STAGS BEATEN AND MISS AUTOMATIC PROMOTION
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
MK Dons 1 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 20,718 (5227 from Mansfield)
Date: 4 May 2019
Martin Shaw at Stadium MK
Mansfield Town were beaten 1-0 at MK Dons in the winner-takes-all final match of the regular season at Stadium MK this afternoon to miss out on automatic promotion, and drop into the play-off places. A draw would also have been good enough for the Stags but they were beaten by a goal inside the opening 2 minutes as MK Dons deservedly held on for victory, and a promotion party in front of a crowd of over 20,000. The Stags end the season having conceded the fewest goals in League Two (just 41 goals in 46 games) but it was poor defending that cost the Stags dear here as David Wheeler was allowed to head home unmarked from 6 yards from a corner with less than 2 minutes on the clock. Whether it was that early goal that knocked Mansfield and gave MK Dons confidence, or whatever, the Stags were very poor in the first half. Simply not at the races. MK Dons could have been further ahead at the break with Mal Benning clearing one shot off the line from Aneke.
Mansfield made a couple of tactical changes, bringing on Danny Rose for Tomlinson to go three up front, and switching Alex MacDonald into central midfield after he had very surprisingly been selected to start at right wing-back, a position where he has never started before for Mansfield. And Mansfield were much better in the second half. Mansfield had MK Dons pressed back for long periods of the second half but lacked the quality to hurt the home side. There weren’t enough quality crosses into the box and pinpoint passes to the strikers. Instead there were too many hopeful balls punted forward in the hope that something would fall, but it never did as MK Dons defended well. Indeed MK Dons keeper Lee Nicholls did not have a difficult save to make all game. Mansfield’s best moment was when Danny Rose headed back across goal from a rare good cross, but it was headed off the line. At the other end, MK Dons nearly extended their lead as Mansfield were caught at the back with Conrad Logan saving superbly from Agard who was through 1-on-1, and Aneke having a shot deflected into the side netting.
Such a disappointment for the Stags. The defence and keeper Logan played well overall, with Pearce, Sweeney and substitute Ben Turner who replaced the injured Matt Preston, all in good form, and Logan making some saves to keep the Stags in the game. But other than that, it was disappointing stuff with Hamilton having a poor game, and likewise Tomlinson, Mellis not impressing while Bishop was also below par. Up front Walker was starved of service though also wasted some good opportunities to cross. MacDonald, having been switched into central midfield was probably the pick of midfield in the second half.
The Stags end the regular season with three defeats on the trot. Victory in any of those three games would have seen Mansfield promoted. So the Stags will go into the play-offs, and play Newport County. Newport catapulted themselves into the play-offs with a good late run, having always had games in hand over the other clubs following their good cup run earlier in the season. Newport ended the season 5 points behind Mansfield, though remarkably with a zero goal difference, in contrast to Mansfield’s of +28. There is little time for Mansfield to lick their wounds, with the first leg on Thursday night at Rodney Parade, and the second leg on Sunday at 6pm. Based on recent form, many would make Newport favourites to go through.
However if Mansfield can regain some of the form which got us to the verge of promotion, then it can be done, we have the players to do it, and it is still there for Mansfield. It’s worth remembering that of the three other teams in the play-offs, Mansfield beat all of Newport, Forest Green and Tranmere at home, drew away at Forest Green and Tranmere, and the only defeat in the six games against these sides was 1-0 away at Newport. We have missed the opportunity of automatic promotion, but the management, players and fans need to come together for another big push in the play-offs. It’s been such an enjoyable season overall and we can still do it. Come on Mansfield!
A word for the amazing Stags fans who stuck with their side throughout the 90 minutes and travelled in such great numbers, creating great vocal support. Indeed the following of 5,227 was Mansfield’s highest away following since 5,500 Stags fans at Newcastle in January 2006 in the FA Cup (not including the FA Trophy final at Wembley of course), and it was the highest Stags following for any away league game since away attendances started being quoted as official figures in 2002, beating 4,283 at Notts County earlier this season.
REPORT IN THE MATCH CENTRE
Report from MK DONS 1-0 MANSFIELD TOWN as Stags miss out on promotion party
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Saturday 04 May 2019
David Wheeler broke Mansfield Town hearts as his second minute header stole a narrow 1-0 victory for MK Dons in a thrilling winner-takes-all automatic promotion decider at Stadium MK this afternoon.
The result - Stags' third defeat in a row - left Mansfield facing a two-legged play-off against Newport County while MK Dons fans invaded the pitch to celebrate their promotion.
There were few chances in a tight game, though both sides had efforts cleared off the line and Stags keeper Conrad Logan made a superb save to deny Keiran Agard.
Dons dominated the first half but Stags went up a gear after the break and piled on the pressure only to see the home side defend superbly and few attempts get through to test Lee Nicholls.
Mansfield suffered a huge blow on 19 minutes when key defender Matt Preston was injured, but replacement Ben Turner defended manfully and Stags boss David Flitcroft tweaked his formation, made attacking substitutions and could do little more than hope for a lucky break that never came.
Mansfield made a surprise change as midfielder Alex MacDonald came in as a right wing back in place of Gethin Jones, who dropped to the bench.
The atmosphere was white hot as the sides kicked off on a chilly afternoon in bright sunshine.
Mansfield began the game brightly on the front foot but found themselves behind after only two minutes from the Dons' first corner.
Dean Lewington floated it in towards the near post where Wheeler guided a header past Logan.
On the restart Logan had to race out to clear ahead of Wheeler chasing a through ball to prevent further early damage.
Stags won a free kick which saw Preston hurt while challenging for a header and need lengthy treatment. But he was eventually able to play on.
The sky darkened and it began to hail as Stags won their first corner from which Will Tomlinson drilled a tame low shot at Nicholls.
Preston just managed to out-jump Chucks Aneke at the far post to concede a corner and prevent him nodding in a second on 18 minutes.
However, he was again hurt in the challenge and this time he had to go off, replaced by Turner.
On 24 minutes the Dons came close again, this time Mal Benning clearing Aneke's low finish off the line after Dons worked the ball well from a left wing throw-in.
On 27 minutes Jacob Mellis tried his luck low from distance and when Nicholls could only parry he was lucky CJ Hamilton wasn't closer to pick up the pieces.
Stags needed a foothold into the MK half and Flitcroft made a brave change on 37 minutes as he threw striker Danny Rose on for midfielder Tomlinson and went three up front.
Agard went down in the Stags box as he tried to turn and shouted for a penalty, but referee Probert was unimpressed.
Four minutes were added, but Stags were unable to find a way back into it as they went in a goal behind.
For the second half Hamilton was moved to right wing back and MacDonald went into a central midfield role.
They began with purpose and in the first minute Walker had a low near post drive saved, Stags' best effort of the game so far.
On 49 minutes Logan safely clutched Williams' header from a Lewington free kick as MK quickly responded.
But the Stags had clearly gone up a gear and were now starting to enjoy their best spell of possession all game with the away fans screaming them on.
Stags won two corners in a row, Rose heading wide from the second of them.
On 58 minutes only a great block from MacDonald denied Aneke as his shot was sent into sidenetting.
Dons were already time-wasting on 63 minutes as keeper Nicholls was booked for failing to get get the ball back in play quickly enough.
Bishop was narrowly wide with a low, swerving 25 yard shot on 65 minutes.
The game was becoming more and more stretched and on 67 minutes Logan kept Stags in the contest with a brilliant block after a home break had seen Aneke lift the ball into the box for Agard, whose first touch was immaculate but his finish blocked.
Stags sent on Jorge Grant for Benning on 69 minutes as a last throw of the dice and seconds later Rose saw his far post header cleared off the line by Martin.
It was agonising watching for the visiting fans as their side dominated possession and bravely threw everything forward.
But it left them vulnerable to the counter and Aneke again tested Logan with a cheeky lob but didn't quite get it right.
MacDonald was booked for a tired trip on Houghton on 81 minutes, then Rose had a shot on the turn comfortably saved as Sweeney stayed up as an extra striker as we entered the nervy last seven minutes.
But the Dons held firm to see out the 90 and the six added minutes as Mansfield found themselves dumped into the play-offs with Logan and Mellis booked late on and the match ending in rumbles of thunder.
MK DONS: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington, Walsh, Aneke (Simpson 90), Agard, Martin, McGrandles, Wheeler (Watson 69), Houghton, Brittain. Subs not used: Moore, Cisse, Hesketh, D'Ath, Harley.
MANSFIELD: Logan; Sweeney, Pearce, Preston (Turner 19); MacDonald, Bishop, Tomlinson (Rose 37), Mellis, Benning (Grant 69); Walker, Hamilton. Subs not used: Smith, Atkinson, Jones, Smith.
REFEREE: Lee Probert of Wiltshire.
ATTENDANCE: 20,718 (5,300 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ben Turner.
Report: MK Dons 1-0 Mansfield Town
MK Dons secured promotion to Sky Bet League One courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Mansfield Town at Stadium MK.
David Wheeler, named the Dons’ Player of the Month for April, scored the decisive goal just two minutes into the Winner Takes All clash and Paul Tisdale’s men saw out the remaining 94 minutes to return to the third tier of English football at the first time of asking.
Boss Tisdale made three changes to his starting XI with George Williams, Joe Walsh and Chuks Aneke all coming into the side in place of Ousseynou Cisse, Jake Hesketh and Ryan Harley.
Tisdale’s men made the perfect start, opening the scoring with the first shot of the game two minutes in. Williams forced a corner which was sent into the box by Dean Lewington and David Wheeler was there, unmarked, to head home his third goal in four games. 1-0.
Wheeler almost found himself in on goal again straight from kick-off but he was just beaten to a lofted through ball by goalkeeper Conrad Logan. The Dons then survived a Mansfield free-kick at the other end, with Lee Nicholls punching clear from Mal Benning’s delivery.
On 14 minutes, Nicholls got down well to gather a low drive from Neal Bishop. MK Dons responded and Aneke came within an inch of heading in from Wheeler’s fierce cross.
Aneke went even closer on 23 minutes but his low first-time effort from Agard’s cross was cleared off the line by a Stags defender. Jacob Mellis then produced a diving save out of Nicholls, who got a right arm to the strike.
The Dons were ascendancy as the half drew to a close but weren’t able to add to their tally before the break. Agard did have a penalty shout late in the period but it was waved away by referee Lee Probert.
Mansfield, needing a goal, started the second half well and Tyler Walker forced Nicholls into a save at his near post inside the opening minute. The Dons then had an opportunity of their own to find the net early in the half but Williams’ glanced header, from Lewington’s free-kick, was saved.
On 56 minutes, Turner headed wide from a corner. Stags striker Walker then raced through but couldn’t pick out teammate CJ Hamilton with his cross to the far post.
Aneke, moments later, went agonisingly close to doubling the lead but his right-footed drive was deflected into the side netting by Alex MacDonald. At the other end of the pitch, Bishop tested Nicholls from range but couldn’t keep his try on target.
On 67 minutes, Agard was played in by Aneke but was denied, one-on-one by Conrad Logan. Shortly after Lewington tried his luck but saw his effort blocked.
Ryan Watson was brought off the bench with 20 minutes to play, replacing the goalscorer of the Dons’ opening goal, Wheeler. His first involvement was to defend a free-kick from which Martin headed clear under his crossbar.
With a quarter of an hour to play, Stadium MK watched on as a Jorge Grant free-kick whistled through the MK Dons penalty area untouched. Aneke then went close to beating Logan with an audacious chip but the Stags stopper kept it out.
Mansfield piled on the pressure late but the Dons held on through six minutes of stoppage time right up until the final whistle of the campaign. Back in third tier for the first time of asking with Paul Tisdale at the wheel.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Williams, Martin, Walsh; Brittain, Houghton, McGrandles, Lewington (c); Wheeler (Watson 69), Aneke (Simpson (90), Agard.
Unused subs: Moore, Cisse, Hesketh, D’Ath, Harley.
Goal: Wheeler (2)
Booked: Nicholls, Aneke
Referee: L Probert
Attendance: 20,718 (5,227 away)
MK Dons and Mansfield fans clash on pitch after nervy League 2 promotion battle
By Mike Walters, Sports Writer
MK Dons face an FA probe after their promotion party was scarred by post-match crowd trouble.
Rival fans exchanged punches, kicks and flying bottles on the pitch after the Dons' tense 1-0 win earned took them back to League One and condemned Mansfield to the play-offs.
Home supporters celebrating David Wheeler's winner ran towards the 5,400 visiting Stags fans, some of whom broke through a flimsy cordon of stewards.
Police appeared slow to react, and although the ugly scenes did not become a full-scale pitched battle, Mansfield boss David Flitcroft raged: “I was asking some of their fans, 'Please celebrate with your own players and don't goad our supporters.'
“I don't think that was very respectful. Go and celebrate with your own team. This was a difficult after-game experience.”
Wheeler's early header sent the Dons bouncing back into League One at the first attempt in a tense promotion shoot-out, manager Paul Tisdale gasped: “I need a holiday!”
Tisdale only took over at stadium:mk last summer, after 12 years of triumph and heartache at Exeter, and he's worked his magic at the first time of asking.
Tisdale said: “Those six minutes of injury felt like a lifetime and seemed to go on forever. There were a lot of people who were desperate for that whistle to blow, especially me, but we defended fantastically well.
“What am I going to do now? I'm desperate for a holiday- after losing two play-off finals with Exeter in the last two years, you don't get much of a break by the time your season's been extended by an extra three weeks.
“So forgive me for being selfish, but I won't miss the play-offs one bit- I'm going to enjoy a bit of a party and then a holiday, although knowing me I will probably start thinking about football again after a couple of days.
“I feel sorry for Mansfield because they have been extremely consistent and I wish them all the best. They threw everything at us and, crikey, we just about got there in the end.”
On a momentous afternoon for both AFC Wimbledon and its wicked franchise step-brother, the equation was simple: Winner takes all, loser faces the play-off tombola.
But by the time the Stags got the memo, they were already a goal down after two minutes.
Long-serving Dons skipper Dean Lewington- 793 games without changing clubs- swung in a corner and winger Wheeler, unmarked six yards out, couldn't believe his luck.
And keeper Conrad Logan made a crucial save to smother Kieran Agard's shot midway through the second half and keep the Stags in the hunt.
But the Dons survived a late siege, and their hearts only skipped a beat when veteran Russell Martin cleared Mansfield sub Danny Rose's header from under the bar.
Spare a thought for the Stags, whose boss David Flitcroft was a portrait of dejection afterwards.
He said: I'm sick to my stomach and I'm raw. I'm hurting for my players and our supporters, but we have to pick ourselves up quickly for the play-offs.
There is no time to wallow in self-pity.”
Flitcroft was unhappy with the crowd scenes afterwards, saying: “I was asking some of their fans, 'Please celebrate with your players and don't goad our supporters.'
“We tried to get some of their supporters away from ours. I don't think it was very respectful. Go and celebrate with your own team. It was a difficult after-match experience.”
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