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Season 22/23 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town  
1 - 2
 Harrogate Town
Swan 67.
 Kilgour OG 27, Daly 39
Attendance: 7,086 (191 from Harrogate)
Date: 29 April 2023


Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town were beaten 2-1 by Harrogate Town at the One Call Stadium yesterday. It was a disastrous result. After losing to Leyton Orient on Tuesday, the Stags really needed a win to keep hopes high of getting into the play-offs. But the Stags were beaten, losing yet again to bogey side Harrogate, Harrogate’s 6th win (plus a draw) in the 7 games the two sides have played. Two home defeats on the trot after the Stags had gone unbeaten for 9 games, and just a week ago still retained hopes of a top 3 position.

Now Mansfield need something approaching a miracle next Monday when they travel to Colchester in order to make it into the top 7:

Mansfield are three points behind Salford with one game left. Salford play their final game at home to Gillingham. Mansfield need a 4 or 5 goal swing in goal difference:
For example a 3-0 win for Mansfield and a 1-0 defeat for Salford, would be enough.
But a 2-0 win for Mansfield and a 2-0 defeat for Salford, would not be enough (*).
So a 2-0 win for Mansfield would need a 3-0 defeat for Salford.

(* that is because goal difference and goals scored would be identical, but the next tie breaker is head-to-head which goes in Salford’s favour).

Bradford are also three points ahead of Mansfield, but with two games left. If there were lose their game in hand on Wednesday at Crewe, then Mansfield could still overtake them on goal difference in the final game (Bradford are at home to Leyton Orient). Bradford however will have their eyes on 3rd place still, which they could achieve with two wins.

Carlisle are also three points ahead of Mansfield, but that would require an 8 goal swing for Mansfield to overtake them.

So, the Stags really need to go to Colchester next Monday with the aim of a 3 goal victory and let’s see what happens.

Mansfield made two changes from the side that started against Orient: Harbottle replaced the injured Hewitt, Reed came in for Wallace. This was therefore the team that started the second half against Orient. It was a 4-3-3 formation. Up front, Oates was on the right, with Akins in the middle. Though they were to switch places in the first half. Bowery was back from his tight hamstring on the bench. Gale was back his head injury on the bench. Law dropped off the bench.

The news on Hewitt’s injury was devastating, for the player himself, and for the club: he picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury on Tuesday. He will need an operation once the swelling goes down, and then it is typically 9 months to recovery from that time. So he’s going to miss the majority of next season. Good luck for your recovery Elliott, gutted for you.

The irony of the news of Hewitt’s injury coming on the day he completed a clean sweep of Player of the Season awards was terrible. Hewitt was the Shirebrook Stags, Ollerton Stags, Stags Supporters Association, and CHAD Readers’ Player of the Season, and he hobbled on crutches to receive them before the game.

Harrogate brought in Levi Sutton for former Stag Warren Burrell, and Joe Mattock returned in defence after injury in place of Anthony O’Connor. Harrogate were on an improved run of form, having been hovering above the relegation zone, with 4 wins, 4 draws, 2 defeats in their previous 10 games. Their win at Newport in midweek had finally secured their fight against relegation. I had thought it might not be a bad time to play Harrogate with their aim achieved. Then again, I had thought that against Orient last Tuesday. I was wrong on both counts.

John Radford gave a rallying call to the fans to get behind the team before the game.

The Stags started positively in the opening 15 minutes. From a Keillor-Dunn cross, Harbottle’s header was deflected over the bar after 6 minutes. Then a great run from Akins, but he was crowded out on the edge of the area two minutes later. After 14 minutes, Oates got to the byline and crossed in for Perch who missed his kick but got another go and then shanked his effort over the bar.

Harrogate had been forced into an early change when George Thomson went down with an injury, and was replaced by Matty Daly. There was a long stoppage, possibly hindering Mansfield’s positive early start.

Harrogate fired a warning shot after 16 minutes as Kazeem Olaigbe, on loan from Southampton, twisted and turned past Callum Johnson, cut inside from the left and fired just wide of the left post.

Straight to the other end and Oates made a great run into the area and thought he’d won a corner but the referee changed his mind and gave a goal kick after initially giving a corner.

Quinn had a shot blocked from the edge of the area after 19 minutes, after Keillor-Dunn set him up. Then great play from Akins, as he chested the ball down to himself, got to the corner of the area on the right, and played inside to Boateng who fired just over the bar from the edge of the area. In between, Perch put in a poor cross straight to the keeper. Then on 25 minutes, good tracking back by Keillor-Dunn.

But the Stags fell behind in incredibly unlucky fashion after 27 minutes. Sam Folarin squared to Matty Daly, Daly played the ball forward into the box for Folarin who had continued his run. Folarin tried to control it, didn’t control it, it deflected off his toe, and Kilgour stuck out a leg to clear it, but he just deflected it agonisingly wide of Pym into the net. Simply bad luck.

It was nearly 2-0 after 30 minutes as the Stags were shell-shocked by the goal, Olaigbe cut in from the left and his shot was deflected just wide of the post, after a bad touch by Harbottle.

A minute later, brilliant play by Akins at the other end, with a super turn and run, but his shot was blocked. Quinn put a cross straight out of play after 34 minutes. Then at the other end after 37 minutes, Perch blocked a shot by Folarin.

Harrogate struck a hammer blow with a second goal after 39 minutes, with some poor defending from the Stags. Olaigbe got past Reed too easily 40 yards from goal, pushed forward, left Harbottle in no-man’s land and Daly was left unmarked to slot past Pym into the right corner of the net.

More bad defending from Mansfield after 42 minutes, as Toby Sims got in behind the defence to the byline on the right, pulled back into the middle, and Luke Armstrong was first to the cross, beating Kilgour to it, and sliding a good effort inches wide of the left post.

After 45+1 minutes, a Keillor-Dunn cross from the left and Oates sent a back header just wide. A minute later, under no pressure, Keillor-Dunn put a pass straight out of play.

An awful first half defensively from Mansfield. Just 4 attacks from Harrogate, but they scored one (lucky) goal, scored another (good) goal, and went very close twice. Callum Johnson, Harbottle, Kilgour (unusually) and Perch had a half to forget. Keillor-Dunn also had a really poor half, but he wasn’t along among the more offensive players. Only Akins had impressed.

Half time 0-2

Nigel Clough made four changes at the break: Bowery replaced Perch at left back, Clarke replaced Boateng, Maris replaced Keillor-Dunn, Swan replaced Oates. All four coming on were coming back from injury and couldn’t have played 90 minutes. It was now a diamond in midfield, with Reed in front of the back four, and Maris behind the front two of Akins and Swan.

The second half was one way traffic, complete domination from Mansfield, and a barrage of chances. And ultimately massive frustration that the Stags couldn’t take more of the 31 chances they created in the game.

Quinn headed straight at the keeper from Callum Johnson’s cross after 46 minutes. Then Maris set Swan away into the box, Swan seemed to do everything right but slid his shot inches wide of the left post. Clarke pushed forward and had a shot blocked after 51 minutes. Then Harbottle headed wide from Maris’s corner after 52 minutes.

A clear foul on Akins wasn’t given after 53 minutes. At the other end in a very rare Harrogate attack, Olaigbe sent a low shot from 30 yards straight at Pym.

Swan fired wide of the left post after 58 minutes. Then great play after 60 minutes from Swan as he squared to Clarke on the edge of the area, and his shot from 18 yards was somehow deflected onto the roof of the net by Matty Foulds. Clarke threw his hands up in disbelief. From the resulting corner by Maris, Callum Johnson hooked the ball agonisingly just wide of the left post. A poor cross from Callum Johnson after 64 minutes.

Mansfield finally scored after 67 minutes. Akins crossed from the right, Maris couldn’t turn the ball into the net from 3 yards. Seconds later, Callum Johnson pulled back to Swan who turned into the net from 8 yards. Swan’s 10th goal of the season. A long time coming, after his injury lay-off. Mansfield missed him greatly during his lay-off.

A Harrogate break after 69 minutes, and sub Jack Muldoon fired over the bar.

After 71 minutes, Bowery fired in a 20 yard shot that was goalbound, but blocked.

Meanwhile Harrogate keeper Oxley was driving Stags fans mad by taking an eternity over every goalkick, but it was the hapless referee at fault, taking no action.

After 75 minutes, from Quinn’s corner from the right, Akins headed towards the roof of the net and keeper Oxley made an incredible save, turning it over the bar when it seemed to be past him. Akins couldn’t believe it. Nigel Clough said afterwards that Quinn, who had a perfect view along the byline, said it was an unbelievable save as the ball seemed to be past the keeper. From the resulting corner from the right by Maris, Harbottle headed down, it deflected off Akins but was cleared away.

After 80 minutes, brilliant play by Clarke getting along the byline on the right, and pulling back to Akins, who fired just over the bar from 12 yards. Two minutes later, Quinn got forward down the left, and crossed to Akins who turned it wide.

Then after 85 minutes, Bowery played into the area from the left to Akins back to goal. Akins turned and his shot was blocked. Akins then teed up Clarke who took a touch and fired in a low shot from 14 yards that keeper Oxley got down to his left to save one-handed. Another incredible save.

Gale replaced Quinn after 87 minutes.

After 90 minutes, Swan got to the byline on the right, he pulled back into the middle, Gale couldn’t turn it goalwards, the ball ran loose to Akins, and his thunderous shot from 12 yards was blocked.

After 90+5 minutes, Maris crossed in and Kilgour headed well wide.

The full time whistle brought incredible frustration for Mansfield.

31 shots from Mansfield. An incredible number, the highest of the season, beating 27 against Crawley. In my opinion, Mansfield were unlucky to lose, through credit to the Harrogate keeper for some unbelievable saves, and the defenders for some fantastic blocks. But bad luck or good luck counts for nothing at this stage of the season, and it’s all about results. This result was a disaster.

After the final whistle, the players returned for a lap of appreciation with the fans who had stayed. The players have worked incredibly hard, due to injuries to others, sometimes playing with injuries, and deserved the appreciation. Even if it looks like the team will come up short.

Injuries of course have played a part in the team coming up short. 23 different injuries this season is a large number. The majority have been impact injuries, some have been injuries when players have had to play more minutes than they should due to injuries to others (such as Bowery at Newport). Only two of the 23 injuries have occurred in training.

The Stagsnet messageboard and facebook have been dominated since the end of the game with debate about whether manager Nigel Clough should be offered another contract (his contract expires this summer). Plenty of discussion. On the Mansfield Town followers facebook page, there is a poll about whether he should stay: 570 supporters have voted, 70% want him to stay. The Stags will almost certainly miss out on this season’s aim. But I think he should stay and I think he will, to have another crack next season. I believe we would have got into the play-offs without the large number of injuries, and maybe into the top three.

So, one final league game, next Monday at Colchester (12.30pm kick off, you can watch on iFollow by buying a match pass if you don’t want to travel). All the Stags can do now is go to Colchester to try and win by 3 goals. You just never know, but anything is possible even though getting into the top 7 is probably a 100-1 shot. The Stags have of course won 11 away games so far, and one more win will be a club record in the Football League. Let’s see.

Man of the match: Lucas Akins

Here’s a running tally of various stats this season with one game left:

Goals (league and cup): Swan 10, Akins 9, Lapslie 7, Keillor-Dunn 6, Clarke 5, Harbottle 5, Hawkins 5, Maris 5, Oates 5, Bowery 4, Kilgour 4, Boateng 3, Gale 3, Quinn 2, Gordon 1, D.Johnson 1, Hewitt 1, McLaughlin 1. 1 OG

Assists (league and cup): Hewitt 8, Lapslie 8, Quinn 8, Akins 7, Boateng 5, Maris 5, Gordon 4, Keillor-Dunn 4, C.Johnson 3, McLaughlin 3, Bowery 2, Clarke 2, Hartigan 2, Oates 2, Flinders 1, Hawkins 1, Law 1, Perch 1, 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): Boateng 1, Bowery 2, Clarke 8, Gale 3, Harbottle 6, Hartigan 1, Hawkins 4, Hewitt 3, Kilgour 1, Keillor-Dunn 2, D.Johnson 1, Lapslie 3, Law 3, Maris 5, McLaughlin 2, O’Toole 5, Oates 2, Perch 7, Pym 3, Quinn 9, Reed 1, Swan 2, Wallace 7.
Red cards (league and cup): Boateng 1, Bowery 1, Maris 1, Perch, Quinn 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)

Final attendance stats at home in the league:
average 6696, highest 8116 vs Doncaster, lowest 5421 vs Carlisle.
(The average away following at the One Call Stadium was 518. Average home fans 6177)
(remember that the attendance is tickets sold, including season tickets)
See all the average attendances, season by season here .

Footnote: these are my average player ratings (including Harrogate game) based on the 52 league+cup games for the players who have started at least 10 games and are still with the club (top 10 players):

Hewitt 7.56, O.Clarke 7.46, Kilgour 7.32, Maris 7.26, Akins 7.24, Quinn 7.13, Pym 7.07, Oates 6.97, Keillor-Dunn 6.97, Boateng 6.83.
Note: only ratings for players starting a game are included - ie. sub appearances not included.
Thanks to Pete Wright for his spreadsheet.

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

Line Up:
Pym 6 No chance with the goals. Two other shots wide, otherwise basically nothing to do.
C.Johnson 5 Had a very poor first half. Got an assist for Swan’s goal but also put in some poor crosses.
Harbottle 4.5 Very poor first half, including for the second goal, and Olaigbe’s shot just wide.
Kilgour 5.5 Unlucky with the own goal. Should have done better to prevent Armstrong’s shot just wide.
Perch 5.5 Had a good chance when he missed his kick but got another go and then shanked his effort over the bar. One good block. Subbed at half time.
Boateng 5.5 One shot just over the bar. Subbed at half time.
Reed 6 Did ok. Played the full 90 minutes. Nigel Clough said afterwards: “We put Louis Reed out there for 95 minutes and his knee is extremely sore, so he won’t be involved again this season.”
Quinn 6 Did ok.
Oates 6.5 A couple of good runs. Returning from injury, he was exhausted having played 90 minutes on Tuesday, and so was replaced at half time.
Akins 8 Really good game when so many others didn’t turn up, particularly in the first half. Denied a goal by a brilliant save and two great blocks.
Keillor-Dunn 5 Poor first half. Subbed at half time.
Sub Line Up:
Bowery (for Perch, 46 mins) 7 Got forward well in the second half from left back.
Clarke (for Boateng, 46 mins) 7 Typical all-action display. Three shots blocked.
Maris (for Keillor-Dunn, 46 mins) 7 Some good set pieces and crosses.
Swan (for Oates, 46 mins) 7 Scored his 10th goal of the season, a long time coming, after his injury lay-off. Mansfield missed him greatly during his lay-off.
Gale (for Quinn, 87 mins) -
Subs not used: Flinders, Wallace.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-2-3-1): Oxley; Sims, Eastman, Mattock, Foulds; Falkingham, Sutton; Thomson (Daly 13), Folarin (Muldoon 62), Olaigbe (Ramsay 86); Armstrong. Subs not used: Jameson, Angus, McArdle, Horbury.
David Rock 5 Took no action against Harrogate keep Oxley who was driving Stags fans mad by taking an eternity over every goalkick.

Season 22/23 Reports