MANSFIELD PICK UP IMPORTANT WIN AT WALSALL
English Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Walsall 1 - 2 Mansfield Town
Adebayo 45. Cook 30, MacDonald 68.
Attendance: 4521 (877 from Mansfield)
Date: 26 October 2019
Martin Shaw at the Banks’s Stadium (Bescot Stadium)
Mansfield Town picked up an important 3 points in their first visit to Walsall for 13 years this afternoon, winning 2-1 with goals from Andy Cook, against his former club, and Alex MacDonald, whose goal was the first by a Stags midfielder this season (*). It felt particularly important for the Stags to win after creating 24 chances against Salford on Tuesday yet falling to defeat. The Stags created nowhere near that number of chances today and overall it was not a game that was full of quality, but Mansfield did show more quality than a Walsall side that lost its fifth game on the trot and Walsall looked a poor outfit, and hence it was a deserved win.
The Stags took the lead after 30 minutes and what a goal it was. Otis Khan picked up the ball in the centre circle and dribbled his way to the byline on the left side of the penalty area before chipping a perfect cross over the goalkeeper and on to the head of Andy Cook who rose above Liam Kinsella to head into the net from 3 yards. Simply sensational from Khan and a sweet moment for Cook whose every touch was booed by the home fans. Cook scored 18 goals for Walsall last season, a handy return for a side that was relegated. Walsall equalised on the stroke of 45 minutes and it came from a free kick which was soft to say the least as Ryan Sweeney was adjudged to have fouled Walsall sub Elijah Adebayo. The free kick from 30 yards out on the right was well-delivered into the box by Rory Holden and Adebayo headed into the net from 6 yards as the ball floated just over Krystian Pearce. Pearce should have defended that better.
The Stags regained the lead after 68 minutes as Mal Benning played a short pass to Conor Shaughnessy and made a run forward into the box, Shaughnessy then slid an inch perfect ball into Benning’s path as he forced his way into the box. Benning pulled the ball back from the byline and it deflected into the path of MacDonald, who took a touch before slamming the ball into the net from 8 yards. Great play particularly from Shaughnessy and Benning. It was a wonderful moment right in front of the travelling 877 Stags fans who got behind their side superbly all afternoon.
The Stags rarely looked like surrendering the lead and saw the game out for 3 big points.
Otis Khan was my man of the match, having a terrific game, particularly in the first half with the home side often unable to get the ball off him. Huge credit also to Conrad Logan who made several fine saves in a high quality performance. In the first half, Rory Gaffney was through 1-on-1 with Logan and Logan saved well with his legs. Early in the second half, Logan pushed a shot by Adebayo wide after MacDonald had gifted the ball to Adebayo. But the best and most important of the lot came just moments before the Stags went 2-1 up as Gordon gave the ball away to Liam Kinsella who played in Gaffney, and Logan made a brilliant save to deny Gaffney who was through 1-on-1. What a key moment that was, indeed it was a match-changing moment with the Stags notching the winner less than a minute later.
Mansfield are up to 14th in the table and will probably move in to the top half of the table if they can beat Colchester next Saturday, and the play-off positions will at last look a lot closer. It will be a big game and it’s vital the Stags again put back-to-back wins together.
(footnote *) assuming Afolayan and Sterling-James are counted as strikers.
There had been a huge amount of rain all morning and night and indeed on Friday so it was remarkable that the pitch was in perfect condition. Huge credit to the groundstaff and to Walsall for such a good pitch.
FULL REPORT IN THE MATCH CENTRE
MATCH REPORT: Alex MacDonald strikes as Mansfield Town bounce back with win at Walsall
chad.co.uk, by Agency, Saturday 26 October 2019
Alex MacDonald’s first goal of the season secured a superb 2-1 win for Mansfield Town at Walsall today.
And earlier in the game Andy Cook also netted to haunt his former club as Stags picked up their first win at the Banks’s Stadium in 25 years.
Cook opened the scoring at Walsall, where he plied his trade before joining the Stags in June, before Elijah Adebayo levelled proceedings in first half stoppage time.
But MacDonald was the hero after the break as Stags bounced straight back from their midweek home defeat by Salford City.
Otis Khan shone brightly on the day for the visitors, though Conrad Logan also pulled off some crucial saves.
Boss John Dempster named an unchanged side and Stags started brightly with Nicky Maynard denied at the front post by Saddlers’ shot-stopper Jack Rose.
Down the other end, Conrad Logan produced a fine stop of his own to keep out Rory Gaffney.
Dempster’s charges took the lead on the half-hour mark when Khan’s cross left Cook a easy header to put the visitors ahead.
The Stags had chances to double their tally before the break.
Mal Benning struck wide, before Cook also failed to find the target on the turn.
But Walsall hit back on the stroke of the break as Adebayo restored parity by heading home from point-blank range.
After the break Logan needed to have his wits about him to deny Adebayo a second.
Logan once again made a fine stop to keep the game level by stopping Gaffney in his tracks.
And Mansfield turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye with MacDonald finishing with a superb volley.
Adebayo nodded Danny Guthrie’s inviting free-kick just over the bar.
But the Stags could have put the game to bed with presentable chances late on as Rose somehow kept Cook’s deflection header out with 10 minutes to go, before athletically tipping Benning’s stinging strike past the post.
WALSALL: Rose, Norman, Roberts, Scarr, Cockerill-Mollett, Holden, Sinclair, Bates (Guthrie, 63), Kinsella, Gordon (Adebayo, 26), Gaffney. Unused subs: Roberts, Hardy, Facey, McDonald, Liddle.
MANSFIELD: Logan, Gordon, Pearce (Preston, 59), Sweeney, Benning, MacDonald, Shaughnessy, Khan, Bishop, Cook (Afolayan, 90), Maynard (Hamilton, 87). Unused subs: Olejnik, Knowles, Smith, Tomlinson.
REFEREE: Andy Haines.
ATTENDANCE: 4,521 (877 away).
Walsall 1 Mansfield 2 - Report and pictures
Walsall were left rueing their missed chances when they fell to a fifth defeat in a row at home to Mansfield.
expressandstar.com, By Liam Keen
Striker Rory Gaffney spurned several clear-cut opportunities in both halves as the Saddlers lost 2-1.
Former Walsall frontman Andy Cook opened the scoring with a header before Elijah Adebayo equalised with a header of his own on the stroke of half-time.
After Walsall didn’t capitalise on more chances in the second 45, the visitors won it with a goal from Alex McDonald.
Darrell Clarke made four changes to the side that lost 2-0 away at Oldham on Tuesday, starting in a 5-3-2 formation.
Cameron Norman, Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Kory Roberts all came into the defence - with the latter making his first league appearance since he broke his leg in summer before the 2018/19 season.
Cockerill-Mollett started as one of three centre-backs.
Liam Kinsella also returned to the side, after being suspended for the defeat at Oldham, starting in left-wing-back.
Captain James Clarke and fellow defenders Zak Jules and Cameron Pring missed out after picking up injuries in midweek.
Danny Guthrie made his return from injury, making the bench.
John Dempster’s Mansfield started in a 4-4-2 formation with an unchanged side to their 2-1 loss at home to Salford in midweek.
Former Saddlers players Mal Benning and Andy Cook started the game, while another familiar face, Matty Preston, was named on the bench.
Despite the cold and wet conditions, Walsall started the game brightly, pressing intently when Mansfield were on the ball.
That pressing forced an error in the visitor’s backline, gifting Walsall a corner and the first chance of the game.
Roberts won the header from Alfie Bates’ cross and goalkeeper Conrad Logan had to save from close range after Cockerill-Mollett poked the ball towards goal.
Mansfield grew into the game and almost went ahead themselves shortly after, through veteran striker Nicky Maynard.
The striker’s headed attempt from a cross was straight at Jack Rose, but the goalkeeper still had to react well to palm it away.
In an equal first 20 minutes, that saw chances at either end, Rory Gaffney almost put the hosts ahead.
A long ball over the top from Scarr put the striker through on goal but his shot was straight at Logan, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.
The breakthrough came on the half-hour mark as returning striker Cook headed home from a cross by Otis Khan.
The winger did well to get to the byline and lift a cross over everyone, apart from Cook who was waiting at the back post.
But Walsall should have equalised instantly.
Elijah Adebayo, who came on after Josh Gordon picked up a knock, did the hard work by out-muscling the defender before laying the ball into Gaffney.
The striker is on the edge of the box, the goalkeeper is in no-man’s land, but Gaffney’s shot was blocked by Benning on its way into the net.
The Irishman had another good chance in the 43rd minute but he hesitated from gambling on a superb inswinging cross from Kinsella, before the goalkeeper collected the ball.
But on the stroke of half-time it was substitute Adebayo who levelled the score for Walsall.
The 21-year-old initially won a free-kick on the right side of the box and after a wonderful cross from Holden, Adebayo is at the back post to head home.
The first-half ended with both sides level, with the home fans buoyed by the late Adebayo goal.
After scoring at the end of the first half, Walsall started the second half with the momentum.
Spurned on from his goal, Adebayo was running himself into the ground to win the ball back for his team, constantly harassing defenders and charging the ball down.
Within five minutes he was given an opportunity on goal when he found space on the left of the box. His curled shot was well saved by Logan.
On the 68th minute Gaffney spurned another golden chance. Kinsella did incredibly well to win the ball high-up and play in Gaffney.
The striker had a one-on-one chance and hit it low at the goalkeeper - to the detriment of his side because Mansfield counter attacked straight away and took the lead.
The ball came in from the left and after a scramble in the box, it popped up to Alex MacDonald who hit it low past Rose.
With 10 minutes remaining, Rose kept Walsall in the game with a strong, instinctive save from close-range.
But Walsall didn’t muster any meaningful chances on goal in the closing stages and fell to another home defeat.
Walsall: Rose, Norman, Scarr, Roberts, Cockerill-Mollett, Holden (McDonald 72), Bates (Guthrie 62), Sinclair, Kinsella, Gordon (Adebayo 25), Gaffney.
Subs: Roberts, Liddle, Facey, Hardy.
Mansfield: Logan, Benning, Pearce (Preston 58), Bishop, MacDonald, Khan, Maynard (Hamilton 87), Shaughnessy, Sweeney, Cook, Gordon.
Subs not used: Olejnik, Tomlinson, Afolayan, Knowles, Smith.
Attendance: 4,521 (877 away).