LATE GREEN GOAL WINS IT FOR STAGS
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 1 - 0 Ebbsfleet United
Att: 2630 (55 from Ebbsfleet)
Date: 31 March 2012
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at Field Mill
Mansfield Town ground out a crucial 1-0 win against stubborn Ebbsfleet United thanks to a late goal from Matt Green, whose clinical finish was worth its weight in gold. Ebbsfleet defended superbly and gave Mansfield no space at all with a packed defence which nullified even the long throws of Exodus Geohaghon. The Stags should have had a penalty in the first half when Geohaghon was clearly fouled in the box by Paul Lorraine as he went for a Luke O'Neill corner, and Martin Riley headed against the post from a Briscoe cross. Ebbsfleet had a double chance in the second half when two efforts were cleared off the line by the Stags, but the key moment came on 82 minutes when Adam Murray superbly won the ball 40 yards from goal, found Matt Green just outside the box, and Green was able to make a yard of space for himself and place a low shot just inside the left post. With Southport and Luton losing this weekend, the Stags are well-placed to finish in the play-offs, but still need two, or possibly three, wins from the remaining 5 games.
Man of the match: Adam Murray
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre
Mansfield Town 1-0 Ebbsfleet, Saturday 31st March
chad.co.uk report by John Lomas
MATT Green was once again the Mansfield Town hero as his 27th goal of the season finally broke down resilient Ebbsfleet United with just eight minutes to go at Field Mill today.
It seemed as if two precious play-off points had been spilled as Liam Daish's men defended superbly to frustrate the home side in a game of few real chances.
Martin Riley did hit the Ebbsfleet with post with a header in a largely one-sided first half, but United stood firm.
Having netted seven times in their last home game against Barrow, this was much harder work for Mansfield, but they stayed patient, continued to ask all the questions – and it finally paid off at the death.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox decided to try to wing his way to victory with recalls for wide men Adam Smith and Louis Briscoe. Lindon Meikle and Anthony Howell were the two to make way, dropping to the bench, as Stags' reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
A great pass from Roberts sent Green into acres of space in the opening minute only for the striker to get crowded out in the box as he looked for a shooting chance.
Cronin fisted away the first Geohaghon throw from the left, then Briscoe had a 20 yard blast charged down as Mansfield made another hungry start.
Smith cut in from the left to tee up Dyer, but the striker laid the ball on to Roberts who pulled a poor low effort off target, Green eventually flagged offside as the pressure continued.
Dyer headed on a Geohaghon throw to Green who was penalised for dangerous play as he tried an acrobatic scissor kick.
Murray winced as his problem ankle seemed to trouble him after a forward ball, but the skipper limped for a minute or two then gritted his teeth and continued.
But it was Ebbsfleet that engineered the first on-target chance on 13 minutes.
Stone's long far post cross was helped back into the mix by Barratt at full stretch and Pinney popped up with a header that Marriott caught just under the crossbar.
Neil Smith got in the way of a Briscoe shot after the winger had swapped passes with Green, who then was back to head clear the visitors' first corner.
Ebbsfleet, warming to their task, quickly forced two more corners, then Riley had to make a block.
But on 21 minutes a fabulous forward ball from Murray sent Green clear on goal on the right of the box only to see Cronin spread himself and deny the striker.
Three minutes later Briscoe made room for a cross on the right by-line and picked out Riley whose header hit the left post with Cronin beaten.
Ebbsfleet broke quickly after Geohaghon lost possession, an offside flag thwarting Enver-Marum as he ran onto the final pass.
An O'Neill free kick was met by Dyer at the back post on 31 minutes with Green heading over from as central position 10 yards out, then Dyer helped on a Geohaghon throw, Smith just unable to get there in time at the far post.
On 40 minutes good running from Roberts won Mansfield's first corner, soon followed by a second from which Geohaghon appeared to be clearly barged out of the way by Lorraine in the box, the referee disagreeing.
A minute from the break Riley stooped to guide a header wide from an O'Neill free kick.
Then O'Neill was lucky when the referee allowed Marriott to grab his lofted backpass without a free kick being awarded.
But a scrappy first half, largely dominated by the home side, ended scoreless.
Stags' first corner of the second half was held up after a linesman spotted a coming together of Green and Lorraine which the referee had missed.
Both players were booked, then the corner finally came over from O'Neill and was met by a powerful Sutton header which flew wide.
Mansfield quickly stoked up the pressure with two more corners, O'Neill finally curling the second of them onto the roof of the net.
Stags made a change on 55 minutes, loanee Andrew replacing Sutton at left back.
Barrett tried to sneak Pinney in on the left but Riley slid in to make a great intercepting tackle.
But Stags had a double scare from the corner as first Marriott had to palm away a Loraine header then the United man's follow-up was blocked and the ball eventually scrambled clear.
Rhead was thrown into the equation on 58 minutes, Smith withdrawn and Dyer dropping back into midfield on the right, Briscoe switching to the left.
Ebbsfleet sub Bellamy tried his luck soon after coming on but was too high.
West was also too high after good approach play by Barrett.
On 65 minutes Briscoe made way for Meikle as Mansfield again upped the intensity with two more Geohaghon throws and a corner.
Meikle did well on the left to cut back inside two players and whip in a near post cross which Cronin clutched before Rhead could pounce.
The breakthrough finally came with eight minutes to go – and, almost inevitably, it was goal ace Green.
A cleverly-disguised pass from Murray saw him pick out Green's run into the box. And the striker did well to shield the ball before spinning to tuck a low finish across Cronin and inside the left hand post.
Four minutes were added on at the end in which Green still had the legs to burst down the left and cross hard and low, the ball just evading the incoming Meikle.
Then O'Neill played two one-twos with Rhead before slicing well wide across goal.
STAGS: Marriott; O'Neill, Geohaghon, Riley, Sutton (Andrew 55); Briscoe (Meikle 65), Murray, Roberts, A. Smith (Rhead 58); Green, Dyer. Subs not used: Redmond, Howell.
EBBSFLEET: Cronin; Stone, Lorraine, R. Smith, Howe; Pinney (Bellamy 58), Barrett, Marwa (Willock 85), West; Enver-Marum (Ugwu 80), Shakes. Subs not used: McNeil, Phipp.
REFEREE: Tony Harrington of Hartlepool.
ATTENDANCE: 2,630 (55 away).
CAUTIONS: Stags – Green 50. Ebbsfleet: Lorraine 50.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke O'Neill
Mansfield Town show they have the qualities to make the play-offs
Nottingham Post considered report by ??
THEY always say the mark of a good team is how they bounce back from a defeat. Another yardstick is being able to grind out a win when you are not playing well. Mansfield Town passed both tests on Saturday.
This wasn't a free-scoring win like those against Barrow and Alfreton Town which preceded the defeat at Fleetwood.
But it was equally vital, if not more so, further cementing the Stags' position in the play-off places.
They remain in third place, but are now seven points clear of sixth-placed Luton, though they have played two games more.
For much of the game on Saturday it seemed Ebbsfleet's resolute defending would ensure this was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts.
But with less than ten minutes left on the clock, the home faithful got what they had been waiting for, as top scorer Matt Green stroked in his 27th goal of the season.
It shouldn't have taken Mansfield so long to find the breakthrough.
They started on the front foot, a long searching ball finding Green, who cut inside from the left wing and into the box before feeding the ball to Adam Murray, who couldn't control it.
The Stags kept the pressure on as a miss-placed Ebbsfleet pass led to Louis Briscoe letting fly from 20 yards. But his goal-bound shot was charged down.
Moments later, Gary Roberts tried his luck from outside the box. His scuffed shot fell to Adam Smith, but he was flagged offside.
Much of the home team's early joy was coming down the left flank. But it was from an attack down the right that they had the ball in the net after seven minutes.
A high ball into the box saw Green attempt an acrobatic scissor kick. He didn't connect but the ball fell to Smith, who tucked home, only to be denied as referee Tony Harrington had penalised Green for a high foot.
Ebbsfleet, coming into the game on the back of two straight defeats, had been reduced to playing a series of long searching balls which the Stags were dealing with comfortably.
But on 13 minutes they suddenly came to life. Ricky Shakes swung a fine cross into the Stags' box, Neil Barrett met it at the back post and headed it back across goal, from where Nathaniel Pinney connected with a looping header. But Alan Marriott rose comfortably to claim the ball.
But it was still Mansfield who were dominant and produced one of the best moves of the match on 20 minutes.
Captain Murray gained possession on the half-way line and slid a perfectly weighted pass to Green. He hit a powerful right foot shot but Ebbsfleet keeper Lance Cronin got down well to push it clear.
The Stags came even closer three minutes later, when Martin Riley, a towering presence at the back all afternoon, rose to meet a looping cross, only to see the ball cannon back off the foot of the post.
As the half drew to a close the home fans started to become frustrated as their side struggled to find a breakthrough.
They were left infuriated when referee Harrington waved away strong penalty claims as Exodus Geohaghon appeared to have been shoved in the back by Paul Lorraine as they challenged for the ball.
The second-half began with Stags on the attack again and soon forced a corner as Louis Briscoe found space in the box but saw his cross gain a deflection, which had the keeper clearly worried as it went just passed his near post.
An off-the-ball incident saw Green and Lorraine pick up the only yellow cards of the afternoon before Luke O'Neill swung in a good delivery for Ritchie Sutton to power a header just wide.
As much as Mansfield were dominating the match, there was always a danger the visitors could snatch a goal as the game went on.
Never more so was that danger eminent than just before the hour when a corner from the left led to a goalline scramble in the Mansfield six-yard box. Lorraine's goal-bound header was blocked by Alan Marriott before his second attempt from the rebound was met by a sea of Stags bodies on the goalline.
The Stags thought they had the goal they craved on 66 minutes when the impressive Ross Dyer met substitute Danny Andrews' free-kick.
But it hit the side netting, though some corners of the ground thought it had gone in.
It seemed Mansfield had run out of steam and that the game was destined for a draw, until Green struck in the 82nd minute.
Having fluffed a chance moments earlier, he was fed by a fine pass from Murray and drilled a low right-footed strike from outside the box beyond the despairing dive of Cronin.
Suddenly the pressure was lifted off the Stags and they nearly added a second in the four minutes of injury time as Green's centre just evaded Lindon Meikle's out-stretched leg.
But they had done enough. It was hardly as convincing as the 3-0 trouncing handed out to Ebbsfleet earlier in the season, yet it was three points nonetheless.
It means they have picked up 25 points out of the last 30. Surely promotion form in anyone's book
Match facts: Stags v Ebbsfleet
Shots on target: Stags 5 Ebbsfleet 5
Shots off target: Stags 5 Ebssfleet 2
Fouls: Stags 13 Ebbsfleet 11
Offsides: Stags 2 Ebbsfleet 3
Corners: Stags 7 Ebbsfleet 5
In the book
Stags 1: Green (50, off the ball incident)
Ebbsfleet 1: Lorraine (50, off the ball incident)
Stags 1: Green 82
STAGS: Marriott, Riley, Briscoe (Meikle, 65), Green, Murray, Dyer, O'Neill, Sutton (Andrew, 55), Smith (Rhead, 58), Geohaghon, Roberts. Not used: Redmond, Howell.
EBBSFLEET: Cronin, Stone, Lorraine, West, Marwa (Willock, 85), Shakes, Howe, Enver-Marum (Ugwu, 80), Smith, Barrett, Pinney (Bellamy, 57). Not used: McNeil, Phipp.
Attendance: 2,630 (55 visitors)
Referee: Tony Harrington (Hartlepool)
Man of the match: Luke O'Neill: Was solid at the back and looked a threat every time he ventured forward down the right. His corners were expertly delivered, causing panic in the Ebbsfleet box
Mansfield Town 1 Fleet 0
Fleet almost secured an unlikely draw at in-form Mansfield as they held out for 82 minutes before Matt Green's solitary goal kept the home side with one foot in the play-offs.
There was one change to the starting line-up, with Nathaniel Pinney replacing Gozie Ugwu, and it was backs to the wall for the Fleet as Mansfield marauded the flanks, looking to get an early break. The home team's Adam Smith turned in Matt Green's unorthodox pass on eight minutes but the referee adjudged Green to have fouled in the build-up and the goal was disallowed.
Fleet were not without their chances, however, and great work by Craig Stone on 15 minutes produced a long cross into Neil Barrett who pulled the ball back for Pinney and his header had goalkeeper Alan Marriott scrambling to keep it out.
The best chance of the half followed six minutes later when hotshot striker Green was sent clear by Adam Murray but Lance Cronin got down well to make an excellent save. Martin Riley shaved the post with a header on 26 minutes and Smith had a good opportunity to fire home from Exodus Geohaghon's long throw-in. Mansfield kept the pressure up, but Fleet's defending was composed and robust as they worked hard to close down players and went in at the break at 0-0.
The Stags started the second half where they'd left off, with plenty of possession, but Fleet always maintained a threat when they broke and from set pieces. Michael West almost found Liam Enver-Marum with an effort across the six-yard box and Marriott and his defence had to scramble a Paul Lorraine header away as the home fans grew increasingly frustrated.
Mansfield's threats from wide seemed to stutter as their search for a goal became ever more desperate but they still had chances to win it when Ross Dyer's header crept just past the post while Matt Rhead was thwarted by Cronin's interception on 75 minutes. But just as it looked like the Fleet might weather the storm of a side that had lost only once in 14 games – and not at home since November – when Murray supplied Green on the edge of the box. The Stags top scorer, who netted one at Stonebridge Road, turned well to create space and fired a curling shot past Cronin into the bottom corner.
There was little time for the visitors to mount a recovery, though Calum Willock joined fellow substitute Ugwu in attack late on. Hayes' victory over Southport meant the Fleet's mathematical safety was still not assured – a fact they will aim to put right at Forest Green on Good Friday.
TEAM: Cronin, Stone, Howe, Lorraine, Smith, Marwa (Willock 85), Barrett, West, Shakes, Enver-Marum (Ugwu 80), Pinney (Bellamy 57). Subs not used: McNeil, Phipp.
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