Tomlin pen 45+2.
Clarke 15, Maris 56, Akins pen 71
Attendance: 8,978 (2826 from Mansfield)
Date: 3 September 2022
MAGNIFICENT STAGS OUTPLAY UNBEATEN DONCASTER
Martin Shaw at the Keepmoat Stadium (Eco-Power Stadium)
Mansfield Town picked up their first away win of the season with a magnificent performance to outplay previously unbeaten Doncaster Rovers in a 3-1 victory at the Eco-Power Stadium.
The Stags were simply outstanding, with Lucas Akins fabulous up front, along with George Lapslie, playing just off him, and the energy and quality of Ollie Clarke, George Maris, and Anthony Hartigan in midfield continually ripping the home side to pieces.
Home manager Gary McSheffrey conceded “We take that on the chin. They were better than us. They won their battles individually and collectively and they were braver than us. They got on the ball and their front two, Akins and Lapslie caused us all sorts of problems.”
The Stags had won 3 out of 3 at home, and lost 3 out of 3 away, but the fantastic 2,826 noisy Stags fans gave the side the sort of backing they get at home and spurred them on to victory. The fans were superb throughout.
Mansfield made three changes from the last league game: O’Toole was out with a foot injury, Quinn and Swan dropped to the bench. In came Bowery, Clarke and Maris. Akins moved up front. Bowery went in at right wing back. Hawkins switched back to centre half, with Harbottle (right) and Perch (left) either side. Hawkins had missed the midweek Papa John’s Trophy win over Manchester City U21 with a bug but was ok to return. Boateng remained out with his hamstring still not quite right.
There was a very late change to the side: Hewitt had been named on the team sheet but was sick in the toilet in the changing room and so Harbottle stepped in at the last minute. Talking about the original selection, first team coach Andy Garner said after the game: “We had gone with Elliott (Hewitt) for a bit more pace (than Harbottle), but there was nothing in it, it was a toss of a coin really.”
Injured pair Rhys Oates and Jason Law travelled with the squad. Oates is due to be back running in 6 weeks and be back playing by the end of November. Law told me he is out for another 4 weeks or so, he is back running but not ready to kick a ball yet.
Doncaster were unbeaten so far with 4 wins and 2 draws out of 6 games, including 3 wins out of 3 at home. They included George Miller up front, who played well against the Stags for Walsall last season, and Lee Tomlin in midfield, who is a very good player at League Two level or indeed higher.
After 6 minutes, a good tackle by Hawkins on Miller.
On 8 minutes, nice play by the Stags on the left, out to Bowery on the right, and his low shot from a tight angle was blocked for a corner. The corner was cleared for a throw-in, which came out to Maris who fired over the bar from the edge of the area.
The Stags took the lead after 15 minutes. Lapslie found a yard of space after a 1-2 with Hartigan, to curl a nice ball into the box. Ro-Shaun Williams headed away under pressure from Akins, as far as Clarke in the D, 20 yards from goal. Clarke steadied himself, waited for the ball to come down, and volleyed left footed into the top right corner of the net. What a goal! It might turn out to be goal of the season. As sweet a volley as you will see.
Clarke said afterwards: “I don't think I have ever scored a better goal than that to be quite honest. I have hit a couple of nice strikes before in my career but never a volley from the edge of the box. Obviously I caught it sweet and it found the top corner, which is always a nice sight to see.”
On 16 minutes, following a backpass left a bit short from Bowery, Pym was out to clear, and it ricocheted off Miller to safety. Strong defending from Hawkins to keep Miller at bay a minute later. A great tackle by McLaughlin on Lee Tomlin after 20 minutes.
All the noise was coming from the Stags fans.
Hawkins gave the ball away after 23 minutes, and Molyneux fired straight at Pym from 18 yards. Then Bowery gave the ball away, not for the first time. Both sides were making a few mistakes.
It could have been 2-0 after 30 minutes. Hartigan crossed and Hawkins, unmarked, headed straight at the keeper from 10 yards.
A minute later at the other end, Pym made a sensational save. Kyle Knoyle crossed from the right and Miller got up well to head goalwards from 7 yards. Pym somehow turned it over the bar with his outstretched left hand. Probably the save of the season for the Stags.
On 36 minutes, Bowery crossed from the right, the ball actually struck the bar, the keeper seemingly trying to suggest he had it covered, the ball stayed in play, and Lapslie teed up Maris for a shot which was blocked.
A glorious opportunity for the Stags after 37 minutes. McLaughlin crossed, Akins chested it down perfectly into the path of Lapslie, 14 yards out, and Lapslie blazed over the bar. Lapslie beat the turf in frustration.
Two minutes later, great play from Perch on the left, then Bowery teed up Maris for a shot which was blocked for a corner.
Then McLaughlin got to the byline and pulled back to Akins whose shot was also blocked for a corner.
Then on 42 minutes an extraordinary let-off for Doncaster. Maris played inside to Lapslie near the penalty spot. Lapslie got away from Ro-Shaun Williams, tried to go around the keeper. The ball spilled to Hawkins, whose shot from 7 yards hit the only player between him and the goal, Knoyle, in the face and cannoned on to the post. The ball then cannoned off Harrison Biggins, hit Knoyle again, on his back, and hit the post again, before the keeper fell on the ball on the line. Lapslie then knocked the ball into the net, but the referee gave a free kick against Lapslie as the keeper had the ball by that point. Quite incredible how that did not go in after hitting the post twice. Astonishing.
The Stags should have already been out of sight, but Doncaster equalised after 45+2 minutes. Kyle Hurst fired a ball into the box from 40 yards out, towards Harrison Biggins. Perch got up, right behind Biggins, tried to head away and was adjudged to have fouled Biggins for a penalty. It was soft, but Perch gave the referee a decision to make. Lee Tomlin stepped up and sent Pym the wrong way, putting the ball into the left corner of the net.
After the game Ollie Clarke said: “The penalty was a bit dubious. It came just before the stroke of half-time, which can turn a game on its head. But I think we stayed focused and knew our game plan.”
What a boost for Doncaster to come in at half time level. Home manager Gary McSheffrey said: "They missed some good chances to be fair. We know we got lucky coming it at half time at 1-1.”
Nigel Clough told me after the game that it was important that the players weren’t down at half time, having outplayed Doncaster but just conceded the penalty, so he told them just to continue how they were playing. And they certainly did that.
Half time 1-1
Doncaster hit the post after 49 minutes on a counter attack, as Kyle Hurst fired against the outside of the left post.
Two minutes later at the other end, lovely play by Clarke to get himself into a shooting position after he was found by Akins, but he fired well wide.
Mansfield deservedly regained the lead after 56 minutes. Good strength from Harbottle to ease his man off the ball inside his own half. Moments later, Harbottle slid the ball down the line on the right for Akins to run on to. Great play from Akins to turn away from Bobby Faulkner, cross perfectly to Lapslie, next to the penalty spot. Lapslie controlled the ball and teed up Maris who side-footed into the top right corner of the net from 17 yards. Another fantastic goal. First team coach Andy Garner said after the game: “It’s the type of thing that we do in training quite a lot.”
Hawkins was booked for an off the ball foul on Tomlin after 61 minutes. Very soft.
A good block by Perch after 62 minutes. On 65 minutes, Akins headed down to Hartigan who sliced a shot over the bar from 22 yards.
Doncaster wanted another penalty after 67 minutes when Tomlin went down over Perch’s leg. The referee correctly decided that Tomlin was looking for it and booked him for diving.
The Stags made it 3-1 after 71 minutes. Bowery took a throw-in from level with edge of the area on the right, into the area. Lapslie chested it down, heading for the byline, and went down in a coming together with substitute James Maxwell. The referee immediately pointed to the spot. Certainly no question of a dive from Lapslie, but like the Perch incident at the end of the first half, it was soft. However at least the referee was consistent in giving a soft penalty for either side! Arguably neither should have been given. With McLaughlin having missed his last penalty (at Orient), and Mansfield having scored their last penalty through the now-injured Oates, up stepped Akins. He fired into the right corner of the net and even though the keeper went the right way, he couldn’t get to it.
Nigel Clough told me after the game that Akins used to take penalties for Burton and had a good record.
A change on 73 minutes. Wallace replaced Perch. Wallace went in to the left side of the central defence.
A good tackle by Maris after 80 minutes.
More great football from the Stags to create an opportunity after 82 minutes. Great play from Akins down the right, to Lapslie, who teed up Maris, whose shot was blocked.
Lapslie was booked for a foul and then kicking the ball away after 83 minutes. Two minutes later, he was late with a tackle and might have received a second yellow but fortunately didn’t.
In between those Lapslie fouls, John Taylor curled a 25 yard shot straight at Pym
Clarke was booked for a flying challenge after 86 minutes.
A double change after 87 minutes. Gordon replaced McLaughlin, and Quinn replaced Clarke. Bowery went to left wing back.
Then on 90 minutes, a great tackle by Harbottle on Miller.
Swan replaced Lapslie after 90+2 minutes.
The Stags comfortably held on for a terrific victory. Celebrations at the end of the game between the fans and the players and management.
What a performance this was. I’ve already talked about how good the forward line and midfield were. But the rest of the side were terrific as well. Christy Pym made a truly outstanding save, Oli Hawkins headed a lot away especially in the second half, Riley Harbottle stepped in to the side at the last minute and played very well, James Perch did well at the back too apart from conceding the penalty.
Mansfield move up into the play-off positions, in 7th place.
Man of the match: Lucas Akins
Here’s a running tally of various stats this season:
Goals (league and cup): Akins, Clarke, Harbottle, Hawkins, Lapslie, Maris, Swan 2, Gale, Oates 1.
Assists (league and cup): Lapslie 5, Maris 3, Akins, Boateng, Bowery, Clarke, Hartigan, Hewitt, McLaughlin 1
(notes on assists: in the case of a penalty, the player who earns the penalty gets an assist, such as Lapslie against AFC Wimbledon. In the case of a solo goal, such as Maris against Newport at home last season, 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, such as Lapslie against Stockport. In the case of an own goal, the player who caused the own goal gets an assist, for example McLaughlin against Newport away last season where his shot was deflected in for an own goal.)
Yellow cards (league only, alphabetical order): Clarke 2, Hawkins 2, Lapslie 2, McLaughlin 2, O’Toole 2, Quinn 3.
Red cards (league and cup): Bowery 1.
(note: red cards count across competitions apart from Papa John’s Trophy; yellow cards are competition specific)
(note: 5 yellow cards before the end of the 19th league game will result in a one match ban; 10 yellow cards before the end of the 37th league game will result in a two match ban; 15 yellow cards before the end of the 46th league game will result in a three match ban)
Report by: Martin Shaw at the Keepmoat Stadium (Eco-Power Stadium)
Pym 8.5 Sensational save from Miller’s header, somehow turning it over the bar with his outstretched left hand. Probably the save of the season for the Stags.
Harbottle 8 Stepped in to the side at the last minute as Hewitt was ill, and played very well. Good play in the build-up to the second goal.
Hawkins 8 Headed a lot away especially in the second half. Strong defending. At the other end, headed straight at the keeper as well as firing against the post via a defender on the line.
Perch 8 Did well at the back too apart from conceding the rather soft penalty.
Bowery 6.5 A little sloppy in the opening 25 minutes.
Maris 8.5 Fantastic goal to make it 2-1. Had several shots blocked.
Hartigan 8 Some good crosses, including for Hawkins’ header.
Clarke 8.5 Left footed volley into the top right corner of the net for the opening goal. It might turn out to be goal of the season. As sweet a volley as you will see. Part of the midfield which had the energy and quality to continually rip the home side to pieces.
McLaughlin 8 Some good runs and crosses.
Lapslie 9 Fabulous up front. Great movement. Involved in all 3 goals.
Akins 9 Also fabulous up front. Held the ball up well, made great runs. Home manager Gary McSheffrey conceded that the “front two, Akins and Lapslie caused us all sorts of problems.”
Sub Line Up:
Wallace (for Perch, 73 mins) -
Gordon (for McLaughlin, 87 mins) -
Quinn (for Clarke, 87 mins) -
Swan (for Lapslie, 90+2 mins) -
Subs not used: Flinders, Gale.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-2-3-1): Mitchell; Knoyle, Williams, Faulkner, Rowe; Clayton, Biggins (Maxwell 64); Hurst, Tomlin (Agard 77), Molyneux (Taylor 54); Miller. Subs not used: Jones, Long, Woltman, Kuleya.
Thomas Kirk 5 Was consistent in giving a soft penalty for either side! Arguably neither should have been given. Correctly booked Tomlin for diving.