Attendance: 6819 (1459 from Portsmouth)
Date: 29 April 2017
STAGS BEATEN TO ALMOST KILL OFF PLAY-OFF HOPES
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Mansfield Town were beaten 1-0 at home by Portsmouth to almost kill off the Stags’ hopes of reaching the play-offs. In a fantastic atmosphere created by the largest crowd for a Football League game since 2004, the first half was very even. Mansfield could have been ahead after 4 minutes when Lee Collins crossed and Rhys Bennett was unable to turn the ball home from 3 yards. Portsmouth’s best chance of the first half came when Kal Naismith fired towards the top right corner and Jake Kean pushed the shot wide. But the game exploded to life with controversy on 48 minutes. Portsmouth’s midfielder Danny Rose played the ball back to Matt Clarke, Mansfield’s Danny Rose nicked the ball off him and was clean through on goal for a 1-on-1 with the keeper and no other defenders anywhere near. Clarke deliberately pulled Rose down just outside the D. It was the clearest of goalscoring opportunities, no defenders could have got back, and the simplest red card decision you could imagine. But inexplicably referee Lee Swabey only brandished a yellow card to the disbelief of the entire stadium. Paul Cook, Portsmouth manager, told the press after the game “He’s got to go! You can sit on the fence all you want, but it was a poor decision by the referee. I’d love to know what he was thinking, but we’re obviously delighted that he only showed the yellow card!” Mansfield were incensed and then had the ball in the net on 51 minutes but Rhys Bennett was offside. Then in a cruel blow, Portsmouth took the lead on 56 minutes as Carl Baker turned and shot in the area and the shot deflected over Jake Kean into the net. From the video, it’s impossible to tell whether it deflected off a Pompey player (Conor Chaplin) or off Rhys Bennett. So I think it will remain as Carl Baker’s goal. (Rhys Bennett later confirmed it deflected off him). But Mansfield then laid siege on the Portsmouth for the next half an hour with some fine football but unable to convert the chances created. Alex MacDonald headed wide at the far post, then his low shot was saved by the keeper, Mal Benning fired just over the bar, Ben Whiteman fired in a great shot that the keeper palmed away, then Shaq Coulthirst made a great turn inside the area but fired over the bar, and the best chance fell to Matt Green who was through 1-on-1 with the keeper but lifted his shot over the keeper and over the bar. Portsmouth held on for the victory which Paul Cook admitted was fortunate. Mansfield played really well in the second half, with the players giving absolutely everything and deserving the cracking reception they got from the fans at full time, who appreciated the effort. The Stags should have been playing against ten men for more than 40 minutes but it wasn’t to be, and we also have to acknowledge that Mansfield’s finishing wasn’t good enough.
Mansfield are two points outside the play-offs and still have a slim chance of reaching the play-offs.
The following sequence of results would see Mansfield reach the play-offs:
Mansfield win at Crawley
and 4 of the 5 following results:
Blackpool lose at home to Leyton Orient
Carlisle lose at Exeter
Stevenage lose at home to Accrington
Wycombe draw with Cambridge
Colchester lose or draw at home to Yeovil.
So, barring a remarkable set of results, we will just miss out on the play-offs. It was a tremendous coup by John and Carolyn Radford bringing Steve Evans to the club in November. It’s been a very enjoyable second half of the season.
Since the end of December and the opening of the transfer window, Mansfield have taken 38 points from 22 games, which averaged over a season is 79.5 points which is not far off automatic promotion form. Steve Evans has so far just had one January transfer window to improve the squad. We would expect that with his track record, he will further improve the quality of the squad over the summer, and we expect an exciting season next season.
However before that, on to Crawley and while there’s a small chance, we can keep hoping.
There was a fantastic atmosphere with a tremendous crowd of 6819. This was the biggest crowd at the One Call Stadium since we returned to the Football League in 2013. The biggest crowd for any game since the Liverpool FA Cup game in January 2013 (7574), the biggest crowd for a non-FACup game since the play-off semi-final against York in May 2012 (7295), the biggest crowd for a league (Conference or Football League) game since the Gateshead pay-what-you-want game in February 2010 (7261), and the biggest crowd for a Football League game since a 3-1 win against Notts County in October 2004 (7682).
Mansfield finish the season with an average home league attendance of 3774. This was the highest average attendance for the season since 2004/05. Here are the average home league attendances for the past 40 years: http://stagsnet.net/fm/stats/Stats.html
Mansfield made one change to the side that won at Stevenage. Lee Collins came in for George Taft. Evans explained that Taft had been slightly fatigued when he came off at Stevenage, and he had not recovered sufficiently during training in the week. There was a change in formation with Collins sitting just in front of the back four in a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Whiteman starting in right midfield and MacDonald on the left.
Portsmouth arrived having already secured promotion but still with a chance of sneaking the title from Doncaster and Plymouth. Mansfield hadn’t beaten Portsmouth in the 7 games in the past 4 seasons since returning to the league (5 draws and 2 Pompey wins).
Mansfield Town secretary Keith Burnand is retiring in June, and he was given the honour of leading the teams out in his last home league game.
And at half time, the Stags youth team were paraded to the crowd to celebrate their league title, a tremendous achievement. Congratulations to the team and all the management.
Young Cameron Healey was awarded the Jack Retter youth team player of the year award, presented by Paul Taylor. Incidentally, there were no first team player of the season awards presented today, I think because there was so much at stake in the game, and they didn’t want any distractions.
On 4 minutes, Byrom’s free kick was to the far post on the left, Collins crossed from the byline 3 or 4 yards from the left post, to Bennett who couldn’t turn the ball goalwards from 3 yards.
On 7 minutes, a quick Stags free kick forward from Byrom to Danny Rose whose low shot lacked power and was straight at the keeper.
On 10 minutes, Byrom was tripped 29 yards from goal. MacDonald fired the free kick over the bar. Wasted.
Portsmouth’s Baker was booked for dissent on 11 minutes, and after still arguing, he was warned by the referee who also spoke to the captain.
On 15 minutes, great play by MacDonald tracking back on Gareth Evans to win a free kick by getting his body between player and ball.
On 16 minutes, Coulthirst kept the ball in on the byline, and pulled the ball back high to Danny Rose who turned and sent another soft shot straight at the keeper.
On 18 minutes, a free kick for Pompey, taken by Naismith which was headed away by Bennett.
In the 19th minute there was a minute’s applause for Stags fan Jack Strickland who tragically died, aged 19, recently.
On 22 minutes, Gareth Evans cut inside and completely missed the ball with an air shot as he attempted to shoot.
On 23 minutes, Byrom to Benning, to MacDonald who fired in a shot from the corner of the area on the left which sailed over the corner flag. Poor effort.
White was booked for bringing down Kyle Bennett on 28 minutes.
On 29 minutes, MacDonald took a quick throw-on, it was headed on, Danny Rose headed for the byline, flicked the ball past the keeper, and went down. But he wasn’t touched by the keeper, so there was no penalty. A player like Reuben Reid of Exeter would have ensured that there was contact with the keeper.
On 30 minutes, a ball forward for Naismith who was about to shoot and missed his kick comically ending in a heap on the floor. Two air shots from Portsmouth in the space of 8 minutes.
On 34 minutes, Whiteman clipped the ball forward, Coulthirst got to the ball before the keeper and headed forward and out for a goal kick. Again the keeper was careful not to let Coulthirst make contact with him. As before, a player like Reuben Reid would have done his best to ensure that there was contact with the keeper.
On 35 minutes, MacDonald had his pocket picked by Gareth Evans, who fired wide left footed from 22 yards.
Portsmouth’s best chance of the half came on 37 minutes. A good move found Naismith on the right, he got into the area, fired towards the top right corner, and Kean pushed wide.
On 44 minutes, a short free kick from Kyle Bennett to Naismith, back to Kyle Bennett, who got to the edge of the area, and his left footed shot was straight at Kean.
A very competitive first half, with not much in it.
Half time 0-0
The game exploded to life with controversy on 48 minutes. Portsmouth’s midfielder Danny Rose played the ball back to Matt Clarke, Mansfield’s Danny Rose nicked the ball off him and was clean through on goal for a 1-on-1 with the keeper and no other defenders anywhere near. Clarke deliberately pulled Rose down just outside the D. It was the clearest of goalscoring opportunities, no defenders could have got back, and the simplest red card decision you could imagine. But inexplicably referee Lee Swabey only brandished a yellow card to the disbelief of the entire stadium. Paul Cook, Portsmouth manager, told the press after the game “He’s got to go! You can sit on the fence all you want, but it was a poor decision by the referee. I’d love to know what he was thinking, but we’re obviously delighted that he only showed the yellow card!” Mansfield were incensed.
The resulting free kick from MacDonald was fired into the wall.
The Stags had the ball in the net on 51 minutes. MacDonald did well to get past two men, his shot was blocked, and came to Rhys Bennett who fired in but was offside (from the video, Bennett was a yard offside). Nevertheless very good play from MacDonald.
On 54 minutes, Danny Rose headed over the bar from Byrom’s corner from the right.
Then in a cruel blow, Portsmouth took the lead on 56 minutes as Carl Baker turned and shot in the area and the shot deflected over Jake Kean into the net. From the video, it’s impossible to tell whether it deflected off a Pompey player (Conor Chaplin) or off Rhys Bennett. So I think it will remain as Carl Baker’s goal. (Rhys Bennett later confirmed it deflected off him).
Whiteman was booked for a late tackle on 58 minutes. Two Portsmouth players were also booked, Stevens and Kyle Bennett, as tempers frayed and the referee lost control of the game, largely down his own ineptitude.
On 63 minutes, a great run from Coulthirst into the area and his shot was blocked once and then blocked again.
On 64 minutes, a lovely high cross from Whiteman from the right, MacDonald stole in at the far post and headed just wide of the right post.
On 65 minutes, a good move from Portsmouth, Naismith played forward to Chaplin who got to the byline and squared across the face of goal with no-one there.
On 67 minutes, great play by Collins who won the ball, burst forward down the right, and squared to MacDonald on the edge of the area, who steadied himself and fired in a low shot which the keeper saved low down.
Green replaced Collins on 68 minutes. Collins had played well. Portsmouth replaced their only striker Chaplin with a central defender.
On 70 minutes, Benning won the ball, powered forward, played a 1-2 with Danny Rose, and fired just over the bar.
On 71 minutes, a contested dropped ball, a rarity these days, MacDonald did well to win it and find Whiteman, who fired in a great shot which the keeper palmed away.
Just a minute later, another contested drop ball, which MacDonald won again. Superb commitment from MacDonald.
On 74 minutes, good play by Benning who found White on the right, inside to Coulthirst who made a great turn inside the area, but fired over the bar.
This was terrific stuff from Mansfield, but it needed a goal.
On 80 minutes, a golden chance. Coulthirst flicked the ball forward to Green who showed the defence a clean pair of heels, was clean through with just the keeper to beat, he clipped the ball over the keeper and over the bar. What a chance!
Taft replaced Danny Rose on 83 minutes and went up front.
On 84 minutes, Byrom’s free kick from 40 yards was into the area, it came out to Whiteman who shanked a left footed shot over the bar.
Hoban replaced MacDonald on 86 minutes. MacDonald deservedly came off to a standing ovation.
On 88 minutes, White made a good run into the area, but lost the ball when you were hoping he’d be fouled.
A Pompey break on 89 minutes, sub Gary Roberts squared to Naismith who fired a good chance over the bar.
Bennett was booked on 90+5 minutes, for bringing down Naismith.
Pearce was also booked, two minutes later, for a foul.
On 90+8 minutes, Portsmouth sub Stanley Aborah, formerly of Notts County, shot well wide.
The Stags players left nothing on the pitch and despite the bitter disappointment of the result, were given a cracking reception by the fans.
Man of the match: Alex MacDonald
Report by: Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Kean 7 One good save from Naismith. Otherwise had little to do.
White 7 Good game. Got forward well in the second half.
Bennett 7 Missed a chance early on. Defended well throughout.
Pearce 7 Another battling performance.
Benning 7 Some good attacking in the second half.
Collins 7 Good game. One outstanding run forward.
Whiteman 7 One good shot, one super cross for MacDonald’s header. Good ball forward for Coulthirst in the first half
Byrom 7 Some good set pieces.
MacDonald 8 Outstanding second half, absolutely gave his all, typified by winning both contested drop balls. Like a terrier. Finishing let him down including one great chance from a header. One piece of sloppy play in the first half gifted Portsmouth a chance.
Coulthirst 6.5 Some great approach play and turns, but missed a few chances.
D.Rose 6.5 The foul on him should have resulted in a red card. Two weak shots at the keeper, and a header over the bar.
Sub Line Up:
Green (for Collins, 68 mins) - Missed a golden chance.
Taft (for D.Rose, 83 mins) -
Hoban (for MacDonald, 86 mins) -
Subs not used: Jensen, McGuire, Potter, Hamilton
Opposition Line Up:
(4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Danny Rose, Doyle; Baker (Roberts 77), Naismith, Bennett (Aborah 77); Chaplin (Whatmough 69). Subs not used: O’Brien, Linganzi, Lowe, Kabamba.
Lee Swabey 4 What a stinker. His decision not to send off Matt Clarke was just staggering.