Lee 32, McKirdy 57
Attendance: 2716 (100 from Stevenage)
Date: 29 October 2016
STAGS BEATEN AT HOME BY STEVENAGE
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Mansfield Town slumped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Stevenage this afternoon. Stevenage came into the game one point and one place outside the relegation zone but took all three points from a Mansfield side who lacked quality for most of the afternoon. Manager Adam Murray talked pre match about the plan to get lots of crosses into the Stevenage box and he selected Kevan Hurst and Mal Benning to play as wingers to get behind the Stevenage defence but the plan didn’t work and the quality of crossing was mostly poor. The first half was even but Stevenage took the lead with a header from a free kick as Mansfield’s defence, which has been fairly solid defending set pieces this season, was breached with Charlie Lee heading in. A rare good cross from Hurst created Mansfield’s best chance of the first half as Benning, unmarked with the goal at his mercy, headed over the bar from close range. A bad miss. The other notable moment of the first half was a well-worked short corner between Hurst and Benning but the ball was blocked. Another scoreless first half for Mansfield at home, the 10th time out of 10 in league and cup games this season. The Stags were level on 54 minutes with a great turn and shot in the six-yard box by Pat Hoban. His first goal at the One Call Stadium. But euphoria turned to despair within three minutes as Mansfield, with almost everyone committed forward from a free kick, hit the self-destruct button, with Benning disastrously giving the ball away, and Aston Villa loanee Harry McKirdy running 50 yards before tucking the ball past Scott Shearer. It was a good goal from McKirdy but a terrible error from Benning. Mansfield had plenty of pressure in the remaining half hour but a mixture of inaccurate passing and crossing and a solid defence from Stevenage kept the Stags out. The closest Mansfield came was a header into the side netting by Benning after a great cross from Jack Thomas. Rhys Bennett also fired wide four times. Then with the last touch of the game, Darius Henderson headed just over the bar from a corner. Huge frustration for Mansfield and disappointment at full time. The Stags drop to 13th, 3 points outside the play-offs and 4 points above the relegation zone in a very tight league table, a third of the way through the season.
Mansfield made one change from the side that drew at Luton: in came Alex Iacovitti at left back. Out went Mitch Rose. Benning switched to left midfield, with Hurst on the right. Hoban and Green continued up front, their first start together at home.
In the first minute, Bennett cut inside onto his left foot and shot goalwards, it trickled towards goal, and Green nearly got on the end of it. On 6 minutes, a free kick from the right hand side for Mansfield just outside the area. Benning took it but it was half-blocked by the way.
Pearce picked up a head injury from a clash of heads and was off the pitch for several minutes. At one point it seemed like Jamie McGuire was going to come on as sub, but Pearce eventually returned.
A first chance for Stevenage on 16 minutes as Henry Cowans, son of Gordon Cowans, shot well over the bar on the turn.
A well-worked short corner for Mansfield on 17 minutes, Benning to Hurst, back to Benning, Benning square to Collins, who slid the ball forward to Hurst, and his low cross towards Howkins was blocked. Clever move which would have been a truly outstanding goal if it had come off.
On 21 minutes, a snapshot volley from Hurst was just over the bar from 25 yards.
On 24 minutes, a good tackle from Pearce on the edge of his own area.
On 25 minutes, a good move from the Stags after Hoban won the ball, but a poor cross from Hurst to waste it. At the other end on 29 minutes, King got into a good position on the right but wasted his cross with Shearer out of position. Back to the other end on 30 minutes, and another poor cross from Hurst.
Stevenage took the lead on 32 minutes. A free kick on the left, 30 yards out was whipped in and little Charlie Lee stole in front of Collins and headed in. Shearer got a hand on it but couldn’t keep it out. Uncharacteristically dozy defending.
On 35 minutes, Hoban nodded down to Green, whose shot was blocked. A minute later, Benning got away down the left but was cynically brought down. A yellow card for the defender and a free kick for Mansfield was scant reward. Clements took the free kick from the left which was cleared. It came back out to Benning whose cross was straight to the keeper.
The Stags should have been level on 37 minutes. A brilliant cross from the right by Hurst found Benning unmarked inside the six yard box with the goal at his mercy, but he headed over the bar. Benning hasn’t scored with a header for Mansfield and the chance fell to the wrong player.
On 44 minutes, Bennett crossed from the right and there was a blatant push on Benning in the six yard box, but the referee wasn’t interested.
On 45+4 minutes, Gorman was booked for shoving Benning off the ball.
On 45+5 minutes, Collins crossed from the right, and Pearce sent a looping header over the bar.
Stevenage ahead at the break. It had been fairly even but the Stags’ crossing had been poor, with the exception of the chance for Benning, and the Stags hadn’t got forward enough in the way Adam Murray had hoped.
Half time 0-1
Jack Thomas replaced Alex Iacovitti on 49 minutes. Benning reverted to full back, Hurst moved to the left and Jack Thomas to the right.
On 51 minutes, Lee shot with the outside of his right boot and Shearer made a great diving save.
The Stags were level on 54 minutes. Bennett crossed from the right, the keeper dived to stop it creeping under his far at the far post, and pushed the ball to Hurst on the left. Hurst knocked the ball back into the middle to Hoban. A great turn by Hoban on the edge of the six yard box, he got a bit of luck as the ball cannoned off a defender, and he fired in from 4 yards. His first goal for the Stags at the One Call Stadium.
On 56 minutes, Kennedy went down in the Stags area but it was no penalty.
Stevenage regained the lead on 57 minutes. Mansfield had a free kick in Stevenage’s half. Thomas played the ball to Benning, who took a touch and then tried a square pass, which went straight to Kennedy who played in McKirdy. McKirdy ran 50 yards, outpacing Collins, before tucking the ball past Shearer. It was a good goal from McKirdy but a terrible error from Benning.
Stevenage could have extended their lead on 63 minutes, when following a long throw, Cowans had a shot blocked and then sent the rebound over the bar.
Henderson replaced Hurst on 64 minutes. The Stags reverted to 3 central defenders including Collins, with Bennett and Benning pushing forward as wing-backs. It was Benning’s third different position of the match.
On 66 minutes, Kennedy crossed from the left, it flew across the box with McKirdy trying to force the ball home. McKirdy was booked, and it seems like he handballed it deliberately though after the game McKirdy tried to claim that he was pushed in the back.
On 69 minutes, Benning put in a better cross, which was deflected behind for a corner. The corner flew through everyone and out for a goal kick on the other side.
Henderson went down in the area on 71 minutes, but there was no penalty. Seconds later, Henderson headed towards the top right corner of the net but the keeper punched away.
On 73 minutes, Benning crossed and Hoban headed over.
Danny Rose replaced Hoban on 73 minutes. We wouldn’t have made that change with Hoban playing well and having scored.
On 74 minutes, Bennett had a shot deflected wide. At the other end on 76 minutes, Liburd shot from a tight angle and Shearer saved, when there was a Stevenage player unmarked in the middle. The Stags were by now very open at the back.
Mansfield should have equalised on 78 minutes. A great cross from Jack Thomas from the right, and Benning headed into the side netting when many thought it had gone in.
On 81 minutes, a free kick from Benning, Howkins headed down but it just ran through to the keeper. On 85 minutes, yet another poor cross from Mansfield, this time from Collins. Then on 87 minutes, Bennett’s cross was too close to the keeper. The Stags were now making elementary mistakes giving the ball away all over the park.
On 90 minutes, a corner for the Stags, Shearer started to come forward but was waved back. Benning took it, but it was too close to the keeper.
Then a Benning long throw was headed on by Pearce, and Green flicked just wide.
On 90+2 minutes, Bennett cut onto his left foot and shot over the bar. Then on 90+4 another Stags corner was cleared away and it was Jack Thomas’s turn to put in a terrible cross.
On 90+6 minutes, Danny Rose tried an acrobatic shot, it fell to Bennett who fired wide again. Then Bennett cut inside again and his shot was deflected wide of the right post. The chances were falling to the wrong players.
In the 7th minute of 6 minutes added on, a Stags corner from the right, and Henderson headed just over the bar. With that the referee blew for full time.
Huge frustration for Mansfield. A chorus of boos at the final whistle.
FURTHER REFLECTIONS (MY WEEKLY BLOG FOR THE CHAD NEWSPAPER):
QUALITY OF CROSSES LETS STAGS DOWN
Mansfield Town slumped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Stevenage on Saturday. Stevenage came into the game one point and one place outside the relegation zone but took all three points from a Mansfield side who lacked quality for most of the afternoon.
Manager Adam Murray said in his press interview last week “I like being organised. I like not conceding goals. I like being solid and hard to beat. But I am not stupid. I know that at times I do need to take more risks. That’s something as an individual I am working on.” That was a clear message that he intended to be more positive than previous home games, where the Stags had only won twice this season.
Murray’s game plan was to get in as many crosses as possible into the Stevenage box. Mansfield’s best crossers of the ball are probably Kevan Hurst, Mal Benning and Jack Thomas in my opinion. Murray selected Hurst and Benning to start the game and played them essentially as right and left wingers to get behind the Stevenage defence. It was a sensible game plan but the plan didn’t work and the quality of crossing was mostly poor through the game with just a few exceptions.
A side effect of the plan was that Benning twice found himself with free headers at the far post, but you’d have wanted the chances to fall to almost anyone else as he sent both headers off target when he should have scored.
Matt Green had scored in 4 consecutive matches, but he never received sufficient service to give him a chance of keeping that run going and approaching the club record of scoring in 10 consecutive matches, set by Harry Johnson in 1932.
The first half was even but Stevenage took the lead when a free kick from the left was whipped in and little Charlie Lee stole in front of Lee Collins and headed in. Uncharacteristically dozy defending from the Stags who have been fairly solid defending set pieces this season.
The Stags were 1-0 down at the break, making it another scoreless first half for Mansfield at home, the 10th time out of 10 in league and cup games this season. A disappointing statistic.
The Stags were level soon after the break. Rhys Bennett crossed from the right, the keeper dived to stop it creeping under his far at the far post, and pushed the ball to Hurst on the left. Hurst knocked the ball back into the middle to Pat Hoban. A great turn by Hoban on the edge of the six yard box, he got a bit of luck as the ball cannoned off a defender, and he fired in from 4 yards. A great moment for Hoban and his first goal for the Stags at the One Call Stadium.
But euphoria turned to despair within three minutes as Mansfield, with almost everyone committed forward from a free kick, hit the self-destruct button, with Benning disastrously giving the ball away. Jack Thomas played the ball to Benning, who took a touch and then tried a square pass, which went straight to Ben Kennedy who played in Aston Villa loanee Harry McKirdy. McKirdy ran 50 yards, outpacing Lee Collins, before tucking the ball past Shearer. It was a good goal from McKirdy but a terrible error from Benning.
Mansfield had plenty of pressure in the remaining half hour after that but a mixture of inaccurate passing and crossing and a solid defence from Stevenage kept the Stags out. Rhys Bennett got into position for four shots but all went wide. When added to Benning’s headers, it was a case of the chances falling to the wrong players.
Then with the last touch of the game, Darius Henderson headed just over the bar from a corner. Huge frustration for Mansfield and disappointment at full time.
With a break from the league now for two cup ties, and one third of the way through the season, the Stags are 13th in the table, 3 points outside the play-offs and 4 points above the relegation zone, bang in the middle of a very tight league table, with the same number of wins as defeats, and a zero goal difference. After the game there were some calls of “Murray Out”. With Mansfield in the middle of the table, that’s very premature in my opinion. I went on record at the start of the season that my expectation for the season was to be top half and pushing for the play-offs, and that finishing somewhere between mid-table and the play-offs would still be a success in my opinion. The Stags are still on track for that.
Man of the match: Pat Hoban
Report by: Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Shearer 6.5 Made one great save. Couldn’t be faulted for the goals.
Bennett 5 Got forward a lot, shot wide four times. Some poor crosses.
Howkins 6 Defended ok.
Pearce 7 Pick of the defence.
Iacovitti 6 Did ok at left back.
Collins 6 Ok.
Hurst 5 One great cross for Benning, but that was a rarity, most crosses were poor quality.
Clements 5 Didn’t feature enough.
Benning 4 Bad error for the second goal. Missed glorious chance in first half with a header. Some poor crosses. Kept going right to the end, just wasn’t his day.
Green 6 One shot blocked, otherwise got no service.
Hoban 7.5 Took his goal well. Some well-directed headers in the first half which weren’t capitalised on.
Sub Line Up:
J.Thomas (for Iacovitti, 49 mins) 6 One good cross and one poor cross.
Henderson (for Hurst, 64 mins) - Nearly equalised with a header in stoppage time.
D.Rose (for Hoban, 73 mins) -
Subs not used: Jensen, McGuire, M. Rose, Hamilton.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-4-2): Jones; Henry, Wilkinson, Franks, Ntlhe; Gorman (Pett 55), Lee (Wells 80), King, Cowans; Kennedy, McKirdy (Liburd 70). Subs not used: Day, Fox, Hyde, Tonge.
Mark Heywood 6 Ignored a blatant push on Benning in the six yard box in the first half. Generally handled the game ok.