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Season 21/22 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Hartlepool United  
2 - 2
 Mansfield Town
Grey 41, Molyneux 43.
 Lapslie 20, Perch 25.
Attendance: 4,577 (288 from Mansfield)
Date: 29 March 2022


Martin Shaw at Victoria Park (the Suit Direct stadium)

Mansfield Town were pegged back after taking a two goal lead at Hartlepool United last night and had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw. It was a frustrating result for the Stags who played well overall and had 23 shots at goal (9 on target) compared to 10 (6 on target) for Hartlepool.

Mansfield were already without Ollie Clarke and George Maris who remained out with injury (Maris will return to training on Friday Nigel Clough told me after the game, while Ollie Clarke is further away from returning). Farrend Rawson missed the trip with food poisoning. Matty Longstaff, Stephen McLaughlin, Kieran Wallace and Rhys Oates all dropped out of the side to the bench from the side that started against Oldham, all of them “half injured”, carrying knocks, as Nigel Clough told me after the game. Stephen Quinn was also carrying a knock but Clough told me he couldn’t rest everybody. Stirk, Lapslie, Akins and Bowery came into the starting XI. A side-note on Longstaff by the way: the Newcastle man was offered to Hartlepool during the January transfer window and Hartlepool manager Graeme Lee turned him down, before he came to Mansfield on deadline day of course! Incredible in my opinion that any League Two club could turn down a player like Longstaff.

The Stags also lost Jamie Murphy half way through the first half with a tight hamstring. Nigel Clough didn’t know how long he would be out. He was replaced by Jason Law.

Hartlepool were in mid-table but had a good home record with 9 wins and only 3 defeats. They welcomed back goalkeeper Ben Killip from illness.

Inside the opening minute, a misplaced pass by Oli Hawkins, Hartlepool played the ball to Bryn Morris whose shot from 25 yards was straight at Bishop. Two minutes later, a good block by Bowery.

The Stags had three chances in a minute to open the scoring around the 12 minute mark. George Lapslie, then Jordan Bowery had shots blocked from the edge of the six yard box. Then from an Elliott Hewitt long throw-in headed on by Jordan Bowery, Jamie Murphy’s shot from six yards was well-saved at point blank range by the keeper.

The Stags did take the lead after 20 minutes. And it came from great play in and around the box. Murphy inched his way to the edge of the box, slid the ball into the box to Lucas Akins, who had his back to goal. Akins held off his marker, squared to Bowery 16 yards from goal, and Bowery flicked a little ball up to Lapslie who volleyed into the net from 10 yards. A lovely team goal. A beautiful assist from Bowery. Lapslie’s second goal in successive games. His sixth goal of the season and a Lapslie back to his goalscoring best could be massive between now and the end of the season.

After 22 minutes, from Ferguson’s corner, Omar Bogle headed the ball up and well wide.

Law replaced the injured Murphy after 24 minutes. Law had played in the game against Hartlepool at Mansfield and had a really good game.

The Stags made it 2-0 after 25 minutes. Lapslie curled in a cross from wide on the right. It bounced up to Perch ten yards out from goal. Perch headed the ball up, over the keeper, and it dipped under the bar into the right corner of the net. A very skilful header from Perch. His first goal of the season. Perch pulled his protective headband off and waved it around to celebrate! What a moment for the man whose whole career was in doubt a few months ago after his skull fracture and who was captain for the night.
Nigel Clough described the goal after the game: “Perchy has ghosted in at the far post, it was a great cross from Laps as well. It cross evaded everybody, but Perchy meant it, not many players at this level would’ve done what he did with that chance. Some people think it’s a bit of fluke but it’s not, he knew exactly what he was doing.”
James Perch however told Notts TV: "I meant it." (he laughs) "I just tried to put it back into a dangerous area, luckily for me it went in."

Lucas Akins had a double chance to make it 3-0 after 29 minutes. Akins controlled the ball nicely on the halfway line, and set Lapslie away running towards goal. Lapslie then laid the ball inside to Akins for a shot from 20 yards with just the keeper to beat. The keeper got down to his left to keep it out. The ball rebounded up and Akins rose above a defender to head it goalwards again, but again the keeper saved it.

Hartlepool pulled a goal back after 41 minutes. Centre half Neil Byrne was not closed down and given time to chip a ball forward from the centre circle out to the right, over Perch and Jason Law, and full back Jamie Sterry superbly chested the ball down and fired in a low cross-shot. Nathan Bishop did well to save it with his boot but it fell kindly for Joe Grey who knocked the loose ball into the net from 6 yards.

The Stags had successfully silenced the home crowd, but they were right up for it again.

And on 43 minutes, from nowhere, Hartlepool were level. Hawkins, under no pressure, gave the ball away in his own half 45 yards from goal. Nicky Featherstone played a little ball forward to Luke Molyneux, 35 yards from goal. Molyneux took three touches before firing low from 22 yards into the bottom right corner of the net. A great finish from Molyneux, but self inflicted by Mansfield with Hawkins giving the ball away unnecessarily. Nigel Clough said after the game: “You have the experienced Oli Hawkins, who gives the ball away in a ridiculous area two minutes before half-time and all of a sudden they are back in at 2-2 from absolutely nowhere. We only have ourselves to blame. The ball should have been put in a corner for Lucas (Akins) to chase. It was a lack of game management from one of our more experienced players.”

The Stags were shell-shocked. 2-0 up, and it could have been more, but suddenly pegged back to 2-2 just before the break.

Half time 2-2

The second half saw a catalogue of Stags chances.

After 48 minutes, Ryan Stirk fired just over the bar from 18 yards, after some lovely one-touch passing.

After 53 minutes, Hartlepool scorer Luke Molyneux was stretchered off after a tackle from Perch. It was a fair tackle. The home fans booed Perch for the rest of the game though. Nigel Clough said after the game: “Perchy has been to see him. It was just one of those tackles in football where he has played the ball and just caught the lad - absolutely no intent whatsoever. It is a physical game and part of football. It's very different to when someone goes in maliciously with an intent to try to hurt someone.”

Lapslie was booked after 57 minutes for pulling back Fletcher.

The Stags could have had a penalty after 61 minutes. Akins laid the ball off to Hewitt who took a touch just inside the area and was blocked off by Jamie Sterry. From the video replay, I think it should have been a penalty. Referee Trevor Kettle gave the free kick the other way, presumably adjudging that Hewitt had knocked Sterry over. Nigel Clough said after the game: "I thought we had a stonewall penalty when Elliott Hewitt has gone into the box and somehow he (the referee) has managed to give a free kick against Elliott Hewitt which was quite staggering. The lad (Sterry) has blocked him and knew exactly what he was doing, has gone down, and the referee's given them a free kick."

Great play from Hewitt after 65 minutes, he played a 1-2 with Bowery on the right, cut inside, and slid a great ball across to Quinn for a shot from 18 yards, across the keeper and wide of the right post.

Rhys Oates, who did more than anyone to get Hartlepool promoted back to the Football League last season, came on to replace Quinn after 67 minutes. He was booed and subjected to utterly disgusting chants for the rest of the game. Contrast his reception to that of Matt Green who did more than anyone to get Mansfield promoted back to the Football League 9 years ago. Every time Green returned to play against the Stags he was treated with respect.

Oates was straight into the action, on 72 minutes, running on to a loose backwards pass, picking it up just inside the Hartlepool half, running at goal and from the edge of the area sliding his shot inches wide of the right post with just the keeper to beat. Frustration for Oates. The Hartlepool fans delighted.

Perch was booked for a foul after 73 minutes.

Oates was away again after 73 minutes, brilliantly controlling a ball over the top by Stirk, but he was forced wider by defender Neill Byrne and dragged his shot wide again.

Two minutes after that, another run from Oates towards the edge of the area, he was tackled, the ball fell to Lapslie who shot wide. Brilliant really from Oates with those runs, but huge frustration that the Stags couldn’t make it count.

After 78 minutes, Stirk cut inside and brought down 22 yards from goal. With regular free kick takers all not on the pitch, it was left to Oates to take it and he slammed the free kick into the wall, it came back to Oates, his shot was blocked again, it came out to Law who fired well over the bar.

The chances kept on coming. Bowery got into the area on the left after 80 minutes and his shot was blocked. A minute later, Bowery crossed to Hewitt who poked a shot straight at the keeper.

On 88 minutes, a 30 yard shot from Lapslie was blocked for a corner. From the resulting corner taken by Law, it came out to Perch who fired well over the bar.

McLaughlin replaced Bowery after 90 minutes. Perch remained at left back, McLaughlin went into left midfield.

Having completely dominated the game for at least 75 minutes, the Stags were nearly caught with a sucker punch 2 minutes into stoppage time. Stirk gave the ball away in his own half, Hartlepool sub Joe White pushed forward, got passed Hawkins and O’Toole with a great run into the Stags area and in a 1-on-1 with just Bishop to beat, he slid his shot wide. The game was nearly a reversal of the game at the One Call Stadium, when Hartlepool had led 2-0 and Mansfield came back to win it 3-2.

Hawkins was booked for trying to bring White down in that incident.

Plenty of good performances in the Stags side. Goalscorers Lapslie and Perch both played very well. Perch is not a natural at left back, but slotted in well. Hewitt was very good, going forward well. Akins and Bowery both did well going forward, as did Murphy before he went off. Jason Law in for a rare substitute appearance grew into the game and had a fine second half. Oates once again made some great runs when he came on as substitute but couldn’t find an end product on this occasion.

Despite that near miss in stoppage time for Hartlepool, this was very frustrating for Mansfield, who played well, created a lot of chances, and should have won. But, we didn't, so we move on to the next game and try and win that one! And what a game it is against third-placed Northampton. Get yourself to the One Call Stadium if you can as the Stags go in search of an 11th win in a row at home. The Stags are in with a good shout of promotion, it should be an exciting end to the season!

Remarkable stat: This game was Mansfield’s 5th game on the trot away from home, and 8th in 9 away from home. Quite remarkable. From those 8 away games: 3 wins, 3 draws, 2 defeats. Not bad on the road, especially if the Stags can continue to win at home.

Man of the Match: James Perch
Here’s what Perch told Teamtalk on Notts TV the morning after the game:
on his goal: "I meant it." (he laughs) "I just tried to put it back into a dangerous area, luckily for me it went in."
on the game: "I thought we played really well. The 5 minutes before half time killed us. We've got two days off now (Wed, Thur). The gaffer's all about rest and recovery."
on his fractured skull injury: "At that time (when he was last on the programme in December) I thought I was going to have to call it a day. I saw the specialist and had a few more scans, and he said it's healed quite well. He said we can get you back to playing but you have to wear a headguard with a bit of cushion on the side over the fracture. He said it will minimise the risk, there will always be a risk there, it's not going to eliminate it, but it will minimise it. So I thought I'll carry on. It's quite soft, like a spongy elasticated material. It's fine to wear it.
"It was quite emotional when I made my comeback. I know there's a risk, but I'm willing to take that risk to carry on playing. Now that I know I can play and feel fit, I'm happy to carry on for another year or two ... if the gaffer's listening! (he laughs)"
on going for promotion:
"It is exciting, seeing if we can catch the top 3."
"I'm loving it, because I didn't think I'd be here."

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

Goals (league and cup): Oates 11, Bowery, Hawkins, Johnson 7, Lapslie 6, O.Clarke, McLaughlin 4, Longstaff, Maris, O’Toole 3, Charsley 2, Caine, Forrester, Hewitt, Perch, Quinn, Rawson, Sinclair, Stirk 1. 1 OG

Assists (league and cup): McLaughlin 10, Oates 8, Bowery, Quinn 5, Charsley, O.Clarke, Johnson, Sinclair 3, Hawkins, Lapslie, Longstaff, Maris, Murphy, Rawson, Stirk 2, J.Clarke, Gale, Hewitt, Law, Wallace 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 at home, 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. In the case of an own goal, the player who caused the own goal gets an assist, for example McLaughlin against Newport away where his shot was deflected in for an own goal.)

Report by: Martin Shaw at Victoria Park (the Suit Direct stadium)

Line Up:
Bishop 6.5 Unlucky with the first goal when he did well to save Sterry’s cross-shot with his boot but the rebound was knocked in. Narrowed the angle for White’s stoppage time 1-on-1.
Hewitt 8 Very good, going forward well, and should have had a penalty. Mostly defended well.
O’Toole 8 Very solid in defence.
Hawkins 5 Gave the ball away leading to the second goal. Misplaced pass in the opening minute of the game led to a shot.
Perch 9 Not a natural at left back, but slotted in well. Defended very well with his usual calmness. Scored his first goal of the season. Pulled his protective headguard off and waved it around to celebrate! What a moment for the man whose whole career was in doubt a few months ago after his skull fracture and who was captain for the night.
Lapslie 8 Scored his second goal in successive games. His sixth goal of the season and a Lapslie back to his goalscoring best could be massive between now and the end of the season. Also got an assist for Perch’s goal.
Stirk 7 Mostly played well, doing well going forward. Won a free kick in a dangerous position. Gave the ball away in his own half leading to the stoppage time 1-on-1.
Quinn 7.5 Played well, rarely wasting a pass.
Bowery 7.5 A beautiful assist for the first goal. One good block early on.
Akins 7 Very good play in the build-up to the first goal. Good game after a couple of early mistakes.
Murphy - Started the game well before going off injured.
Sub Line Up:
Law (for Murphy, 24 mins) 7 Grew into the game and had a fine second half.
Oates (for Quinn, 67 mins) - Several brilliant runs but couldn’t find an end product on this occasion.
McLaughlin (for Bowery, 90 mins) -
Subs not used: Stech, Wallace, Longstaff, Johnson.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-3-3) Killip; Sterry, Byrne, Odusina, Ferguson; Morris (Shelton, 79), Featherstone; Fletcher (Crawford, 79); Molyneux (White, 53), Bogle, Grey. Subs not used: Bilokapic, Liddle, Smith, Ogle.
Trevor Kettle 6 Should have awarded the Stags a penalty for a foul on Hewitt.

Season 21/22 Reports