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STAGS GET THE POINT NEEDED TO MAKE PLAY-OFFS
12th May 2022 0:17


English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town 2 - 2 Forest Green Rovers
Longstaff 17, Bowery 78. Adams 64, March 80
Attendance: 7,374 (473 from Forest Green)

Date: 7 May 2022

STAGS GET THE POINT NEEDED TO MAKE PLAY-OFFS ON DRAMATIC DAY

Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town grabbed the point they needed to make sure of a place in the play-offs, on a dramatic final day in League Two.

The Stags started the day with a chance of automatic promotion, but that would require Bristol Rovers to fail to beat Scunthorpe, and Northampton to fail to beat Barrow, coupled with a win for the Stags against Forest Green. That never looked much of a possibility with Scunthorpe fielding a side with an average age of 19, including a 17 year old keeper while a decent experienced keeper was left on the bench, and they were to lose 7-0 at Bristol Rovers, a result that meant Rovers pipped Northampton for automatic promotion on goals scored, despite Northampton winning 3-1 at Barrow, with points and goal difference the same. In my opinion, it was extremely poor from Scunthorpe, who in going out of the EFL clearly felt they didn’t have to uphold the integrity of the League either by fielding their strongest side, and it was Northampton who suffered as a result.

In order for the Stags to ensure a play-off place, the Stags needed a point against Forest Green. But if the Stags were to lose, then any one of three other games going the Stags’ way would be enough for them to still reach the play-offs; in particular
Sutton to draw or lose at Harrogate
or Swindon to draw or lose at Walsall
or Port Vale to lose at Exeter.

But with just 20 minutes gone this afternoon, it was apparent that the Stags would probably have to do it themselves with Sutton winning at Harrogate, Swindon winning at Walsall and Port Vale level at Exeter, not to mention Northampton and Bristol Rovers also winning.

By then the Stags were also in front. After 17 minutes, Jamie Murphy cut in from the left wing, and from about 25 yards out, he slid a low pass forward. It flicked off the boot of Jordan Bowery on the edge of the area and fell nicely into the path of Matty Longstaff who just had the keeper to beat from 8 yards. Longstaff’s initial shot was well-saved by the keeper but he was able to volley the rebound into the net from 5 yards. A touch of fortune with the goal. Longstaff described it after the game: “Murph’s got the ball and he’s got great vision, he runs with it well, once he cut inside I just tried to run off the blind shoulder. I think it bumped into Bowery but it fell to me and then with a bit of luck after the keeper saved it, it came back to me.”

Forest Green had chances to equalise. On 18 minutes, Ebou Adams got to the byline and pulled a great ball back into the middle for Jamille Matt who fired straight at Nathan Bishop who saved well with his legs. Then the excellent Kane Wilson got to the byline on the right and crossed in for Matt again, who this time headed straight at Bishop.

The Stags could have increased the lead after 45+2 minutes as Rhys Oates got to the byline on the left and his low ball in was flicked wide by Stephen McLaughlin.

Forest Green were level after 64 minutes. Matt put Adams through on goal, in behind Hawkins and O’Toole. Adams got to just outside the area, Bishop came out to meet him, but was left in no-man’s land, as Adams curled the ball past him into the empty net. A misjudgement, in my opinion, from Bishop who had to get the ball in coming right to the edge of his area, and didn’t.

It was squeaky bum time for Mansfield now, who could not afford for Forest Green to take the lead, with all the other results not going the Stags’ way. Forest Green went close as Maris brilliantly blocked a Nicky Cadden shot, and from the resulting Cadden corner, Matt headed just over the bar. Then Wilson played inside to Jack Aitchison who toe-poked a shot goalwards and Bishop saved it by sitting on it!

Forest Green were playing very well with the Stags needing last ditch defending, such as a brilliant tackle by Perch on Cadden, a good header away by Hawkins and good defending by Bowery, before Wilson crossed from the right and with a sight of goal Cadden completely missed his kick.

The Stags desperately needed a second goal and Jordan Bowery raised the roof, providing it after 78 minutes. McLaughlin did well on the left, getting forward to level with the edge of the area, and crossing into the box. Oates tried to head it goalwards but couldn’t and the ball reached Bowery beyond the far post. Bowery hit it first time from a tight angle past the keeper into the net. What a moment!

But within 2 minutes, Forest Green were level again. Udo Godwin-Malife slid a lovely pass forward from 40 yards out into the path of Josh March, on as a substitute for less than a minute. Bishop came out again and got his angles wrong as March lifted the ball past him into the net. Poor goalkeeping from Bishop in my opinion for both goals. The Stags appealed for offside in vain, as March was onside when the ball was played to him.

Squeaky bum again for Mansfield. On 83 minutes, Cadden crossed and Adams headed wide. At the other end, a chance for the Stags to go in front again on 86 minutes as Longstaff put in a great cross and Oates’s flying header was saved low on his line by the keeper.

As the game approached 90 minutes I spotted Nigel Clough in conversation with Forest Green boss Rob Edwards on the touchline. I speculated in commentary on iFollow Stags that they might have said to each other that this result suits both of us. The Stags had the point they needed to make the play-offs, Forest Green had the point they needed to win the title providing Exeter didn’t score a very late equaliser against Port Vale. I was right, and for the four minutes of stoppage time, Forest Green allowed the Stags to keep the ball in their own half and play out time. I asked Nigel Clough about it after the game. He told me that Forest Green suggested it to him. He went over and discussed it with Rob Edwards and they agreed that Forest Green would let Mansfield keep the ball. He also told me the two managers asked the referee to play just two minutes of stoppage time rather than four, but the referee went ahead with four anyway. (There have been two occasions in the last 16 months where the referee has played less stoppage time than he might have done at the request of Clough and the opposition manager, see my reports of Walsall away last season and Scunthorpe away this season).

So a rather surreal end to the game. The Stags were safe in the play-offs, and within seconds of the final whistle, Forest Green were celebrating the title in front of their 450 or so travelling fans. Congratulations to them, they deserved it having been top for almost the entire season.

The Stags did well to earn a draw today. Forest Green played some great football and looked the best side in the league, and the Stags could easily have fallen to defeat which would have been a crushing blow. The defence did enough to prevent more than two goals, while Longstaff and Bowery came up with the crucial goals at the other end. We won’t have to play anyone as good as Forest Green in the play-offs.

The Stags will play Northampton Town in the play-off semi-final, after the Cobblers were pipped by Bristol Rovers to third place. The first leg is next Saturday night at the One Call Stadium (7.45pm), with the second leg the following Wednesday night at Sixfields. Tickets for both legs will be on sale to season ticket holders from Monday morning. As both legs are live on Sky Sports, the games will not be streamed live on iFollow, though of course we will have full match commentary as always.

The excitement of a roller coaster season continues.

The Stags finish the regular league season with the second most home wins in League (15), after Tranmere (16), who failed to make the play-offs on the final day. Of course, 13 of those Stags home wins came in the final 15 home games of the season, quite incredible really.

Mansfield will hope to put that home form to good use in the first leg against Northampton.

The Stags ended the season in 7th place with 77 points, the best points tally in the Football League for 20 years since 2001/2002, when 79 points earned automatic promotion. It was 1 point more than the 76 points in 2018/2019 under David Flitcroft when the Stags were to lose in the play-offs to Newport, and 2 points more than the 75 points in 2003/2004 under Keith Curle when the Stags beat Northampton in the play-offs but lost to Huddersfield at the Millenium Stadium.
The Stags finished 3 points behind promoted Bristol Rovers, but were effectively 4 points short of automatic promotion given the inferior goal difference.

A word on the attendance of 7,374 with 473 from Forest Green. It was the biggest attendance at home this season. In fact it was the biggest attendance at home since November 2017, 7,525 against Chesterfield. And it was the biggest attendance in the home stands since we were promoted back from the Conference. The attendance will be beaten I’m sure next Saturday when I’d expect an attendance of about 8,500 (about 6,900 Stags fans plus about 1,600 Cobblers fans).

DETAILED REPORT IN THE MATCH CENTRE

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SAT 07 MAY 2022, LEAGUE TWO
Mansfield Town 2-2 Forest Green Rovers: Draw seals title for Rovers
M Longstaff (17'minutes), Bowery (78'minutes)
Adams (64'minutes), March (80'minutes)
Assists
McLaughlin (78'minutes)
Matt (64'minutes), Godwin-Malife (80'minutes)

bbc.co.uk

Forest Green Rovers boss Rob Edwards said clinching the League Two title felt "surreal" after drawing with a Mansfield Town side that hung on to claim a play-off spot on a chaotic final day at the One Call Stadium.

Rovers twice came from behind to claim the point they needed to ensure they overtook Exeter at the summit, with the Grecians finishing second after being beaten by Port Vale.

On-loan Newcastle United midfielder Matty Longstaff had put the hosts ahead before the break, with Ebou Adams restoring parity just after the hour mark.

Two goals in two season-defining late minutes saw Jordan Bowery restore Mansfield's lead before Josh March hit back to snatch the point the Gloucestershire side required to be crowned fourth division champions for the first time ever.

"We've had a lot of titanic battles this year and tough games right the way through," Edwards told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

"It still is a little bit surreal. I know we've been there for a long, long time but maybe I still didn't quite believe it was going to happen.

"But we've finished on top and it's incredible."

The hard-fought, dramatically sealed draw in Nottinghamshire capped a stunning season for Edwards' side, who will play in England's third tier for the first time in their history next season.

The result means Mansfield finish seventh in the table and will face Northampton in the play-off semi-finals, starting with the home leg next Saturday.

While results elsewhere meant Nigel Clough's Mansfield missed out on automatic promotion, clinching a play-off place is a remarkable achievement for a side that was in the relegation places in October following a disastrous 12-game winless league run.

A club-record 11 successive home league wins between October and April saw the Stags surge up the table to become unlikely automatic promotion candidates.

Clough said the Stags go into the play-offs "in good heart" and "with some momentum" as they try to return to England's third tier for the first time in 19 years.

"We are still in with a chance and before kick-off we'd have taken that," he said.

"They needed a point to win the league so it couldn't have worked out better for both teams."

The hosts, who at the start of the day could have finished as high as third and as low as eighth, went ahead through Longstaff who met a deflected ball from Jamie Murphy in the box before beating goalkeeper Luke McGee with his second attempt.

Rovers, among the league's most prolific sides, were a constant threat and eventually restored parity, thanks to Adams' cool finish after latching on to a through ball from Jamille Matt.

Matt sent a close-range header over the crossbar soon after and Nicky Cadden had a shot saved by Nathan Bishop as the visitors chased a winner, but it was Bowery who was next to throw a twist into the title and play-off race with a second for the Stags.

But just a minute after coming off the bench, March beat the offside trap to lift a fine finish over the home goalkeeper to seal the title-winning draw.

Match Stats
Home Team Mansfield Away Team Forest Green
Possession Home 45% Away 55%
Shots Home 14 Away 15
Shots on Target Home 4 Away 5
Corners Home 4 Away 8
Fouls Home 12 Away 6

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Mansfield Town clinch play-off place as draw also sees Forest Green Rovers crowned champions on thrilling afternoon
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Saturday 7th May 2022

There were celebrations and relief all round as Mansfield Town's breathtaking 2-2 home draw with Forest Green Rovers saw the visitors clinch the League Two title and Stags secure a place in the play-offs by the skin of their teeth.

Other results killed any hopes Stags had of scraping into the top three automatic promotion places and they now face Northampton Town over two legs for a place at Wembley.

Rovers were reliant on Exeter losing at home to Port Vale but Vale did the business for them.

The dream of automatic promotion was all but killed early in the afternoon with other scored - all before the Stags game had reached the 20-minute mark.

https://www.chad.co.uk/sport/football/mansfield-town-clinch-play-off-place-as-draw-also-sees-forest-green-rovers-crowned-champions-on-thrilling-afternoon-3684936

But the day ended with Stags still in the hunt for League One football.

Clough made two changes to the side that faced Salford last Monday with forward Jordan Bowery and midfielder Stephen Quinn coming into the starting XI and Lucas Akins and George Lapslie making way.

Rovers also made two changes with Dominic Bernard in for Bailey Cargill and Ben Stevenson replacing Josh March.

The afternoon began in sunshine and a carnival atmosphere and Oates and Maris both had early shots blocked.

Rovers' first raid on five minutes saw Wilson get down the right and cross to the far post where Cadden sliced an eight yard volley over the home bar.

MvcLaughlin then did just enough to force Matt's far post header from a free kick to drop tamely wide.

On 12 minutes Adams hacked down oates to give away a free kick 25 yards out and McLaughlin stepped up to curl low and inches wide of the left post.

But Stags were ahead on 17 minutes. Murphy's low forward ball into the box was deflected into the path of Longstaff who was onside and only had McGee to beat. The keeper blocked his first effort but the ball ran back to Longstaff to roll into the empty net.

Rattled, Rovers almost levelled a minute later. Adams got down the right and pulled a low cross back which Matt hit first time but straight at Bishop.

On 25 minutes Wilson put over another cross from the right, but again Matt's header was straight at Bishop.

McLaughlin was given the game's first booking on 37 minutes for a trip on Wilson as he tried to get into the right of the box.

In stoppage time, Stags' best move so far saw Oates find McLaughlin in the box and the defender try an audacious backheel finish which drifted across goal.

Stags forced three early corners after the break and from the third McGee spilled Quinn's flag kick, but McLaughlin had his shot blocked as he sought to profit.

Rovers then threatened on 53 minutes as Adams got into the left of the box but flashed a shot over the far angle.

Stags had a moment of worry soon after as believing they'd won a corner, the referee said it was a goal kick and Rovers caught home players out of position with a lighting break, Perch to the rescue with a timely tackle and clearance.

Oates was inches away from making contact as he slid in trying to turn home Murphy's low right wing cross after great work from Longstaff in starting the move.

But Rovers were level on 64 minutes as O'Toole was unable to halt Matt, who flicked a great through ball for Adams to race clear, Bishop raced out but Adams got there first and tucked a confident finish past him.

With Exeter losing at home, that lifted Rovers back on top and lifted the team and their fans,.

And they should have been ahead on 67 minutes but Matt thundered a close range header just over from a Cadden corner.

Suddenly it was all Forest Green with Stags on the ropes.

On 73 minutes Wilson got to the right by-line and pulled back a low ball that saw Aitchison poke a low finish at goal that Bishop got down to grab.

Mansfield were also fortunate when a Wilson cross went through everyone at the far post and Cadden, not expecting it to reach him, kicked at fresh air and missed the ball.

But on 78 minutes Stags retook the lead.

McLaughlin sent in a low cross from the left. It skidded past Oates but reached Bowery at the far post who tucked it just inside the upright.

On 83 minutes Adams sent yet another free header just wide from a corner for another big let-off.

Oates' flying header from a Longstaff cross then forced McGee to stretch to save on 86 minutes with the game on a knife-edge.

The four added minutes saw Stags keep possession and run down the clock with Rovers happy to sit off and wait for their title celebrations.

Confirmation of the Exeter result saw Rovers and their fans on the pitch in sheer joy as the afternoon ended happily for all.

STAGS: Bishop, Perch (Hewitt 84), Hawkins, O'Toole, McLaughlin, Maris (Wallace 74), Longstaff, Quinn, Murphy (Akins 88), Oates, Murphy. SUBS NOTS USED: Stech, Clarke, Stirk, Lapslie.

ROVERS: McGee, Wilson, Bernard, Stevenson, Adams, Aitchison, Cadden, Matt, Moore-Taylor, Hendry (March 79), Godwin-Malife. SUBS NOT USED: Thomas, Sweeney, Cargill, Allen, Young, Diallo.

REFEREE: Robert Madley.

ATTENDANCE: 7,374.

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Forest Green Rovers win League Two title on dramatic final day after draw at Mansfield
gloucestershirelive.co.uk, By Laurie Martin

“I’d rather this was done a long time ago. We had the potential to do that, but we didn’t do it.”

Forest Green Rovers don’t do things easily, Rob Edwards. They never have.

Rovers - 10 points clear at the top of League Two at the beginning of February - left it until the final minutes of the final day to secure the title.

But Forest Green headed into the final day in the role of hunters. After being knocked off top spot by Exeter for the first time since September last weekend, Rovers knew they’d have to better the Grecians’ result to secure top spot.

Exeter were at home to Port Vale, who needed a result to clinch a play-off place. Mansfield needed a result against Rovers for similar reasons.

Mansfield started brightly and took the lead after 17 minutes. Newcastle United loanee Matty Longstaff burst into the box, and saw his first shot well-saved by Luke McGee, but Longstaff converted the rebound.

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/forest-green-rovers-win-league-7053656

News filtered through that James Wilson had given Port Vale the lead at Exeter. The away end erupted. There was no way the players couldn’t have been aware of the situation. Even if they didn’t want to know - the travelling supporters were letting them know.

Forest Green equalised on 64 minutes. Goalkeeper Nathan Bishop came rushing out of his box, and Ebou Adams calmly stopped the ball, before slotting it into an unguarded net from outside the box. Forest Green were back in pole position.

Rovers pushed for a second, with Matt and Aitchison having chances, but Mansfield broke up the other end with Jordan Bowery meeting a cross to tap home at the far post.

In the aftermath of the goal, Josh March replaced Regan Hendry. 90 seconds later - he scored with his first touch, lofting the ball over Bishop. Some fans hadn’t even realised March had been brought on. He was booked for jumping into a chaotic away end. Rovers were back at the top.

Mansfield started the day with an outside shot of automatic promotion (they needed to win and for Northampton and Bristol Rovers to drop points), but securing the play-offs was their primary concern. With the score at 2-2, and with every team below the Stags winning, they were content with a point - which was all they needed to secure a place in the play-offs.

Four minutes were added on for stoppages at the end of the game, and a quite bizarre sequence followed. Nigel Clough instructed his players to just keep the ball in their own half. They couldn’t risk going for the win, losing the game and falling out of the play-offs altogether.

Stoppage-time followed this pattern; Mansfield right-back passes to centre-back, centre-back passes to other centre-back, other centre-back passes to left-back. And back across the pitch they went.

No Rovers players pressed the ball. There was no tempo. It was like watching a kick about in the park. Forest Green were happy with the outcome, but they were relying on Exeter not equalising against Port Vale at St James Park.

After the final whistle at Field Mill, Forest Green players and staff gathered around a few mobile phones waiting for the Exeter result to come through on the Soccer Saturday vidiprinter, but they found out the news from the huge roar that erupted from the away end.

The Grecians threw goalkeeper Cameron Dawson forward for a couple of late corners, but Port Vale stood firm, securing a vitally important win for themselves to clinch their play-off spot.

Most Mansfield supporters applauded Rovers fans and players as they wildly celebrated on their own pitch - a stark contrast to when they were confronted by 20 Bristol Rovers fans bedecked in St George’s knights costumes when they secured promotion at the Memorial Stadium a fortnight before.

Unfortunately for Rovers, there was no trophy to lift. The League Two title was at St James Park all day - something most of the players weren’t aware of until they got onto the pitch, as they awaited a big, shiny trophy to greet them. Jordan Moore-Taylor and Kane Wilson asked about the whereabouts of the trophy. Edwards told them they would not be lifting it today. Luke McGee and Udoka Godwin-Malife held bottles of champagne aloft as if that were a replacement.

Bizarrely, the runners-up medals were also at Exeter, so Rovers wouldn’t have had anything to mark their achievements no matter what the outcome.

Not only that, but as Rovers had their trophyless presentation in front of the away end, the hoarding they were standing behind read ‘Promoted 2022’ - which was reserved for if Mansfield had clinched the last automatic promotion spot.

Ebou Adams sprinted the length of the pitch with a banner reading ‘Champions 2022’ lugged over his shoulder. It soon replaced the one that read ‘Promoted’.

The fact the trophy was stationed in Devon shows how unlikely the EFL thought it was that Forest Green would pip Exeter to the title. City were 2/7 to win the title with bookmakers before a ball was kicked on Saturday. Some Rovers supporters - many in fancy dress costumes, ranging from Willy Wonka to Hulk Hogan - thought it was game over anyway. They couldn’t see their side clawing it back after the horror show against Harrogate the week before.

Dom Bernard led a rendition of “Everywhere we go, people want to know,”. The whole away end sang back at the local lad of the title-winning side. Bernard is the only squad member who is Gloucestershire born and bred. “We’re from Nailsworth, the mighty, mighty Nailsworth,” he sang with gusto.

Adams was like a kid in a sweet shop, leaping on the goalscoring hero March as he was being interviewed. March was clutching a bottle of Budweiser.

In the end, Rovers won the title on goal difference, +31 to Exeter’s +24. Those big wins (4-0 vs Stevenage, 4-1 vs Harrogate, 6-3 vs Crawley) look even better now.

There were no doubt a few farewells at the end of the game, but what a way to go out for any of those departing The New Lawn this summer. Jack Aitchison will return to Barnsley off the back of a stellar second loan spell in Nailsworth, and the brutal side of football is that some of those who have contributed to the best season in Forest Green’s history won’t have their contracts extended for Rovers’ debut League One campaign.

Adams and Wilson - both out-of-contract - have reported Championship interest, and based on their displays this season, they deserve to play at that level. Nicky Cadden will also have interest from club’s higher up the pyramid.

Forest Green’s first ever away game in League Two was away at Mansfield. Rovers lost 2-0, they were completely outplayed, and a big recruitment drive was required in January 2018 just to keep the club in the division.

What a journey it’s been since then.

24 years after they last won a league title, Forest Green added another to their cabinet. Supporters still reminisce about that night against Merthyr in 1998, with nearly 3,000 packed in at The Lawn to see Rovers win the Dr Martens Premier.

But this is a new chapter in Forest Green’s history, written by Rob Edwards and co, and signed off in style by Josh March.

Mansfield Town: Bishop; Perch (Hewitt 84), O’Toole, Hawkins, McLaughlin; Maris (Wallace 73), Longstaff, Quinn; Murphy (Akins 88); Oates, Bowery. Subs not used: Stech, Stirk, Lapslie.

Forest Green Rovers: McGee; Godwin-Malife, Moore-Taylor, Bernard; Wilson, Stevenson, Hendry (March 80), Cadden; Adams; Aitchison, Matt. Subs not used: Thomas, Allen, Cargill, Diallo, Young.

Star man: Ebou Adams.

Referee: Robert Madley.

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