{ match reports }
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 18/19 Stagsnet Match Report
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Tranmere Rovers  
0 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 5466 (287 from Mansfield)
Date: 21 August 2018


Martin Shaw at Prenton Park

The last time Mansfield Town visited Tranmere four years ago, the two sides played out an abysmal 0-0 draw, one of the worst games of football I’ve ever seen the Stags involved in. Last night, it was another 0-0 draw, but this time it was an exciting game and one that either side could have won. The Stags played some neat football but lacked that killer instinct as chances went begging, the best of which was for Tyler Walker who shot wide when clean through on goal, a really glorious chance that he should have converted. Otis Khan had four shots saved, including one great effort from 20 yards which was magnificently tipped over by the keeper, and Krystian Pearce had a header hacked off the line by Connor Jennings. At the other end, Stags keeper Bobby Olejnik, brought in to replace Conrad Logan, had a good game with two good saves, a brilliant tip over the bar from Manny Monthe’s close range header, and a good save with his legs from James Norwood. Overall, the Stags just about shaded it though I think a draw was a fair result. So Mansfield remain unbeaten, but three draws from four games is hurting the league position and over the course of the season more draws will need to be turned into wins if the Stags are to mount a promotion push. The Stags go to the other newly promoted side, Macclesfield, on Saturday. Macclesfield are equal bottom of the table, with just one point from 4 games.

Mansfield made three changes from the side that was held 1-1 by Colchester on Saturday. Conrad Logan was dropped after his last minute howler that gifted Colchester their equaliser. In came Bobby Olejnik, for only his second league appearance since he joined the club over a year ago. Manager Flitcroft explained after the game that he was expecting Tranmere to put in a lot of crosses and “collecting crosses is Bobby’s strength”. Two other changes: Craig Davies came back into the starting eleven after his goal-scoring appearance as sub on Saturday. And Neal Bishop came back as well. Out went Calum Butcher and Jacob Mellis. Hayden White started, having travelled separately from the squad, from Kings Mill hospital, with his partner expecting a baby. Flitcroft had planned for White not making the game, and was going to start young Lewis Gibbens for his league debut.

Tranmere were without former Stags defender Ritchie Sutton through injury.

It is Tranmere’s first season back in the Football League after three seasons in the Conference.

The Stags were the first to create a chance, on three minutes. Khan fired in a snap-shot from the edge of the box left footed, keeper Scott Davies held it at the second attempt with Walker sniffing and waiting for any slip-up.

On 7 minutes, Ollie Banks played a 1-2 on the left from his own corner, and sent in a low shot that was deflected and Olejnik made a competent save.

On 8 minutes, Bishop sent a shot from 30 yards just over the bar.

Wonderful play from Otis Khan on 12 minutes, as he dribbled from 35 yards out, cut inside from the left and curled a fabulous effort towards the roof of the net where keeper Scott Davies magnificently turned it over the bar.

A positive start from Mansfield.

Olejnik made a good save on 15 minutes. Cole Stockton laid off to James Norwood who ran at goal and fired low towards the left corner of the net from 12 yards from an angle on the right. Olejnik saved with his legs.

Olejnik made a good punch away from a free kick on 20 minutes. Then a great touch from Pearce to deny Stockton as Stockton was about to shoot inside the box.

Davies was not far away from earning a penalty on 22 minutes. McNulty brought Davies down on the byline in the area, but the referee adjudged that Davies had already fouled McNulty. From the video, I think the referee made the right call.

Good defending from Hamilton 24 minutes, as Jonny Smith got into the area 12 yards from goal and Hamilton got the ball away.

Great play down the left side from Mansfield on 30 minutes. Bishop to Benning to Khan, Khan laid off to Davies, and Davies returned the ball to him with a super reverse pass, putting Khan 1-on-1 with the keeper but from a tight angle on the left. The keeper was out quickly and Khan’s shot nearly went through his legs, but the keeper did block the ball with his legs.

On 31 minutes, Norwood’s shot from 30 yards was deflected for a corner. A minute later, Connor Jennings’ shot from 30 yards was also deflected for a corner.

White was booked for a foul on 34 minutes.

Good interplay between Walker and Davies on the edge of the area on 39 minutes, but the ball ran through to the keeper.

The Stags went close on 40 minutes. Great play from Khan on the edge of the area, he found Bishop, whose shot was deflected just the wrong side of the post, when it could easily have nestled inside the post. From Khan’s floated corner, Pearce headed wide.

On 43 minutes, Walker put in a great low cross from the right and McNulty smashed it behind for a corner, only a yard wide of his own post.

MacDonald nearly put Davies in on goal on 45+1 minutes, but the keeper was out to claim.

0-0 at the break, just about right. A great effort from Khan tipped over, Khan also through on goal thwarted by the keeper, and Bishop’s shot deflected wide. At the other end, one notable save from Olejnik from Norwood.

Half time 0-0

On 49 minutes, right back Jake Caprice skipped past Benning too easily and his cross was knocked behind for a corner. Tranmere were quickly out of the blocks.

On 51 minutes, a good break from Walker to Khan, and his cross-shot looped up on to the roof of the net.

It looked like Davies would get a chance on 53 minutes. A great low cross from Walker from the right, but a couple of defenders surrounded Davies and were just able to clear.

Caprice played inside to Jonny Smith on 55 minutes, and his low shot was deflected for a corner.

The home fans were loud in their support of the home team now.

A mistake from Pearce on 59 minutes, giving the ball away, but a great glancing header away by White from the resulting cross to rescue him.

Atkinson replaced Benning on 59 minutes. Benning had had a poor game. Hamilton switched from right to left, Atkinson went in at right wing back.

Khan was gifted the ball on 62 minutes and curled a shot goalwards, but straight into the keeper’s arms.

Good defending by Sweeney on 63 minutes. He had another assured game.

A free kick for the Stags 25 yards out to the left of centre on 64 minutes. Khan took it short to Davies whose low shot was straight at the keeper. The keeper held it well, and it was nice to see three Stags players sniffing around hoping for the keeper to spill it.

Bishop conceded a free kick on 67 minutes. However with Bishop on the floor, Bishop believed he was hit. The officials didn’t see it, nor did I, and nor was it visible from the video. Ollie Banks took the resulting free kick, a super one, into the corridor of uncertainty in the area but no-one could get a touch on it.

Sweeney did well to clean up as Norwood and Mottley-Henry broke into the box on 72 minutes. Then Norwood’s shot on 75 minutes had the sting taken out of it by a deflection and straight through to Olejnik.

On 78 minutes, Hamilton’s super low ball across from the left, and an air shot from Davies, completely missing it on the edge of the box.

A double change for the Stags on 78 minutes. Butcher replaced Khan, and Rose replaced Davies.

A Stags corner on 79 minutes, and Walker blocked a shot from his own man MacDonald, though from the video, MacDonald’s shot was going wide.

Olejnik made a brilliant tip over the bar from Monthe’s close range header from Banks’ great free kick on 80 minutes. It was heading into the roof of the net.

The Stags should have won it on 81 minutes. A handball by Butcher was not spotted by the officials, to the anger of the home bench and fans. The Stags broke forward superbly with a great run from Hamilton from well inside his own half, straight down the middle, he laid off to his right to Walker. Walker only had the keeper to beat, but fired wide of the right post. Walker should have scored from there.

The Stags were certainly not settling for a draw.

On 88 minutes, MacDonald’s corner from the left, Pearce’s header towards goal was hacked off the line by Connor Jennings.

On 90 minutes, a shot from Norwood was going wide, but Olejnik couldn’t take any chances and pushed it further wide. A minute later, Monthe headed well wide from a Banks corner.

In the final minute of stoppage time, Atkinson unwisely fouled Mottley-Henry just outside the area. The free kick would be the last kick of the game. Memories of Saturday still raw. Thankfully Banks sent his shot over the bar, and put his head in his hands as the referee blew the whistle.

A good game for the 5000 home fans, 287 travelling Stags fans, and more watching the live feed on iFollow, available to UK fans for the first time. The landscape of English football is changing. Every league game, across the Championship, League One and League Two, outside of the blackout periods of 3-5pm on Saturdays, and Bank Holidays, will be available to watch live on the internet or Sky from this season.

Man of the match: Bobby Olejnik

Report by: Martin Shaw at Prenton Park

Line Up:
Olejnik 8 Just his second league game for Mansfield. Brilliant tip over the bar from close range header, and a good save with his legs from Norwood. One good punch away as well.
White 7.5 Great commitment to the team to travel on his own to the game with his partner expecting a baby. Played well, with one great header away from a dangerous cross.
Pearce 7 One mistake when he was rescued by White, but otherwise played well. Great touch to deny Stockton as he was about to shoot.
Sweeney 7.5 Several bits of good defending under pressure. Calm and composed.
Hamilton 7.5 Good defending in the first half to deny Smith a chance to shoot. Super low ball from the left to set up a chance for Davies. Great run from well inside his own half to set up the chance of the game for Walker.
MacDonald 7 Good corner late on to set up a chance for Pearce. Decent game.
Bishop 7.5 Good game, sitting in the middle of the park, protecting the defence and laying off to others.
Khan 7.5 Plenty of really impressive bits of play. Wonderful shot brilliantly tipped over. Three other chances and should have scored with one of them.
Benning 5 Not his night at all, poor game. Beaten regularly by Caprice. Flitcroft said after the game that Mal was having one of those nights where nothing went right.
Walker 6 Missed the chance of the night which he really should have converted. A couple of great low crosses from the right.
Davies 6.5 Great reverse pass to set up a chance for Khan. One shot from a free kick which he got on target.
Sub Line Up:
Atkinson (for Benning, 59 mins) - Unwisely fouled Mottley-Henry just outside the area right at the end of the game, and fortunately the free kick by Banks was over the bar.
Butcher (for Khan, 78 mins) -
Rose (for Davies, 78 mins) -
Subs not used: Logan, Gibbens, Mellis, Sterling-James.
Opposition Line Up:
(4-4-2): Scott Davies; Caprice, McNulty, Ellis, Monthe; Smith (Mottley-Henry 70), McCulloch, Banks, Connor Jennings; Norwood, Stockton. Subs not used: George, Tollitt, Mullin, Gilmour, Cole, Spellman.
Thomas Bramall 7 Not much controversy in the game and got most things about right. Missed the handball by Butcher in the build-up to Walker’s chance.

Season 18/19 Reports