I’ve watched live football all over Europe but prior to last Saturday I’d never been to Mansfield Town.
As a diehard Forest supporter I was still buzzing from their City Ground victory, less than 24 hours earlier. Regardless of the Forest result, I was really looking forward to seeing Mansfield in action on their own patch.
I decided to hop on the 141 bus and make the experience that little bit more authentic, just over an hour later I arrived in the town centre and made the final leg of the journey on foot. The first thing that struck me was the sheer lack of footballing traffic, something you take for granted when your team ply their trade in the Championship.
I was surprised to see that man of the moment Matt Green wasn’t in the starting line-up for Mansfield, despite them having two up front. The home side began brightly thanks to some good hold up play from Pat Hoban, which was complimented well by Mitchell Rose and his namesake Danny.
Form suggested that this would be the tale of things to come, especially when Hoban rounded the keeper and saw his effort cleared off the line in the 11th minute.
However; Wycombe took heed of their early escape and began to dictate the pace of the game for the remainder of the first half.
Adebayo Akinfenwa in particular started to throw his weight around, and boy does he carry some weight.
His strike partner, Paul Hayes is also a big old unit, but they were surprisingly mobile as the Chairboys began to cause the home side some real problems. Wycombe almost took the lead around the twenty-minute mark after a bit of head tennis in the stags box, the ball eventually breaking to Dominic Gape, whose long range effort was well saved by Scott Shearer.
Wycombe came close again in the 22nd minute when Bloomfield scooped his effort over the bar from Hayes’ through ball.
Pat Hoban missed Mansfield’s only other chance when he got sight of goal from the edge of the box but the burly forward dragged his shot wide of the right hand post.
Akinfenwa came very close shortly after and Danny Rowe also threatened the Mansfield goal before the break, which couldn’t come soon enough for the home side.
Cometh the hour cometh the man; the main man in Mansfield’s case, Matt Green. Stags’ top scorer had come from the bench to score in the last two games and surely should have warranted a place in the starting line-up.
Adam Murray obviously believes the hitman to be more effective when starved of minutes and that theory was soon to be justified once again.
Mansfield looked a far better side in the second period and the super sub came close in the 52nd minute with an acrobatic effort from a Clemments free-kick. Rhys Bennett squandered a free header a minute later as did Green soon after. Despite the lack of conviction you felt that the Stags were close to an equaliser though.
Darius Henderson entered the fray on 67 minutes, replacing Pat Hoban, I was interested to see how the former Forest man would apply himself in the lower echelons of the Football League.
I always thought that his physique was ideal for League One and Two and he proved me right as he produced a fore arm smash on an opponent within minutes of his arrival.
Some things never change! I noticed a real rapport between Henderson and Matt Green and they began to bully their opposing centre halves, who’d looked far too comfortable in the first half.
Mal Benning, a player who I’ve heard about previously, began to attack with ferocity down the left. After a couple of wayward efforts, he forced a stunning save from Blackman in the Wycombe goal.
The on loan keeper from Chelsea was earning his 14k a week without doubt as he kept the home side at bay; until the 81st minute that was. Bennett’s lofted throughball caused confusion in the box and Matt Green nipped it to smash a half volley into the roof of the net.
It had been coming but Murray’s men wanted more. There was still time for my man of the match Jamal Blackman to first keep out Bennett’s effort before producing a world class save in stoppage time from Henderson’s header.
Subsequently, the match ended all square and for me it was a fair result.
Literally a game of two halves and a thoroughly enjoyable experience for myself. I can certainly see why Adam Murray chose to play wing backs when you have the likes of Rhys Bennett and Malvind Benning in the side.
What did surprise me though was the fact that both, Green and Henderson didn’t start the game. Maybe one or the other but the Stags certainly looked a more polished outfit when they came on.
It was a little disappointing to see a crowd of less than 3,000 in such a tidy looking stadium, home to some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever met too.
I suppose it’s the geographical distance that prevents more fans from the City of Nottingham from checking in on the Stags, when Forest are away. Mansfield has its own identity and I don’t think that will ever change; but after my first visit I can assure you that I’ll be coming back again.
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