Thursday, 26th December 2013: Rochdale 3 Mansfield Town 0

Mansfield Town’s miserable run without a League win reached 13 games as they were outclassed 3-0 at Rochdale this afternoon.

Spotland has rarely been a happy hunting ground for the Stags and this was an 11th game without a win there and a fourth successive trip there without scoring.

So the omens were not good before kick-off, and Stags then proceeded to concede twice in the first 12 minutes to all but see their chances gone.

Whatever was said in the half-time team talk was then destroyed inside five minutes as the home side added a third, Scott Hogan’s second, and it was all over with 40 minutes still to suffer.

With regular keeper Josh Lillis ill, the home side were forced to give Robbie Thomson a debut in goal, and Stags failed to manage even one shot on target all afternoon as he enjoyed an easy 90 minutes.

The home side always seemed to be a gear above Mansfield in speed and movement and their quality left Stags chasing shadows at times.

Rochdale had wobbled and lost their previous two home games, but they never looked in any danger in a thoroughly disappointing Boxing Day trip for Stags’ freezing, faithful away supporters.

The Mansfield side showed four changes. Jamie McGuire, Lee Stevenson and Ritchie Sutton were dropped to the bench with James Jennings out of the 16 altogether.

Into a 4-3-3 came Lee Beevers in defence, Chris Clements and Anthony Howell into midfield and Ollie Palmer up front.

Rochdale eventually managed to clear from a long early Beevers throw into their box and break well with the ball worked out left to Rose, whose dangerous low cross in was well held by Marriott as both sides made a lively start.

But the home side swept in front after only five minutes.

The goal was simplicity itself as Cummins sent in a cross from the left and Hogan rose to plant a header just under the angle.

Soon after Palmer did well to send in a low cross from the right, but there was no one there to tuck it away and the ball rolled to safety.

Palmer’s persistence then won Mansfield the game’s first corner on 11 minutes, Clements’ right-footed inswinger headed clear at the near post.

However, within a minute the home side had doubled their advantage.

Vincenti was found in acres of space on the right and he curled a tempting low cross right in front of goal where Lund slid in to net from close range.

Vincenti then needed treatment after being chopped down by a mistimed Howell tackle, the midfielder lucky to only receive a lecture from the referee.

Beevers did well to prevent Vincenti crossing from the right as Stags were caught four-on-three on a break with McCombe well up the field out of position.

On the half-hour Henderson was only inches over with a dipping 20-yard effort.

On 33 minutes Stags finally threatened as Dyer had a shot charged down outside the box and Clements laid the ball to Howell off the back of his heel.

He teed up Beevers from a left wing cross and Palmer rose to nod wide at the far post.

Mansfield followed that with a second corner from the left from which the referee spotted pushing and the pressure on the home side was relieved.

Stags then easily cleared the first Dale corner on 38 minutes.

Soon after Andrew won a free kick 20 yards out, but Clements’ low kick was easily blocked by the wall.

Cummins planted a header well wide from Rose’s left wing cross as we moved towards the final minute of the half.

In stoppage time, Dale almost conjured up a superb goal after Dyer had given the ball away and Rafferty had worked an opening for a far post cross where Cummins had been left unmarked, just unable to keep his rasping volleyed finish down enough to find the net.

Stags delayed the start of the second half as only seven men came back out. Beevers and Westlake then appeared before Andrew came out very late as the home fans booed and the referee waited to blow the whistle.

That still only gave Stags 10 men for the start as Palmer ran straight out onto the field and into the action seconds later.

It was a bizarre start to a half in which Stags needed to be hungry and take the game by the scruff of the neck.

There was controversy within four minutes as Vincenti skinned Riley down the right and crossed for Henderson only to see Marriott smother bravely at his feet.

The ball ran loose to Cummins who saw Westlake block his near post finish on the line. The home side were incensed as they argued Westlake had handled.

But it didn’t matter seconds later as Rose twisted and turned on the left before sending in a low cross in front of goal that Hogan turned home from close range on 50 minutes.

That promoted the first shouts of ‘what a load of rubbish’ from the suffering away fans, who had been encouraging as their side came back out.

Meikle was immediately sent on for Dyer and within two minutes was booked for a foul, Lund firing the free kick straight at Marriott.

Stags won a couple of corners, but again Thomson was untested.

Hogan thought had completed a hat-trick on 58 minutes after Rose had easily turned away from Andrew on the left and put the ball into the centre. But this time his close range first time finish was straight at Marriott.

When McCombe could not get up to head a lofted forward ball, Cummins looked in on goal until Westlake came across to rescue the situation with a fine sliding tackle to concede a corner that was cleared.

Daniel was sent on for the last 16 minutes as the afternoon continued to race away from Mansfield.

A neat move from Andrew and Westlake at least carved out Stags’ sixth corner, but once again the home side stood firm.

Howell soon won corner number seven as we reached the last eight minutes, Clements swinging it in well but, again, no one there to reach it.

ROCHDALE: Thompson, Rafferty, Cavanagh, Lancashire, Vincenti, Hogan (Bunney 82), Lund, O’Connell, Rose, Cummins, Henderson. Subs not used: Collis, Bennett, Eastham, Hery, Done, Allen.

STAGS: Marriott; Westlake, McCombe, Riley, Beevers; Murray, Clements, Howell; Dyer (Meikle 50), Palmer (Daniel 74), Andrew. Subs not used: Stevenson, McGuire, Briscoe, Sutton, Deakin.

REFEREE: Mark Haywood of West Yorkshire.

ATTENDANCE: 2,671.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Chris Clements.