
(Checkatrade) EFL Trophy Quarter Final
at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill
Mansfield Town (1) 1
Matt Green 34 pen
Wycombe Wanderers (0) 2
Scott Kashket 73
Adebayo Akinfenwa 81
Admission £10 Programme £1.50
Attendance 2,047 (inc. 108 away fans)
Football is a simple game... and by rule of thumb, if you make errors and don't pick up opposition players in and around your own goal area, then you will get punished accordingly.
Wycombe have some particularly big, strong players throughout their ranks and at times their sheer physicality muscled the Stags out of the game.
Although the vast majority of it was 'firm but fair' fare, at times the referee, David Webb, certainly appeared to be letting a lot of the strong-arm stuff go unpunished ... but I've no complaints to that end, nor do I feel the need point to any of the rough and tumble by way of making any excuses; because even if it was apparent that the officials were being lenient towards a lot of heavy handed stuff, then Mansfield had the opportunity to adapt to the circumstances and meet fire with fire. 
And if they aspire to being serious promotion contenders through the play offs, this is the sort of level of commitment, strength in the tackle and uptempo pressing and closing down, that they will have to apply themselves, on an unstinting, regular and consistent basis.
Tonight's visitors are well and truly up for a scrap to get out of League 2 and they're tucked in nicely in a play off spot,just behind the automatic promotion places.
Should Mansfield wish to join them at the business end of the table then tonight was a good indication of how they need to up the ante to become a very good side who are just as difficult to beat as Gareth Ainsworth's formidable charges, as opposed to just being an above average team, who are more than capable of raising their game on occasion, but aren't quite the finished article, as of yet.
On the pitch, Mansfield Town are making some giant strides in the right direction, but they are still in a work in progress and transitional phase.
The Stags didn't play badly tonight, not at all, in fact up until a couple of defensive lapses cost them the two late goals, the home side were actually on the verge of nicking a result against one of the better sides who will visit Field Mill this season. 
And let us not overlook the fact that since the Chairboys drew with Mansfield back in October, they have only lost once in their last twenty games prior to tonight (against Coventry City in a Checkatrade Trophy group game), so running them so close was actually an accomplishment, of sorts, in itself.
Both sides had several before the home side took the lead, with the best two falling to Wycombe's Sam Saunders, but it was Matt Green who broke the deadlock from the penalty spot, after Joe Jacobson controlled the ball with his right hand from Mal Benning's left wing cross, after the Stags left back had made a lengthy run forward from inside his own half.
Several ungenerous Wanderers fans claimed on social media that it shouldn't have been a penalty, but I will politely suggest that they were unsighted (at best), having a laugh or talking crap, borne out of a deep rooted sense of bias. It couldn't have been much more of a stonewall penalty and nailed on decision if Jacobson had actually caught the ball and run away with it tucked underneath his arm.
Green finished emphatically from the spot in the 34th minute... and a trip to Wembley, to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Stags winning the Freight Rover Trophy at the national stadium, began to look like a distinct possibility.
Cameron Healey and Zayn Hakeem. Stags U18 ITA
Having taken in a single goal advantage at the interval, the Stags might have had another chance to increase their lead from another spot kick, when Matt Green went to ground under a challenge in the Chairboys area, but Mr Webb waved away Mansfield's appeals, much to Wycombe's relief and the annoyance of the home side's bench, though I personally think that the official had got that one right too... even though I readily joined in with the (hopeful) cries of injustice... as you do!
But cometh the hour (and six minutes), cometh the heavy artillery... and Wycombe brought on Adebayo Akinfenwa along top scorer Scott Kashket, to add even more bite and firepower to their side. The plan worked!
Oh no!
Here come Scott Kashket and TV chef Ainsley Harriott
In the 72nd minute, Max Muller shot from outside the Stags area and Jake Kean didn't take a clean catch but spilled the ball into the path of the prolific front-man Kashket, who duly planted the loose ball into the back of the goal. Bugger!
Yoann Arquin had the opportunity to put the Stags back in front, but didn't get enough power nor precision into his shot and Wycombe moved forward ominously once again as they visibly grew in stature.
Marcus Bean lobbed a pass to (inevitably) Akinfenwa, who took the ball down, held off the attentions of the Mansfield defence and turned on the spot before drilling the ball home to give the visitors an 81st minute lead.
CJ Hamilton and Danny Rose both had chances late on to force the tie to penalties, but having got a grip of the game, Wycombe weren't going to let go now... and the £50,000 quarter final prize money and a semi final place was theirs.
In conclusion, the best team on the night won, even though the Stags had given it a go... and if they can continue to motor on in this sort of form, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ainsworth's sides actually grabbing one of this season's automatic promotion spots.
Displaying _20170124_192452.JPG
Ultimately, having the luxury of the two pronged strike force Akinfenwa and Kashket on the bench to throw into the mix, won the day for the visitors, while Mansfield were given a glimpse of the kind of ante they'll have to sustain to break into the promotion race themselves.
On Saturday the Stags are at home against Leyton Orient... and in a generous attempt to attract the localsupport back toField Mill, anybody buying a ticket for this game can claim a free one for the next home game against Hartlepool United.
Wycombe Wanderers have a slightly different sort of game to look forward to at the weekend, when they travel to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup 4th Round.
Good luck with that!
FT: Mansfield Town 1 v Wycombe Wanderers 2
I have seen the ticket prices for the Checkatrade EFL Trophy finalat Wembley Stadium, that softened the blow of tonight's defeat as I drove home.