Attendance: 7,644 (886 from Doncaster)
Date: 29 December 2023
STAGS HELD BY DONCASTER BUT MOVE UP TO SECOND PLACE
Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Mansfield Town were held 1-1 by Doncaster Rovers at the One Call Stadium on Friday night. The draw took Mansfield up to second place in the table with defeat for Wrexham at Walsall. So it will be first versus second when the Stags visit Stockport County on New Year’s Day.
We’ve reached the halfway point of the season. 23 games played by the Stags, 46 points, an average of two per game, and incredibly just one defeat. And the Stags have the best defensive record, conceding just 19 goals. If the Stags can keep up the average of two points per game in the second half of the season, then automatic promotion will be assured. That is a tall order of course but looks achievable.
Mansfield were unchanged from the win over Grimsby when the Stags had 39 shots, the most by any team in the top 4 leagues since 2015 when Manchester City had 43 against West Brom in the Premier League. Nigel Clough explained afterwards that he was tempted to change the team, but they had played so well against Grimsby and they had looked good in training the day before the game, so that’s why he put the same team out. Aaron Lewis returned from injury on the bench (a reminder there is full list of injuries at the bottom of this report as always). No place in the 18 for Calum Macdonald or Hiram Boateng. The Stags again started with the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Brunt and Reed in front of the back four.
Doncaster came in to the game having lost 3 games on the trot and massively underachieving for the squad that they have. They switched to a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in midfield with Luke Molyneux playing behind Joe Ironside and Mo Faal.
The pitch was playable after heavy rain the day before the game, and after two postponements in the last two months. In the post match interviews with players, the interviewed players from each side both commented on the pitch without having been asked about it: Callum Johnson said “the pitch isn’t easy to play on especially on the near side.” While Joe Ironside of Doncaster said the pitch was “bobbly”.
Mansfield started well and after 4 minutes, following a corner, Flint squared to Quinn and he unleashed a powerful shot from the left, just wide of the far post. At the other end after 6 minutes, a good interception by Cargill from a Doncaster break.
Doncaster had a goal disallowed after 10 minutes. As a corner from Luke Molyneux came in from the right, Mo Faal pushed Brunt in the back on the edge of the six yard box. Faal rose and headed down, straight at Pym. As Pym saved, the referee blew his whistle for the foul. The ball then ran along the goalline, Flint went to clear the ball, it hit Bowery and rebounded into the net, but the whistle had already gone. The foul was very soft and the Stags were lucky to get away with that in my opinion. Doncaster manager Grant McCann said after the game it was very soft. I asked Nigel Clough about it after the game, he said he couldn’t really see because there were too many bodies in the way at the corner.
Just 3 minutes later on 13 minutes, the Stags should have had a penalty. Johnson broke into the area on the right, he headed for the byline and was clearly tripped by Faal. It could not have been a more blatant foul. The referee looked at his assistant, who gave nothing, and so the referee gave a goal kick. Absolutely extraordinary. After the game, both managers said it was a clear penalty.
McCann said: “Mansfield should have had a penalty too as Johnson was brought down and I think the referee was chasing the game a bit from there.”
Clough said: “We had an absolutely stonewall penalty. The referee was 10-15 yards from it and the assistant the same distance. It was very poor we didn't get that penalty.”
Johnson himself said: “I actually spoke to their lad (Mo Faal) and he gave me a smile, I think he knew it was a penalty. I was going to cross it and I thought ‘I’m going to take an extra touch’ and he didn’t expect it and his knee has just hit my knee and it’s taken me down. I looked at the referee and he’s looked at the linesman so I think he was waiting for the linesman to give it.”
You could say these two very poor decisions from the referee evened themselves out.
The Stags took the lead after 21 minutes. Quinn, outside the area on the left, twisted one way then the other to bamboozle full back Jamie Sterry, he crossed to the far post, and Johnson got ahead of his marker Faal and dived to head into the net. A great diving header from Johnson, his second goal of the season, both headed against Doncaster! And a great assist from Quinn, his 7th of the season (see my stats at the bottom of the report).
Johnson said after the game: “Quinny put a great ball in and I just sort of gambled on it, because I know what quality he has, catching their lad off guard. I just tried to hit the target and luckily I did.”
A great move from the Stags after 23 minutes, as Bowery played inside to Maris and his first time shot was wide of the left post.
For the final 20 minutes of the first half, Doncaster played very well. They have good players, such as, up front: Molyneux, Faal (on loan from West Brom), Ironside (who was a big signing from Cambridge). In midfield Rowe and Close. So no-one should be surprised that they can play well. And they did here. Indeed in my opinion, they are massively underachieving this season for the players they have in their squad.
After 25 minutes, great play from Molyneux, Cargill stumbled, Molyneux got to the byline, then cut back, and his shot was parried by Pym at his near post. Good defending by Johnson a minute later to clear a Molyneux cross. Then on 28 minutes, Harrison Biggins headed just over the bar from a good Tommy Rowe cross from the left. Pym made a good save after 31 minutes, from a Molyneux shot but the referee had already blown for offside.
Doncaster hit the post after 33 minutes. Molyneux played back to Sterry and his powerful cross shot from an angle on the right was deflected onto the left post by Flint and out for a corner. Pym caught the resulting corner.
The Stags had their only shot of the last 20 minutes of the first half after 36 minutes as Keillor-Dunn played inside to Reed, who swept a low curling shot straight at the keeper.
After 44 minutes, Brunt lost the ball, Molyneux found Ironside in the box, Ironside turned and shot from 16 yards and Bowery did well to block his shot.
The Stags 1-0 ahead at the break with the Johnson diving header and that blatant penalty for the foul on Johnson not given. But Doncaster had a goal disallowed for a soft foul, they hit the post, and looked a real threat for 20 minutes, especially with Molyneux and right back Sterry combining down the right.
Half time 1-0
15 seconds into the second half, Molyneux played inside to Biggins who shot just wide.
After 51 minutes, Maris sent a shot from 25 yards straight at the keeper. Two minutes later, Maris curled a shot over the bar from the corner of the area on the left. And on 58 minutes, Akins to Keillor-Dunn to Maris but Maris couldn’t get a shot away.
Doncaster equalised after 59 minutes. Senior played inside to Ironside 28 yards from goal. He struck a shot which was going wide, hit Flint, and fell kindly for Ironside to have a free shot from 17 yards which he stroked into the right corner of the net. A good finish from Ironside, but both managers after the game noted that it was fortunate how the ball fell for him.
Clough said: “The equaliser was unfortunate as it's just hit Aden Flint and rebounded straight back to him and he's scored from 18 yards.”
Mansfield made a double change after 64 minutes bringing on Clarke for Quinn, and Oates for Keillor-Dunn.
Flint should have scored after 67 minutes and finally got that elusive first headed goal for the Stags. A Maris corner from the left reached Flint at the far post, he headed down into the ground and as it bounced up the keeper pushed it over the bar. If he had got a stronger connection on the header he probably would have scored. From the resulting corner, Cargill found Maris whose low ball in went off Akins for a goal kick.
After 71 minutes, a low shot from Clarke was straight at the keeper from 25 yards.
At the other end a minute later, Biggins played a one-two with Faal outside the area and fired in a curling shot from 22 yards which Pym pushed away for a corner. Good save. Following the resulting corner, Senior crossed in and Ironside headed down from 6 yards straight to Pym.
On 73 minutes, Brunt shot from 30 yards and it was blocked.
After 74 minutes, Clarke got to the byline on the left and lifted a good cross beyond the far post. Johnson got his head on it and from a very tight angle, headed it back along the goalline where it was cleared off the line. Johnson said after the game it was a similar chance to the goal that Quinn scored at Sutton (from Johnson’s cross) and he would have to ask Quinn how he got the spin on it to get it into the net!
A great tackle by Clarke after 76 minutes.
Poor refereeing after 77 minutes as Johnson was fouled, the ball reached Akins on the half way line but the referee failed to play advantage.
Clarke got into a great position in the area on the left after 78 minutes but put in a poor cross.
Another double change after 79 minutes: Swan for Akins, McLaughlin for Johnson. Bowery switched from left back to right back.
The fifth and final change after 83 minutes: Lewis for Maris. Lewis back from injury.
8 minutes were added on.
After 90+2 minutes, a great cross from the right from Brunt, Oates got up well and headed goalwards from 7 yards. The keeper made a good save. Great effort from Oates from a great cross.
Swan was booked for running into the keeper after he made the save.
With just a minute of stoppage time remaining, on 90+7 minutes, the Stags nearly won it. Clarke’s corner from the left reached Oates in the middle and his header from 9 yards rolled agonisingly inches wide of the right post with the keeper beaten. So close.
Nigel Clough was booked after the final whistle for something he said to the referee, presumably over the penalty not being given, as Clough had just pointed in the direction of where the incident took place.
Just 12 shots in the game from the Stags, down from that incredible 39 on Boxing Day. Doncaster also had 12.
The Stags weren't anywhere near as fluent as in recent games and looked a little tired. As Johnson said after the game “We were not at our best” and “We’re not going to play well every game.”
So if you can’t win, don’t lose. The Stags didn’t and still have only lost one in the first half of the season. I think a draw was a fair result overall.
It was another good crowd, 150 short of another home sell-out. One or two boos at full time. Ridiculous given the entertainment we’ve had this season. And Clough was disappointed with some supporters behind the dugout during the game, saying in post match interview: "Second in the league ... a couple of people behind me ... I thought we'd gone back to second from bottom like we were 2 or 3 years ago listening to a few of the people behind the dugout. Definitely (a minority), but I don't understand the minority. Second in the league and one defeat in 23 ... I think there's a case for saying every single supporter should be behind those lads on the pitch tonight."
On to Stockport on New Year’s Day (3pm) for a mouth-watering clash. If you haven’t got a ticket, you can watch the game with us on iFollow Stags.
Happy New Year everyone.
Man of the match: Callum Johnson
Running tally of various stats this season:
Goals (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 13, Akins 9, Maris 6, Oates 5, Bowery 2, Cargill 2, Flint 2, Gale 2, Johnson 2, Reed 2, Swan 2, Brunt 1, Clarke 1, Cooper 1, Lewis 1, Quinn 1.
Assists (league and cup): Keillor-Dunn 9, Quinn 7, Maris 6, Oates 5, Flint 4, Swan 4, Akins 2, Bowery 2, Clarke 2, Gale 2, Johnson 2, Lewis 2, 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, Clough said after the Doncaster home game he is on track to be back in training end of January),
Gale (out until towards end of January, from injury in the Burton EFL Trophy game),
O’Toole (hamstring injury, Nigel Clough told me at Sutton he will be out for 4 weeks).
Yellow cards (league only, alphabetical order): Boateng 2, Bowery 1, Brunt 3, Cargill 5, Clarke 4, Gale 2, Johnson 3, Keillor-Dunn 3, Kilgour 1, Lewis 2, Macdonald 5, Maris 3, Oates 1, Pym 1, Quinn 1, Reed 5, Swan 2.
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: 7440 (average away fans: 760, average home fans 6681) (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
Pym 8 Made some good saves, and good handing.
Johnson 8.5 My man of the match. Scored with a great diving header. Should have won a clear penalty but for terrible refereeing.
Flint 6.5 Should have scored with a header. Unlucky with the Doncaster goal as the original shot hit him and fell kindly for Ironside.
Cargill 6.5 Defended ok. One good interception.
Bowery 6.5 Did ok. Some good defending.
Brunt 6.5 Lost the ball to present Doncaster a chance in the first half. Great cross in stoppage time for an Oates header.
Reed 6 Far from his best game.
Maris 6.5 Good corner for Flint’s header. Didn’t have his shooting boots on.
Keillor-Dunn 6.5 Not as heavily involved as recent games.
Quinn 8 Great assist for the goal, his 7th of the season. Had a good early shot that whistled just wide.
Akins 6 Far from at his best.
Sub Line Up:
Clarke (for Quinn, 64) - One good cross but one bad cross.
Oates (for Keillor-Dunn, 64) - So close to the winner in stoppage time.
Swan (for Akins, 79) - After that excellent sub appearance against Tranmere, he hasn’t really followed it up in subsequent sub appearances.
McLaughlin (for Johnson, 79) -
Lewis (for Maris, 83) - Back from injury.
Subs not used: Flinders, Williams.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-4-2, diamond in midfield): Lawlor (Jones 57); Sterry, Bailey, Olowu, Senior; Close; Biggins (Kuleya 78), Rowe; Molyneux; Ironside, Faal (Goodman 77). Subs not used: Nixon, Hurst, Faulkner, Straughan-Brown.
Scott Jackson 4 Dreadful. Two very poor decisions, the penalty not given and the disallowed goal, one for each side, which you could say evened themselves out.