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Season 21/22 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two - Play-off semi-final 2nd leg
Northampton Town  
0 - 1
 Mansfield Town
(Mansfield win 3-1 on aggregate)
 McLaughlin 32
Attendance: 7,619 (1463 from Mansfield)
Date: 18 May 2022


Martin Shaw at Sixfields

Mansfield Town beat Northampton Town 1-0 at Sixfields on Wednesday night, to win 3-1 on aggregate, and reach the League Two play-off final. It was a special night for Stags fans, including the 1,463 crammed into Sixfields and the thousands watching elsewhere on TV. A shame that more Stags fans couldn’t be there, as we could surely have sold two times, even three times, that amount of tickets.

Against Northampton’s well-understood tactics of hurling as many balls into the box as possible, from throw-ins, corners and free-kicks, for their centre-halves to get on the end of, the task for the Stags was to keep them out, and build on the 2-1 lead from the first leg if possible. And Mansfield’s performance was absolutely magnificent. A masterclass in defending: heading it away, kicking it away, getting in blocks. While at the other end, the Stags scored a super goal, quite clearly not offside despite the bleating from home fans and reporters, which still continues by the way.

Nigel Clough aptly described the performance: "It was not like the way we've played most of the season ... we've tried to play a lot of football. This was really digging in and everybody doing their job. Stopping a team creating chances against us. A brilliant performance.”

The Stags made three changes from the first leg. Out went Longstaff, Murphy and Maris. In came Hewitt, Wallace and Akins.

Nigel Clough explained his team selection: “I just couldn't see Matty Longstaff, Jamie Murphy, George Maris, Stirky, having an impact on the game. I thought it was going to be blood and thunder. That's why we went with the team we did. JJ (O’Toole) just pushing into midfield, he did magnificently. Elliott came in a right back ... he's been unlucky not to play recently, so he just slotted straight back in.”
"After the home leg, we started thinking about playing a five (at the back), to be big and solid.”
"We did a bit of work in training on Tuesday morning, it didn't quite sit right and the players weren't overly fussed on changing to a back five, so we went with the 4-2-3-1 and put JJ and Kieran there.”

The back four was: Hewitt, Perch, Hawkins, McLaughlin. O’Toole and Wallace sat in front of the back four. Then Akins, Quinn and Bowery were just behind Oates.

Rawson was back into the 18 on the bench, with Maris not in the 18.

Northampton were able to bring back first choice keeper Liam Roberts, who’s had a superb season and was outstanding in the league game at Mansfield. He was suspended for the first leg. He replaced Maxted, who in my opinion should have done better with Mansfield’s first goal in the first leg, letting it through his legs. Northampton also brought back Josh Eppiah, who had not been fit enough to start the first leg. He replaced Idris Kanu.

Northampton were off to a fast start and Bishop had to made an excellent save in the opening minute, which was critical. Hoskins crossed from the edge of the area on the left, to beyond the far post, where Eppiah headed back towards the far post and Bishop had to dive at full stretch to turn it away. A fine header from Eppiah and an excellent save.

After 12 minutes, a shot from Sowerby from 22 yards was blocked by Wallace for a corner.

After 24 minutes, a good header away by Akins with Koiki in space waiting to head it in behind him, from an Eppiah cross.

The first run of the evening from Oates, along the byline past a defender, but his cross was deflected to the keeper.

The Stags took the lead after 32 minutes with a goal of huge significance, to double the aggregate lead. Akins, 30 yards from goal, slid the ball forward. Quinn was standing in an offside position, and would have been offside if he had played the ball, but he seemed to get a call from Hewitt, overlapping, to leave it. Quinn did leave it. Hewitt ran on to it, and pulled a great ball across from the byline into the middle for McLaughlin who was first to it on the edge of the six yard box, beating Eppiah to it, to slide the ball into the net. McLaughlin’s 8th goal of the season from left back, to add to his 14 assists (see below). Quite a tally. And what a huge goal this was.

McLaughlin blocked an Eppiah shot after 34 minutes. A minute later, Bishop was out quickly with Eppiah nearly in on it. And a minute after that, Bowery headed away another long throw-in.

A real chance for the Cobblers after 40 minutes. A Pinnock long throw-in was headed up in the air. Bishop came to claim it, but spilled it giving Hoskins a free shot at goal from 8 yards with Bishop out of position, but Hoskins skied it over the bar. A let-off for the Stags. As the throw had come in, Horsfall had gone to ground under a challenge from O’Toole off the ball. The referee wasn’t interested in a penalty.

The rain was now coming down, and was to continue for the rest of the evening.

A double chance for Mansfield after 44 minutes. Oates chipped a cross into the middle, it reached Akins, he chested it down and his shot from 12 yards was blocked by his own man Bowery. It came out to Hewitt, whose shot from 18 yards was also blocked by his own man Akins. Both shots were goalbound.

The Stags ahead on the night at the break, and two ahead on aggregate.

Half time 0-1

Northampton had calls for a penalty after 49 minutes. Eppiah got past McLaughlin on the right. His low cross was towards Appere. He went down under a challenge from O’Toole. Then Sowerby went down under a challenge from Oates on the edge of the area. Neither was a foul and the referee correctly played on.

O’Toole was booked for a foul after 53 minutes. The resulting free kick from Hoskins was straight to Bishop.

Great defending by Bowery after Hoskins got past Hawkins after 62 minutes.

A controversial moment after 63 minutes. Wallace put in a bad and late challenge on Eppiah halfway inside the Cobblers half. Wallace received a yellow card. In my opinion, if that had been red, Wallace could not have complained. A bit of luck there.

Danny Rose was on for Northampton after 65 minutes, replacing Mills. Hoskins moved to right back.

Appiah had been injured by the challenge from Wallace and he was replaced after 68 minutes by Chanka Zimba.

After 69 minutes, following yet another Pinnock long throw, a shot from Hoskins was blocked by Hawkins. Then Sowerby’s shot from 22 yards was blocked by Akins for a corner. Bowery headed away the corner.

Zimba was nearly through on goal after 70 minutes, but he was just eased off the ball by Hawkins.

Bishop punched away a free kick after 71 minutes.

Another moment of controversy after 71 minutes. Quinn was blocked off by McWilliams as he chased the ball. Quinn biffed McWilliams out of the way. The referee gave a free kick against Quinn. That should have been a yellow card, and could even have been a red card in my opinion for Quinn, but the referee just gave the free kick. A bit of luck for the Stags again. The resulting free kick was headed away by Bowery.

Nearly a spectacular goal for the Stags after 73 minutes. Hewitt got to the byline and crossed in, Bowery headed it down, and Quinn sent an overhead kick over the bar. Two minutes later, Oates fired in a shot on the turn which was blocked.

Wallace cut out a cross for a corner after 80 minutes.

Bishop punched away a corner after 81 minutes. Then Appere’s shot was blocked through to Bishop.

Lapslie replaced Quinn after 82 minutes. Quinn had run himself into the ground.

Lapslie was into the action heading away a corner after 84 minutes.

Ollie Clarke replaced Wallace after 85 minutes.

Bishop was out to catch a cross after 86 minutes.

After 87 minutes, a dreadful challenge by Pinnock on McLaughlin. Pinnock was booked. It was every bit as bad as Wallace’s challenge earlier, so at least the referee was consistent.

A couple of Northampton fans invaded the pitch from the main stand after 90+2 minutes, and one went straight to Bowery and pushed him. Disgraceful behaviour, and the stewards were slow to react, eventually hauling the idiot away.

After 90+6 minutes, a shot from Koiki was blocked by Perch.

The full time whistle brought great scenes as the Stags players were able to celebrate in front of the joyous visiting fans.

A Nigel Clough tactical masterclass. He becomes only the third manager to take Mansfield to Wembley (after Ian Greaves and Duncan Russell). The Stags deserved the win over the two legs, albeit having a couple of bits of luck, with Oates’ goal in the first leg being offside, and Wallace and Quinn could have been sent off in the second leg. Having said that, Pinnock’s challenge on McLaughlin was every bit as bad as Wallace’s challenge, so at least the referee was consistent.

The Stags are going to Wembley. One more game to win.

Man of the match: the whole team and management

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

Goals (league, cup and play-offs): Oates 12, Bowery 9, Hawkins, McLaughlin 8, Johnson, Lapslie 7, Longstaff 6, O.Clarke 4, Maris, O’Toole 3, Charsley, Stirk 2, Akins, Caine, Forrester, Hewitt, Murphy, Perch, Quinn, Rawson, Sinclair 1. 3 OG

Assists (league, cup and play-offs): McLaughlin 14, Bowery, Oates 8, Quinn 5, Charsley, O.Clarke, Hawkins, Hewitt, Johnson, Longstaff, Maris, Murphy, Sinclair 3, Lapslie, Rawson, Stirk 2, Akins, J.Clarke, Gale, 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 Sixfields

Line Up:
Bishop 9 Made an excellent save in the opening minute from Eppiah’s header. Commanded his area with punches and catches. Nigel Clough said “I thought his handling, his positioning, his kicking was good tonight. He’s played over 50 games this season for the first time in his life, it’s been a brilliant experience for him.”
Hewitt 9 A super assist for the goal. Great game at right back.
Perch 9 Great game at centre half with plenty of blocks.
Hawkins 9 So many headers away and blocks. His third consecutive storming game against the Cobblers at centre half.
McLaughlin 9 Scored his 8th goal of the season from left back, to add to his 14 assists. Quite a tally. And what a huge goal this was. Had a great game at left back.
O’Toole 9 Moved into a position just in front of the back four. Tremendous game. Nigel Clough said “pushing into midfield, he did magnificently.”
Wallace 9 Alongside O’Toole in front of the back four he had a very good game. Lucky not to be sent off for a bad challenge in the second half.
Akins 9 Put in a couple of blocks. Worked extremely hard for the team. Played his part in the goal. Had a shot blocked. Nigel Clough said after the game: “Jordan (Bowery) and Lucas (Akins) doing their defensive duties was outstanding tonight in wide areas.”
Quinn 9 Ran himself into the ground. Lucky not to be sent off for an off-the-ball challenge in the second half. Had an overhead kick over the bar.
Bowery 9 Headed away several set pieces. Great game. Nigel Clough said after the game: “Jordan (Bowery) and Lucas (Akins) doing their defensive duties was outstanding tonight in wide areas.”
Oates 9 One or two runs, had one shot blocked, held on to the ball well.
Sub Line Up:
Lapslie (for Quinn, 82 mins) - Headed away a corner a minute after coming on.
O.Clarke (for Wallace, 85 mins) -
Subs not used: Stech, Rawson, Murphy, Stirk, Longstaff.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-2-3-1) Roberts; Mills (Rose 65), Horsfall, Guthrie, Koiki; McWilliams, Sowerby; Pinnock, Eppiah (Zimba 68), Hoskins; Appere. Subs not used: Maxted, Harriman, Dyche, Lewis, Kanu.
Ben Toner 7 Correct decision to allow the goal. Could have sent off Wallace for Mansfield and Pinnock for Northampton for similar bad challenges, but was at least consistent. Could have sent off Quinn. Correctly turned down a couple of penalty shouts. Was a replacement for Bobby Madley who picked up an injury.

Season 21/22 Reports