Tuesday, 11 September 2018

AFC Mansfield 2 v Gresley FC 1 - EvoStik NPL East Division

Tuesday 11th September 2018
EvoStik Northern Premier League, East Division
at the Forest Town Arena
AFC Mansfield (2) 2
Brad Wells 10
Nick Guest 34
Gresley FC (1) 1
Martin Smyth 3
Admission £7. Programme £2.
Attendance 100.
Both teams started this game level on seven points apiece, with AFC Mansfield having played four games in the East Division so far, while their visitors had played five. And though they had exactly the same goal differential, the Moatmen sat a place above their hosts, on the strength of having scored one more goal than Rudy Funk and Mark Ward's side.
At the weekend, the Derbyshire side lost at home against Carlton Town in a league game on Saturday, by a single goal, scored by Aaron Opoku, as they went down to Carlton Town, who themselves moved to within a point of
the Bulls and tonight's opponents; while the Forest Town based home side enjoyed a morale boosting 2-1 FA Cup First Qualifying Round win over Stourport Swifts on Sunday, with Lynton Karkach and Brad Wells both scoring in the second half, to overturn Ben Priest's first half strike for the Worcestershire club.
The win earned the Bulls a trip to Kettering Town in the Second Qualifying Round on Saturday 22nd September... and if you're based round these parts and would like to travel to that game by coach, the cost will be £10, and interested parties should contact the AFC Mansfield chairman: Andy Saunders, to book a seat, either by calling 07973491739 or by emailing andrewasaunders@aol.com
The Bulls were made to work hard to hold onto this win, that saw them shoot up the table to reach the dizzy heights of fifth place,  just a solitary point behind the East Division league leaders and early pacesetters: Marske United, but with a game in hand.
The game was just three minutes old, when Martin Smyth advanced forwards with the ball and gave the visitors the lead, with a sweetly struck shot, from inside the D on the edge of the Bulls area. It was the Gresley striker's fourth goal in as many games and he was slightly unlucky not to have added to that total twice before half time, when he made space for himself through the right channel, leaving Tyrone Burton in his slipstream, but dragged an angled shot narrowly wide of the far, before hitting the woodwork with his next attempt.
In the meantime Brad Wells had levelled the score on ten minutes, when he picked up the ball forty yards from goal and turned, and motored past two challenges, before taking the ball wide right of Jack Livesey, the Gresley keeper, and rolling the ball into the now unguarded net.
Lynton Karkach was a fraction away from giving the Bulls the lead, when he showed good skill inside the right hand side of the Moatmen's area, wriggled his hips with all the aplomb of a young John Travolta to make himself some space and fizzed a shot narrowly beyond the back stick.
Karkach was full of running and in the thirty fourth minute broke into the visitors area on the left and hooked the ball towards Wells, but his cross hit Mark Branch, who'd been tracking the live-wire Bulls number seven's run, on his arm and the referee, Mark Tinsley, decreed that it was a handball offence worthy of a being punished and awarded a penalty spot. It was one of those where the attacking side feels that a spot kick is right and just, but those on the defence would justifiably claim was an unintentional 'ball to hand' scenario.
Did I think it was a penalty? Hmm, the referee was closer to it than me... and would've had a better view than me, sitting up here on a fence, viewing things with an objective eye, from a position of (almost) complete neutrality. However, if any team I was involved with would've had a penalty awarded against them under similar circumstances, I would most likely have been seething with indignation.
But either way; Karkach belted the resulting spot kick against the crossbar and the home side took the lead, when Nick Guest reacted quickly to pounce on the rebound and jabbed the ball past Livesey.
Both sides went close again before half time, with Jimmy Ghaichem hitting the side netting after exchanging passes with Karkach, while Alex Steadman was unlucky when his well struck half volley, flashed past the left hand upright.
HT: Bulls 2 v Moatmen 1
Jordan Annable, who had looked solid in defence for the Bulls all night against the not inconsiderable threat that the visitors often posed, particularly after half time, almost split the Gresley back-line with a measured lob to Guest on the edge of the six yard box, but Gresley closed ranks and cleared their lines. However, the visitors were grateful to Livesey moments later, when Guest's shot from the edge of the area, took a wicked deflection and the visitors keeper did well to quickly readjust his footing and get across to his left to pull off a great save.
Gresley were probing for an opening and only a timely intervention by Annable prevented Steadman from going one against one with Jason White, who himself made a good stop a few minutes later when Albert Lansdowne tested him from eighteen yards out.
The Bulls main threat was by now coming from Liam Marsden's long throw-ins, as Gresley were fighting tooth and nail for a second goal that just wouldn't come, in spite of them chucking everything they had into the Mansfield area.
With eight minutes remaining, Smyth over-hit a free kick that cleared the bar and ended up on the cycling track that surrounds the Forest Town Arena pitch... and the Bulls didn't seem to be in any kind of rush to retrieve it and restart the game. But hey! Would you have been?
Steadman was proving to be a proper nuisance in the final third, but when Ghaichem stopped him in his tracks, the home defence got the resulting free kick away, while the home support began heckling the referee and demanding to know how how much longer he was adding on. Probably several minutes more than he would've done, if Mansfield hadn't slow timed every single free kick, throw in and substitution during the last thirty minutes of the game, I would've thought.
Kieran O'Connell still managed to get his shot on target, despite falling over backwards in the area, as the clock ticked down and Steadman wasted the chance to draw level when he shot straight at White.
But in the fifth, possibly even sixth minute of added time, Steadman got a shot away under pressure, on the right hand side of the area, that was heading just inside the left hand post, but White saved the day (and the points) for the Bulls, diving to his right and making a vital save at full stretch.
FT: AFC Mansfield 2 v Gresley FC 1
Gresley will probably win games this season, where they don't play half as well as they did tonight, but the Bulls dug in, toughed it out and showed a lot of character to emerge all the three points. While the visitors were left to ruminate over what might have been on their way home.