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Season 23/24 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League Trophy (no sponsor this season)
Mansfield Town  
3 - 2
 Doncaster Rovers
Gale pen 11, 13, Johnson 88.
 Close 38, Ironside 64
Attendance: 1,486 (142 from Doncaster)
Date: 10 October 2023


By Martin Shaw

Mansfield Town beat Doncaster Rovers 3-2 in the first match in the group stages of this season’s EFL Trophy at the One Call Stadium on Tuesday night. It was a very entertaining, end to end game that could have easily ended something like 6-6. James Gale scored twice to put Mansfield 2-0 ahead inside 13 minutes, his first goals of the season. Doncaster pulled it back to 2-2 midway through the second half. Both teams could have won it. It was Mansfield who did get the winner when Callum Johnson headed home after 88 minutes.

Both teams made 8 changes from their last league game.

The Stags switched to a 4-3-3 formation:

Gale (left), Swan, Abdullah (right).
Boateng (left), Brunt, Maris (right);
Macdonald (left back), Cooper, Williams, Johnson;

A first competitive start for McKeal Abdullah. The bench included young Finn Flanagan who was to come on for his first team debut.

Akins, Keillor-Dunn and Reed were rested from the squad.
Clarke was out after he had five stitches on a gash he sustained against AFC Wimbledon.

A small crowd of under 1500, as usual in this competition, with home fans all in the West Stand lower tier.

Doncaster were fast out of the traps and had two chances in the opening 3 minutes. After 35 seconds, George Cooper tried to shield the ball but didn’t and allowed Jack Goodman to get in a shot straight at Scott Flinders from 8 yards. Then on 3 minutes, a brilliant ball forward from Louie Marsh to Goodman in the area, he went round Flinders, and Callum Johnson did well to stop the shot.

After 9 minutes, a brilliant ball from Boateng to Swan into the area on the left, his cross-shot reached Abdullah at the far post and his low shot from an angle was blocked on the line by the keeper.

Straight to the other end and Tommy Rowe sent a low shot across Flinders and wide.

Mansfield took the lead after 11 minutes from the penalty spot. Following a corner, Swan scuffed the ball forward from 12 yards, and as Gale went for the ball he went down over the leg of Broadbent. The referee gave a penalty. Very soft indeed in my opinion. Not surprisingly Doncaster manager Grant McCann also thought it was very soft. Gale took the resulting penalty, and sent the keeper the wrong way, burying it in the bottom left corner. His first goal of the season.

James Gale told iFollow Stags after the game: "I'm delighted that I got the penalty because I've had a couple of shouts in recent games, and it's good that the ref's finally given me something. As soon as I went down, I was grabbing that ball and I was going to stick it away."

Just two minutes later, it was 2-0. Brunt, playing in midfield, curled a great ball forward from inside his own half to Boateng, 30 yards out, back to goal. Boateng turned, got to the edge of the area, and slid in Swan on the right. Swan got to three yards from the byline and crossed perfectly just beyond the far post where Gale headed into an empty net. A great assist from Swan, and a good header from Gale.
I wrote in my report on Saturday: 'Gale has a ferocious shot on him but his heading needs a lot of work.'
This was so much better.

James Gale told iFollow Stags after the game: "It was really good build-up play by us. Then Swanny's done really well to pick me out back post. There's been a couple of headers recently that I haven't put away so to score one tonight I was really happy with.”

The Stags hit the bar after 16 minutes. A great cross from Gale from the left, and Macdonald headed against the top of the bar from 6 yards.

Two minutes later, Bobby Faulkner tried to shepherd the ball out as Maris slid the ball forward to the byline, Abdullah nicked the ball off him, cut inside and his low shot from an angle was blocked by the keeper again.

Macdonald was booked for kicking the ball away after 19 minutes. Bookings in this competition only count in this competition.

Moments later Marsh shot well wide from 25 yards.

A great move down the left from the Stags, involving Boateng, and Macdonald’s cross-shot was just wide of the right post.

Doncaster pulled a goal back on 38 minutes. A corner from the right to the near post saw Ben Close, only just on as a substitute, running on to it at the corner of the six yard box and heading unchallenged into the net. As the corner was taken, no one was picking up Close, and no one tracked his run either. Poor defending.
Doncaster manager Grant McCann said after the game: "We get ourselves back into the game with a corner that we've worked on and used against Mansfield in the first game, I probably shouldn't be telling Nigel that, if he watches this back, a good header from Closey."

There was a long stoppage for a bad injury to Louie Marsh, on loan from Sheffield United. He was eventually stretchered off with a suspected broken arm. Good luck to him in his recovery. He was replaced by sub Luke Molyneux.
Play restarted at 45+4 minutes with 10 minutes to play.

On 45+4, Brunt was booked for a foul 25 yards out. Tommy Rowe blasted the free kick high and wide.

After 45+12, Molyneux dinked a ball into the box, it deflected off a Doncaster player straight to Flinders.

The Stags 2-1 ahead at the break. A great start going 2-0 ahead with the two Gale goals, and it was nearly 3-0 when Macdonald hit the bar, but Doncaster were right back in it with the goal back.

Half time 2-1

At the start of the second half, a double change: Lewis for Maris, and Cargill for Brunt.
Nigel Clough said after the game: "It was always going to be George Maris and Aaron sharing 45 minutes each. Lewis Brunt had been booked, didn't want to risk a sending off.”
Cargill went into centre midfield, slightly surprisingly.

After 47 minutes, Molyneux shot well wide from 20 yards.

A minute later at the other end, Boateng drove into the area, couldn’t sort his feet out to get in a shot, it fell for Abdullah, whose low shot on the turn was straight at the keeper.

Cargill was harshly booked for a foul 45 yards out after 49 minutes.

A good chance for Swan after 53 minutes. Lewis put in a good cross and Swan headed over from 7 yards.

A brilliant block by George Williams a minute later. Goodman cut inside in the area, and Williams dived in to make a goal-saving block as Goodman shot.

After 55 minutes, a great save from Flinders. Close shot low from 20 yards through a crowd of players, Flinders saw it late and pushed it away.

George Cooper headed wide at the far post from a Boateng corner after 58 minutes. A minute later at the other end, great tracking back from Gale.

Good play from Swan after 61 minutes getting past a defender in the area on the left though it didn’t come to anything. Then a great cross from Gale to Swan at the far post. It just bounced up at Swan who couldn’t turn it in, though the offside flag was up anyway.

Bowery replaced Cooper after 63 minutes. Bowery went into midfield, Cargill dropped back to centre half.

By now, Doncaster had brought on all 5 subs, and all 5 subs were regular first teamers to strengthen their side considerably.

Doncaster equalised to make it 2-2 after 64 minutes. Sub Zain Westbrooke crossed from the right and another sub Joe Ironside rose, unmarked at the far post, to thump a header against the right post. The ball came straight back to him across the face of goal and he tapped in the rebound. Ironside admitted after the game it was quite lucky the ball came straight back to him. Poor defending from the Stags though.

After 66 minutes, brilliant from Gale to get past his marker, he laid off to Swan, who advanced to the edge of the area and his left footed shot was saved by the keeper with his legs. It just won’t go in for him from open play.

Flint replaced Abdullah after 69 minutes. A great reception for Abdullah. Flint went up front.

A deliberate reckless challenge by Molyneux on Macdonald after 70, after Molyneux had been frustrated at not getting a free kick. He was booked. Macdonald had to limp off later as a result.

Lewis had a shot blocked from the edge of the area after 72 minutes. Seconds later, Johnson crossed, and a diving header from Swan was straight at the keeper.

On 73 minutes, Molyneux ran cross the box from the right and fired wide from 12 yards.

Bowery and Macdonald changed places, Bowery going to left back, Macdonald moved further forward.

Doncaster hit the post after 77 minutes. A great run from Molyneux again, and he curled a shot against the left post from the edge of the area.

After 80 minutes, Macdonald created a yard for a right foot shot just inside the area and it brought a great save at full stretch.

Yet another shot from Molyneux after 81 minutes, this time straight at Flinders from 25 yards.

At the other end on 83 minutes, Boateng did well to create space for a shot, and curled just wide from 25 yards.

Doncaster hit the post again after 86 minutes, as Goodman crossed to George Broadbent and he smacked the left post from 8 yards.

Macdonald was forced off after 86 minutes. This followed the challenge from Molyneux on 70 minutes. On came Finn Flanagan for his Stags debut. A proud moment for him and for the academy.

Mansfield went back in front at 3-2 after 88 minutes. A Boateng corner from the left to the far post, Flint headed down, and Johnson headed on into the net, as it squirmed under the keeper. The keeper should have done better probably, but Johnson got his header on target. Johnson’s first goal for the Stags. Great to score from a corner, the Stags haven’t done that enough this season. Another assist for Flint when he has gone up front, as at Colchester.

Flint now reverted to a back 5 as the Stags looked to protect the lead.

Doncaster sent their keeper up for a corner after 90+3, a shot was blocked, then Flinders punched away a cross.

The Stags held on. Probably a draw would have been a fair result. Doncaster hit the post twice late on, Mansfield hit the woodwork in the first half.

Nigel Clough summed it up after the game: "I said to the subs after about 10 minutes, this could be 8-8. A very open game. We went 3-on-3 tried to press man for man. We got chances from it, but obviously you're a little bit more vulnerable at the back.”

Man of the match: George Williams. Close-run thing with Callum Johnson who impressed at the back and going forward, and James Gale who scored twice, and put in some great crosses, albeit mixed in with some average play. Some good play from Boateng too. Abdullah had a very encouraging first competitive start. A proud moment for Finn Flanagan to make his debut, for him and for the academy.

A really entertaining game, and £10,000 in the bank for Mansfield winning the game. Mansfield’s next two games in the competition are in November, against Everton U21 and Burton.

On a personal note, I had a sore throat and headache and couldn’t have got through two hours talking on commentary. I watched from home.

Mansfield remain unbeaten in league and cup (16 games), and remain the only EFL or Premier League club to be unbeaten this season in all competitions. The next game is the Nottinghamshire derby at Notts County on Saturday (12.30 kick off). The game is live on Sky Sports, and is therefore not available to watch on iFollow in the UK or overseas. Outside the UK, the game is live on channels such as ESPN (USA).

Running tally of various stats this season:

Goals (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 8, Akins 4, Maris 3, Oates 3, Gale 2, Clarke 1, Johnson 1, Lewis 1, Reed 1, Swan 1.

Assists (league and cup): Oates 4, Quinn 4, Keillor-Dunn 3, Swan 3, Bowery 1, Flint 2, Gale 2, Clarke 1, Maris 1, Macdonald 1, Reed 1.
(notes on assists: 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 two seasons ago, 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 two seasons ago 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 last season, nobody gets an assist.)

Injuries (including quotes from Nigel Clough): Kilgour (ruptured Achilles, return July), Hewitt (ACL, “we're hoping February/March time we might get him back"), Quinn (nicked a ligament in side of knee, expected to be out until December), Oates (ruptured ankle ligaments, expected to return in November), McLaughlin (knee, "we're going to take our time with him, we're hopefully looking sometime in November"), O’Toole ("had a scan and it was worse than we feared, he got a whack on the side of the calf against Notts County U21's on 14 Sept. Six weeks from the injury so that rules him out for most of October"), Clarke (5 stitches in ankle, doubtful for game at Notts County)

Yellow cards are competition specific. Red cards count across competitions apart from Papa John’s Trophy.

Report by: by Martin Shaw

Line Up:
Flinders 7 One great save in the second half. No real chance with the goals.
Johnson 8 Impressed at the back and going forward. Got the winner.
Williams 8.5 My man of the match, including a brilliant block. Clough said after the game he was “excellent for 90 mins and played very well. He had to be brave and defend one v one. He made a magnificent block at 2-2 to keep us in the game with five minutes or so to go.”
Cooper 6.5 Early mistake allowing a shot in. Did well after that.
Macdonald 7 Brought a great save from the keeper and headed against the bar.
Maris 6.5 Pre-planned that he and Lewis would do 45 minutes each.
Brunt 6.5 Played in midfield. Good play in the build-up to the second goal. Subbed at half time having been booked.
Boateng 7 Plenty of good pieces of play.
Abdullah 7 Very encouraging first competitive start. Got a great reception when he was subbed. Nigel Clough said he was "very pleased” with him and he was “unlucky not to get a goal. The goalkeeper blocked it at the far post. It was very encouraging. He'll notice the step up massively from when you're playing against League Two defenders.”
Swan 7 Great assist for the second goal. Couldn’t buy a goal though.
Gale 8 Scored twice, and put in some great crosses, albeit mixed in with some average play
Sub Line Up:
Lewis (for Maris, 46) 6.5 Good cross for a Swan header over the bar.
Cargill (for Brunt, 46) 6.5 Played in centre midfield then centre half. Did ok.
Bowery (for Cooper, 63) - Played in midfield, then left back.
Flint (for Abdullah, 69) - Went up front and got another assist when he has gone up front, as at Colchester.
Flanagan (for Macdonald, 86) - A proud moment for him to make his debut, and for the academy.
Subs not used: Pym, Darien Wauchope.
Opposition Line Up:
(3-5-2): Ian Lawlor; Will Flint, Joseph Olowu, Bobby Faulkner (Ben Close, 35); Deji Sotona (Mo Faal 60), Owen Bailey, Tommy Rowe (Zain Westbrooke, 60), George Broadbent, Tavonga Kuleya; Jack Goodman (Joe Ironside, 60), Louie Marsh (Luke Molyneux 45+4). Subs not used: Louis Jones, Tom Nixon.
Ruebyn Ricardo 6 Gave Mansfield a soft penalty.

Season 23/24 Reports