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Archived News from December 2014

14th December 2014 0:16

Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town 1 - 1 Cheltenham Town
Oliver 55. Kotwica 88

Cheltenham snatch a point as Stags fail to see out second game in a row.

report by Daniel Egginton (eggy)

Cheltenham Town took a share of the points thanks to a 87th minute Zack Kotwica equaliser at Field Mill this afternoon, as Mansfield let another lead slip late on, following the draw with Cambridge in the FA Cup seven days ago. The home side had taken the lead through a wonderful Vadaine Oliver shot over the keeper earlier in the first half.

Mansfield returned to the 4-3-3 formation Adam Murray preferred during his caretaker spell. Dimitar Evtimov overcame an illness to replace Sascha Studer between the sticks. Studer had been struggling with a thigh problem in the week, and spent most of the warm-up preparing the other two keepers. Adam Bishop was named on the bench. Luke Waterfall came in for Martin Riley, who missed out with a hamstring problem. Kieron Freeman replaced Lee Beevers at left-back. Junior Brown replaced Rob Taylor on the left wing to make his home debut, and Fergus Bell came in for FA Cup goal-scorer Rakish Bingham to bolster the midfield. There was no room on the bench for youngsters Liam Marsden and Dan Fletcher. Ryan Tafazolli captained the side in Riley's absence.

- - - - - - - - - - Evtimov

Sutton - Waterfall - Tafazolli - Freeman

- - - Clements - Bell - Heslop -

- Lambe - - - - Oliver - - - - Brown -

Pre-match concerns among some fans about the state of the pitch were premature. It was muddy in places and there were some icy puddles in the mud around the pitch, but the grass itself seemed in good condition for the time of year. Mansfield kicked towards the North Stand in the first half.

Mansfield started brightly enough and had the first corner of the game after just three minuted. Simon Heslop fed the ball to Lambe down the right, who won a corner off the Cheltenham left-back Craig Braham-Barrett. The ball came to Junior Brown, who had space to put a ball into the box, but this was cleared. At the other end Braham-Barrett got forwards and into a shooting position, but hit the ball well wide. Evtimov's goal kick went very wide and was flicked off a head and out of play.

A long throw gave Cheltenham another chance a minute later. Byron Harrison easily outmuscled Luke Waterfall, and had space to turn and get a shot away. Fortunately, this shot was miscued and also went wide. Evtimov outdid himself, this time putting the goal kick straight into touch.

After 8 minutes Brown got into a decent position on the left wing, but his cross was over everyone and was caught by the former Northern Ireland under-21 goalkeeper Trevor Carson.

Three minutes later, a shot for Vadaine Oliver. After passing the ball out of trouble in defence, a decent cross-field ball found Brown on the left wing. He pulled the ball back to Oliver, whose shot from the middle of the area was blocked. Chris Clements tried to put the ball back in but it was too heavy for Brown and went for a goal kick.

Brown put in another cross moments later after some clever footwork down the left. It was headed across from the back post by a Mansfield head but was collected by Carson. Ritchie Sutton also put a cross in after getting forwards down the right, but this was blocked. As Cheltenham broke Terry Gornell was given a soft free-kick after apparently being brought down by Waterfall. The ball was pumped forwards and, after some half-hearted headers by both sides, Evtimov came out to gather the loose ball.

Mansfield had another cross, from Oliver, blocked, as both sides struggled to impose themselves in the final third of the pitch.

Another long throw caused problems on 22 minutes, as Sutton this time was too weak when challenging for a header. Evtimov had to come out quickly and save down low from Gornell. A minute later, Reggie Lambe had to block a Cheltenham cross and concede a corner. The corner was headed away in front of Evtimov and eventually cleared by the Stags.

On 25 minutes, another Mansfield shot on target. Lambe switched the ball to Brown, who pulled the ball back to Clements. His shot from just outside the box was saved by Carson, low and to his right.

Another ball in to Harrison was dealt with well by Waterfall, who played it off him for a goal kick. Moments later he outmuscled Gornell to give Tafazolli a chance to clear the ball. This was much improved from Waterfall who had looked shaky at the start.

On 28 minutes, Brown won the Stags another corner. Oliver gave him the ball down the left, and his cross was headed behind by Braham-Barrett. Clement's set piece was headed away by Matt Richards, and his subsequent cross, after being given the ball back by Sutton, came to nothing. Another corner, won two minutes later by Oliver, was too close to the keeper. The whistle-happy ref gave another free-kick to Cheltenham, the dangerous Kane Ferdinand felled on the right by Freeman. The ball was pumped into the box from the free-kick, and Evtimov caught well under pressure.

On 35 minutes, Freeman won another yet corner for the hosts, playing the ball off Ferdinand after a good cross-field pass. The short pass from the set-piece was returned to Clements, who crossed to the back post. The ball was headed back across and cleared.

Raffaele De Vita and Terry Gornell had speculative shots blocked, before Taylor picked up the first yellow card of the game on 41 minutes. He fouled Fergus Bell, who had made a good run through the middle. The free-kick from 30 yards out was chipped into the box and headed away. Simon Heslop gave away a soft free-kick on the break, bringing down Gornell.

On 43 minutes, a big chance for Cheltenham. The Stags' defence had all been pulled across by an attack down the left wing, and the ball came across to Cheltenham's dangerous right-winger Ferdinand. He took the ball past Freeman and had two shots saved by Evtimov, who had pushed the first one straight back to him. A scramble saw Gornell get a chance to shoot on the left, but his shot was blocked by Waterfall to give the visitors a corner. After some good defending Brown won a goal kick for Mansfield.

Cheltenham had the last chance of the first half in injury time. A long ball to Ferdinand took a lucky bounce off Freeman. Ferdinand shot from the right-hand side of the box, but it was well saved by Evtimov high to his left. The corner came to nothing, and the ref blew the half-time whistle, with the game finely balanced at 0-0.

Left-back Kieron Freeman was replaced by Lee Beevers at the break.

Mansfield should have had a penalty a few minutes into the second half. A good ball by Chris Clements gave Fergus Bell, who was looking more lively at the start of the second half, the opportunity to burst through the Cheltenham defence. He was bundled over inside the box but the ref waved away the appeals. I was in the perfect position at the top of the Quarry Lane End to see the incident and it was a definite penalty.

On 52 minutes, Junior Brown's cross was deflected by Matt Taylor narrowly wide. The corner came to Vadaine Oliver, who broke free from his markers in the middle of the box but headed over, unable to jump high enough to head the ball cleanly.

Just as I was making a note that Oliver seemed to be having 'one of those days', he hit a wonderful strike to put Mansfield one-nil up. Getting the ball 30 yards out, with seemingly little on, he hit a brilliant half-volley over Carson and into the net.

In the 58th minute, Clements gave Cheltenham a free-kick on the edge of the box with a foul on Joe Hanks. Matt Richards hit the free-kick over the wall but Evtimov got down well to save to his left.

Around the hour mark, the Stags wasted a decent opening. After a good run down the left by Oliver, his cross was low and behind Bell. Sutton hit a poor shot from outside the box which was half-cleared. Clement's attempted ball back into the box was over-hit.

A cross by Brown to the back post was headed behind by Troy Brown with Oliver waiting to head it. Another corner won a minute or so later by Fergus Bell came to nothing. Cheltenham changed things by bringing on wingers Omari Sterling-James and Andy Hayworth for Richards and De Vita in the 65th minute.

Terry Gornell could have been booked for a poor challenge on Watergall but the referee kept his cards in his pocket. The game was starting to become very scrappy in the middle of the park.

Oliver did well to hold up a ball forwards in the 70th minute. He rolled it back to Simon Heslop who fired wide from outside the box.

The attendance was announced shortly after this as 3324, with 155 of those travelling from Cheltenham. A real kick in the teeth for the Mansfield board, after the very good offer of £7 tickets.

Zack Kotwica came on for Byron Harrison up front for Cheltenham's final change.

After another soft free-kick was given, this time against Vadaine Oliver, Gornell had a shot blocked by Ryan Tafazolli to give the visitors a corner, which was cleared.

Luke Waterfall was stupidly booked in the 76th minute, pulling Sterling-James's shirt.

Cheltenham won a corner a minute later. Waterfall had to head behind under pressure from a Cheltenham player, who was coming back from an offside position. The referee decided he wasn't interfering with play and gave the corner. The corner was half-cleared but the second ball back in was comfortably caught by Evtimov.

A long ball forward to Bell saw him unceremoniously shoved in the back by Troy Brown. The ref gave nothing. Bell was then hacked down by Joe Hanks. No yellow card.

Rob Taylor came on for Reggie Lambe in the 79th minute. Taylor played on the left wing, and Brown moved to the right. It was clear to everyone watching that Vadaine Oliver had been knackered since the hour mark, but he was not replaced.

Taylor was brought down very late by the aforementioned Joe Hanks in the 84th minute, forcing the ref to get the yellow cards out. Hanks should have been receiving his second yellow, but the poor standard of refereeing meant that it was only his first.

In the 87th minute, a tiring Brown mis-kicked the ball. He managed to save the corner and put it out for a throw instead. The Mansfield defence sat back and watched as Kotwica had the time to hit the ball across Evtimov and into the top-right corner from outside the box. 1-1.

Rakish Bingham came on for Fergus Bell, Oliver left on despite being dead on his feet.

Taylor had a cross cleared after a decent pass by Brown.

Junior Brown was deservedly given the sponsor's man of the match award.

After good work by Bingham down the left wing, his cross was easily cleared as no-one wanted to make the effort to look for space in the box. Lee Beevers' attempted follow-up cross was abysmal, and summed up his contribution after coming on.

After one soft free-kick, Ryan Tafazolli took one for the team, pulling Gornell back and earning a yellow card for his efforts. The ensuing free-kick was blocked by Tafazolli in the wall, going for a corner, which was cleared.

And that was that. A draw was a fair result but Mansfield should have held on. Adam Murray will be extremely disappointed with the lazy defending towards the end, but he deserves plenty of the blame for not replacing the tired Oliver, or shoring up the defence and midfield towards the end. He isn't the most popular figure at Mansfield at the minute but I don't think Jamie McGuire would have given Kotwica the space to get a shot away, had he come on with 20 minutes or so left. Neither would Murray had he made himself available to play. Naive management, but a lesson for the new man in charge. It was pleasing to see the team carry on with some decent football and the gaffer should be applauded for that. I see no reason why this team cannot move up the table, but there is the small matter of an FA Cup tie to focus on first.

Evtimov - 7 - Some very good saves, probably saved us a point. Distribution poor at times.

Sutton - 6 - Fairly solid
Waterfall - 6 - Shaky at the start, losing a few aerial battles; improved as the game went on
Tafazolli - 6.5 - Some decent defending and involved in some moves going forward
Freeman - 6.5 - Got forward well; replaced at half-time

Clements - 6.5 - Good defensive work, distribution was lacking
Heslop - 6.5 - Quiet; had one shot wide in the second half
Bell - 6.5 - Got a lot of kicks from Cheltenham players; lively at the start of the second half

Lambe - 7 - Worked hard in the first half, no support from Sutton
Oliver - 7 - Took his goal well, unlucky at other times
Brown - 8 - Worked very hard up and down both flanks; tired at the end but cannot be blamed for the goal


Beevers (45) - 5 - Poor going forwards, and beaten easily more than once at the back
Taylor (79) - Didn't have time to do a lot
Bingham (88) - Should have had more than two minutes; maybe being saved for Tuesday?



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