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Season 21/22 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town  
2 - 1
 Salford City
Oates 36, McLaughlin 45.
 Lund 9
Attendance: 4,113 (73 from Salford)
Date: 11 December 2021


Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town came from behind to beat Salford City 2-1 at the One Call Stadium this afternoon and continue the incredible run of results, which now stands at 9 wins from 10 league and cup games. The Stags are now 4 points behind the play-offs, and 6 points behind the automatic promotion places. Incredible from the position we were in just 6 weeks ago, inside the relegation zone.

It was a fantastic effort from the players, who ground out a win on Tuesday night and looked extremely tired after doing so, and had to do the same again here in the latter stages of the second half, against a much fresher Salford side who had the advantage of not having a midweek game.

Mansfield were forced into changes from Tuesday night with centre half pairing John-Joe O’Toole and Will Forrester both out (O’Toole with illness, possibly flu, and Forrester with an ankle injury which will keep him out for 4-6 weeks). It’s a real shame for Forrester who was starting to come good and really endeared himself to fans at the Doncaster game, but this injury will now take him to possibly the end of January and puts a question mark against whether Nigel Clough will extend his loan until the end of the season. With Richard Nartey not match fit or ready to start a game, but on the bench, Clough was forced to put Oli Hawkins, himself back from a bit of flu, back into central defence, along with Farrend Rawson. There was good news with Rhys Oates returning from his dead leg to go up front on his own, replacing Harry Charsley. Ollie Clarke remained out with his calf injury (he has a chance of being fit for next week), while Kellan Gordon also remained out with his knee injury (for an unspecified period). Danny Johnson "is out on the grass, doing some running. We hope to have him back involved in a couple of weeks for the Christmas period”, according to Nigel Clough.

Salford were without Ash Hunter, a very good player, who was serving the final match of a three game suspension (he would have been eligible to play if their midweek game at Barrow had not been postponed), Ian Henderson, last season’s top scorer who has only played 7 league games this season due to injury, and Brandon Thomas-Asante, who has been in very good form in recent weeks, who was unavailable (I was told the reason but asked not to publish it).

Both managers, Nigel Clough and Gary Bowyer, had been nominated for the League Two manager of the month this week, though both finally lost out to Forest Green boss Rob Edwards.

Oli Hawkins took over the captain’s armband from Stephen Quinn. And Nigel Clough started with Rawson (right), Hawkins and Hewitt (left) in a 3 man central defence, with Bowery at right wing-back and McLaughlin at left wing-back. Lapslie was the attacking midfielder, just behind Oates, with Stirk in front of the back three.

After just 2 minutes, Jordan Turnbull slid in with a nasty challenge on Quinn. Quinn was hurt and had to receive attention yet the referee didn’t even give a free kick.

Bowery got forward after 6 minutes and put in a great cross from the right, into a great area, but it was just in front of Lapslie and Oates.

The Stags were behind after just 9 minutes. A long throw-in from the right from Donald Love was flicked on at the near post by Turnbull, and Matty Lund got away from his marker Bowery on the edge of the six yard box to sweep his shot past Nathan Bishop into the net. Poor defending from Bowery who was to go on to have a really good game.

On 15 minutes, a good move from the Stags, as Lapslie played a 1-2 with McLaughlin on the left and fed the ball forward for Oates to run on to in the area on the left, but he fired wide of the left post.

Quinn was fouled nastily again after 18 minutes, this time by Jason Lowe, and it looked deliberate to me, targeting him attempting to put him out of the game with injury. Lowe was booked. The resulting free kick into the area from the halfway line reached Bowery who fired wide from the right.

Hawkins was booked after 19 minutes for a very soft foul. A terrible decision from the referee who was very inconsistent in his bookings.

Astonishingly Salford were already time-wasting, with fully 70 minutes left to play!

Brilliant play from the Stags after 23 minutes nearly led to a wonderful goal. Maris squared the ball to Hewitt on the left, Hewitt pushed forward and laid the ball off to McLaughlin who curled a high cross into the middle and Bowery met it on the volley from 10 yards with a side-footed shot that was brilliantly headed off the line by Theo Vassell. What a shot from Bowery on the volley!
UPDATE: pitchside footage from behind the shot shows that Bowery’s volley was heading just wide. Once again showing that you get a completely different view from West Stand!

A minute later at the other end, Conor McAleny broke away and his shot was comfortably saved by Bishop.

After 26 minutes, Salford were close to making it 2-0. Josh Morris slid a nice ball forward for McAleny to run on to into the area. McAleny held off Hawkins and from a tight angle on the left, poked a shot goalwards from 6 yards. Bishop got enough on his save to slow the shot down and Hewitt got back to clear it off the line. That was close!

Nigel Clough switched formation to 4 at the back, with Hewitt at right back, Rawson (right) and Hawkins (left) at centre half, McLaughlin at left back, Maris in front of the back four, then from right to left in midfield: Bowery, Lapslie, Stirk, Quinn, and Oates still on his own up front in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

McLaughlin put a great cross from the left into the corridor of uncertainty, after 33 minutes, cleared by Ash Eastham. From the resulting corner, Stirk volleyed wide of the right post, not getting a good connection on his effort.

The Stags equalised after 36 minutes. Oates was fouled by Love who slid in on him, level with the edge of the six yard box, a yard outside the area on the left. Salford boss Gary Bowyer was upset after that game that just before the free kick there seemed to be a foul by Oates on Vassell. He had a point about that, and I said in commentary that I thought Oates had fouled Vassell. A bit of luck for the Stags. (see *) McLaughlin took the resulting free kick and smashed it low and hard into the middle. It deflected off Jason Lowe, hit the shin of Oates and rolled slowly into the bottom right corner of the net. After the game Nigel Clough beamed: “I love those sort of goals where you put a good ball into the box. We just say if you're in any doubt, smash it low and hard and it just caught his (Oates) shin or ankle and rolled in.” Meanwhile McLaughlin said afterwards that “it came off his (Oates) shin and he’s claiming it anyway.”
(*) UPDATE: from the video footage, it looks less like a foul by Oates on Vassell, and I think the referee got it right.

A great assist from McLaughlin. Would be interesting to hear from Oates if he did mean to turn it goalwards or it just hit him. Either way, it doesn’t matter, and it was a critical goal.

The Stags went in front after 45 minutes. Stirk was fouled by Lund 27 yards out, to the left of centre, level with the left corner of the box. McLaughlin stepped up and rather than curling it into the middle, he went for a shot towards the bottom left corner of the net and caught it perfectly, beating the keeper at this near post. After the game, McLaughlin said: “Initially I was crossing it because the big lads had come up, Faz and that. I just noticed where the keeper has stood, and I just thought if I just get this round here there’s no way he’s getting across. I just believed in myself and hit it hard and thankfully it’s gone in.”

It was a great strike from McLaughlin but the keeper made a mess of it and shouldn’t have been beaten at his near post.

The Stags were on a high and nearly added a third after 45+3 minutes. A corner came out to Quinn who volleyed goalwards, it was on target, but blocked.

And eventful first half and a great turnaround from the Stags to lead at the break.

Half time 2-1

The Stags were on fire in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.

After 47 minutes, following a Hewitt long throw, great play from Oates to get to the ball first in the area, he found Bowery, but Bowery’s first touch just took the ball away from him.

Fantastic play from Bowery after 50 minutes, cutting inside from the right touchline, and from 20 yards curling a left footed shot just wide of the left post. Impressive play.

The Stags were pinning Salford back and a minute later Stirk charged down the keeper whose clearance hit him and luckily span away.

Then a minute after that a superb run from Oates who was eventually tackled. What pace Oates has. He must be nearly as fast as CJ Hamilton.

More great play from the Stags a minute later as Hewitt got to the byline. The Stags were all over Salford.

Then on the hour, a brilliant turn from Bowery away from Ibou Touray on the right touchline, into the area and from an angle, he fired a foot wide of the right post into the side netting.

After 64 minutes, a long throw from Love (check video to see what happened). Then a minute later, Morris sent in a shot from 25 yards that Bishop saved and held on to.

Bowery headed away a corner from Morris after 68 minutes. It was Salford’s only corner of the game.

Lapslie was booked for a foul after 69 minutes. This time, the referee was correct.

Salford were now having most of the ball, but they were just passing it from side to side and not getting into the dangerous areas.

Sinclair replaces Oates after 82 minutes. Oates had run himself into the ground.

The Stags were clearly weary, but the Stags fans were right behind them spurring them on to hold out.

A rare attack for the Stags after 86 minutes, as McLaughlin’s free kick was punched away by the keeper.

Salford were still having most of the ball, but created only their second attempt of the second half after 88 minutes as Tom Elliott headed well over the bar.

Charsley replaced Quinn after 88 minutes to provide some fresh legs. Another monumental effort from Quinn to get through 88 minutes, especially after the rough treatment he got in the first half, and after his previous two performances this week, with Clough saying on Tuesday night they would need to “carry him out to his car”.

A great tackle by Rawson on the halfway line on 90 minutes.

Four minutes added on, and still Salford got nowhere near the Stags goal.

What an incredible effort from the Stags players, up against a team that should have been a lot fresher. Limiting Salford to a long range shot and a header well over the bar in that second half.

So many super performances in the Stags side. McLaughlin of course takes the headlines for his goal and his assist. At the back, Rawson was quite outstanding. Hawkins again slotted into central defence seamlessly. Hewitt also had a very solid game. The entire midfield never stopped running. Bowery was excellent on the right and caused Salford plenty of problems. He also headed away some set pieces, and had a quite brilliant volley headed off the line, though should have done better for the Salford goal. Oates was also excellent on his own up front with a proper shift. Once again, Bishop had almost nothing to do, but his partial-save in the first half was crucial, allowing Hewitt to clear off the line.

And what about the Stags crowd, dragging their team over the line. And then the rendition of “Super Mansfield!” at full time was a special atmosphere.

It was great to see John and Carolyn Radford at the game, and hear from Carolyn that she’s starting to feel much better after her surgery this week. Hopefully she will continue to improve.

The Stags have a week to recover now, before visiting top of the table Forest Green next Saturday. I can’t wait. Forest Green are ten points clear of 4th place and look well set for promotion. It will be fascinating to see how this rejuvenated Stags side fair against them.

Man of the Match: Stephen McLaughlin

Here’s a running tally of various stats this season:

Goals: Johnson 7, Hawkins, Oates 5, Lapslie 4, O.Clarke 3, McLaughlin, O’Toole 2, Bowery, Caine, Forrester, Hewitt, Maris, Quinn, Sinclair, Stirk 1

Assists: McLaughlin 4, Charsley, Johnson, Oates, Quinn, Sinclair 3, Bowery, O.Clarke, Hawkins, Stirk 2, J.Clarke, Gale, Hewitt, Lapslie, Maris, Rawson 1
(note: in the case of a penalty, the player who earns the penalty gets an assist. In the case of a solo goal, such as Maris against Newport, nobody gets an assist. In the case of the scorer scoring from the rebound after a shot is saved, the player who had the shot saved gets an assist.)

Average home league attendance: 4582 (average away fans: 538, average home fans 4045)

Report by: Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Line Up:
(3-6-1 initially, then switched to 4-1-4-1 after 30 minutes, see report)
Bishop 7 Had almost nothing to do, but his partial-save in the first half was crucial, allowing Hewitt to clear off the line.
Rawson 9 Quite outstanding. Won almost everything in the air (11 defensive headers). A great tackle on 90 minutes.
Hawkins 7 Again slotted into central defence seamlessly. McAleny held him off to get in a shot from a tight angle.
Hewitt 8 Very solid game. Better at right back than on the left of the central defensive three. Some great interplay with Bowery on the right when the Stags were on fire in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.
Bowery 8 Excellent on the right and caused Salford plenty of problems. He also headed away some set pieces, and had a quite brilliant volley headed off the line (although the pitchside video later showed it was going wide). He should have done better for the Salford goal.
Lapslie 7 Worked hard in an attacking midfield position, pressing the Salford defence.
Stirk 6.5 Did ok though not at his best.
Maris 7.5 Plenty of good passing. Very good in front of the back four after the Stags changed shape.
Quinn 7.5 Another monumental effort to get through 88 minutes, especially after the rough treatment he got in the first half, and after his previous two performances this week, with Clough saying on Tuesday night they would need to “carry him out to his car”.
McLaughlin 9 Takes the headlines for his great strike for his goal and his great assist.
Oates 8.5 Excellent on his own up front with a proper shift. Ran himself into the ground. Scored his fifth goal of the season, and won the free kick that led to it.
Sub Line Up:
Sinclair (for Oates, 82 mins) -
Charsley (for Quinn, 88 mins) -
Subs not used: Shelvey, Burke, Nartey, Law, Gale.
Opposition Line Up:
(3-5-2): King; Vassell (Wright 82), Eastham, Turnbull; Love, Lowe, Lund, Morris (Oteh 82), Touray, Elliott, McAleny (Shephard 57). Subs not used: Jeacock, Golden, Smith, Dackers.
Anthony Backhouse 5 Allowed Salford to get away with some nasty challenges, some designed to injure Quinn in my opinion. Very inconsistent on bookings.

Season 21/22 Reports