Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Mansfield Town 4 v Accrington Stanley 4 - EFL League 2

Tuesday 14th February 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill
Mansfield Town (2) 4
Rhys Bennett 33, Hayden White 4+2,
Shaq Coulthirst 63 pen, Yoann Arquin 89
Accrington Stanley (3) 4
Omar Beckles 5, Shay McCartan 29,
Billy Kee 43, 66 pen
Admission £18. Programme £3
Attendance 3,226 (inc 53 away fans)
Happy St. Valentine's Day to all THE66POW readers. 
What better way could there possibly be, to spend tonight's romantic occasion, than to tell 'our lass' to get wrapped up warm and then treat her to a night out at a Division 4 game, played at Field Mill (the home of football), or a SkyBet League 2 fixture, at the One Call Stadium, as it's called in decimal currency.
In his pre-match press conflab yesterday, the Stags manager Steve Evans confirmed that his side would not be taking the visit of Accrington Stanley lightly, when  he said, among other things:
“I really respect the opponents tomorrow night and we’re going to have to be at our best. This is one game that I’ve said to the players prior to the weekend: we’ve got two mountains coming up and the higher mountain would be Tuesday. We’ve got over Saturday, this is a much sterner test on Tuesday.”
Mansfield's comfortable 4-0 triumph against Hartlepool United, saw them notch up their biggest win of the season so far, in what was their eighth consecutive unbeaten game in the league, a run that encompasses six wins and the same number of clean sheets; including shut outs in their last three games.
Even I, having gained a mere 'O Level' grade in mathematics (by the skin of my teeth), can work out that 3 x 90 = 270 minutes; plus if you add on a further 82 (since Georgie Maris scored the opening goal for Cambridge United in the 8th minute, when the Stags beat them 3-1 at the Abbey Stadium), that comes to a total of (ignore the working out in margin): 352 minutes.
That's pretty impressive, eh?
The goalless statistic I mean... not my rudimentary adding up skills.
Ironically, after typing up such an enthusiastic introduction, pertaining to the Stags defensive prowess, written in the prelude to kick off, they imploded inside the opening five minutes tonight and had conceded three goals by half time Such is life!
Accrington Stanley arrived at the One Call Stadium for this game, sat in an unenviable twenty first place in the league table, just one point above the drop zone. But in John Coleman they have an astute and experienced manager, who will see to it that 'Accy' pull out all the stops and fight tooth and nail to preserve their League 2 status, by hook or by crook.
It was during Coleman's first spell in the hot seat at the Crown Ground, which is now called the Wham Stadium (a reign that lasted for a whole twelve and a half years), that the Lanacashire club won promotion to the Football League, as title winners of the Football Conference, at the end of the 2005-06 season; after he had already taken the reformed club to promotion twice as champions already: from the Northern Premier League Division 1 at the end of the 1999-2000 season and Northern Premier League Premier Division three years later.
Coleman left Stanley in 2012 but rejoined the club in 2014, after spells in charge at Rochdale, Southport and Sligo Rovers.
And when the subject of his career turns up in the next pub quiz that you attend, you'll be really grateful that I have imparted all of this information upon you... possibly,
So I hope that you've all been taking notes.
Having beaten relegation threatened Notts County 2-0 two weeks ago, Accrington lost by the same scoreline at Fratton Park on Saturday against Portsmouth.
Coleman's side played the referee like an expertly tuned cat gut tonight.
Without wanting to sound like I am blaming the senior match official (and one of his assistant's; the one with the Accrington Stanley rosette pinned to his shirt) for being the main reason that Mansfield dropped two points, because their own poor defending was one major contributory factor that put paid to the Stags chances of picking up another win, from this most bizarre high scoring encounter. Also if truth be told, Accrington were actually the better side for large parts of the game.
But, it would be fair to say, that Mr Heywood was hoodwinked and led up the garden path numerous times, by a rare old combination of: play acting, gamesmanship, convincing 'assimilation', blatant diving and downright bloody cheating.
The worse culprit for hitting the deck almost every time a Mansfield player even breathed in his general direction, from several feet away; was Sean McConville.
And I am damn sure that everybody who witnessed tonight's game would understand exactly where I am coming from to that end, as regards McConville's skulduggery, apart from the guy with the whistle.
But Accrington are desperate for points... so needs must, and they'll probably get their required total and avoid the drop.
One way or another.
Fifty three Accrington Stanley fans
They showed, that they're capable of playing some half decent football, but the ugly side of their performance and reliance on going to ground, ever more frequently as the game went on, leads me to believe that the remainder of their season won't be pretty, not by any stretch of the imagination.
It is easy to understand Stanley's plight, but I couldn't watch the embarrassing quota of melodramatic histrionics that they are employing to escape the relegation zone, on a regular basis.
Over the course of the game,the referee issued ten yellow cards, six of them to Accrington players and four to Mansfield. He also ordered Paul Raynor, the Stags assistant manager from the bench for suggesting that the linesman patrolling that side of the pitch didn't know what he was doing. I wouldn't usually condone dissent towards match officials, but in this case Raynor was merely telling the truth.
I struggled to understand why a team who were evidently adept at playing the game so well, would resort to such a thoroughly debased and lowest common denominator version of the sport.
Yet tonight, the game plan that the visitors employed, was as effective as it was bloody horrible at times, as they demonstrated by sweeping into a deserved two goal lead inside the opening thirty minutes.
We had located ourselves in the lower tier of the Ian Greaves West Stand, in line with the penalty area that the Stags were attacking in the first half and as a consequence had to peer into the distance to watch the majority of the first half, as Stanley won  the territorial battle for midfield, hands down and managed to condense the game into the final third of the pitch, around the Stags goal area.
Omar Beckles opened the scoring, when he shot under Jake Kean's dive, from eight yards out, after the ball had ended up in his path as the Stags tried to clear a McConville free kick out of their area.
The home crowd upped the noise in spite of the early set back, but Shay McCartan doubled the visitors lead when the Mansfield captain misdirected an attempted clearance into the path of the visitors number ten and he drilled a shot past Kean, from just to the left of the D on the edge of the hosts goal area.
Two minutes later, Rhys Bennett squeezed the ball over the goal line, after Krystian Pearce headed Joel Byrom's right wing corner down and back across the six yard box. Stanley hoofed the ball away, but it had already crossed the line.
A minute before the break, Accrington stunned the Mansfield faithful with yet another goal, when Jordan Clark played the ball forward into the path of Billy Kee (who played thirteen games for the home side in 2015, netting two goals along the way, just like he did tonight), whose path was blocked by Bennett, but as the ball bounced up on the right hand side of the eighteen yard box, Kee went shoulder to shoulder with the Stags defender, won possession and hooked a dipping shot over Kean that flew into the top left hand corner of the goal.
Even though Coleman's side had restored their two goal cushion, the 'Stags Choir' upstairs in Block Q of the West Stand, cranked up the volume again... and their loyalty was rewarded in stoppage time, when Hayden White headed the ball past Marek Rodak from another right wing corner.
HT: 2-3
Kean, who prior to tonight had been a pivotal force behind the Stags recent upsurge in form, had a lucky escape towards the beginning off the second half, when he left the ball because he thought it was going wide from Beckles header, but it crashed against the right hand post and ricocheted back into play. Thankfully no visiting player had anticipated such a thing happening or gambled on the follow up.
In the sixty fourth minute the game was all square again, when Seamus Conneely tripped Pearce as the pair of them challenged for Mal Benning's looping ball into the Stanley area and from the resulting penalty, Shaq Coulthirst planted the ball firmly into the back of the net as Rodak dived the wrong way.
But in a game that had more twists and turns the the Wild Mouse (Big Dipper) at Skeggy Fair, shortly afterwards, Accrington had a penalty of their own and this time it was Kee's turn to send Kean the wrong way as he restored the visitors lead from the spot, after going down himself under a clumsy challenge from White. For the record that one definitely wasn't a dive.
Coulthirst put Stags substitute CJ Hamilton through on goal, he got his shot away beyond the reach of Rodak but his blistering shot hit the left hand post.
One of the best things about going to Field Mill these days, is that the negative element of the crowd can no longer be heard, because the goodwill factor that is spreading throughout the ground, means that those who go to watch games and actually want to see their team win, as opposed to merely being misery gut whingers who keep turning up to have a good moan, are being drowned out by a level of noisy enthusiastic encouragement, the like that of what hasn't been hear at Field Mill/the One Call Stadium for far too long. There is a belief that the Stags are upwardly mobile and that they won't throw the towel in as they keep fighting until the bitter end, just like they did tonight!
Pearce lofted the ball forward, White flicked it on for Yoann Arquin to run on to.... and he smashed an unstoppable shot past Rodak from a fraction over twenty five yards out, in the final minute of the scheduled ninety.
The fans had been willing that ball in and even though Mansfield had never been in front at any time during the game, there is now an aura of invincibility prevalent at home games... and a belief both on and off the pitch, that whatever the odds are, on current form this side are unbeatable.
FT: 4-4
Certainly, for long periods of the game, the Stags were second best and ultimately, under the circumstances, tonight's result can be viewed as a point gained as opposed to two lost.
Prior to kick off, Accrington were the lowest scorers in League 2 and a draw would've been the last thing that people might have expected, especially such a high scoring one.
But traditionally, Stanley are a bogey side for the Stags. 
In fact the last time Mansfield beat Accrington the game was played in black and white and the Beatles hadn't even met each other yet, let alone formed a band.
The home side were roundly applauded off of the pitch at the end of the game, not so much for demonstrating a great deal of technical prowess, but for refusing to surrender the final result to their surprisingly good visitors, while they had a breath left in their collective bodies to battle until the bitter end. 
Sometimes you have to dig in deep and grind results out, but to do that, you've got to have a massive lung capacity and deep reserves of heart, bottle, stamina and bollocks to deliver any sort of result on a night like this

Accrington entertain Barnet on Saturday, while Mansfield are heading to the seaside to take on Grimsby Town at Blundell Park... see you there!