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Season 23/24 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town  
2 - 2
 Tranmere Rovers
Oates 37, Swan 79.
 Jolley 13, Apter 62. Turnbull sent off 90+3
Attendance: 6,421 (187 from Tranmere)
Date: 28 November 2023


Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Tranmere Rovers at the One Call Stadium last night. Tranmere belied their lowly league position and are rejuvenated under new manager Nigel Adkins. They played well, twice taking the lead and have now taken 8 points from their last 4 league games. Mansfield, beaten for the first time this season at Swindon on Saturday, avoided a second defeat in 3 days with a late deflected equaliser from substitute Will Swan, whose performance was a massive positive when several players were under par.

Mansfield made three changes from the side that lost at Swindon: Macdonald replaced Cargill at left back, Quinn came in for Maris in midfield, Akins came in for Johnson, Akins went up front, Bowery dropped back to right back. Clarke was back from injury on the bench. With Clarke back from injury, Boateng did not make the 18, having not impressed in recent performances. McLaughlin remained out with injury but should be available for the next game against MK Dons in 11 days time, while O’Toole will be getting game time in Central League matches coming up, meaning that only Kilgour, Hewitt and Gale will remain on the injury list (full injury list at the bottom of the report).

Tranmere had picked up 7 points from 3 games, to lift themselves out of the bottom two. They had not won away from home this season. They made two changes from the side that beat Gillingham with Charlie Jolley and Harvey Saunders coming in up front for Connor Jennings (suspended) and Kristian Dennis (injured). Manager Adkins confirmed afterwards that Jennings and Dennis would have started if available, but the changes worked in Tranmere’s favour as the raw pace of young Jolley and Saunders caused Mansfield big problems. Six left-footers in the side for Tranmere.

It was the coldest matchday of the season. The pitch was looking in better nick, however there were quite a lot of occasions in the game where the ball bobbled, making control and passing difficult. Anyone who’s watched Mansfield this season will know that that doesn’t suit the Stags’ style of play.

Tranmere had the majority of the shots in the opening 30 minutes.

After 3 minutes Brad Walker shot and Pym saved comfortably on his line after Brunt had given the ball away. Then Kieron Morris fired over the bar from 19 yards on 12 minutes.

Tranmere took the lead after 13 minutes. A Bowery cross into the Tranmere box was cleared away, Brunt and Reed challenged in the air for the same ball with Charlie Jolley 15 yards inside the Tranmere half. Jolley won it. Harvey Saunders then slid a great ball forward past Flint into the Stags half for Jolley to run on to. Jolley took the ball into the Stags box on the left, comfortably outpacing Reed on the way, and firing past Pym from 8 yards. Great pace from Jolley. Disappointing defending all round from Mansfield.
Nigel Clough was unhappy with the defending for the goal: “We knew they were quick on the break, but we had two players challenge for the same ball and found ourselves 1-0 down.”

After 15 minutes, Rob Apter, having a good season loan from Blackpool, made a good run, cut in from the right and his low shot was comfortably saved by Pym. Then on 19 minutes, Apter shot high and wide from 25 yards. Tranmere with the first four shots of the game and 1-0 ahead.

After 23 minutes, Akins won a free kick near the corner flag. Keillor-Dunn took it, Flint got in a header and headed wide. A great opportunity for Flint to score his first headed Stags goal. And a good free kick from Keillor-Dunn.

Mansfield earlier had multiple times got into position to cross but the cross didn’t beat the first man.

Reed was booked for bringing down Jolley 20 yards from goal after 25 minutes. Reed’s 5th booking of the season and he will now be suspended for one game. This was the 19th game of the season, and had he not been booked he would have avoided suspension (at least until the 37th game of the season when the next cut-off comes).
Walker took the resulting free kick and sent it way over the bar.

Brunt headed over the bar from Mansfield’s first corner. Then Reed gave the ball away.

On 30 minutes, Oates showed good feet to create a shooting chance but his left footed shot from 22 yards was wide of the left post.

Lewis and Akins won a corner for the Stags after 31 minutes. But Tranmere broke from it, through Saunders, all the way into the Stags area, and Pym made a tremendous double save, parrying his first shot, then saving the follow-up. Pym then caught the resulting corner. Pym keeping the Stags in it.

Jordan Turnbull was booked for Tranmere for holding as Akins turned him on 36 minutes.

The Stags equalised after 37 minutes thanks to superb play down the right by Bowery. Lewis found Bowery on the right touchline, level with the edge of the area. Bowery got to the byline and got past his marker Morris, along the byline into the area, and pulled back to Keillor-Dunn. Keillor-Dunn tried to turn it goalwards but his effort fell nicely for Oates who was quickest to react, tapping into the net from 3 yards. Oates’ 5th goal of the season. A fortunate assist for Keillor-Dunn, his 9th of the season (my stats below). But Bowery deserved most of the credit.
The goal came as some fans had become impatient and frustrated with the Stags’ play. Indeed if you watch the goal with its build-up from main camera on the club social media with commentary you can hear it. Mansfield’s build-up play in the game was patient, as it has been all season, the difference here had been that the final cross or final pass had been a let down which obviously was disappointing. In my opinion, the team’s start to the season playing this style of football might have lent the players sufficient slack to avoid this atmosphere, and when the players might have done with some encouragement, it wasn’t there.
Nigel Clough referenced this post match: “You have to be patient and the crowd have to be patient too and stay with us. We are playing no different to how we were playing eight weeks ago, yet for some reason the crowd seemed more unhappy just because Tranmere scored a goal on the break.”

A lovely one-two between Reed and Quinn after 40 minutes to set Akins away, but Akins was offside.

Into stoppage time and Mansfield had a flurry of shots. After 45+1, Keillor-Dunn’s shot from 30 yards was blocked. Then Oates turned and shot but it was blocked. On 45+3, Keillor-Dunn shot again, from 25 yards, and it was blocked again. Then a minute later, he shot from 25 yards again, this time straight at the keeper.

All square at half time. Tranmere had been on top in terms of chances created in the opening 30 minutes, ahead from a break, and then denied a second goal in similar circumstances by a fantastic double save from Pym. Flint missed a great chance from a header, then the Stags equalised, and they ended the half with a flurry of shots.
The Tranmere commentator said to me at half time this was the best they have played this season by a long way, and the enforced changes up front had really worked for them.

Half time 1-1

Into the second half. Good play by Oates on the right after 50 minutes. Keillor-Dunn was booked two minutes later for a deliberate foul. A decent move down the right from the Stags after 54 minutes involving Lewis, Bowery and Keillor-Dunn, but Keillor-Dunn shot high and wide. Then a poor cross from Lewis, too deep, summed up Mansfield’s night a bit. Another poor ball from Reed after 59 minutes, he wasn’t having a great game.

Tranmere went back in front after 62 minutes. It started from a Stags mistake. Reed played forward to Keillor-Dunn in the centre circle. Keillor-Dunn miscontrolled and lost the ball. From the replay, the ball took quite a bobble, in Keillor-Dunn’s defence. Walker played out to Apter. Apter pushed forward to the edge of the area, cut inside Macdonald and fired through Brunt’s legs into the bottom right corner of the net. Although the shot wasn’t hit with power, I don’t think Pym was at fault as the ball was just inside the post.
Clough described the goal: “The second was even worse (than the first goal) with Davis Keillor-Dunn giving the ball away in the middle of the pitch. They broke away and it was a scruffy shot that went through Lewis Brunt's legs and just sneaked in the corner.”

Maris immediately replaced Keillor-Dunn. It hadn’t been his night.

The Stags went close to an equaliser after 65 minutes as Maris found Oates, onto his left foot and he curled just over the angle of bar and post. A minute later, Maris shot from 18 yards and it was deflected wide off his own man. Moments later Reed gave the ball away again.

A double change after 69 minutes: Swan for Reed, Clarke for Quinn. It hadn’t been Reed’s night at all, and to make it worse he’s suspended for the next game, so won’t play again until 16th December.
Three up front now with Oates (right), Akins and Swan (left).

After 70 minutes, a good move, Oates crossed to the near post, and Swan headed wide.

A great shot from Clarke after 71 minutes, and the keeper was just able to push it wide. That was classic Clarke. From the resulting corner, it came out to Brunt who fired just over the bar. That was close as well.

Oates crossed from the right after 74 minutes, it looked like it would reach an unmarked Akins for a tap-in, but was blocked.

Two more changes after 77 minutes: Johnson replaced Bowery, Cargill for Macdonald. Bowery was limping, however Clough confirmed afterwards it was not serious and he’ll be fine for the next game.

The Stags equalised after 79 minutes. Cargill’s free kick from just inside his own half, was headed down by Flint, to Swan, back to goal, just inside the area. Swan sorted his feet out quickly, turned inside his man and shot towards the right corner of the net. It took a deflection over the keeper into the net. A lucky deflection certainly. But great play from Swan to get the shot in, which may or may not have beaten the keeper without the deflection. A real confidence booster for Swan, his first league goal of the season, and his first in any competition from open play.

Oates won a corner after 80 minutes. Following the corner, Lewis crossed, Cargill headed down but straight to the keeper.

Swan won a corner after 82 minutes. Maris took the corner and found Flint who headed wide. What a chance for Flint again.

Great tracking back by Clarke after 87 minutes.

A good run from Tranmere sub Sam Taylor after 89 minutes, and his low shot was straight at Pym.

Into six minutes of stoppage time. After 90+1, great feet from Swan to win a free kick, 23 yards out. Lewis took the free kick but sent it over the bar. The Stags have been poor from these situations all season.

Tranmere was reduced to ten men after 90+3 minutes. Another blatant foul by Turnbull on Akins as Akins turned him. The referee gave Turnbull a second yellow. It was too late to impact the game though.

Maris had done well since coming on but blotted his copybook by putting an awful ball straight out of play to break Mansfield’s momentum on 90+5.

Full time and a 2-2 draw. Mansfield were the better side in the second half and in the end a draw was a fair result. Mansfield had more shots than Tranmere, 21 to 15, but Tranmere would rightly feel that Mansfield’s equaliser was rather fortunate.

Tranmere had an effective game plan, to sit deep with two banks of four and break quickly. It worked well for them. The raw pace of young Jolley and Saunders caused Mansfield big problems. They wouldn’t have started if Jennings and Dennis had been available. To break them down, Mansfield’s passing needed to be crisp, accurate and fast, but too often the final ball was misplaced. Probably tiredness of key players contributed to that, and to some extent the pitch which was bobbly in places. Hopefully by the next game against MK Dons, the players should be refreshed to go again and embark on another excellent run.
The Stags substitutes were good, Swan especially, Clarke, Cargill, and Maris apart from that late misplaced pass. Plenty were off their game too, and hopefully will come back refreshed a week on Saturday after an 11 day break between games.

Man of the match: Will Swan, only on for 21 minutes plus stoppage time, but his performance was the biggest positive of the night, after he just hasn’t been able to get going and take his chances before now all season. Hopefully he can really kick on now and get back to his form of last season.

Running tally of various stats this season:

Goals (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 11, Akins 8, Oates 5, Maris 4, Bowery 2, Flint 2, Gale 2, Reed 2, Swan 2, Brunt 1, Cargill, Clarke 1, Cooper 1, Johnson 1, Lewis 1.

Assists (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 9, Flint 4, Maris 4, Oates 4, Quinn 4, Swan 4, 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"),
McLaughlin (should be back for MK Dons game after 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 3, Kilgour 1, Lewis 2, Macdonald 5, Maris 2, Quinn 1, Reed 5 (suspended for one game vs MK Dons), 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 home league attendance: 7342 (average away fans: 697, average home fans 6645) (remember the attendance is calculated as tickets sold, including season tickets. There are 5171 season ticket holders this season.)

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

Line Up:
(4-4-2, diamond in midfield)
Pym 7 Tremendous double save in the first half to keep the Stags in it. I don’t think he was at fault for the goals, including the second one as the ball was just inside the post.
Bowery 7 Superb play down the right to set up the first goal. Limped off, however Clough confirmed afterwards it was not serious and he’ll be fine for the next game.
Flint 6 Had two great chances to score with his head.
Brunt 6 Two Stags players (Brunt and Reed) challenged in the air for the same ball allowing Tranmere to break and score the first goal.
Macdonald 6 Allowed Apter to cut inside him and score for the second goal.
Reed 5 Two Stags players (Brunt and Reed) challenged in the air for the same ball allowing Tranmere to break and score the first goal as Reed was comfortably outpaced. Gave the ball away multiple times. It wasn’t Reed’s night at all, and to make it worse he’s suspended for the next game, so won’t play again until 16th December.
Lewis 5.5 Some poor crosses and a poor free kick over the bar.
Quinn 6 Ok but not at his best.
Keillor-Dunn 6 Miscontrolled and lost the ball, though it took quite a bobble, in the build-up to the second Tranmere goal. An assist for Oates’ goal, albeit fortunate.
Akins 6.5 Fouled twice by Turnbull to get Turnbull sent off.
Oates 7 Scored the first goal when he was quickest to react. Involved in Mansfield’s best moves.
Sub Line Up:
Maris (for Keillor-Dunn, 63) - Did well as sub but blotted his copybook by putting an awful ball straight out of play to break Mansfield’s momentum on 90+5 minutes.
Swan (for Reed, 69) - My man of the match: only on for 21 minutes plus stoppage time, but his performance was the biggest positive of the night, after he just hasn’t been able to get going and take his chances before now all season. Hopefully he can really kick on now and get back to his form of last season.
Clarke (for Quinn, 69) - Did well. One great shot and one very good piece of tracking back.
Johnson (for Bowery, 77) -
Cargill (for Macdonald, 77) -
Subs not used: Flinders, Williams.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-4-2): McGee; O'Connor, Davies, Turnbull, Wood (Leake 46); Apter (McAlear 84), Walker, Hendry, Morris (Leroy-Belehouan 90+7); Saunders (Yarney 90+5), Jolley (Taylor 84). Subs not used: Robson, Hawkes.
Matt Corlett 7 His first Stags game. Correctly sent Turnbull off.

Season 23/24 Reports