{ match reports }
 
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 21/22 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Bristol Rovers  
0 - 0
 Mansfield Town
 
 
Attendance: 7,707 (689 from Mansfield)
 
Date: 12 February 2022

STAGS DRAW 0-0 AT BRISTOL ROVERS

Martin Shaw at the Memorial Ground

Mansfield Town and Bristol Rovers played out a 0-0 draw this afternoon in the Stags’ first visit to the Memorial Stadium for six years. Mansfield were the better side in the first half while Bristol Rovers were the better side in the second half, and a draw was undoubtedly a fair result with neither goalkeeper having a difficult save to make in the match.

It was Mansfield’s second 0-0 draw in succession away from home, and takes the current run of form over the last 15 league games to 12 wins, those two 0-0 draws, and one defeat (away to Sutton). Mansfield drop one place to 6th, 3 points above 8th place, and still 3 points below 3rd place with a game in hand.

It was another windy day, and although less windy than the Orient and Harrogate games, it was still tricky conditions to play football in.

The Stags were the better side in the first half. Matty Longstaff on his debut after his loan move from Newcastle United, fired straight at the keeper from 28 yards after 9 minutes, then Jamie Murphy fired just over the bar from 18 yards on the half volley after 15 minutes. And just before half time, Lucas Akins put in a great cross from the left, Ollie Clarke, playing against his former club, attacked the ball with a header but couldn’t get enough of a firm header on it and instead glanced it well wide. At the other end, Connor Taylor headed well over the bar from a corner.

The home side were the better side in the second half. Just after the break, Harry Anderson fired weakly straight at Nathan Bishop from 23 yards. Then Sam Nicholson, who gave Akins a very difficult game at left back replacing the injured Stephen McLaughlin, got past Akins and fired wide from 25 yards.

There was a moment of controversy after 64 minutes as the home side thought they should have had a penalty. Aaron Collins broke down the right hand side towards the corner flag, he cut along the byline away from Oli Hawkins, then went to go past John-Joe O’Toole and went down over O’Toole’s right leg inside the area. My initial reaction, albeit from a long way away was that it looked like a penalty. The referee however, who was close to the action, immediately gave a free kick against Collins and booked him for diving over O’Toole’s leg.
I asked Nigel Clough about it after the game and he told me: “I think he (Collins) put his leg into JJ (O’Toole), but I wasn’t 100% sure as I was a long way away, but the referee was very close to it. I think it was one of those where JJ stopped and he (Collins) went into him. I’d like to see it back. We had enough decisions go against in the first half of the season and we’re still due a few!”
From the replay, O’Toole doesn’t move his right leg and Collins does indeed dive over it. That said, it’s the sort of penalty you see given quite a lot so whilst it’s a brave decision from the referee, and I think a correct one, I also think we can be grateful because some referees would have given it.
Rovers manager Joey Barton didn’t quite see it that way though, saying: "It’s a stonewall penalty. I think he (the referee) is the only man in the stadium who doesn’t think that’s a penalty.”

The last 20 minutes didn’t really see any significant chances for either side as the Stags defence held firm with Oli Hawkins in particular, and O’Toole alongside him, heading everything away. Hawkins was excellent throughout and was my man of the match. The Stags could certainly have been better in midfield and up front today. Matty Longstaff did ok on his debut, and I expect will get better as he plays a few games.
Nigel Clough said afterwards: “It was difficult conditions again. The wind is blowing around which isn’t helping, but I thought our attacking play was poor in and around the penalty area. Even the likes of Jamie Murphy looked a yard off it today. Oatesy, I think if he’s fresh then he goes past people and goes clear a couple of times today. We weren’t quite at it.”
Lucas Akins had a difficult game at left back, and was switched to the right after 71 minutes, with Elliott Hewitt switching to the left and Jordan Bowery giving further protection in a left wing-back role. Kieran Wallace would have been the natural replacement for the injured McLaughlin but was himself not 100% fit.

The Stags have a week until the next league game, away to Newport who are a place below the Stags. Before then, there is an U23 game against Leeds United on Monday night, to be played at Alfreton, which fans can attend, and which can also watched live on LUTV for about £4. I asked Nigel Clough after the game who would be likely to play and he told me the likes of Stech, Burke, Law, Rawson, Wallace, and Johnson would probably play.
You are allowed to play three over-age outfield players plus an over-age keeper.

DETAILED REPORT :

Mansfield made three changes from the side that beat Colchester. Matty Longstaff and Ollie Clarke were brought in to freshen up the midfield, replacing Stirk and Maris. McLaughlin missed out and Clough said afterwards: “He got a bang on the head (in the win over Colchester). We don’t take chances on anything like that and we missed him today. Hopefully he'll be back training by the middle of the week ready for next Saturday.” McLaughlin was replaced by Jordan Bowery. Akins started at left back. (Kieran Wallace would have been the natural replacement for the injured McLaughlin but was himself not 100% fit).
Longstaff played in front of the back four in midfield.
Ollie Clarke was back and as captain against his former side. John-Joe O’Toole was also playing against his former side.
Jason Law came into the 18 on the bench, in place of McLaughlin. Ryan Burke also travelled with the squad but was not in the 18. James Perch did not travel (no reason given), as well as Lapslie who remains injured as well as Gordon of course.

Rhys Oates went off injured at Bristol Rovers, and Nigel Clough said after the game: “He felt his thigh I think. He was sprinting in this corner and felt it. We’re not quite sure yet (on the seriousness of the injury) but hopefully it’s not too serious.”

Bristol Rovers had lost at Oldham on Tuesday, but prior to that were unbeaten for 6 games, with 4 wins, and manager Joey Barton, like Nigel Clough, was nominated for League Two manager of the month for January (though neither got it in the end). Rovers included Anderson, Anderson and Anderton in their starting XI. If that wasn’t bad enough, the numbers on their shirts were unreadable (black numbers on blue and white quarters).
Elliot Anderson is a team mate of Longstaff, both players on loan from Newcastle.

It was another windy day, and although less windy than the Orient and Harrogate games, it was still tricky conditions to play football in.

Inside the opening 10 seconds, Oates went on a direct run towards the penalty area, just as he did at Barrow, but he ran the ball out for a goal kick. A positive sign of intent.

Longstaff fired straight at the keeper from 28 yards after 9 minutes, having been found in space by Murphy.

Then Murphy fired just over the bar from 18 yards on the half volley after 15 minutes. That followed an Oates cross from the left that was headed out to Murphy.

At the other end, the first time Rovers had been seen in attack as Akins defended well to put behind for a corner. From that corner from the left, the ball was headed out by Bowery to Nicholson who ballooned a shot over the bar.

Akins fouled Harry Anderson 20 yards out after 21 minutes just outside the area on the right. But the Stags cleared the free kick. Then good defending by O’Toole after 29 minutes as he blocked a cross. And after 35 minutes, Connor Taylor headed well over the bar from a corner from the right from Paul Coutts.

Hawkins lifted the ball forward after 39 minutes, Murphy got a touch on it and Oates had a sight of goal but he could only get a soft connection on it under pressure from James Connolly and the keeper saved easily.

After 42 minutes, Lucas Akins put in a great cross from the left, Ollie Clarke, playing against his former club, attacked the ball with a header but couldn’t get enough of a firm header on it and instead glanced it well wide.

The Stags had been the better side in the first half but it remained 0-0.

Half time 0-0

In the first minute of the second half. Nicholson got away from Akins on the right to the byline in the area. His cross was cleared. But Rovers recycled the ball and Harry Anderson fired weakly straight at Nathan Bishop from 23 yards. A great tackle by O’Toole shortly afterwards.

A free kick for Rovers on the left, after 52 minutes, for handball by Hewitt as a cross came in, a similar position to where Colchester scored on Tuesday. The free kick, by Coutts, was headed away by Hewitt.

Quinn was booked for dissent after 53 minutes, after the Stags had been awarded a free kick. Lack of discipline from Quinn.

Hewitt put in a great block from a cross for a corner a minute later as Rovers broke forward.

A mistake from Akins after 55 minutes, as Rovers keeper Belshaw lifted a massive punt into the Stags box. Akins let the ball bounce, Collins nicked the ball away from him, cut inside and fired a shot well wide, out for a throw-in.

Nicholson got past Akins again after 57 minutes and fired wide from 25 yards.

After 61 minutes, Oates did brilliantly down by the corner flag on the right, he pulled the ball back to Longstaff who got in a shot from 20 yards but he was stretching and couldn’t get much power on it as it floated through to the keeper.

There was a moment of controversy after 64 minutes as the home side thought they should have had a penalty. Aaron Collins broke down the right hand side towards the corner flag, he cut along the byline away from Oli Hawkins, then went to go past John-Joe O’Toole and went down over O’Toole’s right leg inside the area. My initial reaction, albeit from a long way away was that it looked like a penalty. The referee however, who was close to the action, immediately gave a free kick against Collins and booked him for diving over O’Toole’s leg.
I asked Nigel Clough about it after the game and he told me: “I think he (Collins) put his leg into JJ (O’Toole), but I wasn’t 100% sure as I was a long way away, but the referee was very close to it. I think it was one of those where JJ stopped and he (Collins) went into him. I’d like to see it back. We had enough decisions go against in the first half of the season and we’re still due a few!”
From the replay, O’Toole doesn’t move his right leg and Collins does indeed dive over it. That said, it’s the sort of penalty you see given quite a lot so whilst it’s a brave decision from the referee, and I think a correct one, I also think we can be grateful because some referees would have given it.
Rovers manager Joey Barton didn’t quite see it that way though, saying: "It’s a stonewall penalty. I think he (the referee) is the only man in the stadium who doesn’t think that’s a penalty.”

Maris replaced Quinn after 64 minutes. Nigel Clough said after the game: "Quinny looked a bit tired today”.

A foul by Akins on Collins down by the corner flag after 65 minutes. The free kick was headed away by Hawkins.

After 68 minutes, Oates burst forward into the area but he couldn’t get a shot away.

The Stags made a second change after 71 minutes, with Danny Johnson replacing Oates. Nigel Clough said after the game: “He (Oates) felt his thigh I think. He was sprinting in this corner and felt it. We’re not quite sure yet (the seriousness of the injury) but hopefully it’s not too serious.” Johnson joined Murphy up front.

At the same time, the Stags made a formation change. Lucas Akins had had a difficult game at left back up against Nicholson. To nullify the threat down the Rovers right, the Stags switched to 5 at the back, as Akins was switched to the right, with Elliott Hewitt switching to the left and Jordan Bowery giving further protection in a left wing-back role.

And the changed worked well as the last 20 minutes didn’t really see any significant chances for either side as the Stags defence held firm.

An inconsistent piece of refereeing to annoy the Stags after 84 minutes as Hoole took a throw-in from the wrong place after the referee had explicitly shown him where to take it from, and the referee allowed him to take it again. Just a few minutes earlier, the same thing had happened to Akins, but the referee instead of letting Akins take it again gave a throw-in to Bristol Rovers.

O’Toole was booked for a foul on Saunders after 89 minutes.

Stirk replaced Murphy after 90+1 minutes.

Longstaff was booked for a bad foul on Hoole after 90+3 minutes. The resulting free kick was punted long by the keeper straight into the Stags box and there was yet another header away by Hawkins.

The home side were the better side in the second half, but the draw was a fair result overall.

Man of the Match: Oli Hawkins


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

Goals (league and cup): Oates 8, Johnson 7, Bowery, Hawkins 6, O.Clarke, Lapslie, McLaughlin 4, Maris, O’Toole 3, Charsley 2, Caine, Forrester, Hewitt, Quinn, Sinclair, Stirk 1

Assists (league and cup): McLaughlin 7, Oates 6, Quinn 5, Bowery 4, Charsley, O.Clarke, Johnson, Sinclair 3, Hawkins, Maris, Rawson, Stirk 2, J.Clarke, Gale, Hewitt, Lapslie, Law 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 or blocked, the player who had the shot saved gets an assist.)


Report by: Martin Shaw at the Memorial Ground



Line Up:
(4-3-3)
Bishop 6.5 Didn’t have any saves of note to make.
Hewitt 7.5 Good game, with a block and a good header away. Switched to the left for the last 20 minutes.
O’Toole 8 Very good, some great tackles, blocks and headers away.
Hawkins 9 Excellent throughout, heading everything away.
Akins 5.5 Given a very difficult game out of position at left back by Nicholson. Nigel Clough later said "He struggled, by his own admission”. Switched to right wingback for the last 20 minutes and looked more comfortable. Put in a great cross in the first half.
Longstaff 6.5 Did ok on his debut, and I expect will get better as he plays a few games. A couple of shots on target. Nigel Clough said “I thought he did alright”.
O.Clarke 6.5 Also did ok, against his former club.
Quinn 6 Under par by his standards. Booked for dissent. Nigel Clough said "Quinny looked a bit tired today”.
Murphy 6 A half-volley over the bar in the first half. Didn’t contribute too much. Nigel Clough said “Even the likes of Jamie Murphy looked a yard off it today”.
Bowery 6.5 One header away. Gave more protection to the left side of defence in the last 20 minutes after the Stags had been given problems down that side.
Oates 6.5 Two or three runs forward, including the opening 10 seconds of the game. Not at his best but still provided some danger. Went off injured.
Sub Line Up:
Maris (for Quinn, 64 mins) -
Johnson (for Oates, 71 mins) -
Stirk (for Murphy, 90+1 mins) -
Subs not used: Stech, Rawson, Wallace, Law.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-2-3-1): Belshaw; Hoole, Connolly, Taylor, Nick Anderton; Coutts, Finley; Nicholson, Elliot Anderson, Harry Anderson (Saunders, 88); Collins. Subs not used: Jaakkola, Spence, Harries, Whelan, Martinez, Thomas.
Referee:
John Busby 7 Brave decision to turn down the penalty claim, and I think a correct one. A couple of minor inconsistencies over the positioning of throw-ins.


Season 21/22 Reports