STAGS PEGGED BACK BY LATE EQUALISER IN DISASTER
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town 1 - 1 Port Vale
Howkins OG 71. Pope 89.
Attendance: 4210 (598 from Port Vale)
Date: 21 April 2018
STAGS PEGGED BACK BY 89TH MINUTE EQUALISER IN DISASTROUS DRAW
Martin Shaw at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Mansfield Town were held to a 1-1 draw by Port Vale at the One Call Stadium in a game the Stags desperately needed to win. It was the first league match between the two sides at Mansfield for 15 years. With just a minute left, Mansfield were leading 1-0 while play-off rivals Lincoln City were being held by Colchester and down to 10 men, and if the scores had stayed the same Mansfield would have made great progress in trying to get the final play-off position. But disaster struck when Vale captain Tom Pope stretched to head in after Conrad Logan came out to try to stop Dan Turner crossing from the right, and Turner got the ball over the Stags keeper. Krystian Pearce tried in vain to stop the ball going in with his hands, and got a booking for his efforts. And the bad news kept on coming as Lincoln grabbed a winner over Colchester in the 94th minute. So Mansfield are now 3 points behind both Lincoln and Coventry, with Lincoln and Coventry having a game in hand, playing each other on Tuesday. There is still an outside chance of course for Mansfield, who will need to win at Yeovil next Saturday, hope one of Coventry or Lincoln go on a terrible run, and the Stags give themselves a chance on the final day of the season at home to Crawley. But it is a very slim chance now in reality. This was a game the Stags really should have won. Mansfield played some great football and created enough chances to win the game, but missed those chances and also too often tried to walk the ball in then losing the ball rather than shooting. It looked like the first goal would be crucial and the Stags were fortunate to get it as Port Vale gifted an own goal on 71 minutes. Sub Jacob Mellis found Danny Rose on the right with a good ball, Rose cut inside into the area onto his left foot, and sent in a low shot which the keeper pushed away. As the ball ran loose, right back Charlie Raglan booted the ball against former Stags loanee Kyle Howkins and it ricocheted into the net. The irony was that Howkins could have been sent off just a minute earlier, when, having already been booked, he deliberately fouled Potter and was given a final warning by the referee. Mansfield had had plenty of good chances earlier to take the lead, such as in the first half Mal Benning’s cross-shot just evading Kane Hemmings, Danny Rose’s shot saved low by the keeper, Benning’s low shot straight at the keeper, and Hemmings blasting over the bar when the keeper had come out and a lob would have been a better bet. Into the second half, the Stags continued to play good football and create chances: Alfie Potter should have scored when he miscued wide after a brilliant run down the right by MacDonald, then makeshift right back Paul Digby brought a brilliant save from the keeper after a left-footed shot, and then Benning crossed superbly from the left and Rose somehow headed over unmarked from 5 yards. After Mansfield were gifted the lead, there were chances to make the game safe as CJ Hamilton did well to pull back from the byeline to Hemmings, whose shot was deflected just wide, then Hamilton crossed from the right and the ball somehow deflected just wide off a combination of Hemmings and a defender. With 84 minutes gone, the Stags had a free kick on the left and a chance to get the ball into the box and extend the lead. Ludicrously the Stags only sent two players into the box. The same thing happened two minutes later, a free kick near the corner flag on the right, and the Stags only put one player in the box this time. With four and six minutes to go, this was far too early for such a tactic in my opinion and I said so at the time during commentary. In the final minutes of stoppage time, this tactic does make sense to me but not with so long to go. Even if the Stags had held on, I would have been extremely critical of this at this stage of the game. Disaster then struck on 89 minutes with that goal from Pope, and the Stags were unable to create another chance during stoppage time. A bitter pill for everyone associated with the club to swallow.
There is still a slim chance of making the play-offs, but where has it gone wrong?
Prior to the game away to promotion-chasing Exeter on 17th February, I did a piece on Radio Nottingham confidently predicting that Mansfield would finish 3rd. The Stags had just thumped Newport 5-0. Mansfield went on to win that game at Exeter 1-0 with another fine performance. A week later, the Stags drew 1-1 with Coventry, another side chasing promotion. The Stags were just two points outside the top 3. The result was disappointing though as Coventry played most of the game with ten men. But nowhere near as disappointing as what came next when Steve Evans walked out on the club three days later and turned up at Peterborough United a day later. John and Carolyn Radford were left in shock, the players were left in shock and the supporters were left in shock. John Radford needed to move quickly though. There were 12 games to go and Mansfield were in with real a chance of automatic promotion. John Radford had spent a lot of money on the squad and didn’t want it to be wasted. The requirement was for a manager to come in who could carry on the season, get the team over the line and achieve promotion, and who was a proven quality manager for the longer term too. The Radfords were flooded with applications, and there were some impressive managers currently out of work. But John and Carolyn went for a manager currently in work in League Two who knew better than most about the state of the league. Mansfield approached Swindon for permission to talk to their manager David Flitcroft. Permission was granted and after discussions, Flitcroft came in as the new Stags manager, bringing assistant Ben Futcher with him. Flitcroft had taken over at Swindon in the summer and guided Swindon into the play-off positions in his first season, just three points behind Mansfield. Swindon had done the double over Mansfield this season, and indeed Mansfield had never beaten a Flitcroft side, whether at Swindon or Bury. I thought Flitcroft ticked the boxes that John and Carolyn were looking to tick, knowing the league well and opposition well, plus knowing about the Stags players too, and he should have been able to hit the ground running. In short, the appointment of Flitcroft was, in my opinion, a good one and I said so at the time.
What has happened since has been nothing short of a disaster. In the first game under Flitcroft, Mansfield led 1-0 against promotion-chasing Lincoln before former Stag Ollie Palmer equalised for Lincoln in the 90th minute. Another 1-1 draw followed, at home to Colchester after the Stags had again led 1-0. Then a 1-1 draw at Notts County, though the feeling after this one was relief and euphoria with Kane Hemmings equalising for the Stags after 90+9 minutes. The Stags then lost four games on the trot. A dreadful performance in defeat at Forest Green, was followed by two decent performances against Accrington and Luton, the top 2, but still the games were lost. And then one of the worst, if not the worst, thirty minutes of football in living memory as Mansfield found themselves 4-1 down at home to Crewe, before finally losing 4-3. The Stags then drew 1-1 at Stevenage, coming from behind. Then came the wonderful win at Chesterfield, with a fabulous goal from Mal Benning, amid great scenes. It was the first win under Flitcroft and one to stay in the memory for years after putting a nail in the Spireites’ coffin. But it needed to be followed up by another win today, and it wasn’t.
There have been comments by the players about having to adapt to a new style of play in several interviews. For example, Jacob Mellis, in an interview for the matchday programme against Crewe on April 7, said “The point is that we can’t be expected to adapt to his style of play immediately, as it is going to take some time when someone new comes in.” Similarly, Rhys Bennett, in the press conference prior to the Accrington game said "He’s implemented a different style of play - I think you can see that. Obviously it’s difficult to come in at this stage of the season.” Bennett was of course right that it is difficult to come in at this stage of the season. But was it the right time to implement a change in style of play so close to the end of the season with Mansfield so close to the automatic promotion places? Or should the manager have tried to keep things as they were, and keep results as good as they had been before he came in. And what was that change in style of play? Well, under Evans, the players were under pressure to get the ball forward quickly. Flitcroft wants a more passing style which when it doesn’t work can look like the players are too often trying to walk the ball into the net rather than take a shot, though when it works it looks great, like the goal against Chesterfield and the goal against Stevenage. Don’t get me wrong, I like the style of football, but I believe that the manager should have left things as they were with just twelve games of the season remaining, and then change things in pre-season.
Ultimately, only the players will truly know why they haven’t performed well enough to get the results. Was it the change in style of play? Was it not being barked at from the sidelines by Steve Evans for 90 minutes? Was it the players’ fault themselves? At the end of the day, football is all about results, and they haven’t been good enough under David Flitcroft. That said, at the end of today’s commentary broadcast we got texts in saying that Flitcroft should be sacked. I don’t agree with that, and said so. I think he has made some mistakes, and results have not been good enough, but I believe he should be given the summer and next season to turn things around. You have to feel desperately sorry for John and Carolyn Radford. They backed Steve Evans to the hilt, providing just about everything he asked for, and were let down massively by him walking out. So if you just want just the short answer on where things went wrong, it would be Steve Evans walking out. Added to that, the new manager should have done better, and the players should have done better whoever the manager was. Two games to go. The Stags must win them, and hope for help from elsewhere.
FULL REPORT IN THE MATCH CENTRE
REPORT: Mansfield Town 1-1 Port Vale
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Saturday 21 April 2018
Mansfield Town's play-off hopes suffered a dramatic late blow today as Tom Pope's late goal earned visiting Port Vale a 1-1 draw. Pope popped up just as Stags looked to have claimed three hard-earned points through a Kyle Howkins own goal on 72 minutes. With rivals Lincoln City winning 2-1, the gap to the top seven is now three points with only two games to play. Stags deserved to win it over the 90 minutes, dominating the game and creating plenty of chances, Alfie Potter and Danny Rose wasting great opportunities early in the second half. But those misses came back to haunt them as Pope headed in a Dan Turner cross to break home hearts. There were three changes to the Mansfield line-up. Stags lost Hayden White and Zander Diamond to injuries while Jacob Mellis was dropped to the bench. Into the back four came Paul Digby and Rhys Bennett with CJ Hamilton restored to the midfield. Vale made two changes as Charlie Raglan and Danny Pugh came in for Joe Davis and Anton Forrester. They included former Stags loanee Kyle Howkins in their defence. It took Stags four minutes to really get out of their own half as Vale applied the early pressure. A poor header out by Howkins fell to Rose almost 30 yards out and his shot was straight at the keeper and an easy catch in the first chance of the game. Seconds later Rose fed Potter to his right and his sharp effort was held by Hornby at his near post. Vale's first effort came on 10 minutes as Pope set up Tongue for a powerful shot from 25 yards that zipped just over the crossbar. Mansfield went straight upfield where Rose rolled the ball into MacDonald's path on the edge of the box and he tried to place it sidefooted but was wide of the right post. Soon after Gibbons made a great tackle on Potter as he tried to burst past him in the box. Then Benning put a low cross-cum-shot right across the face of goal while Hamilton sent a low shot straight at Hornby as the home side ramped up the pressure. MacDonald forced Hornby into his first serious save on 24 minutes as he changed direction 25 yards from goal and let fly, forcing the keeper to dive full length to his right to grab. Bennett led a Stags break on 32 minutes, his final pass to Rose seeing the striker force Hornby down to make another good save. Benning was having another excellent half and he also warmed Hornby's hands on 35 minutes after cutting inside from the left. MacDonald then launched a long ball down the right which Hemmings ran onto but, with Hornby having left his line, his shy at the empty net was well over the bar. Stags won the first two corners of the game and Pugh wasn't far wide of heading into his own net as he defended an early Potter cross. Veteran Tongue had to go off injured in the final minute of the half, replaced by Whitfield. Mansfield might have gone ahead three minutes after the break after a promising burst down the right by MacDonald only to see Potter scuff his finish wide from seven yards when the ball was squared towards him. Smith then timed his tackle well on Hemmings in the box after Potter looked to have sent him away down the middle. Stags won two corners, Pope heading the first of them onto the roof of his own net and Kay heading the second clear. On 55 minutes Hornby again came to Vale's rescue, blocking a powerful Digby drive onto a loose ball. Vale were starting to waste time whenever possible and Whitfield was booked for delaying a free kick on 61 minutes. Stags upped the ante a minute later as defender Digby was replaced by midfielder Mellis. Rose wasted another great chance for Stags on 63 minutes when he flicked a header over from six yards from a superb Benning cross, Howkins then booked for dissent. Logan made his first important save of the afternoon on 67 minutes when he blocked Hannant's low effort. Howkins was lucky not to be sent off for tugging Atkinson's short as he raced past him, given a final warning. Mansfield finally took the lead on 72 minutes through a bizarre own goal. Raglan tried to clear a scuffed Rose shot but fired it towards his own net where it struck Howkins and went over the line. Rose was booked soon after for a cynical trip on Gibbons, quickly followed by Hannant and then Hemmings. Stags almost doubled their lead on a breakaway, but Hamilton, leading the charge, failed to see Rose free to his right and passed left to Hemmings instead and the shot was blocked. Angol replaced Hemmings for the last seven minutes. However, a minute from time the visitors had a sting in the tail as they broke forward down the left and Turner's cross was headed in by Tom Pope from inside the six yard box. In five added minutes Whitfield burst along the left by-line and forced Logan to save at his post as Stags almost lost it.
STAGS: Logan, Digby (Mellis 62), Bennett, Pearce, Benning, Potter, Atkinson, MacDonald, Hamilton, Hemmings (Angol 83), Rose. Subs not used: Olejnik, Hunt, Anderson, King, Graham.
VALE: Hornby, Raglan, Kay, Pugh (Turner 74), Pope, Worrall, Gibbons, Smith, Tongue (Whitfield 45), Howkins, Hannant. Subs not used: Boot, Howe, Davis, Barnett, Forrester. REFEREE: Carl Boyeson of Hull. ATTENDANCE: 4,210 (598 away) CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Krystian Pearce.
Read more at: https://www.hucknalldispatch.co.uk/sport/football/report-mansfield-town-1-1-port-vale-1-9128628
MATCH REPORT: Mansfield Town 1-1 Port Vale
21 April 2018
A late header from Tom Pope secured a solid point at Field Mill as The Valiants enabled a point against play-off chasing Mansfield Town Neil Aspin’s men will leave Nottinghamshire knowing that they are safe in the Football League courtesy of Pope’s 89th minute equaliser.
Mansfield threatened to counter The Valiants with a quick snapshot through Danny Rose who let fly from around 25-yards, eventually it being easily caught by Sam Hornby on six minutes.
Vale’s best chance so far came from Michael Tonge who tried a 30-yard effort following Tom Pope’s knock down. The ball was bouncing as Tonge’s attempt flew just over the bar.
The Stags kept coming as Mal Benning whipped in a delightful ball for Kane Hemmings, only to drive across Hornby’s goal by inches on 16 minutes.
Hornby continued to be the man of the moment, saving efforts from Hemmings and MacDonald as Michael Tonge had to come off due to injury.
Ben Whitfield came on, as the second half was underway.
Alfie Potter continued to impress down the Mansfield’s right-hand side as he got on the end of MacDonald’s cross to shoot just wide. Much to the relief of the Valiants supporters.
Hornby was once again called into action, pulling off a magnificent save from Paul Digby. His first-time effort was smashed towards his near post. But still, somehow, it remained 0-0.
The game continued to get tense with both sets of supporters making excellent noise. Ben Whitfield and Kyle Howkins were given yellow cards for dissent, with just under half an hour to play.
Vale had a chance through Nathan Smith as his storming run frightened the Mansfield defence, he tried to slip the ball through to Whitfield - but he couldn’t quite get the necessary touch needed.
Neil Aspin’s men soon came alight as Luke Hannant tried his luck from 15-yards. His left-footed effort forced Conrad Logan to a good save on 66 minutes.
The Stags got their goal, after a failed clearance managed to trickle to the feet of Howkins who put the ball in his own net. The opener started with MacDonald’s shot which was pushed into the area by Hornby when the goal occurred.
It was ‘Danny for Danny’ as Turner replaced Pugh, in hope of an equaliser for The Valiants.
It could have gotten easily worse for Vale as Howkins nearly managed a brace of own goals. The cross came in from the left-hand side as the on-loan defender’s clearance almost managed to go into his own goal.
Hannant was next to go in the referee’s book after bringing down the oncoming counter attack from David Flitcroft’s side. Shortly after, Worrall was next as five minutes remained.
Turner made an instant impact by making an excellent run to set up Tom Pope’s header as he finalised the result on the 89th minute.
After five minutes added on, the full-time whistle was blown as The Valiants kept their place in the Football League.
Mansfield Town Team: Logan, Bennett, Benning, Digby (Mellis 62), Pearce ©, MacDonald, Atkinson, Potter, Hamilton, Hemmings (Angol 83), Rose.
Unused Subs: Olejnik, Anderson, Hunt, King, Graham.
Port Vale Team: Hornby, Raglan, Smith, Howkins, Gibbons, Pugh (Turner 74), Kay, Tonge (Whitfield 44), Hannant, Worrall, Pope ©.
Unused Subs: Boot, Howe, Davis, Barnett, Forrester.
Attendance: 4210 (598 Vale Supporters).
Mansfield 1, Port Vale 1 star man and player ratings
Star man and player ratings from Port Vale's 1-1 draw at Mansfield in League Two
By Michael Baggaley
MANSFIELD 1 (Howkins, on 73)
PORT VALE 1 (Pope, 89)
Port Vale 45%
Mansfield 16 (7 on target)
Port Vale 3 (2 on target)
Port Vale 1
Port Vale 13
Carl Boyeson (Yorkshire) 7
Mansfield: Hemmings(foul, 82) Rose (foul, 74)
Vale: Howkins (foul, 64), Worrall (Kicking ball away, 85), Whitfield (time-wasting, 61), Hannant (foul, 80)
Attendance: 4,210 (including 598 Vale fans)
HORNBY: Unlucky that his one mistake, a fumble on Rose's shot, was in the build up to the goal. Apart from that he was faultless. 6
RAGLAN: Won't look back on the own goal with any fondness as his clearance cannoned off Howkins. Had his work cut out at times on the right. 5
SMITH: Not at the same standards as against Lincoln but was typically tenacious 6
HOWKINS: Impressive in the first half but didn't quite match that after the break. Nothing he could do about the own goal 6
GIBBONS: The right back continues to look the part at left back 7
KAY: Did okay in the midfield holding role in Vale's 4-1-4-1 line up 6
WORRALL: Industrious but his final ball wasn't up to his usual standards 5
TONGE: Went close with an early effort but Vale faded. Forced off just before the break with a back problem 5
PUGH: Never lacks commitment but not as effective as he would have liked 5
HANNANT: Started wide left then switched to central midfield when Ben Whitfield came on. Another encouraging 90 minutes 7
POPE: Not his best game, but he didn't have much service. When he did get a chance he took it with a quality header 7
WHITFIELD (Tonge, 45): Plenty of effort and energy 6
TURNER (Pugh, 75): Not on for long but made that time count with a fine run and cross to set up the equaliser 7
NOT USED: Howe, Davis, Barnett, Forrester, Boot
MANSFIELD: Logan, Bennett, Pearce, Digby (Mellis, 62), Benning, Potter, Atkinson, MacDonald, Hamilton, Hemmings (Angol, 83), Rose.
Not used: Anderson, Olejnik, Hunt, King, Graham.
James Gibbons: Played well, even before we take into consideration he is playing out of position at left back. Defended solidly with some typically tigerish challenges.
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