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Archived News from October 2019

6th October 2019 18:02

English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Mansfield Town 0 - 1 Plymouth Argyle
Conor Grant 13
Attendance: 4499 (550 from Plymouth)

Date: 28 September 2019

Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill

Mansfield Town were beaten at home for the second home game running, this time 1-0 by Plymouth Argyle. Plymouth were good value for their 1-0 lead at half time, thanks to a spectacular goal from Conor Grant, who fired in from 28 yards after 13 minutes. Plymouth also forced two good saves from Conrad Logan, had a shot against the post, another free shot from the edge of the area blocked after poor defending from the Stags, and a free header over the bar after more poor defending. The Stags though should have been ahead before all of that, after just 3 minutes when Danny Rose had a chance to run at goal, but unselfishly laid off perfectly for CJ Hamilton who was clean through on goal in a central position, but Hamilton over-ran the ball to the keeper, and didn’t even get a shot away. It was a dreadful miss. It was a similar situation to Danny Rose’s miss at Crawley, where his poor first touch saw a golden chance evaporate, and to Andy Cook who had a golden chance at 0-1 after 85 minutes against Cambridge when his poor first touch let him down. All three chances were at a critical time and surely directly impacted the outcome of all three games.
Into the second half and the Stags dominated in terms of possession but a lack of quality in the final third meant they created precious little in the way of chances. Far too many times, the final ball from open play or a set piece was poor. For example, Mal Benning on three occasions failed to beat the first man from a free kick delivery. The best chance for the Stags to equalise came after 89 minutes as sub Andy Cook’s low shot was saved by the keeper with his legs.
John Dempster has previously talked about wanting bravery from his players, and after 90+4 minutes, Neal Bishop, unmarked on the edge of the area with a great chance to shoot, instead laid the ball wide to Gordon, whose cross was deflected to the keeper. The failure to shoot showed a lack of confidence and a lack of bravery.

In his programme notes before the last home game, against Cambridge, chairman John Radford wrote: “Whilst nothing is won or lost after 10 matches, it is certainly a time where progress, or lack thereof, can be measured.” After that game with Cambridge, which resulted in a 4-0 defeat, I wrote that “No-one could be surprised if this result leads to a similar outcome” (to the sacking of manager Billy Dearden after the last time the Stags lost 4-0 at home), and I also wrote that “It would seem therefore that only a big performance in the 10th game of the season, at Port Vale on Saturday, can prevent manager John Dempster from being relieved of his first team managerial duties and perhaps a return to a position in the Academy from where he came.”
The best performance of the season last Saturday at Port Vale, albeit only earning one point, coupled with bringing in Drewe Broughton as full time Performance Coach a week ago, suggested that Dempster would get more time to turn things around and I wrote last week that I thought that was the right approach.
In his programme notes before today’s game, chairman John Radford wrote: “Performances are becoming better and I am confident that results will follow. We cannot allow further daylight between us and the early pacesetters. Expectations (of promotion) have not and will not alter.”
This defeat to Plymouth clearly does not help John Dempster’s position at all. It remains the case that results need to pick up very quickly. With 11 games gone, the Stags have just 10 points, and are 8 points behind the play-off places, and 11 points behind the top 3. The Stags go to Grimsby next week. If the Stags were to lose, they would be at least 10 points outside the play-off places, and considerably nearer to the bottom of the table.

The Stags made one change from the side that drew at Port Vale. Hayden White had been admitted to hospital with serious stomach cramps. It was a big blow to lose him and it’s not clear how long he will be out. Conor Shaughnessy dropped back into central defence, and Alex MacDonald returned to the side in midfield. The Stags kept the 3-4-3 formation from last week with CJ Hamilton (right) and Otis Khan (left) either side of Danny Rose. Nicky Maynard returned from injury to the bench (in place of Sterling-James). Keeper Bobby Olejnik had been expected to return from long term injury to the squad, but he dislocated a finger in the training during the week.
Plymouth arrived at the One Call stadium in the bottom half of the table, like Mansfield, two points ahead of Mansfield. Both sides had been pre-season favourites for promotion, and were under-achieving. Plymouth, managed by Ryan Lowe, who led Bury to promotion last season, included Danny Mayor who was so impressive for Bury last season. Mayor though was to have little impact on this game.

There was heavy rain in the couple of hours before kick off. A few years ago you would have worried about the game being in doubt, but the pitch is now in much better condition with all the money spent on it and great work from the groundstaff led by Mez Merriman, and it generally held up well.



Report from MANSFIELD TOWN 0-1 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE as stunning strike downs Stags
chad.co.uk, by JOHN LOMAS, Saturday 28 September 2019

A 30-yard thunderbolt finish from Conor Grant proved enough for Plymouth Argyle to continue Mansfield Town's poor start to the season with a 1-0 win at the One Call Stadium this afternoon.

Argyle deserved their interval lead, which could have been more if they had not hit a post, wasted a golden chance and seen Conrad Logan make two good saves.


Stags were much improved after the break and piled on the pressure, but Argyle stood firm to leave John Dempster's team with just two wins from the first 11 games and at the wrong end of the table, the home fans booing them off for the second successive home game.

Yet it could all have been so different had CJ Hamilton taken his one-on-one chance at the start of the game.

There was no improvement in Mansfield's luck over injuries this week with keeper Bobby Olejnik and Hayden White both ruled out of the squad.

Olejnik was expected back in the 18 after nine months out with a serious knee injury but dislocated a finger in training while White was admitted to hospital with serious stomach cramps this week and missed out.

Replacing White in the starting XI was Alex MacDonald.

Argyle made two changes with Scott Wootton and Conor Grant in for Josh Grant and Dom Telford.

The game began in heavy rain on a very sodden surface and Stags should have gone ahead on three minutes.

Breaking down the centre, Rose sent Hamilton clear on goal, but a poor touch saw the ball roll harmlessly to keeper Palmer.

A minute later in Argyle's first raid, Joel Grant turned just inside the box and lifted a decent effort just over the far angle.

After Stags failed to get anyone on the end of a dangerous low Khan ball into the box from the left, the home side had a let-off on 11 minutes when Argyle worked the ball to the left where MacFadzean's low cross came back off the foot of the post.

But the 13th minute proved unlucky for Mansfield as Plymouth went ahead.

Mayor fed Joel Grant into the left of the box and Logan had to get down to save his low finish. The ball was cleared out to Conor Grant 30 yards out and he looked up and smashed an unstoppable finish into the top right hand corner, giving Logan no chance.

Wootton saw the game's first booking on 22 minutes when he was late in on Rose before two promising home raids were halted by offside flags.

Conor Grant had a low effort blocked as Mansfield tried to clear a free kick on 26 minutes while Khan was too high with a 20 yard free kick as we reached the half-hour mark.

On 35 minutes Shaughnessy stepped in to rescue Stags after a loose pass by Bishop, but the ball again reached Conor Grant outside the box and this time he fired in a low shot that Logan had to palm away. Some head tennis from the corner ended with Joel Grant nodding straight to Logan.

On 43 minutes Palmer did well to smother a firm, low cross-cum-shot by Gordon and MacDonald was not too far over seconds later.

Aimson was added to the book for his tackle on Khan.

Plymouth wasted a golden chance to double their lead in the first of three added minutes as Edwards' right wing cross offered Cooper a free header centrally from five yards and he sent the ball over the bar.

There was still time for Gordon to be booked as he brought down MacFadzean after losing the ball.

MacFadzean was also booked five minutes after the break for his lunge at Gordon and Sarcevic joined him two minutes later for a foul on Benning, Rose seeing a shot deflect inches over off Sawyer between the cautions.

A brilliant turn and run by Mayor from just inside the home half saw him skip into the box and try to set up Cooper, Benning making a crucial interception.

On the hour Khan had a low shot blocked and Bishop saw his follow-up deflect up and over as the home side searched desperately for an equaliser.

From a corner Benning's low shot hit team mate Shaughnessy and then Benning's attempted overhead kick caught Cooper in the face to earn him a booking and a swift end to Cooper's afternoon with Afolayan replacing Hamilton before the action could resume.

A fabulous pass from MacDonald set Gordon into space on the right only to see him poke the ball harmlessly wide as Mansfield continued to dominate.

Afolayan sent one over on the turn from 18 yards before Lolos was Argyle's fifth booking on 75 minutes after sliding in late on Shaughnessy.

Mansfield sent on Cook for Shaughnessy on 77 minutes and four minutes later replaced Khan with Maynard to have four strikers on the field.

Cook almost levelled a minute from time after being slipped into space by Rose, but Palmer blocked his first shot and, when the ball came back in, was there to grab Cook's header.

Stags were handed eight additional minutes at the end, but Argyle were on mood to surrender what they had and held on comfortably.

STAGS: Logan; Shaughnessy (Cook 77), Pearce, Sweeney; Gordon, Bishop, MacDonald, Benning; Hamilton (Afolayan 66), Rose, Khan (Maynard 81). Subs not used: Stone, Mellis, Tomlinson, Smith.

PLYMOUTH: Palmer, Sawyer, Aimson, Wootton, Sarcevic, Edwards, Mayor (Lolos 71), C. Grant, Joel Grant (Riley 79), MacFadzean, G. Cooper (Taylor 66). Subs not used: M. Cooper, Canavan, Randell, Josh Grant.

REFEREE: Anthony Backhouse of Cumbria.

ATTENDANCE: 4,499 (550 away).



Mansfield Town 0 Argyle 1
by Rick Cowdery

IT has taken Conor Grant 23 games in an injury-interrupted 15 months at Home Park to make an indelible mark on his Pilgrimage, but he has now done so in some style, and with perfect timing.

The sweetest left foot at Home Park secured a valuable victory for Argyle, driving the ball into a net that has riffled to some memorable strikes from Pilgrims’ midfielders in recent years - Graham Carey’s free-kick; David Fox’s FA Cup winner. This topped them all.

As Argyle emerged from some early home-side pressure, he picked the ball up at least 25 yards from goal, looked up, and imperiously smashed it home.

It gave the Pilgrims their first Sky Bet League Two victory in six matches, and their first win in the month of September since 2016, the not so small matter of 16 games ago.

Argyle had made two changes to their starting line-up, recalling defender Scott Wootton at the One Call, as well as Conor Grant.

As one Grant returned, another - defender Josh - made way for Wootton in a three-man defence, while Conor nominally replaced injured striker Dom Telford from the 11 that had lined up a week previously against Cheltenham Town at Home Park.

As well as changing the personnel, manager Ryan Lowe had tweaked the Pilgrims’ shape a touch - still three at the back but with, essentially, a matching fluid three up front, Danny Mayor and George Cooper supporting Joel Grant.

Behind them, Callum McFadzean and Joe Edwards were more wide midfielders, than wing-backs, with Antoni Sarcevic sharing central duties with Conor Grant.

Whether it was the change to the system or a surface saturated by heavy rain, Argyle started uncertainly and were nearly unhinged in the opening minutes after Gary Sawyer lost possession midway inside his own half.

Danny Rose seized on the loose ball and fed CJ Hamilton, racing through the middle at least three yards ahead of the chasing pack. His touch, though, was unforgivably heavy, allowing Alex Palmer to make a save that he really had no right to.

Argyle gradually settled on the puddling pitch and quickly made significant inroads of their own.

McFadzean, overlapping, crashed a shot against the foot of a post, with Joel Grant a pull-back and tap-in from giving Argyle the lead. Mayor then played in Joel, who muscled his way through with an intent that faltered only on some brave goalkeeping by Conrad Logan.

Having gained momentum, the Pilgrims made it count. Sarcevic controlled a clearance and saw Conor Grant advancing on his left, some 30 yards from goal. One touch to control, another to send a rasping oscillating shot past the veteran Logan’s futile attempt to keep the ball out.

It was some way to register your first goal for the club. You always felt he had it - and many more - in him.

Ahead, Argyle maintained control of the game, with Conor Grant, especially, blossoming.

Having bought one ticket for the lottery and walked away with first prize, the young Liverpudlian was not afraid to dip into his pocket again. One shot - left-foot, of course - was blocked on route to goal; another had Logan scrambling full length to make sure the Pilgrims’ advantage stayed at one goal.

Of slight concern was that all three Pilgrims’ centre-backs were shown a yellow with more than half of the game to be played, Wootton for a particularly hard, and somewhat out of character, tackle on Rose; Aimson unluckily, for a challenge on Rose that looked legal.

In time added on to the first half, each side fashioned an opportunity to change the nature of the half-time team-talk. Edwards’ cross found the head of Cooper, in space in the Mansfield penalty area, but the ball went over; at the other end, Kellan Gordon’s drive into the box was cleared for a corner.

The home side came out with a decent lick. Mal Benning had a cross cut out well by Sawyer, and Rose’s drive was deflected over. Meanwhile, McFadzean and Sarcevic joined their defensive colleagues in receiving a caution from referee Anthony Backhouse, who seemed to deem any challenge worthy of a yellow card.

Otis Kahn then made headway in the Argyle box and when his deflected shot looped out to Neal Bishop, Sarcevic’s body block was a pluperfect example of dedication above and beyond.

Palmer and Aimson then teamed up to keep out Gordon’s drive and a rebound which was falling kindly for Hamilton before there was a long break in play to allow attention to Cooper when he was kicked in the face by Benning.

Cooper could not continue and Ryan Taylor - one of only two survivors from the Pilgrims’ previous game at One Call Stadium - came on to play the central of the three striker roles, Joel Grant shuffling out to the wing. Taylor’s height was also useful at the back as Mansfield continued to press and won a succession of corners.

Argyle’s next substation was more surprising, Mayor coming off in favour of Klaidi Lolos, who became the sixth Pilgrim to be booked - for his first foul in what was by no means a dirty game.

Mansfield continued to press and Khan’s close control took him into a threatening position the penalty area before Sarcevic slid in from the side to deprive him of the opportunity to shoot.

Mansfield sent on Ryan Lowe’s main striker at Bury last season, Nicky Maynard, back from injury, for the final ten minutes as the Stags threw the works at Argyle.

The Pilgrims needed Palmer to be at his best to come quickly from his line and spread himself at the feet of Stags’ substitute Andy Cook to block the fine opportunity.

That preceded eight minutes of time added on to the 90, largely because of the on-field treatment to Cooper, during which Palmer did well to keep out Gordon’s deflected shot.

Bring on October.

Mansfield Town (3-5-2): 1 Conrad Logan; 15 Conor Shaugnessy (19 Andy Cook 77), 5 Krystian Pearce (capt), 17 Ryan Sweeney; 20 Kellan Gordon, 6 Neal Bishop, 10 Otis Khan (11 Nicky Maynard 81), 7 Alex MacDonald, 3 Mal Benning; 22 CJ Hamilton (18 Dapo Afolayan 66), 32 Danny Rose. Substitutes (not used): 8 Jacob Mellis, 16 Will Tomlinson, 30 Alistair Smith, 31 Aidan Stone (gk).

Booked: Gordon 45, Benning 63.

Argyle (3-4-3): 24 Alex Palmer; 5 Scott Wootton, 4 Will Aimson, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 8 Joe Edwards, 17 Antoni Sarcevic, 15 Conor Grant, 21 Callum McFadzean; 32 George Cooper (9 Ryan Taylor 66), 16 Joel Grant (2 Joe Riley 79), 10 Danny Mayor (19 Klaidi Lolos 71). Substitutes (not used): 1 Mike Cooper, 6 Niall Canavan, 20 Adam Randell, 25 Josh Grant.

Booked: Wootton 22, Sawyer 30, Aimson 45, McFadzean 50, Sarcevic 52, Lolos 75.

Referee: Anthony Backhouse.

Attendance: 4,499 (550 away).


Plymouth Argyle return to winning ways with hard-fought 1-0 victory over Mansfield Town
By Chris Errington, 28 SEP 2019

Conor Grant scored his first-ever goal for Plymouth Argyle as they clinched a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Mansfield Town at Field Mill.

The 24-year-old midfielder was recalled to the starting line-up for his first action since the 3-1 defeat at Northampton Town on August 31.

Grant made the most of the opportunity, getting his first goal in 24 appearances for the Pilgrims since the start of last season.

And it was an absolute cracker, too, as his long range in the 13th minute flew into the net.

That proved to be the difference between the two sides at the final whistle as Argyle ended a run of five League Two games without a win.

Mansfield had a tremendous chance to open the scoring as early as the third minute when they opened up the Pilgrims’ defence.

Speedy striker CJ Hamilton was sent racing clear but he took a terrible touch of the ball and Argyle ‘keeper Alex Palmer was able to dive forward and grab it.

Argyle’s Joel Grant sent one curling shot wide of the target before left wing-back Callum McFadzean saw his low drive from a tight angle hit the base of a post.

The Pilgrims did make the breakthrough in the 13th minute, though, with Conor Grant’s superb strike.

Antoni Sarcevic played the ball across to him after a shot from Joe Edwards had been blocked.

Grant then unleashed a fierce left-foot shot from 25 yards which flew into the met past ‘keeper Conrad Logan.

Argyle were largely in control for the rest of the first half and had a couple of good chances to extend their lead.

First, in the 35th minute, Conor Grant got in another well-struck low shot which forced an excellent low diving save out of Logan.

Then, in stoppage time, George Cooper wastefully sent a header over the crossbar after right wing-back Joe Edwards swung in a fine cross.

Mansfield did most of the pressing in the second half but Argyle defended strongly to limit them to few clear sights of goal.

The trio of Scott Wootton, Will Aimson and Gary Sawyer were excellent as the crosses and long throw-ins came into the penalty area.

Antoni Sarcevic, playing in a deeper midfield role than usual, also put in a great shift as the Pilgrims kept Mansfield out.

The closest the Stags came to getting an equaliser was in the 89th minute when the ball dropped to substitute Andy Cook inside the box.

The striker was able to get in a shot but it was superbly blocked by Argyle ‘keeper Alex Palmer.

Eight minutes of added-on time was played by referee Anthony Backhouse but the battling Pilgrims were not to be denied their win.

Mansfield: Conrad Logan; Conor Shaughnessy (Andy Cook 77 mins), Krystian Pearce, Ryan Sweeney; Kellan Gordon, Neal Bishop, Alex MacDonald, Mal Benning; CJ Hamilton (Dapo Afolayan 66 mins), Danny Rose, Otis Khan (Nicky Maynard 80 mins).

Substitutes: Jacob Mellis, Will Tomlinson, Alistair Smith, Aidan Stone.

Argyle: Alex Palmer; Scott Wootton, Will Aimson, Gary Sawyer; Joe Edwards, Antoni Sarcevic, Conor Grant, Callum McFadzean; George Cooper (Ryan Taylor 66 mins), Danny Mayor (Klaidi Lolos 71 mins); Joel Grant (Joe Riley 79 mins).

Substitutes: Mike Cooper, Niall Canavan, Adam Randell, Josh Grant

Referee: Anthony Backhouse

Attendance: 4,499 (550)



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