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Season 23/24 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Swindon Town  
2 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Young 38, 90+3.
 
 Akins 49
Attendance: 8,322 (685 from Mansfield)
 
Date: 25 November 2023

STAGS LOSE UNBEATEN RECORD AT SWINDON IN STOPPAGE TIME

Martin Shaw at the County Ground

Mansfield Town lost 2-1 at Swindon Town this afternoon after a run of 5 wins on the trot, and with it went the Stags unbeaten start to the season in the league, the longest in the club’s history. And it was a bitterly disappointing way to lose the unbeaten record as well as Swindon scored a winner in stoppage time. This was a very good end-to-end game of football with both teams going hammer and tongs to try and win it right to the end.

Before I get on to this game, a few stand-out stats, which have come to an end here:

The defeat ended a run of 5 league wins on the trot.

Mansfield’s 17 league games unbeaten to start the season (9 wins and 8 draws) was the club record for the longest unbeaten start to a league season (see club records here). Congratulations to Nigel Clough, his staff, and the players for that run.

Mansfield and Portsmouth, who both lost today, were the last teams to lose their unbeaten record in the Premier League, EFL, and National League (including North and South), so that’s the top 6 tiers of English football.

Including last season, Mansfield went 18 league games unbeaten, the second best run in the club’s history and two short of the club record of 20, set in 1976.

Mansfield went 14 away league games unbeaten, one short of the club record of 15, set in 2018-19 (stat from Paul Taylor).

Mansfield remain in the top 3 and have still conceded the fewest goals in League Two this season (15 goals in 18 games).


Swindon had been on a poor run of form, taking just two points from six games, but have a potent strike force with Jake Young, Dan Kemp and Charlie Austin, and with Remeao Hutton putting in more crosses that anyone else in League Two this season, and Saidou Khan making impressive runs forward, they attacked well, but looked vulnerable at the back. Austin actually started from the bench but came on and his header against the post led to the winning goal.

Mansfield started with Lucas Akins on the bench, Nigel Clough explaining afterwards that he didn’t start because of playing 100 minutes at Burton in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday because he hadn’t been able to take him off due to the injury to James Gale. Meanwhile Baily Cargill was preferred to Calum Macdonald at left back meaning it was an unchanged side from the last league game, against Newport a week ago.
Louis Reed was playing against his former club. Reed incidentally is on 4 yellow cards and needs to avoid a yellow card in the next game against Tranmere to avoid a suspension (yellow card details at the bottom in the stats running tallies).
Aden Flint was also playing against his former club, who he played for more than a decade ago. He left Swindon to join Bristol City and sparked a hostile relationship with Swindon fans by then stating in an interview that he did not wish Swindon to achieve promotion. He was duly booed, not just at the start of the game, but every time he touched the ball.
James Gale was not in the squad after that injury at Burton. I asked Nigel Clough after the game about him and he said that Gale will be out for eight weeks with that injury, a blow to Gale and the Stags. (Summary of injuries at the bottom.)

It was a sunny but cold afternoon.

Mansfield started the game on the front foot, with a high line trying to push Swindon back and win the ball at every opportunity. A local Swindon reporter described Mansfield as “like a hungry pack of wolves chasing down their prey”.

After 2 minutes, Reed got in a shot inside the box, which was blocked by Minturn. Then on 10 minutes, Cargill, playing at left back, crossed, Keillor-Dunn couldn’t quite get there, but Lewis won a corner. Lewis took the corner, and Cargill headed just over the bar.

A good move from Swindon after 12 minutes, Kemp got to the byline on the left, crossed to Hutton, who acrobatically volleyed goalwards and Pym had to get down to save fairly comfortably on his line.

Great play from Oates after 14 minutes tracking back to win the ball. At the other end after 18 minutes, Oates played inside to Keillor-Dunn, who perhaps should have shot, but dummied for Bowery, and the ball was given away.

A good tackle by Maris to win the ball after 19 minutes, but the referee gave a free kick. Clough fumed at the fourth official on the touchline.

It was an open game, and already easy to see why Swindon score and concede plenty of goals.

A brilliant tackle by Brunt on Young as he was about to shoot after 22 minutes, after a good ball forward from Kemp. Following the resulting corner, a free header wide from Blake-Tracy.

Oates charged down the keeper after 28 minutes, and the keeper was lucky it went out for a goal kick.

A good run from Kemp after 36 minutes, to Young, who miscued a shot straight to Pym. Swindon fans near us in the press box chanted “we’ve had a shot”. Awful support from those fans.

Swindon took the lead after 38 minutes. Lewis had the ball in the Swindon half and was blatantly manhandled by Saidou Khan who was pulling him from behind. The referee missed the foul. Young broke into the Stags half and was brought down by Maris for a free kick 38 yards from goal. Maris was booked.
Clough was furious again in the technical area. Clough explained after the game: “The referee apologised as there was a foul in the build-up to it. The fourth official told him it was a foul. The referee then came over at the start of the second half and said he should have listened to his fourth official. But unfortunately that error has contributed to the result.”

Kemp took the resulting free kick, chipping it into the box. Young got away from his marker Oates and was free to volley off the outside of his right boot past Pym from 5 yards.
Clough again explained after the game: “Rhys Oates was marking their lad for their first goal and he let him get away. If you are back there in a defensive position you have to do better.”

Brunt blocked a shot from Hutton from 16 yards after 41 minutes. Then a minute later, McEachran shot well wide of the right post from 25 yards.

A couple of poor pieces of play by Maris, as he delivered a terrible free kick, then a terrible ball forward.

A good run from Oates down the left after 45 minutes after Bowery set him away. Oates got to the corner of the area and squared, it reached Lewis 16 yards from goal, and his low side-footed shot was straight at the keeper.

Swindon 1-0 ahead at the break. They had grown into the game, gaining confidence as Mansfield didn’t score after being on top in the opening stages. Had the Stags scored early, I expect we would have had a completely different result, give Swindon’s recent results. Swindon were good going forward, but looked vulnerable at the back.

Half time 1-0

A double change at the start of the second half. Maris was withdrawn, having been booked, and replaced by Quinn. Akins replaced Bowery. Clough explained after the game: “I took Jordan Bowery and George Maris off at half-time as I didn't think they'd done enough. It was just to change it up a little bit. I wanted those two (Quinn and Akins) back on the pitch and I thought they made an immediate impact.”

The Stags were level after 49 minutes with Akins on the scoresheet within 4 minutes of coming on, his 8th goal of the season. Quinn played a nice ball forward for Keillor-Dunn, inside his own half, back to goal. Keillor-Dunn turned and slid a great ball forward into the centre circle for Lewis. Lewis then played in Akins to run towards the edge of the area. He side-stepped Godwin-Malife to create a yard of space for a shot and from 15 yards fired low and hard past the keeper. A great clinical finish from Akins, and an assist for Lewis.

Oates got in a good block on a shot from Godwin-Malife from the edge of the area after 54 minutes.

Controversy at both ends after 55 minutes, with a penalty each for both sides turned down.

After 55 minutes, Young squared for Khan who shot from the edge of the area and it was blocked by Flint with his arm. The referee waved away appeals for a penalty. Flint then blocked a follow-up shot from Hutton.
Both managers agreed after the game it was a penalty. Swindon boss Michael Flynn said: "There was a clear penalty. I have known Lee [Swabey, the referee] and he was gracious enough to admit that he got it wrong during the game. We all make mistakes and I have definitely not been perfect in my life, and all we want is that but of honesty and Lee was honest today, so I respect that.”

Within a minute the Stags should have had a penalty. Akins found Oates who pulled the ball across the area to Keillor-Dunn. Liam Kinsella went to ground and brought Keillor-Dunn down as he did so. The referee again waved away appeals. Clough said after the game that he thought the referee was evening things up: “Davis took the ball away from the lad and he was tripped pretty clearly. I think one decision affected the other.”

The Stags should have been ahead a minute later on 57 minutes. Reed slid in to win the ball outside the area, it reached Oates who found the overlapping Cargill. Cargill pulled a great ball across to reach Lewis with no defender anywhere near him on the penalty spot. Lewis side-footed a shot goalwards and it was blocked by Kinsella, it came back to Lewis who next shot was even weaker, and blocked again, straight to Reed who volleyed just over the bar onto the roof of the net from 24 yards. Not a bad effort from Reed. But Lewis should have done better. Lewis was to have another effort later. Clough said after the game: “Aaron Lewis could have had a hat-trick today with his situations. He hit the target but not with enough conviction.”

A fantastic run forward by Brunt after 59 minutes all the way from his own half to the edge of the area. He laid off to Keillor-Dunn, who tried to hit it first time, like against Newport, but miscued and it rolled through to the keeper.

Kemp weaved his way into the right side of the area after 63 minutes, Brunt tried to ease himself between Kemp and the ball and did just enough as Kemp stuck out his boot and got the toe end on the ball to send it into the side netting.

After 65 minutes, Reed crossed into the box to the far post where Flint headed back across goal but straight to the keeper with Akins and Oates unmarked at the other post.

Great tracking back by Oates to dispossess Hutton after 66 minutes.

This was great entertainment, end to end. Probably not great for the managers.

A free kick for Swindon, 26 yards out after 69 minutes. The Stags wall did its job, blocking the shot.

The Stags hit the bar after 77 minutes. Reed dinked a free kick from 35 yards out to the far post, where Cargill headed it across, and Akins rose above the defence to head against the bar from 3 yards. A great set piece. Akins should have scored. Fine margins!

After 81 minutes, the impressive Saidou Khan sent Kemp away to the edge of the area, he shot, Pym got down to make a great save, and Johnson got back to block the rebound shot from Kokolo. Good from Pym and Johnson. Following the resulting corner, Johnson did well again to block a low cross from sub Tyrese Shade.

Another good chance for the Stags after 83 minutes. Great play from Oates, harassing Mintern and nicking the ball off him, but firing a screamer just over the bar from 22 yards. So nearly vintage Rhys Oates.

Another change after 84 minutes as Macdonald replaced Oates. Macdonald went to left back, Cargill joint Brunt in central defence, Flint went up front. I wrote in my notes: trying to find a winner with Flint having the better of the defence in the air. The ploy of sending Flint up front late on has twice before paid dividends this season.
Clough explained after the game: “We threw Aden Flint up front. We thought he would cause them problems with his height. Maybe we should have put him back in defence for the last few minutes.”

Both sides were showing urgency to get a winner. No sitting back and taking the point from either side.

After 87 minutes, Flint headed down to Quinn, who fed Keillor-Dunn in the area. Keillor-Dunn turned one way then the other and teed up Lewis for a free shot from 17 yards, but Lewis shot straight at the keeper. Great chance, put on a plate for him. The third time Lewis had had a free shot in the area. See earlier comment from Clough on his shooting.

On 88 minutes, a long ball forward from Cargill, Flint headed on to Akins, Akins returned it to Flint, Flint chipped it back into the middle to Akins who headed it down and the keeper saved. Akins did well to get the header in under pressure from Godwin-Malife but it was an easy save for the keeper.

Boateng replaced Keillor-Dunn after 89 minutes.

5 minutes of stoppage time was added on. The game could have gone either way.

It went to Swindon as they scored on 90+3 minutes. Sub Shade curled in a cross from the left corner of the area. Sub Charlie Austin, only just on as an 89th minute sub, got above Cargill and headed against the left post. The ball came back to Austin, who turned and his low shot was blocked on the line by Cargill. It then rebounded off Young against the right post, and as it came back out, Young stabbed it into the net from two yards.
Disappointing for Mansfield. Swindon, on a bad run of form, celebrated like they had won an FA Cup final. No begrudging them that, I and we would have done the same I’m sure.

Would the goal have been prevented if Flint had stayed back in defence? Maybe he would have won the header against Austin that Cargill lost. Who knows? He only went forward on 84 minutes. Clough said after the game: “Maybe we should have put him back in defence for the last few minutes.” Easy with hindsight. I thought it was a reasonable move to send Flint forward for the final 6 minutes. Oates was knackered. Flint caused the defence problems in the air, and was involved in setting up two chances to win the game on 87 and 88 minutes. In my opinion it was worth taking the risk to try and win the game, you get two extra points for a win, and only lose one point for losing from a drawing position. Of course had Will Swan been in good form and not in poor form, not making anything of his two recent starts in the EFL Trophy, then I think Swan would have been sent up front, or maybe Gale, if he hadn’t been injured.

Update: in an interview two days later, Clough said: “Both goals were soft goals from our point of view and I am angry at myself for moving Aden Flint into a forward position. It was done for positive reasons to try to win the game. But at 1-1 away from home I maybe should have left him at the back. As poor as he was on the ball I should have left him there to do the job. It was a mistake. I thought Bailey Cargill was tiring a bit at left back, so I thought I would put him at centre half with fresh legs with Calum Macdonald at left back.”

Anyway, great entertainment. A very open game. Swindon were exactly what we expected, very good going forward, vulnerable at the back. The Stags had more than enough chances to have exploited that but didn’t take them, and paid the ultimate price.

The Stags will look to bounce back on Tuesday against Tranmere at the One Call Stadium. If you’re not going, you can watch the game with us on iFollow Stags (kick off 7.45pm).

Mans of the match: Brunt

Running tally of various stats this season:

Goals (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 11, Akins 8, Maris 4, Oates 4, Bowery 2, Flint 2, Gale 2, Reed 2, Brunt 1, Cargill, Clarke 1, Cooper 1, Johnson 1, Lewis 1, Swan 1.

Assists (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 8, Maris 4, Oates 4, Quinn 4, Swan 4, Flint 3, Bowery 2, Clarke 2, Gale 2, Lewis 2, Akins 1, Johnson 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 cleared away before the goal is scored, such as Keillor-Dunn’s first goal against Newport, nobody gets an assist.)

Injuries (including quotes from Nigel Clough):
Kilgour (ruptured Achilles, return July),
Hewitt (ACL, “on schedule for February time"),
Clarke (out for 1-2 more weeks with a thigh strain picked up vs Wrexham in FA Cup),
McLaughlin (out for 1-2 more weeks with a groin strain picked up vs Everton U21),
Gale (out for 8 weeks from injury in the Burton EFL Trophy game).

Yellow cards (league only, alphabetical order): Boateng 2, Bowery 1, Brunt 2, Cargill 5, Clarke 2, Gale 2, Johnson 2, Keillor-Dunn 2, Kilgour 1, Lewis 2, Macdonald 5, Maris 2, Quinn 1, Reed 4 (has to avoid a yellow card in the 19th league game, against Tranmere, to avoid a suspension), Swan 1.
Red cards (league and cup): Macdonald 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 away following (league games): 1,328 (more than 1,000 in 6 of 10 away league games)


Report by: Martin Shaw at the County Ground



Line Up:
(4-4-2, diamond in midfield)
Pym 7.5 Great save from Kemp late on.
Johnson 7 A couple of good blocks.
Flint 6 Lucky not to concede a penalty. Booed by some fans every time he touched the ball. Went up front for the final 6 minutes. Clough noted in a later interview: “As poor as he was on the ball I should have left him there to do the job.”
Brunt 8 Brilliant tackle on Young in the first half. Fantastic surging run forward to set up a chance for Keillor-Dunn.
Cargill 7 Played at left back until the final 6 minutes. Set up two good chances, for Akins and Lewis.
Reed 7 Probably the pick of an underpar midfield.
Lewis 6 An assist for Akins’ goal. But he should have scored. Clough said after the game: “Aaron Lewis could have had a hat-trick today with his situations. He hit the target but not with enough conviction.”
Maris 6 Taken off at half time as Clough “didn't think he'd done enough” and he’d been booked.
Keillor-Dunn 6 Things didn’t go for him in front of goal. But set up a good chance for Lewis.
Bowery 6 Set Oates away for a run. But also taken off at half time as Clough “didn't think he'd done enough.”
Oates 7 Some good attacking play and great tracking back. But a mistake for the first goal and Clough said after the game: “Rhys Oates was marking their lad for their first goal and he let him get away. If you are back there in a defensive position you have to do better.”
Sub Line Up:
Quinn (for Maris, 46) 7 Made an impact.
Akins (for Bowery, 46) 7 Great clinical finish for his goal. Should have scored when he hit the bar.
Macdonald (for Oates, 84) -
Boateng (for Keillor-Dunn, 89) -
Subs not used: Flinders, Williams, Swan.
Opposition Line Up:
(3-5-1-1): Mahoney; Godwin-Malife, Minturn, Blake-Tracy; Hutton, Khan, McEachran (Shade, 77), Kinsella, Kokolo (Austin, 89); Kemp; Young. Subs not used: Genesini, Dworzak, Brown, Hart, Ward.
Referee:
Lee Swabey 4 Multiple errors. Should have given a foul on Lewis before Young’s first goal, and apologised to Clough. Should have given a penalty for the Flint handball, and apologised to Flynn. Should have then given a penalty for a foul on Keillor-Dunn just afterwards and Clough said after the game: “I think one decision affected the other.”


Season 23/24 Reports