Saturday, 23 December 2017

Mansfield Town 2 v Morecambe 1 - EFL League 2

Saturday 23rd December 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at Field Mill/the One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Kane Hemmings 8
Danny Rose 88
Morecambe (0) 1
Callum Lang 50
Attendance: 3,058 (63 away)
Mansfield Town:
Conrad  Logan, Hayden White, Rhys Bennett, Zander Diamond (C), Malvind Benning, Alex MacDonald, Calum Butcher (Jacob Mellis 54), Paul Digby (Will Atkinson 70), CJ Hamilton, Danny Rose, Kane Hemmings (Paul Anderson 54)
Unused subs - Bobby Olejnik, Krystian Pearce, Lee Angol, Jimmy Spencer.
Barry Roche, Aaron McGowan, Max Muller, Steven Old, Sam Lavelle, Michael Rose (C), Alex Kenyon, Luke Conlan, Vadaine Oliver (Adam McGurk 72), Callum Lang (Kevin Ellison 72), Adam Campbell (Garry Thompson 81)
Unused subs - Danijel Nizic, Mitchell Lund, Andy Fleming, Elliot Osborne.
Last weekend's goalless draw at Field Mill, between Mansfield Town and Yeovil Town, saw the Glovers finish the afternoon in twenty first place, just a point above the bottom three clubs: Barnet, Chesterfield and Forest Green Rovers, and one behind today's visitors Morecambe.
After putting together a decent unbeaten run, the Stags have lost one (at Crawley Town) and drawn two (both at home, against Chesterfield and Yeovil) of their last three league games, prior to today; meaning that they had slipped to tenth in League 2, level on points with Grimsby Town, who they have a better goal difference than and who they play against at Blundell Park on Boxing Day, before heading to fourth placed Wycombe Wanderers four days later.
Mid table Carlisle United visit the 'Wonk Hall' on New Years Day, to complete the holiday period schedule of games, before the Stags travel to Cardiif City in the FA Cup Third Round on January 6th.
Anyone with a glass half full optimistic view of today's hosts recent form might well be content with the statistic that they've only lost once in their last fourteen outings, but a more cynical observer could point to the fact that, all but for .09%, Mansfield have actually drawn 41% of their games thus far this term, before taking to the field of play against Jim Bentley's side this afternoon.
In his live press conference earlier in the week, Steve Evans said: "I think we should be seven or eight points better off than we are, no more than that. We've always said we'll be better in the second half of the season."
We live in hope then.
When asked if I'm an optimist or a cynic myself, I would have to say that I am too busy visiting A&E on a regular basis, having the splinters removed from my backside, as a result of sitting on the fence so often, to join in any rational debate on the pro and cons of both mindsets.
It is common knowledge on the football grapevine that funds are available and Evans is looking to bolster his squad in the January transfer window, in an attempt to make a real fist of an impending (or at least expected/anticipated) push towards completing the second half of the season in a more convincing manner than the stop/start kind of way that they've approached the current campaign with so far.
Of course, any prospective new signings, along with their clubs and agents, know that the Stags chairman John Radford is prepared to bankroll his manager with a decent budget and as a consequence they will be looking for more money from any dealings with the club than they might otherwise have been asking for elsewhere.
A home victory... of any sort, was vital today to keep Mansfield in touch with the teams at the business end of the table as they enter a busy festive season.
And you would imagine that some of the players who were selected for this game, could just as well be playing for their futures at the club as much as their place in the team, with talk of a central midfielder and another striker being cited as the main targets that are on Evans radar, there is the distinct possibly that a couple of the current squad are potentially being shown the exit door next month too.
Football is a magical and wondrous game, but it is also a results based and particularly ruthless business entity at times too, where traits such as patience and sentiment are seldom considered to be even slightly virtuous, in a winner takes all industry, where the meek shall inherit 'nowt.
In the event, this wasn't the most convincing kind of victory that I've ever witnessed, but three points is three points, even though Morecambe will justifiably feel that they deserved something more out of this game.
Because overall, the Lancashire based visitors were, in my humble opinion, the better side on the day, but goals win games... and sometimes goalkeepers play a massive part in gaining a maximum share of the spoils too, so credit where it is due to the Stags number one, Conrad Logan, without whom the final outcome of this contest might have been completely different. Logan's selection as man of the match seemed to be a universally agreed upon decision by the Stags faithful, who in several other respects are a bit of a divided camp at the moment, especially as regards split opinions on the subject of the current occupants of the technical area.
One of the more colourful outbursts I heard aimed at the Stags management today, stated that, amidst a string of unrepeatable expletives, they had lost the dressing room. That's just silly talk, because everyone knows it is the first door on the left as the players come off the pitch and it is clearly identified with a HOME DRESSING ROOM sign.
As I took my seat up on the front row of the west stand upper tier, the 1987 Freight Rover Trophy club anthem was belting out over the public address system, as the Stags squad from thirty years ago were serenading us all with the pearl of wisdom: "You know Mansfield Town will never let you down". It was quite reassuring to hear such a claim once upon a time, although three decades later I have had reason to suspect on numerous occasions that they were either being tongue and cheek or deliberately misleading people and telling fibs. At least it rhymes. And sometimes rhyming is important when you've nothing else to cling onto.
The lyrical snatch that I am referring to appears at one minute and ten seconds in this video, if you should wish to fast forward to it, not that there is any reason you wouldn't want to listen to this masterpiece in it's entirety and full glory.
Mansfield made a tentative start as the visitors threw down their gauntlet and made an early statement of their intentions. Because though Morecambe slipped one place in the table as a consequence of today's reversal, they certainly impressed me when they were on the ball and in the ascendancy for long spells of the game.
Adam Campbell looked sharp for the visitors right from the off, trying his luck from outside the area with a strike that rebounded back to him off Malvind Benning's arse, before skidding a second attempt along the ground and wide of the post. Callum Lang blocked a clearance by Zander Diamond and threaded a pass through to Campbell, but he had strayed offside and a raised flag thwarted the lively Shrimps number ten.
Having been stung into action by Morecambe hitting the ground running, Mansfield finally showed their teeth in the fifth minute, when CJ Hamilton latched onto a lengthy knock into the visitors area, to left hand side of Barry Roche's goal, but he struck the ball into the side netting from ten yards out.
Conrad Logan made his first good save of the afternoon, when he turned Luke Conrad's goal around the post after Campbell (again) had created the chance with a slide-rule pass.
Michael Rose's right wing corner was met by Sam Lavelle at the back stick, having cleared a pushing and shoving scrum of bodies in the goalmouth, but Logan got across well to his right to save Lavelle's downwards header on the line.
The Stags keeper then turned defence into attack with a long ball up the field towards Danny Rose, whose flick on was taken down in his stride by Kane Hemmings, who took the ball beyond Lavelle with his second touch and planted it past Roche with his third. Eight minutes gone, one - nil to Mansfield.
Alex Kenyon shot over Logan's bar, inevitably it was Campbell who had set him up and minutes later, Vadaine Oliver, who had scored seven goals for the Stags during thirty on loan appearance from Crewe Alexandra during the 2014-15 season, made a complete balls up of trying to execute a shot, after making himself a yard of space, much to the relief of the Mansfield defence.
Danny Rose intercepted a stray pass out of the Morecambe defence and nudged the ball sideways to Hemmings who fed it to Hamilton, but the Stags winger turned his side footed effort wide of the upright.
But Hamilton was quick to track back from the resulting goal kick and did well to cut out Oliver's attempted cross at the expense of a corner, from which Calum Butcher had spotted Aaron McGown arriving late from his right back berth as Rose rolled the ball towards him and moved out quickly to intercept the intended pass.
MacDonald’s free-kick pierced the Morecambe defence just before half time and Diamond almost took advantage of the visitors momentary lapse in concentration, but as he met the ball airborne, he powered his header the wrong side of the left hand post. Having almost doubled the Stags lead, Diamond was back in defence moments later, cutting out an exchange of passes between Campbell and Lang. What a guy!
HT: Stags 1 v Shrimps 0
Morecambe were on level terms... and it had been coming, just five minutes into the second half.
Rose had already skimmed a shot a fraction wide of Logan's goal and Lang had been pulled up for attacking the Stgas goal from an offside position, when Campbell and McGowan combined out on the right and when the latter a defensive splitting cross to Lang and he he put on a spurt of pace, sprinted towards the goal and drilled an angled shot across the face of Logan and into the bottom corner of the net, in front of an empty North Stand, while the Shrimps fans who had been housed alongside the home fans in the lower tier of the West Stand, celebrated as if all of their Christmas's and New Year celebrations had arrived at once.
In the fifty fourth minute, the Stags manager decided that his was time for a reshuffle and made a double substitution, with Butcher and Hemmings making way for Jacob Mellis and Paul Anderton.
The response from the a section of crowd had been building up since Morecambe equalised and it would be fair to say, that the booing and anger directed towards the Stags management, including a chant of: "You don't know what you're doing!", marked a seismic change in the atmosphere of the crowd this afternoon, for the worse.
Field Mill
There will always be a handful of critics in any given crowd, regardless of what is unfolding out on the field of play, but this was a significant number of people registering their displeasure.
The mood wasn't improved any when both Evans and Raynor were seen (and heard) directing strongly worded abuse at a supporter who had been venting his annoyance in their general direction.
It was a messy situation and individuals on both ends of the verbal brickbats could (and should) have handled things differently.
I've always said that if don't get angry and passionate about the game from time to time, then it indicates that you probably don't care as much as you should and shouldn't really be involved, but there are boundaries that should never be crossed to that end. And that was definitely the case today.
Given that Hemmings was only having his first run out after returning from injury, it was sensible to take him off and put on some fresh legs coming up to the hour mark, when he was beginning to tire, but what inflamed the chagrin of many spectators was that, once again, a team from the lower reaches of the table were on level terms with the bookies League 2 early season title favourites, on the Stags home turf and shortly after Morecambe had drawn level a striker was being taken off, but no like for like swap was being made, even though there were two forwards still sitting on the bench.
Morecambe went close twice in quick succession, with Rose sending a screamer just wide of the post, two minutes before Campbell struck the ball against it.
Rose went close again, while during a temporary respite from the visitors quick passing and good movement off the ball, Mellis almost snatched a second goal for Mansfield, somewhat against the run of play from long range. Benning freed CJ Hamilton down the left flank and he cut inside the Morecambe area. but his shot cleared the bar with Roche at full stretch.
But Bentley's battling side were soon on the offensive again when Luke Conlan crossed and Campbell's header was saved by Logan, before the visitors thirty eight year old substitute striker Kev Ellison had a shot blocked by Diamond as Mansfield continued to live dangerously.
With two minutes of the scheduled ninety left to go, Morecambe still hadn't turned any of their possession into a further goal and all of their forward play, that had bordered on dominance at times, amounted to nothing, apart from a whole lot of admiration and plaudits for the positive way in which they had approached the game, when Benning, this afternoon's programme centrefold pin up player, topped off a decent shift, with a great knock forward to free Anderson on the right, who motored forward before delivering a perfect cross over Roche, picking out Rose at the back post, who ascended on high, like you do at Christmas time... and headed the ball emphatically past Roche.
Right at the death, the Stags were going to claim a victory, but 'kinnel! Hadn't they made bloody hard work of it, very bloody hard indeed.
In a nail biting six minutes of stoppage time, Morecambe almost equalised again when Rose shot but saw his effort crash off a defender and into the side netting. While Benning made a goal line clearance.
Pantomime season arrived a few days early in the closing stages, when Ellison, who had already been booked, lunged into a late tackle, but he seems to get some sort of diplomatic immunity from match officials at times and escaped being shown a red card. Roche too was a bit lucky to only receive a yellow card deep into stoppage time, after Rose had gone to ground while brushing past him en route to the visitors goal. The penalty appeal was waved away by the referee, Ross Joyce, who then booked Rose for assimilation, before also yellow carding the angry Shrimps keeper for pulling Rose up from the ground and remonstrating with him. Moments after being booked, he also lashed out at Rose, but stayed on the field of play anyway. It wasn't a foul but there had been a slight contact to Rose's left ankle as he passed Roach, but the ref wasn't going to be swayed.
Roche arrived in the Stags area right at the death and got his head to his captain's right wing corner, but Logan had the final say in the final result of a game where he had given so much of himself, by making a vital, last ditch save down to his left from the former Chesterfield keeper.
And that was that.. phew!
FT: Mansfield Town 2 v Morecambe 1
Morecambe have a home game against Notts County to look forward to on Boxing Day, while we'll be at Blundell Park in three days time, when the Stags travel to Grimsby Town for a game with a 1pm kick off. The Mariners lost at Luton today and are now three points behind Steve Evans side, who clawed their way back up to ninth in League 2 this afternoon, albeit in a slightly fortuitous manner and are now just one point off of a play off place and three behind the automatic promotion spots.