Saturday, 20 January 2018

AFC Mansfield 2 v Bridlington Town 0 - NCEL Prem

Saturday 20th January 2018
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
at the Forest Town Arena
AFC Mansfield (1) 2
Philip Buxton 2
Connor Smythe 58
Bridlington Town (0) 0
Admission £5
Programme £2
Attendance 90
The scene was set thus: Rudy Funk's NCEL Premier Division league leaders AFC Mansfield, started the day a massive 29 points ahead of their visitors, who were themselves one of the clubs touted as promotion contenders before the current season got underway.
Since a starting point in October when the Bulls beat Staveley four-nil at Inkersall Road, they had gone fourteen games unbeaten in the league, including nine wins on the bounce, prior to this head to head with Curtis Woodhouse's Seasiders.
Bridlington themselves have had a bit of a stop/start campaign so far, but went into today's encounter at the Forest Town Arena, straight off the back of a 6-1 win against Hall Road Rangers at Queensgate last Saturday, when in their form striker Jake Day helped himself to four goals, which moved him onto twenty two goals for the season so far, ten behind the NCEL Premier Division's leading goalscorer Ollie Fearon, who of course plays for today's hosts... and whose image starred on the front cover of this afternoon's matchday programme.
It was Fearon himself who almost opened the scoring inside the opening thirty seconds, when he headed over from close range, but the Bulls didn't have to wait long to seize the initiative, when Phil Buxton buried the ball into the back of Jody Barford's net in the second minute after Fearon had knocked the ball back into his path from Jimmy Ghaichem's right wing delivery.
Bridlington's first effort saw Joel Sutton's free kick, from twenty yards out to the left hand side of the Bulls area curl harmlessly wide of the upright.
Liam Marsden put a slide rule pass into the feet of Fearon who saw off two challenges before cutting the ball back at the dead ball line, but Barford cut out his cross towards Cameron Dear who was arriving at the back post.
Andy Norfolk picked up the ball twenty yards from Jason White's goal, but the well drilled home defence gave him no space or time to settle and his resulting rushed effort flew over the crossbar.
Jamie Williamson connected well with Joel Sutton's left wing corner and White had to be alert as he turned the Bridlington central defenders header over his bar.
"No more free header there!" boomed the familiar voice of the Bulls manager: Rudy Funk.
The home side pressed 'Brid' back again and Williamson was forced into making a last ditch clearance after Smythe combined with Ghaichem before drilling the ball across the visitors six yard box towards Dear and Fearon.
Chris Jenkinson missed a clearance on the edge of his own area and tangled with Dear who went to ground as Barford advanced from his line salvaged the situation.
Right on the stroke of half time, the home side were almost two goals ahead, when Ghaichem picked out Fearon with a right wing cross that the prolific marksman diverted diagonally across the face of the goal and narrowly wide of the left hand post.
HT: Bulls 1 v Seasiders 0
The opening exchanges of the second half saw White save with his feet from Day's strike from ten yards out and when the ball rebounded out to Norfolk who got his shot away but put the ball wide of the target.
Norfolk picked the ball up near the halfway line and ran forward through the heart of the Bulls midfield before unleashing a shot that didn't really have enough power behind it to trouble White unduly. Dear released Ghaichem with a sideways knock towards the right flank, but Tim Taylor got across and blocked the attempted cross at the expense of a corner, from which Smythe dropped the ball in front of Fearon, with his back to goal, but the Seasiders defence crowded him out and cleared their lines.
One of the more notable head to head personal battles out on the pitch this afternoon, saw Matty Plummer getting tight on the omnipresent menace of Day, rendering his threat inert for most of the game. There was even a rumour that the pair of them had to go to Kings Mill Hospital together after full time, because they needed a skin graft operation to separate them.
Danny Buttle was supplying a number of testing crosses in from the left, pretty much as you'd expect from the visitors number three; but Plummer and Jordan Annable were coping manfully with the regular supply of service that the Bridlington attackers were having delivered into their midriff.
But even though they were excelling in defence, the Bulls evidently needed a two goal cushion to prevent being caught out by a late comeback... and sure enough, in the fifty eighth minute Smythe had the presence of mind to follow the ball in as Fearon's crashing thirty five yard shot cannoned off the underside of the bar and back into play and he emphatically provided the finishing touch from a few yards out.
Fearon almost added a third, when the Bulls engine room, Phil Buxton, played the ball wide to Dear who took four strides forward before finding his strike partner with a low cross that he turned towards the bottom left hand corner of the net, but Barford impressively reached the ball at full stretch and turned it around the post.
The same combination of Buxton and Dear, set up another half chance for Fearon but Rikki Paylor stepped in at the last moment and launched the ball away from  the visitors goalmouth to a place of relative safety, somewhere in between Saturn and Uranus.
Plummer took a few moments away from shepherding the visitors centre forward and got onto the end of Marsden's long throw in, but Barford was well placed to save the incoming headed effort.
And moments later the Bridlington keeper was called into action again, to cut out Smythe's angled knock to Fearon, as Paylor wrestled to screen the ball from the Bulls striker.
In the final few seconds of the game, Norfolk advanced on the Bulls goal from the left hand side of the area, but with White approaching him to narrow the angle, he blazed his shot wide.
And that was that.
FT: AFC Mansfield 2 v Bridlington Town 0
The visitors had provided a good test for the league leaders at times, but in the final analysis were no match for them, as the Bulls chalked up their tenth consecutive league win. 
The Bulls are away at second placed Handsworth Parramore next Saturday in the NCEL's game of the day, before returning to the Forest Town Arena the following Saturday, when Harrogate Railway Athletic are the visitors. Bridlington Town face Barton Town at home next weekend before travelling to Bottesford Town a week later.
Footnote: Further high tech coverage of this game by Peter Craggs can be viewed HERE