Monday, 17 April 2017

Mansfield Town 1 v Luton Town 1 - EFL League 2

Monday 17th April 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at Field Mill/One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town (1) 1
Alfie Potter 23
Luton Town (0) 1
Danny Hylton 51 pen
Admission season ticket. Programme £3
Attendance: 4632 (892 from Luton)
Mansfield Town:
Jake Kean, Rhys Bennett, Mal Benning, Krystian Pearce (C), George Taft, Shaq Coulthirst, Alfie Potter (CJ Hamilton 77), Haydn White (Alex MacDonald 60), Joe Byrom, Ben Whiteman, Danny Rose (Matt Green 80).
Unused subs - Brian Jensen (GK), Lee Collins, Kyle Howkins, Yoann Arquin
Luton Town:
Stuart Moore, James Justin, Glen Rea, Scott Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, Dan Potts (Stephen O'Donnell 84), PellyRuddocl-Mpanzu, Olly Lee, Lawson D'Ath, Danny Hylton, Isaac Vassell (Ollie Palmer 64).
Unused subs: Craig King (GK), Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray, Jack Marriott, Luke Gambin
Hamish McChuckle. "To me, ye ken, to you, ye ken"
Portsmouth's 3-1 win at Notts County this afternoon, sealed a top three automatic promotion spot for Pompey, who will now play in League 2 next season, along with Doncaster Rovers and Plymouth Argyle, who have also confirmed that they are going up; while fourth placed Luton Town, whose slim hopes of making up ground on Paul Cook's side evaporated today and they will have to fight it out for a play off place and potential route out of the basement division now.
Luton, along with Stevenage, Exeter City and Blackpool currently occupy the four play off berths, but mathematically there are still ten clubs in contention for a play in the winner takes all lottery at the end of the season and the team that is currently ninth in that group, sitting just two points behind Blackpool with three games left to go, is Mansfield Town.
Every town still has one, here is Mansfield's!
It was fairly evident early in the game, that the Hatters captain, Scott Cuthbert, is the most affectionate player in League 2, though he was torn between decided whether to cuddle Ben Whiteman or Danny Rose tightly, each and every time the visitors had a corner, set piece or potential cross to defend.
There will inevitably be a lot of contact while players jostle for position, but these were full on bear hugs and body-lock clinches, that Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Mick McManus and their ilk would have been very proud of.
The fans taunted each other with songs about each other's respective localities, but with the visiting fans singing about Mansfield being a shit hole, I had to suspect, very strongly, that they weren't really from Luton, because if that is the benchmark that they were comparing their hosts hometown with while making such a comparison; then it is small wonder that such a broadside was met with incredulous laughter.
Of course, there are some nice parts of Luton you can visit, including the area that my son lives in since he graduated from Bedfordshire University (Yes! Luton actually is a university town!) and made his home down there.
It's great that the Stags have been getting more vocal backing this season, than I've heard at Field Mill for many a year, but was the retaliatory chant alluding to the ethnic origins of approximately 39% of the overall population of Luton really the sort of thing that massed ranks of football fans still sing about in these enlightened times?
The atmosphere at home games has been steadily improving and kudos is due to those making the noise... but please could we all leave our politics at home?
Whichever side we dress to.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but 3pmin the afternoon at any given football ground is neither the time nor place.
I was pulled up for questioning the content of the words to a song that's sole aim was to be derogatory towards fellow human beings and was accused of being a racist myself towards people who were born in Chesterfield, because I happily join in with songs aimed at the Spireites.
But, in my defence, that is a very shallow argument, because Chesterfield fans aren't another race, they actually belong to an entirely different species to the  rest of us altogether.
And, for the record, they finally confirmed their relegation to League 2 today.
After the game, Steve Evans bemoaned the fact that the Stags weren't awarded a penalty in the first half, that might have seen them take a two goal advantage into the half time break, when Cuthbert tangled with George Taft, but didn't mention an incident at the other end, when Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu wriggled past two challenges before seeing his shot blocked en route to goal by the hand of Krystian Pearce.
"Ball to hand" I suppose you could say, by way of dismissing Luton's claims, while an impartial observe might say that Taft v Cuthbert was a case of six and two threes.
Either way, in Nathan Jones, who Bananarama once made a record about, Luton have a manager who is just as outspoken and animated as the Stags 'gaffer' and his sidekick Paul Raynor, but in Mark Brown, we had a referee today, who won't be swayed or influenced by such histrionics, so between them both benches were bellyaching and emitting a whole lot of hot air for nothing.
But, each to their own, eh!?
Midway through the first half, Danny Hylton cleared a George Taft header off the line, right next to the upright, but Mal Benning delivered the ball back towards Taft, who cushioned it back towards Alfie Potter with a dipping header, that the Stags number eight struck first time, but saw his effort rebound straight back to him off of Dan Potts and made no mistake with a crisp finish from fifteen yards with his second attempt.
The first half was bereft of many actual clear cut chances, but at this time of the season results take on an even bigger significance than usual and supporters will happily sacrifice intricacies and aesthetically lovely geometry any day of the week for a few precious points.
Which is just as well as large proportion of the game was quite frantic and being played at a high altitude, although to be fair there were a few water sodden sections of pitch, particularly in front of the visitors bench, that made a few players look daft when they did actually attempt a few flicks and tricks, or anything out of the ordinary.
Football unites
One player who seemed to suffer more than most with the underfoot conditions was Shaq Coulthirst, who was left frustrated several times as he tried a few elaborate twists and turns and lay offs only to find himself thwarted and quite literally bogged down... and when he tried taking matters into his own hands, he seemed like he was hanging onto the ball for unnecessarily long spells and always trying to beat a man too many, when he had team mates who appeared to be better placed.
But to be fair to Coulthirst, there were areas where keeping the ball down and moving it around on the deck wasn't an option and a horses for courses policy had to be adopted.
HT: Stags 1 v Hatters 0
At half time the majority of 'The Legends of 1987" were introduced to the crowd... and here George Foster recreates his iconic trophy lifting pose, as first seen on that epic afternoon when Bristol City were beaten on penalties.
The Hatters started the second half on the front foot, with Lawson D’Ath met Mpanzu's right-wing cross with a header into the path of Isaac Vassell, but he was muscled off the ballas he went shoulder to shoulder with Taft.
Benning almost doubled the Stags lead when he pushed forward and unleashed a crashing shot narrowly over Stuart Moore’s crossbar.
But play switched from end to end very quickly from the resulting goal kick and when James Justin fed the ball to the feet of Hylton, his attempted ball across the face of goal was turned behind by Taft, who used his arm.
As Kean moved to his right, in an attempt to preempt which way Hylton was going to place his spot kick, the prolific marksman placed it straight down the middle to claim his twenty sixth goal of the season, six minutes into the second half.
Glen Rea and Hylton both went close to increasing Luton's lead, while Ollie Palmer looked useful when he came on off the bench for the visitors and probably covered more of the Field Mill pitch, during his twenty six minute cameo role in Luton's colours than he did the whole time he was on the books at Mansfield Town.
Taft had a goalbound effort blocked by Potts and then right at the death ,Alex MacDonald had a long range shot turned round the upright by Moore, and Rhys Bennett headed over from the resultant corner.
FT: Mansfield Town 1 v Luton Town 1
A fair result? Probably, all told.
Who knows, these sides might yet meet up again in the play offs, but that will depend on several results elsewhere.
This comiing weekend, Luton entertain Notts County at Kenilworth Road, while the Stags travel to fifth placed Stevenage with everything still to play for.