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Season 22/23 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town  
2 - 1
Lapslie 15, Swan 82.
 Bennett 35
Attendance: 6,821 (796 from Walsall) (note this it is essentially tickets sold, including season tickets)
Date: 15 October 2022


Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town beat Walsall 2-1 at the One Call Stadium this afternoon thanks to a couple of very fine goals. After Jordan Bowery had hit the bar early on and Stephen McLaughlin sent a diving header just wide, George Lapslie put the Stags in front after 15 minutes. Christy Pym made a good save low to his right from Isaac Hutchinson after 28 minutes before Liam Bennett equalised for the Saddlers with a rocket shot from an angle from the right after 35 minutes. In the second half, there weren’t many chances for either side, indeed there wasn’t a single chance for Walsall, and the Stags won it with the best bit of quality in the half as Will Swan headed home from a magnificent cross from Lucas Akins after 82 minutes. The Stags deserved the win, creating many more chances than Walsall with 13 shots to Walsall’s 5, despite Walsall boss Michael Flynn’s rather wild and unfounded claim after the game that his side were “far the better side”.

The win made it seven league games unbeaten for Mansfield, and seven wins in the last ten league games. The Stags are up to 4th in the table, one point behind third placed Northampton with a game in hand.

The game was brought forward to a 1pm kick off, as a trial to “enable the club to discern whether significant savings can be made on floodlight usage and other energy costs”. After the decision had been made to bring the kick-off time forward, the EFL had subsequently told clubs “not to bring kick-off times forward in an attempt to reduce energy bills after concluding that any savings would be offset by bigger losses in other areas”. I would guess we will hear from David Sharpe in the coming weeks what conclusions have been drawn.

The Stags were unchanged from the side that won at Barrow. McLaughlin had recovered from the whack on his knee that forced him off at Barrow, as had Harbottle from the ankle injury that forced him off at Barrow. Swan and Hartigan returned to the bench after illness (virus, not Covid) and injury respectively. Swan was not considered fit enough to start. Gordon and Wallace remained out with injury.
Walsall were without leading scorer Danny Johnson, on loan from Mansfield, not permitted to play against his parent club. He was replaced by long throw merchant Tom Knowles up front, while centre half Donervon Daniels was out with illness, replaced by the experienced Peter Clarke. Former Stags favourite Hayden White was in central defence.
Walsall had won their last two games and were coming into the game full of confidence, though were still 7 points behind the Stags before the game.

On a sunny afternoon, the Stags were much the better side in the opening 25 minutes. Walsall’s only threat in the early stages was 3 long throws into the Stags box in the opening 6 minutes from Tom Knowles. Meanwhile Hawkins nearly lost the ball at the back unnecessarily after 2 minutes, with Clough visibly annoyed on the touchline.

The Stags were unlucky after 9 minutes. Maris found Bowery on the right with a crossfield ball. Bowery headed down to Ollie Clarke, who played back to Bowery. Bowery then played a 1-2 with Lapslie on the edge of the area before curling a delicious left-footed shot that thudded against the bar. A fine effort from Bowery.

After 12 minutes, the Stags went close again. Maris curled a free kick from halfway inside the Walsall half, beyond the far post where McLaughlin ghosted in behind the defence and sent a flying header across goal and just wide of the right post. That was close and a good effort.

Mansfield deservedly took the lead after 15 minutes. Hewitt made a great run down the right from just inside the Walsall half all the way to virtually the corner flag before curling a wonderful cross to the far post where Quinn rose superbly to head the ball inside to Lapslie. Lapslie controlled it with his back to goal and then in one movement turned and fired into the bottom left corner of the net. A terrific goal. Excellent from Hewitt, a great header down from Quinn, and a super turn and finish from Lapslie for his 5th goal of the season.

After 19 minutes, Hawkins cleared a Liam Bennett just wide of his own post. Three minutes later, Pym was out quickly to clear. Then Pym caught a Knowles long throw under pressure and bowled out quickly to Lapslie in the Walsall half. Excellent handling and distribution.

Pym was forced into his only save of the match after 28 minutes. Taylor Allen forced his way into the area and his shot from 14 yards was blocked by Hewitt. The ball rebounded to Isaac Hutchinson who cut inside and sent a low shot from the left from 15 yards towards the near post where Pym got down quickly to turn it wide for a corner. A good save.

Maris curled a shot just wide from 28 yards after 32 minutes.

Walsall equalised after 35 minutes. Tom Knowles, 35 yards from goal, chipped a great ball behind McLaughlin for Liam Bennett to run on to in the area, and from a tight angle from the right, Bennett blasted a rocket shot past Pym beating him at the near post. I initially wondered if Pym could have done better but I think it was just an exceptional shot from Bennett hit with such power that Pym couldn’t get near it, and so I wouldn’t put any blame to the Stags keeper. McLaughlin was slightly out of position allowing Bennett to get in behind him but again I think we should just credit the quality of the goal. Incidentally it was Bennett’s first senior goal.

Quinn got to the byline and floated a great cross across the six yard box that just evaded Bowery, after 37 minutes.

A minute later, Hewitt tried his luck with a shot from fully 40 yards. It fizzed just over the bar, a good effort.

One-all at the break, and the Stags disappointed to be pegged back after a good opening 25 minutes.

Half time 1-1

Into the second half. Inside the open minute, a fine surging run forward from McLaughlin. He teed up Ollie Clarke for a shot from the edge of the area which was blocked. Bowery fired in the rebound which was also blocked. On 48 minutes, Akins cut inside to the edge of the area, and his shot was low and weak and straight to the keeper.

Hawkins lost the ball after 53 minutes rather unnecessarily, and Harbottle got him out of jail with a good tackle on Douglas James-Taylor.

Akins headed wide from McLaughlin’s cross after 62 minutes.

With not a lot happening and few chances for either side, indeed none for Walsall, Mansfield made a triple change after 62 minutes: Swan, Hartigan and Boateng replaced Bowery, Clarke, and Quinn. The Stags switched from 3-5-1-1 to 4-3-3 with Lapslie (right) and Akins (left) either side of Swan up front, while Hewitt went to right back. I was surprised to hear some booing as the change was made. Afterwards conflicting opinions as to why, perhaps for Akins not being substituted, or perhaps as some thought Lapslie was coming off as he walked over to the touchline to get instructions. Akins was to go on to provide a magnificent assist for the winner. Nigel Clough said afterwards: “I presume it was Lucas the crowd wanted bringing off when we made the substitutions. Sometimes we get the odd one right!”

McLaughlin tried his luck with a couple of average efforts, with a 30 yard shot going wide, taking a deflection for a corner along the way after 69 minutes, and then firing well over the bar from 20 yards after 77 minutes. Manager Clough turned away in frustration as that second effort flew well over the bar. He has been telling McLaughlin to keep his shots down.

The Stags regained the lead after 82 minutes with another high quality goal. Akins received the ball from McLaughlin outside the area on the left with his back to goal. He wriggled away from his marker Hayden White to find a yard of space and curl in a left footed cross from near the corner flag, into the middle, where Swan got in between big centre halves Peter Clarke and Manny Monthe to head into the net from 6 yards. It was a prodigious leap from Swan, higher than both centre halves, despite being smaller than both of them. A fantastic header for his 4th goal of the season, one behind Lapslie as leading scorer. And what a cross from Akins, the cross of the season perhaps, and inch-perfect for Swan.

Swan was booked a minute later for a high boot.

Hawkins nearly gave the ball away again after 88 minutes, then he put the ball out of play unnecessarily.

Perch replaced Maris after 89 minutes, as the Stags switched to Perch, Hawkins, Harbottle, McLaughlin in central defence, with Hewitt (right) and Akins (left) as wing-backs, and with Lapslie just behind Swan up front. The Stags saw the game out despite 7 minutes of stoppage time, with Walsall not having a single shot in the second half.

The Stags deserving of the win, in a game that won't linger long in the memory apart from those two fine goals with the quality provided by Hewitt, Quinn and Lapslie for the first, and by Akins and Swan for the second. Apart from those moments of quality, Hewitt was very good at the back, while Pym’s handling and distribution were good added to one good save.

No midweek game for Mansfield. The Stags travel to Crawley next Saturday, looking for a 5th away win on the trot.

Man of the match: Elliott Hewitt

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

Goals (league and cup): Lapslie 5, Swan 4, Akins, Harbottle, Hawkins, Maris 3, Clarke 2, Bowery, Gale, Oates 1.

Assists (league and cup): Lapslie 5, Maris 3, Akins, Gordon, Hartigan 2, Boateng, Bowery, Clarke, Hawkins, Hewitt, Law, McLaughlin, Quinn, Wallace 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. In the case of a cross that is headed away before the goal is scored, such as Clarke’s goal at Doncaster, nobody gets an assist.)

Yellow cards (league only, alphabetical order): Clarke 4, Harbottle 2, Hawkins 2, Lapslie 2, Law 1, Maris 2, McLaughlin 2, O’Toole 3, Quinn 4, Swan 1.
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)

Average home league attendance: 6482 (average away fans: 523, average home fans 5960) (see Tranmere report for explanation of how attendance is calculated: it is essentially tickets sold, including season tickets)

Report by: Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Line Up:
Pym 8 Handling and distribution were good added to one good save. Beaten by an exceptional shot from Bennett hit with such power that he couldn’t get near it.
Hewitt 8.5 Very good at the back and a great cross for the first goal.
Hawkins 6.5 Plenty of good headers away. But nearly gave the ball away or did give the ball away too many times, and once rescued by Harbottle.
Harbottle 7 Decent game.
Bowery 6.5 Fine effort against the bar. Not his best game otherwise.
Clarke 6.5 Did ok.
Maris 6.5 Fine free kick to set up a headed chance for McLaughlin.
Quinn 7.5 Great assist with the header for the first goal. One great cross.
McLaughlin 6 Sent a good diving header just wide. Had a couple of average efforts off target in the second half. Slightly out of position for the Walsall goal.
Lapslie 7.5 Super turn and finish for his 5th goal of the season.
Akins 7 Magnificent cross for the winning goal, the cross of the season perhaps. Not brilliant apart from that.
Sub Line Up:
Swan (for Bowery, 62 mins) - A prodigious leap and a fantastic header for his 4th goal of the season. Wasn’t fit enough to start after his illness due to a virus.
Hartigan (for Clarke, 62 mins) - Back from injury.
Boateng (for Quinn, 62 mins) -
Perch (for Maris, 89 mins) -
Subs not used: Flinders, O'Toole, Law.
Opposition Line Up:
(3-5-2) Evans; White, Peter Clarke (Liam Gordon 86), Monte; Bennett, Comley (Abraham 86), Kinsella, Hutchinson (Maddox 81), Allen; James-Taylor (Cashman 86), Knowles (Williams 68). Subs not used: Mukuna, Maher.
Sam Purkiss 7 Handled the game well. Walsall boss Michael Flynn said afterwards “The referee gave them everything today” which was yet more utter nonsense.

Season 22/23 Reports