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Season 21/22 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Forest Green Rovers  
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
March 14.
 Lapslie sent off 49
Attendance: 2784 (390 from Mansfield)
Date: 5 April 2022


Martin Shaw at the Fully Charged New Lawn

Mansfield Town lost 1-0 at League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers last night. The Stags went very close with a couple of early chances before Forest Green took the lead after 14 minutes thanks to some poor marking at the back from the Stags. Both sides played some good football in the first half, but Mansfield were rocked after 49 minutes when George Lapslie was sent off. Despite being down to ten men for the remainder of the game, the Stags stayed in it and pushed the home side all the way, indeed Forest Green barely created a chance in the second half, but Mansfield couldn’t find an equaliser.

The Stags remain in 6th place, but 3rd placed Port Vale won last night in the only other game in League Two, and Vale are now 3 points above Mansfield with a vastly superior goal difference, while the Stags have one game in hand. The Stags have 7 games left, and might have to win 5 of them to get into the top 3.
Forest Green’s win, their third on the trot, strengthens their grip on top spot, 12 points ahead of 4th place, and they will surely get promoted, probably as champions. And deservedly so as they have been the best side in the league this season in my opinion.

The game was originally scheduled in mid December and postponed when Forest Green had Covid in the camp. Then it was started in mid January but abandoned after 4 minutes due to fog.

It went ahead at the third time of asking, on a slightly windy evening.

Mansfield made two changes from the side that beat Northampton. Rhys Oates missed out with the thigh injury that forced him off on Saturday, and he remains a doubt for the game at Scunthorpe on Saturday. Ryan Stirk dropped to the bench to “give him a bit of a breather” as Nigel Clough said after the game. In came Jordan Bowery and Kieran Wallace. James Perch returned from illness to the bench. Jamie Murphy remained out with a hamstring injury and is also a doubt for the game at Scunthorpe on Saturday
Ollie Clarke travelled to the game and I asked Nigel Clough about him after the game. Clough told me he has just had a minor operation on his groin, already feels more comfortable, and hopefully will be back before the end of the season.

Forest Green were also without their leading scorer, Matty Stevens, out with an ACL injury. He was replaced by Josh March, an able deputy, who played against Mansfield while on loan at Harrogate last season.

Forest Green had the wind behind them in the first half.

Inside the opening 10 seconds, a terrible foul on Matty Longstaff on the touchline on the left by Dan Sweeney, brother of former Stag Ryan Sweeney. Longstaff was hurt but ok to carry on. Sweeney should have been booked, but wasn’t.

The Stags were inches away from taking the lead after 7 minutes. Elliott Hewitt pushed forward from the halfway line and squared to Stephen Quinn 25 yards from goal. Quinn took a touch before firing in a sweet shot that fizzed inches wide of the right post. I was right behind the line of it and it was so close.

The Stags went close again within a minute after great play down the left. Bowery played back to Longstaff on the left touchline. Longstaff played inside to Akins, back to McLaughlin, down the line to Quinn, inside to Bowery, then Quinn again, inside to Longstaff, squared to Lapslie who flicked it forward with the outside of his right boot. Ebou Adams tried to clear but miskicked and Akins was able to turn but from 8 yards he screwed his shot inches wide of the left post. Akins should have scored or at least got his shot on target. It was a brilliant move from the Stags. After the game, Nigel Clough said “I thought we started the game brilliantly and created a great chance that Lucas screwed wide. That could have changed the game if it had gone in.”

Oli Hawkins was booked for a clear foul on Jamille Matt after 11 minutes. He is on 13 bookings for the season now, and will be suspended for three games if he gets two more bookings. He already missed 2 games when he reached 10 bookings and 1 when he reached 5 bookings.

Forest Green took the lead after 14 minutes. Bowery gave the ball away inside his own half to Jack Aitchison who found Nicky Cadden who found Baily Cargill. Cargill’s curling cross from 28 yards out on the left was towards the far post when Matt got away from his marker Hawkins and sent a diving header straight at Nathan Bishop. Bishop was in the right place to save it at point blank range, hitting him in the face. The ball rebounded to Josh March 12 yards out and he fired it into the bottom left corner of the net for a clinical finish. Poor marking from Hawkins, and an error from Bowery giving the ball away in his own half.

After 20 minutes, a mistake from Hawkins as he tried to dribble the ball out from defence and was tackled, Aitchison laid off to Cadden and he fired powerfully wide. From the video replay from the opposite side of the ground to my seat in the press box, it was much further wide than I thought!

At the other end a minute later, Bowery shot wide from the right.

Some pressure from the Stags around the half hour mark, with 3 long throws in quick succession from Hewitt, and then a corner. During that spell, a volley from Lapslie was blocked.

A chance for Forest Green after 32 minutes, a huge long ball from the keeper McGee into the Stags half, with the aid of the wind, Hawkins and two Forest Green players went for the header, it flicked off the top of Hawkins’ head, which set March away on goal into the Stags area, but Bishop was out quickly to make himself big and block March’s shot. Very good goalkeeping. I would not blame Hawkins on this occasion, slightly caught out by the wind.

Forest Green got another shot in after 37 minutes as Kane Wilson surged forward down the ball, and laid a lovely ball into the path of March whose low shot was weak and straight at Bishop.

Wallace for booked for a foul on March after 38 minutes.

Then Matt was booked for an accumulation of fouls. A comical moment this. The referee showed no sign of booking Matt until O’Toole and Hawkins pointed out the accumulation to the referee.

A good move from Forest Green after 42 minutes, as March played inside to Aitchison who moved forward but just overran the ball through to Bishop who was out quickly.

Bishop caught a Cadden free kick nicely after 45+3 minutes.

Forest Green ahead at the break. Both sides played some good football, but the home side ahead with a clinical finish after some poor marking allowed Matt to get in the header.

Half time 1-0

Mansfield made a double change at the break taking off Hawkins and Wallace and bringing on Perch and Stirk. Nigel Clough said that the referee had told Wallace one more foul and he was off, while Clough was also concerned that Hawkins might pick up a second yellow.
Perch went in at right back, Hewitt moved to centre half, in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Stirk in front of the back four, Akins, Lapslie, Longstaff and Quinn (right to left) in midfield, and Bowery up front.

But on 49 minutes, Mansfield were reduced to 10 men in controversial circumstances as Lapslie was given a straight red. Lapslie and Ebou Adams went for the ball on the edge of the centre circle, Adams went down theatrically as though he had been shot in the foot, and the referee immediately showed Lapslie the red card. From the replay, Lapslie might or might not have caught him on the foot, but it is not a red card challenge in my opinion, a yellow card at worst. There was no appealing from the Forest Green bench and only one player appealed to the referee. Nigel Clough told me after the game Lapslie said he didn’t make contact with Adams. It was a key moment in the game. I expect Mansfield to appeal the decision. It’s always hard to judge the likelihood of success but in my opinion it is certainly worth the appeal. As it stands, Lapslie would miss the next three games through suspension, unless the decision is overturned. A big blow to the Stags as he has really come back into form in the last few games.
(update: it was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Mansfield have lodged an appeal to overturn the red card).

Mansfield switched to a 4-1-3-1 formation.

After 55 minutes, Longstaff’s free kick into the box from wide out on the right reached McLaughlin at the far post and his volley was blocked on the line by Sweeney, though the offside flag went up against McLaughlin.

A half chance for Forest Green after 56 minutes as Aitchison’s shot from 16 yards was blocked by Perch after a scramble in the box.

Danny Johnson replaced Quinn after 61 minutes. I don’t think Quinn was injured. Johnson went up front, Bowery dropped back into midfield on the left.

Akins teed up Stirk for a shot after 66 minutes, but he curled it two yards wide from 20 yards.

Superb play from Bowery to win a corner after 69 minutes. Longstaff took the corner short, along the byline to Akins, who found McLaughlin wide on the left and his low cross in was knocked up by Longstaff who turned and hooked a shot straight at the keeper from 10 yards. A clever move, probably off the training ground.

Good play by Akins after 74 minutes to charge down a clearance, and Johnson fired over the bar from 30 yards. Three minutes later, wonderful skill from Akins to find Stirk, but it came to nothing.

After 84 minutes, Cadden’s had a shot from 16 yards blocked by Perch.

On 90 minutes, Cargill headed well wide from a Cadden corner.

Hewitt was booked for a late tackle on March after 90 minutes.

Bowery did well to win a free kick on the left after 90+3 minutes. The free kick was cleared behind for a corner. But an absolute waste from McLaughlin as he curled the corner out of play and back into play for a goal kick. Longstaff normally takes the corners from left to avoid this possibility.

Defeat for Mansfield but not a bad performance, despite playing for ten men for more than 40 minutes against the best side in the league. Missing those early chances was crucial, then a bit of slack marking allowed Forest Green to take the lead and the home side led at the break after some good football from both sides. Mansfield stayed in the game in the second half but couldn’t find an equaliser.

Most of the Stags side played ok, though Oli Hawkins had a poor first half with a couple of errors, one of which was costly. He had a poor game against Hartlepool last Tuesday, then an outstanding one against Northampton on Saturday where he scored the only goal and won everything at the back and was my clear man of the match, then another poor one here. I suspect he will either go up front on Saturday or be rested, with other options available at the back including Rawson and Perch (who would probably be at right back with Hewitt or Rawson at centre half). Indeed Nigel Clough said after the game that “if James Perch had been 100% fit after his illness, the plan was to leave Oli on the bench tonight and start Perchy.”

On to Scunthorpe on Saturday. The bottom side, after playing the top side here. The Stags will want to win the game really in order to keep pushing for the top three of course. Scunthorpe are bottom for a reason, because they are the worst side in the league, but the Stags will still have to play well to beat them. I don’t think there will be any complacency, a manager as good as Nigel Clough will ensure that. Scunthorpe will not be allowed to play Tyrese Sinclair, on loan from Mansfield, who has been doing well there, and even ended their game on Saturday as captain.

Finally credit to the Stags fans, a tremendous turnout of 390 on Tuesday night in Gloucestershire. They gave their side a good reception at the final whistle, appreciative of a decent performance in the circumstances despite the defeat.

Man of the match: Bishop, Hewitt, O’Toole and Perch were the best players. Hard to separate them.

Footnote: as we approach the end of the season, these are my average player ratings based on the 46 league+cup games so far this season (top 8 players): (EXCLUDING THE FOREST GREEN GAME)

O’Toole 7.50, Oates 7.41, Quinn 7.40, McLaughlin 7.36, Perch 7.31, Hawkins 7.24, Longstaff 7.19, Maris 7.17

Note: only ratings for players starting a game are included - ie. sub appearances not included. Minimum 8 games started.
Thanks to Pete Wright for his spreadsheet.

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

Goals (league and cup): Oates 11, Hawkins 8, Bowery, 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, Longstaff, Sinclair 3, Hawkins, Lapslie, 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 the Fully Charged New Lawn

Line Up:
Bishop 7.5 Unlucky with the goal when he was in the right place to save the original header at point blank range as it hit him in the face. Got out quickly on two other occasions to save. Good handling.
Hewitt 7.5 Played well at the back, at right back in the first half and centre half in the second half.
O’Toole 7.5 Solid at centre half.
Hawkins 5 Booked early on for a clear foul. Lost his man Matt and that led to the goal. Then lost the ball as he tried to dribble the ball out from defence and was tackled leading to another chance. Subbed at half time as Nigel Clough was concerned that he might pick up a second yellow.
McLaughlin 7 Decent game down the left. Put a corner straight out of play in stoppage time.
Wallace 6 Booked in the first half. Subbed at half time as Nigel Clough said that the referee had told Wallace one more foul and he was off.
Lapslie 6.5 Unfortunate to be shown the red card in my opinion.
Longstaff 6.5 On the end of a bad foul in the first minute. Did ok.
Quinn 6.5 Fired in a sweet shot that fizzed inches wide. Rested after an hour with the side down to ten men.
Bowery 6 Gave the ball away in the build-up to the goal. Got much better in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Akins 6 Should have scored or at least got his shot on target from his early chance. Played well in the last 25 minutes.
Sub Line Up:
Perch (for Hawkins, 46 mins) 7.5 Very good at right back in the second half. Two blocks.
Stirk (for Wallace, 46 mins) 6.5 Ok
Johnson (for Quinn, 61 mins) - One shot over the bar from 30 yards. Did ok in his longest spell on the pitch since his injury.
Subs not used: Stech, Rawson, Maris, Law.
Opposition Line Up:
(3-4-1-2) McGee; Sweeney, Moore-Taylor, Cargill; Wilson, Stevenson (Hendry, 83), Adams, Cadden; Aitchison (Bernard 90+5); Matt, March. Subs not used: Thomas, Godwin-Malife, Young, Diallo, McAteer.
Carl Brook 5 I think he was overly harsh with the red card. The foul on Longstaff in the first minute was a worse challenge in my opinion. One comical moment when he showed no sign of booking Matt until O’Toole and Hawkins pointed out an accumulation of fouls.

Season 21/22 Reports