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Season 15/16 Stagsnet Match Report
Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Bristol Rovers  
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Taylor 60
Attendance: 7847 (241 from Mansfield)
Date: 12 March 2016


Martin Shaw at the Memorial Ground

Mansfield Town lost a third straight game 1-0 this afternoon, going down to Bristol Rovers, the first time they have lost 3 games on the trot this season. And like the previous two, this was a tight affair which had 0-0 written all over it for the first hour. It was a game of very few chances. The Stags were solid in the first half, with Tafazolli dominant and Pearce playing well alongside him, and Collins looking good in a new role in front of the back four. Neither side created a chance of any note until the 45th minute when Chris Lines fired wide from 8 yards. Scott Shearer was called into action on 55 minutes as he pushed away a shot from Billy Bodin. Two minutes later, Reggie Lambe fired just over the bar from 16 yards. But on 60 minutes, Rovers were in front with a strange goal as Cristian Montano’s volleyed shot from the left was heading well wide but fell perfectly for Matty Taylor who side-footed in from close range. The Stags defence seemed to have stood still, in a rare lapse. Mansfield committed more bodies forward, but still there were almost no chances for either side. On 86 minutes, Mansfield came close to an equaliser as Collins burst forward from the halfway line into the area and fired a fine right footed shot that keeper Mildenhall brilliantly tipped onto the roof of the net. That was as close as the Stags came and Rovers held on for victory. Gutting to lose a tight game yet again, with hardly any good chances for either side (three for Rovers including the goal, to two to Mansfield). The Stags were disappointing going forward and need to improve a lot in that regard: too many players didn’t offer enough today including Clements, Blair, Lambe, Rose, Green, and then subs Daniel and Beardsley. Rose disappointed as he started the game so promisingly with a couple of surging runs, and then barely made another in the rest of the game. At the back Tafazolli and Pearce generally impressed, though Lee Collins was my man of the match, and nearly capped it with a brilliant goal. The Stags have been in or around the play-offs all season, hardly ever more than two points outside them, but have now dropped five points adrift with three 1-0 defeats. Adam Murray is desperate to bolster his attacking options before the next game, at home to Portsmouth next week. The Stags will certainly need to be better going forward to pick up three points that are needed if a chance of reaching the play-offs is to be maintained.

This was Mansfield’s first return to the Memorial Ground since the final day of the season two years ago when Mansfield’s win through a Colin Daniel goal relegated Bristol Rovers to the Conference amid a surreal atmosphere. The Stags players still at the club who were involved that day were Daniel and Jamie McGuire, while Chris Clements and Jack Thomas were non-playing subs that day. And Chris Beardsley started that day for Bristol Rovers. Of course the two teams had already met this season at the One Call Stadium, when Rovers won it in the 98th minute with the Stags effectively down to 7 men after two sendings-off and injuries to Benning and Jensen.

Mansfield made three changes to the side that lost to Yeovil. Pearce returned from suspension. Blair returned from illness. And Rose came back into the side for his first start since the Luton game in January. Out went Chapman, Baxendale and Daniel (none of whom had good games against Yeovil, three of my four lowest rated players). I would have been inclined to start Daniel here, for psychological reasons, even though he’s not played well since returning to the club. But his performance when he came on as substitute probably demonstrated why he didn’t start. Murray started with a 4-1-4-1 formation. Lee Collins was in front of the back four, something Murray hinted at several weeks ago. The midfield 4 was (right to left) Blair, Rose, Clements, Lambe. Green was on his won up front.

Mansfield were of course without Adi Yussuf, outrageously banned for 5 games by the FA for urinating behind the stand at Plymouth, having been advised to go there by a steward and Plymouth players, during the game at Home Park a few weeks ago. The punishment of a 5 game ban from the FA was totally out of proportion when you consider shorter bans to other players for racism (4 games for John Terry’s racist comment at Anton Ferdinand) and violent conduct (many examples). Murray said before the game that he’s not sure if the club can appeal it, but they will be asking questions to the FA especially as the statements from Plymouth seemed to have changed.

Before the game, Adam Murray also explained that he had missed out on three attacking players in the past 24-48 hours, who had gone to Plymouth, AFC Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers (Matt, Murphy and McBurnie respectively). With Beardsley unable to play more than 45 minutes due to injury, and Yussuf out for 5 games, it’s essential to get someone else in quickly to enable him to play two up front from the start, which he said he’d like to do for the rest of the season.

Liam Lawrence missed out for Bristol Rovers through a calf injury picked up last Saturday. Rovers keeper Mildenhall once scored against Mansfield, for Notts County.

On a nice sunny day, much milder than of late, the Stags returned to the all black kit for the first time since the Northampton game in November. I’m not sure if this was a bit of psychology as Mansfield of course played in an all black kit in that game here two years ago (it was Bristol Rovers’ youth team black kit on that occasion).

The Stags created the first half-chance of the game on 3 minutes. Clements crossed from the left, a defender tried to head away, and Rose looped a tame shot onto the roof of the net, from an awkward height.

Positive early running from Mansfield with Rose surging forward on a couple of occasions. The home crowd had been noisy before kick-off but were now silent.

On 15 minutes, the first sign of Rovers going forward as Montano’s shot was blocked by Alfei on the edge of the area. A minute later, a good ball by Montano to Easter in the box, Easter turned and as he was about to shoot Tafazolli tackled him to put the ball behind for a corner. Good defending from Tafazolli.

On 19 minutes, a good move involving Lambe and Clements, but Clements’ ball forward to Green was overhit. Then the Stags were gifted the ball a couple of times by Rovers, but just as quickly lost it themselves.

On 25 minutes, a Stags throw-in, a good turn by Rose in the box, he got the ball back from Tafazolli, but there was a good challenge on him as he was about to shoot.

A minute later at the other end, a good cross from the right by James Clarke, and Tafazolli did well to head away.

On 32 minutes, a free kick by Benning from the halfway line and a towering header by Tafazolli to flick it on, but the ball was cleared. On 38 minutes, good skill by Lambe, eventually Green put in a good cross from the left, but Blair couldn’t get any purchase on his header which was a long way wide.

Lambe was booked for a foul on Taylor on 40 minutes. A Rovers’ free-kick from wide on the right, and a header cannoned off a couple of heads and over the bar. On 43 minutes, a ball over the top, Shearer came out of his area but was never going to get there, and Pearce did well to clear as players converged on the ball outside the area.

The first clearcut chance of the half for either side came on 45 minutes. Easter crossed from the right, Shearer partially scooped the ball away, Taylor recycled the ball to Lines who fired wide of the right post from 8 yards.

A solid first half from Mansfield, with Tafazolli commanding, Pearce looking good and Collins effective in his new role in front of back four. Neither side created much though, with the only really chance falling to Rovers in the 45th minute.

Half time 0-0

On 46 minutes, a low header away by Tafazolli, straight to Mansell who fired a low shot straight at Shearer from 16 yards. A minute later, Collins was brought down. A Stags free kick into the box came out to Rose who volleyed well over from the edge of the box. On 50 minutes, a Rovers corner from the left was headed away by Tafazolli, out to Mansell who volleyed wide from 25 yards. On 51 minutes, a good cross from the left by Lambe, it was in front of Blair who perhaps should have thrown himself at it but watched it go past.

Daniel replaced Blair on 54 minutes. Blair hadn’t offered enough. A few boos from the home fans as they realised who Daniel was as he came on.

On 55 minutes, Bodin created space on the edge of the box, and his low shot was pushed away by Shearer. Then Montana shanked a shot well wide from an angle.

The Stags best chance so far came on 57 minutes. Clements squared to Rose. The ball was nicked off Rose before he got it, but only to Lambe just inside the area on the right. Quick feet from Lambe got him into a shooting position and he fired just over the bar from 16 yards.

Tafazolli was booked for a foul on the halfway line on 59 minutes. Montano got past Alfei on the left and crossed across the six-yard box but no-one got near it.

Rovers were in front on 60 minutes. Lines lofted a ball out to Montano on the left. Montano’s volleyed shot from the left was heading well wide but fell perfectly for Matty Taylor who side-footed in from close range. The Stags defence seemed to have stood still, in a rare lapse and in particular Benning had switched off at the far post.

Beardsley replaced Lambe on 64 minutes. Not much reaction to Beardsley’s entrance from the home fans. He was a former Rovers player. It was a now a 4-1-3-2 formation with Beardsley and Green up front.

On 65 minutes, a good challenge by Alfei on the edge of the box.

Benning was booked for diving on 66 minutes. He went down in the penalty area, having looked off balance and didn’t appeal for a penalty. He shouldn’t have been booked in my opinion as he wasn’t trying to win a penalty.

On 67 minutes, Clements found Rose, who crossed for Beardsley but instead of heading purposefully at goal he just looped a header up in the air which was easily caught by the keeper.

The Stags were committing more bodies forward now. On 76 minutes, Clements crossed from the right but just too high for Green.

A minute later, Collins was fouled 40 yards from goal. Clements dinked a free kick into the area, Collins headed across goal but the keeper claimed.

Then on 79 minutes, Benning crossed from the left, and Rovers just managed to clear as Rose tried to shoot.

A good move from the Stags on 80 minutes, Alfei overlapped on the right and crossed in where Beardsley headed over. In truth the cross was a fraction too high for Beardsley.

On 85 minutes, James Clarke went down in the box. It was clearly no foul. The referee didn’t book him, even though it was similar to the Benning incident.

On 86 minutes, Mansfield came close to an equaliser. Rose chested down a Shearer kick, and squared to Collins. Collins burst forward from the halfway line past a couple of men into the area and fired a fine right footed shot that keeper Mildenhall brilliantly tipped onto the roof of the net.

Jack Thomas replaced Rose on 88 minutes.

On 90+2 minutes, a free kick for Mansfield inside their own half. Mansell was booked for the foul, but Shearer and Harrison were also booked for a bit of handbags.

On 90+4 minutes, McBurnie dived over Pearce in the area, and he was booked for diving.

Moments later, Shearer was out of his area decisively to clear. If he’d got that wrong he could easily have got a second yellow card. But the Stags couldn’t force another chance to equalise.

So a very disappointing day for Mansfield and gutting to lose. The Stags weren’t positive enough until the last 20 minutes or so, but were no worse than Bristol Rovers in my opinion in a game of so few good chances (probably three good chances for Rovers to two for Mansfield). On to the next one, but the Stags really need more options up front now, it’s clear for all to see.

Man of the match: Lee Collins

Report by: Martin Shaw at the Memorial Ground

Line Up:
Shearer 6.5 Didn’t have many shots to save. One decent save. Came out of his area twice, once doing well and once rescued by Pearce.
Alfei 7 Defended well apart from Montano getting past him once or twice. A couple of good blocks and challenges.
Pearce 7 Solid performance.
Tafazolli 7 The best player in the first half. Solid generally.
Benning 5 Switched off for the goal. Some poor corners. The loss of his shooting boots seems to be affecting his performances.
Collins 7.5 Looked good in his new role in front of the back four and nearly capped his performance with what would have been a stunning equaliser.
Blair 5 Didn’t offer enough. Far too quiet.
Rose 5.5 Frustrated as he started the game so promisingly with a couple of surging runs, and then barely made another in the rest of the game. Need to see more of that from him.
Clements 5.5 Disappointing. Didn’t affect the game as we know he can.
Lambe 6 One or two good bits of skill, and did well to show quick feet before shooting just over.
Green 5.5 Almost completely starved of service. But didn’t have his best game either when he did get the ball.
Sub Line Up:
Daniel (for Blair, 54) 4 Very disappointing. Didn’t show the energy I expected to see when he came on as sub.
Beardsley (for Lambe, 64) 5 A couple of poor headers.
J.Thomas (for Rose, 88) - On to try and grab a late equaliser a la Oxford I suppose. I would have brought him on earlier for the frustrating Rose.
Subs not used: Jensen, Chapman, McGuire, Baxendale.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-4-2): Mildenhall; J Clarke, Lockyer, McChrystal, Brown; Bodin, Mansell, Lines (O Clarke, 85), Montano; Taylor (Harrison, 83) Easter (McBurnie, 52). Subs not used: Puddy, Leadbitter, Broom, Parkes.
Dean Whitestone 6.5 Generally handled the game ok. Booking of Benning looked harsh and then didn’t booked James Clarke for very similar offence.

Season 15/16 Reports