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8th April 2021 23:55

English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Exeter City 0 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: behind closed doors

Date: 5 April 2021

Martin Shaw at St James Park

A good solid performance from Mansfield Town earned a 0-0 draw at Exeter City this afternoon. Exeter are the top scorers in League Two but were restricted to only one real chance in the entire game when Aidan Stone had to make a good save at the end of the first half. It could easily have been a victory for the Stags who went close on a few occasions, and in my opinion the Stags did enough to argue that they would have deserved the victory if they could have got it.

The Stags were on the front foot from the start and went within a whisker of opening the scoring inside the opening 2 minutes. Stephen Quinn cut inside Matt Jay on the left and curled a lovely ball into the middle. George Lapslie, with his back to goal near the penalty spot, turned and in one movement hooked a volley inches wide of the right post. It was a magnificent effort.

After 22 minutes, good play from Lapslie with a ball inside from the right to Jordan Bowery who slid a super ball forward for Ollie Clarke who had surged into the box and Clarke’s shot was deflected wide of the left post, and not far away from falling kindly for Tyrese Sinclair, who incidentally had a very good game on his first league start. The resulting corner, taken by Sinclair, was headed out to Quinn who volleyed just over the bar from 20 yards, trying to recreate his stunning goal at Tranmere just over a week ago. Sinclair had the ball in the net after 29 minutes after Bowery had chested down but the whistle had already gone for a foul by Bowery.

After 34 minutes, Stephen McLaughlin cut inside from the left touchline 30 yards out and made a great run into the area before firing a powerful low shot at goal which keeper Jokull Andresson got down low to parry away and there was no Stags player to pounce on the rebound before defender Tom Parkes cleared away.

So four good chances for the Stags in the first half, not including the disallowed goal. Exeter had just one decent opportunity, and in came in stoppage time of the end of the first half, as Josh Key got away from Lapslie on the right touchline and dinked a great high ball into the middle, Jack Sparkes attacked it, getting above James Perch and heading it down towards the bottom left corner of the net, but Stone got down quickly to make a really excellent save and push it away.

Into the second half, and it was the Stags creating more of the chances. After 58 minutes, good play from Sinclair, then a fine ball forward from Quinn for Bowery to run on to, Bowery turned inside and from his cross, Ollie Clarke got in a header but it was well wide. Both Clarke and Lapslie had made good runs forward to try to get on the end of something.

Exeter had brought on Randell Williams at half time. He is returning from a long term injury and is a fine player. After 70 minutes, he cut inside from the right and made his way inside trying to find space for a shot. He got past Ryan Sweeney but when he finally did get in a shot, Perch did well to get in a block.

After 73 minutes, Quinn played a ball forward from the left, Exeter defender Pierce Sweeney slipped, allowing Sinclair a free run at goal from the left, and from a tight angle level with the edge of the six-yard box, Sinclair fired goalwards, but keeper Andresson was equal to it, blocking it away for a corner.

Controversy after 80 minutes as Mansfield had claims for a penalty. A ricochet off Quinn as Matt Jay tried to clear, the ball ballooned forward into the box. Pierce Sweeney went to try and clear, but as he did so, Tyrese Sinclair got in front of him between Pierce Sweeney and the ball. I was a long way from it in real time, level with the edge of the penalty area at the far end, and could not tell if it was a penalty or not. From watching the video replay frame by frame (we only have the main camera footage), it seems that Sinclair gets to the ball first, but it’s difficult to tell if he is clipped by Pierce Sweeney or not as the view is obscured by another player Tom Parkes. So I think it’s impossible to tell from that angle if it should have been a penalty or not. The referee decided it was a dive by Sinclair and booked him. Nigel Clough was furious after the game saying that from his angle “It was stonewall and I looked straight across to their dugout, who were waiting for it to be given. Then the referee compounded it by booking Tyrese for diving, which was a staggering decision. He has gone clear of the back four and fouled from behind. Even the lad said to Ty he got away with one. It was a stonewall penalty.”

After 87 minutes, Perch curled a cross into the area from the right, Quinn attacked it with a header from 14 yards but was well-wide.

The Stags ended the game in stoppage time with successive corners but were unable to find the winner that their play probably deserved, at least in my opinion. Plenty of good performances throughout the side, indeed nobody had a bad game. Tyrese Sinclair was my pick for man of the match on his first league start and could have been the hero had that penalty been given and converted. Stephen Quinn also had a very good game indeed as did plenty of others.

A word following the back-pass disasters from Friday, there was clearly a conscious plan not to back-pass today unless it was absolutely necessary. I did ask Nigel Clough about it after the game, and he told me that even before Friday’s game he tells players not to pass back if they don’t need to.

So a good draw for the Stags from a solid performance. In truth there have been too many draws this season, but as Nigel Clough regularly says, if you can’t win the game, make sure you don’t lose it. That is 18 draws in total this season. The club record for most draws in a season for Mansfield is 20 (set in 1971-72 and 1995-96). Two more draws in the final 6 games of the season would equal that. It’s not particularly a record you want to equal or beat, but it does tell part of the story of the season.

A word on Nigel Clough’s record at Mansfield since he came in. Remember that in the 11 leagues games before he came in this season, Mansfield had not won a game and had just 7 points. Since he has come in, Mansfield have played 29 games, won 9, drawn 11, lost 9, points 38, goal difference zero. This is basically mid-table form, and very much better than what went before it, this season or last season.

The Stags remain in 19th place with 6 games left. Bottom club Grimsby drew again, and remain 11 points behind Mansfield, although they have 7 games left. Second bottom Southend play tomorrow, away to Morecambe. They are 10 points behind Mansfield, also with 7 games left. Mansfield’s goal difference is more than 20 better than both of the bottom two so is effectively worth an extra point.

Mansfield made four changes from the side that gifted the game to Leyton Orient on Good Friday. Sweeney came in for Gordon (Perch switched to right back), McLaughlin came in for Benning, Ollie Clarke came in for Law, Sinclair came in for Reid.

Nigel Clough explained why Gordon and Reid were dropped: “Reidy needed a rest and also as a consequence of his error on Friday. Kellan has made two errors [in the last two games]. Players have to understand that there is a consequence for errors that they make.”

Jason Law has played 11 games on the trot and probably needed a rest. It was important to get Ollie Clarke back in the starting XI. It was Tyrese Sinclair’s first league start.

It was a 4-4-2 formation with Sinclair alongside Bowery up front, and a diamond in midfield, with Maris in front of the back four, and Lapslie behind the front two, then Ollie Clarke on the right and Quinn on the left.

When asked after the game if he is looking for the perfect starting XI between now and the end of the season, Clough laughed and replied “I don’t think we are going to find that between now and the end of the season. Hopefully a bit closer to it come August!”



Mansfield Town secure hard-earned point at promotion hopefuls Exeter City
chad.co.uk, By Duncan Browne, Monday 5th April 2021

Mansfield Town’s winless run might have extended to seven League Two matches, but the Stags impressed on the road in an entertaining goalless draw at play-off hopefuls Exeter.

The Stags will continue their search for a first away success since January, but they gave Exeter a real run for their money in this one and manager Nigel Clough will surely take heart from his team’s overall performance.

The Stags made a hugely positive start to the game in sun-drenched Devon, and almost struck in the opening minutes.


Stephen Quinn crossed in for George Lapslie, and he flicked an effort inches off target.

Jordan Bowery was looking lively, and he saw a goal-bound effort blocked as the Stags maintained their impressive early momentum.

Mid-way through the opening period the Stags almost went in front in spectacular style as Quinn’s cracking volley from distance only just cleared the crossbar.

Boss Clough will have undoubtedly been pleased with the start his side had made, but Exeter went close on the half-hour mark when Lewis Page’s shot was narrowly off target.

Back came the battling Stags, and in the 33rd minute full-back Stephen McLaughlin drilled in a strike which Icelandic keeper Jokull Andresson saved competently.

Shortly before the interval Stags’ ‘keeper Aidan Stone was called upon to push a diving header from Matt Jay round the post.

It had been an encouraging opening 45 minutes from Clough’s men, but they couldn’t find what would probably have been a deserved breakthrough against an Exeter side whose promotion tilt has faltered of late, thanks to four defeats in their previous five games.

Just before the hour mark the Stags went close following a rapid break out of defence.

The ball was worked out to Bowery, whose smart cross was headed inches off target by the unfortunate Ollie Clarke.

Referee Carl Brook then faced strong penalty claims from the Stags players after Tyrese Sinclair looked to have been bundled over in the Exeter area, but the man in the middle remained unmoved.

Sinclair then forced Andresson into another decent stop, but the victory wouldn’t quite come, though a clean sheet will also surely please Clough.

Exeter: Andresson, Key (Caprice, 76), Sweeney, Parkes, Page, Willmott (Seymour, 83), Taylor, Collins, Sparkes (Williams, 46), Bowman, Jay. Subs not used: Atangana, McArdle, Lee, Kite.

Stags: Stone, Perch, Rawson, Sweeney, McLaughlin, Maris, O Clarke, Lapslie, Quinn, Bowery, Sinclair (Reid, 83). Subs not used: Stech, Benning, Charsley, Gordon. Ward, Law.

Referee: Carl Brook.


Exeter City 0 Mansfield Town 0 - Grecians drop more points in disappointing draw
It is now just one win in six for City who are now slipping further away from the top seven after another game with just one shot on target

By Stuart James, 5 APR 2021


EXETER City’s promotion hopes are fading fast as their poor Easter finished with a dire goalless draw against Mansfield Town at St James Park.

After a team meeting was held in the week of a shocking 1-0 loss at Port Vale on Good Friday, hopes were high of some sort of response from the Grecians. But on a cold day where the swirling wind did little to make things easy, they barely created a chance against a Stags side that have now not won in seven.

Exeter made three changes to the side that lost in such meek fashion at Port Vale. Captain Jake Taylor returned to the midfield in place of Nigel Atangana, while Pierce Sweeney came in at centre half alongside Tom Parkes.

Alex Hartridge was ruled out with a hamstring injury while Rory McArdle dropped to a bench that included Atangana and Harry Kite, coming in for the injured Hartridge.

Mansfield started well with George Lapslie hooking a shot wide inside two minutes, while Ollie Clarke was booked moments later for a nasty late tackle on Archie Collins, which was borderline red.

The first quarter was devoid of any quality and very error-strewn. The swirling wind did not make things easy, for sure, but it was a game played between two teams clearly lacking in confidence.

Exeter survived another scare when Clarke was played in on the City left, but his shot deflected narrowly wide, while City’s first attempt came on 31 minutes when Collins picked out Lewis Page, who advanced forward, but drilled his shot high into a vacant Big Bank.

Stephen McLaughlin was allowed to run and run and run from full-back, only to fire straight at Jokull Andresson, while a poor half came tom a close when Collins did well on the right and stood the ball up to the back post where Jack Sparkes met it with a good header that Aidan Stone did well to push away.

Randell Williams replaced Sparkes at the start of the second half, but it was another sloppy start. In fact, Exeter were fortunate to be reduced to ten men when Page tried a backpass on halfway and left it short. As Stephen Quinn looked to race onto it and charge in on goal, the former Charlton man pulled him down, but he escaped with a yellow.

Jordan Bowery headed well wide from a swift Mansfield attack, while City’s best move led to Williams getting free on the right but with Jay in acres of space, his cross was poor and cleared to safety. On a day of so few chances, it was a great opportunity.

Williams saw a shot blocked after slaloming his way through the Stags defence, while Andresson came to City’s rescue when Sinclair took advantage of Sweeney’s slip, but was denied by the Exeter goalkeeper.

Josh Key was replaced by Jake Caprice with 14 minutes remaining and Mansfield were screaming for a penalty when Sinclair went down inside the box. The referee blew - but booked the striker for diving.

With nine minutes remaining, two Exeter academy graduates entered the fray - Ben Seymour for the Grecians and Jamie Reid for Mansfield. But neither player made an impact as a dire game drifted to a conclusion that did nothing to City’s ever decreasing hopes of promotion.

Exeter City: (4-4-2) - Jokull Andresson, Josh Key (Jake Caprice, 76), Pierce Sweeney, Tom Parkes, Lewis Page, Robbie Willmott (Ben Seymour, 83), Jake Taylor, Archie Collins, Jack Sparkes (Randell Williams, HT), Matt Jay, Ryan Bowman.

Subs: Harry Lee, Nigel Atangana, Rory McArdle, , Harry Kite.

Booking: Parkes, Page, Collins, Bowman

Mansfield Town (4-4-2): Aidan Stone, James Perch, Farrend Rawson, Ryan Sweeney, Stephen McLaughlin, , George Maris, Ollie Clarke, Stephen Quinn, George Lapslie, Jordan Bowery, Tyrese Sinclair (Jamie Reid, 83).

Subs: Marek Stech, Malvind Benning, Harry Charsley, Kellan Gordon, , Keaton Ward, Jason Law.

Booking: Clarke, Sinclair