Tag Archives: Mansfield Town

Early Season Pacesetters

This is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down to discuss the events of Tuesday night, and if you’re wondering about the delay, so am I! There are a dozen excuses I could have used for not writing until now, I could say I was packing up ready for my move on Saturday, or I was writing my column for the forthcoming WUP, but the truth is I didn’t do those either! I’m actually still in a pleasant state of shock. I could barely get any work done yesterday for reading match reports, opinion, and watching blocky phone-shot youtube footage of events that may or may not have been goals over and over again.

And I wasn’t even there! Perhaps this is one of those performances that will take on near legendary status because of the number of us that weren’t at Field Mill on Tuesday night. I wonder what effect this will have on the numbers travelling up to Wrexham on Saturday… I did notice the coach has been booked out earlier in the week than usual… Of course, I won’t be there, as I only have one day to move my stuff to my new temporary home in Kingston. Still, at least I’ll get home quick enough after games in future…

So, what does the Mansfield result actually mean? Despite not yet managing to record a point against the other early season pacesetters, Mansfield still have the potential to be within touching distance of the playoffs come January, when their owners money will bring a higher calibre of reinforcements. It’s unlikely they will throw money around like Crawley have, but the question then would be; will they gel quickly enough to get a promotion charge on track? Either way, we’ve taken three points and three goals off a promotion rival, which could turn out to be crucial come the end of April.

Plus our front three each got on the scoresheet for the first time, including Danny Kedwell’s tenth of the season. I don’t seem to be writing much about Keds lately, I even restrained myself after his heroics against Crawley, and the truth is because what more can you say that hasn’t been already? I really fear we won’t be able to keep him in January despite his age and the large fee it would take to prise him away, there isn’t much money floating around in the Football League at the moment, but his sheer consistency must have planted a few ideas here and there. It’s great to see Ryan Jackson hitting the net, I don’t think many of us would have put much money on him and Christian Jolley being regular starters this early in their Dons careers. They bring the two things that seem to scare Conference defences the most – good close control and out-and-out pace. Jolley has half a dozen already, an amazing start for him, and very much still something to build on – but it’s tough not to get excited by the potential he has shown.

There was another big game on Tuesday night, as Luton fell to a last-minute goal to Crawley. Games between ourselves and the two teams we consider our main rivals in the race for a place back in the League have seen us win and lose one each after one round of fixtures, which if anything goes to prove what Terry Brown mentioned after the Crawley game that games between these sides won’t decide where the title will go – which kind of lows my comment over the value of the Mansfield result out of the window unless this was his clever way of saying Crawley have already bought it…

And if you read my match preview and are wondering whether I regret not chucking that sickie… well of course I do! Still, my employers cheered me up by presenting me with a cheque for £25.00 made payable to The Dons Trust, they aren’t a bad bunch to work for (but it still wasn’t enough to blag some free advertising out of me!), but it does involve me running the Minithon a week on Sunday… too late to get in training? I could do it in my sleep… still, best have those paramedics on standby…

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Beyond Personal Irritation (Mansfield Match Preview)

No Mansfield for me tomorrow. Unfortunately two vacationing colleagues mean the Anonymous Don will be chained to a desk when the coach leaves Kingsmeadow, and the success of this blog means if I ‘pull a sickie’ my boss wouldn’t take too kindly to reading all about our latest brilliant victory/tame capitulation the next day. Not that I would even consider such a course of action these days… having said that I remember bunking off school for various evening away games back in the early nineties. A 3-2 win at Liverpool, an FA Cup third round replay victory at a sparsely populated Goodison Park… further back, the coldest night ever at Meadow Lane for a 1-1 draw with Notts County. Indeed, I have had some good times following the Dons when I shouldn’t strictly have been following the Dons. It’s a bit different when you’re doing it for a wage though…

Of course this is hugely annoying. I’ll miss not just Mansfield but Wrexham too (as I’m moving house), two precious games taking place while I’m still in the country, taking place at grounds I haven’t had the chance to visit yet, gone by the wayside. Beyond personal irritation, they are shaping up the be a pair of decent fixtures too. Despite their managers tendency to blow the majority of their large budget on has-beens, Wrexham is still a difficult place to go. First though, Mansfield, and our hosts tomorrow night look as though they are shaping up to be real promotion contenders.

The young Dons are getting over the unexpected hiccup that was Forest Green, yet seem to be bolstered by some good news injury-wise. With Brett Johnson seemingly set to sit out for the rest of the month, its hugely important that Ismail Yakubu seems set to return. Yakubu’s return brings a host of unseen benefits, beyond the obvious fact that he’s a beast in the air in both eighteen yard boxes. His experience and ability to talk the younger players through the game is invaluable, especially with the prospect of having Harris and Blackman flanking him. Terry Brown wasn’t just making excuses when he mentioned the age of the side in his post match interview, I feel if he is fit his return is nailed on against potentially dangerous opponents. The only question is whether Franks or Harris will miss out, I think I hinted on who I expect to see play alongside Yak in the previous sentence, so I’ll stick with Harris…

Steven Gregory’s immediate return is fortunate, I have to say I didn’t notice his on-field chunder on Saturday and presumed the worst when he was withdrawn. Hopefully he will be back to his consistent best tomorrow night, but his withdrawal did give Luke Moore the chance to return to action. Moore was my standout player when he came on at the weekend, and despite Jolley’s fantastic effort (which looks even better on AFCW TV – for those who haven’t seen it yet go and have a look now. Don’t worry, we’ll wait, and if you haven’t got AFCW TV in your bookmarks -and why wouldn’t you? – you can find it here. Just forward on to 3.57 in…) I thought Moore came closest to hauling the momentum back in the Dons direction. I’m looking forward to seeing Luke back in form, and perhaps more importantly finding his place in the new system. His previous appearances have been restricted to the right attacking role that Ryan Jackson has made his own, and he hasn’t quite excelled there yet. If Jackson isn’t fit enough to start tomorrow I’d wouldn’t mind seeing Moore given another crack there – the player I’d really like to see in that position is Mark Nwokeji, but that’s a debate we’ll have to save for when he actually manages an extended period of game time.

One change I can see is Yussuff replacing Wellard. Toks has looked a lot better coming into games from the bench than he has during his rare starts, but Wellard faded badly on Saturday to the point you started to wonder whether he had picked up whatever illness Gregory had… Now I’m not saying Wellard has been poor this season, but I get the impression his manager wants him to be a lot more incisive than he has so far. Toks came onto the field at the weekend and pretty much immediately carved his way thought the massed ranks of the Forest Green defence to create a great chance for Sammy Moore, and that might be enough to see him given another chance tomorrow night.

I didn’t write a match preview for Forest Green, so here’s a chance for back-to-back correct expected line-ups after last weeks correct 1-11 for the Cambridge game, and tomorrow I expect us to line up as follows;

Brown; Hatton, Blackman, Yakubu, Harris; Gregory, Moore S, Yussuff; Jolley, Jackson, Kedwell

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Wimbledon 2 Mansfield Town 0 – Match Report 16/1/10

Before the action, Wimbledon said goodbye to one of the men that made us. Allen Batsford, the man who initially took Wimbledon into the Football League in 1977, sadly passed away after collapsing at Wimbledon Broadway tube station following the Chelsea-Fulham game just after Christmas. It was time for those who knew Allen to say goodbye, and those who didn’t but still recognise the great debt this club owed him for his fantastic work almost three decades ago. The programme carried his photo on the front cover, his former players spoke before the teams emerged and a perfectly observed minutes silence preceded kick off.

But life goes on, as does football, and the clubs playing staff had to stay focused on the task in hand. Terry Brown, the man tasked with replicating Batsford’s achievements in the seventies, has played his transfer hand this window and brought in three newcomers to the squad; Chris Hussey replacement Danny Blanchett, plus the ex-Brentford pair Glenn Poole and Nathan Elder. Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday nights crucial FA Trophy tie with Altrincham, and aware that neither Poole nor Elder can play a part in that game, Brown took the risk of naming all three in his starting line-up. In fact including Sebb Brown and Brett Johnson the Dons started with four ex-Brentford players, with Ross Montague also waiting on the bench.

It should be regarded as a good sign that we featured so many players that were part of a promotion winning side last season in the division above, but many Dons fans wondered whether this was too much of a risk against a side one place and one point ahead of them before kickoff – especially considering Wimbledon have failed to beat a side that started the match above them in the table all season.

Any butterflies were eliminated moments after the first whistle. Before the game had even had a chance to settle, Will Hendry picked up the ball in the visitors half. With Nathan Elder the obvious target, Hendry’s job was made a whole lot easier by the big forward intelligently dropping off his man. Hendry floated an inch perfect ball to Elder, who floated his header back across Mansfield goalkeeper Marriott and into the net.

All thoughts that top scorer Danny Kedwell (who has interestingly been linked with a six figure move to St Mirren very recently) was on the bench taking a rest, Elder became an instant hero and a contender for earliest goal on début in Dons history, having netted after only 117 seconds. And Wimbledon weren’t ready to take their foot off the gas just yet…

Five minutes in, and Jon Main found himself free on the right linking with Elder to send his new strike partner free. Mains ball bobbled around and never quite sat right for Elder, who sensibly decided to square for Lewis Taylor. Taylor was well placed, but seemed to rush his finish, seeing the ball deflected away and eventually scrambled clear. Wimbledon had started the way we have come to expect of them, passing the ball around nicely, always looking forward, positive and expansive in their play.

Not that Mansfield were going to sit back and take this. The visitors looked like a team lacking confidence despite their position, seemed unable to string together more than a couple of passes and were over-reliant on their albeit admirable battling qualities. Wimbledon were as solid when faced with this type of aerial onslaught as they have been all season, yet a reshuffled Dons midfield were sloppy at times, gifting the ball to their opponents on far too many occasions. A team firing on all cylinders could have punished them, yet Mansfield seemed rusty, the weather enforced mid-season break seemingly having done them no favours today.

They created chances though, the first on twelve minutes when Gary Silk wriggled free on the right side of the Dons box only to be closed down by Sebb Brown, the Dons keeper deflecting the ball wide for a corner on the right. A deep corner travelled all the way to big forward Rob Duffy at the far post, who could only direct his header tamely wide of goal. The unfortunate Duffy showed no confidence moments later when he found himself in the clear with only Brown to beat, but could only side-foot tamely into the Dons keepers arms.

Now all too aware they couldn’t simply stroll through this game, Wimbledon stepped up a gear. They thought they had doubled the lead on twenty minutes, Lewis Taylor was brought down as the ball ran on to Elder, whose expert finish was ruled out by the referees whistle. Not for a Dons free kick as most presumed, the referee refusing to bring back play even though the Dons had gained no advantage, and presumably wouldn’t have anyway had Elder been offside. Terry Brown aimed his programme notes at fellow managers who had criticised referees of late, but even he must have had to bite his tounge after some inconsistent decision-making from the man in black.

The Dons weren’t to be denied though, and they added a second goal in fantastic fashion in their next attack. Blanchett fed the ball from the left flank to Hatton on the right via Kennedy Adjei, and Hatton delivered a great ball to Elder. Wimbledon’s new hitman this time cushioned a header into the path of Lewis Taylor who swept his shot into the bottom left hand corner of the Mansfield goal giving Marriott no chance.

While Mansfield’s workmanlike forays forward were ultimately proving fruitless, the Dons went on to go close on a couple of occasions during the remainder of the half. Perhaps the best saw Jon Main flick a ball in Glenn Poole’s direction leaving him in possession on the left side of the area with his back to goal. Expertly spinning his man he whipped a shot across the face of goal, just dropping wide of the right hand post.

The second half took a little bit longer to get going than the first, mainly down to a nasty clash of heads that saw Elder receive his second off pitch treatment of the game. The frontman was rightly named the Dons man of the match by the sponsors, combining the battling qualities you would expect from a man of his physique with some intelligent forward play and, as you would expect from a Terry Brown signing, some nifty footwork too that consistently drew fouls from the bamboozled Mansfield back line (even if the referee didn’t always elect to blow his whistle for them…). Then, with the Dons first real chance of the half just after the hour, he could have grabbed his second after being played in by Will Hendry only for a fantastic challenge from Michael Brough to deny him.

The Dons had to stay alert defensively, a fantastic stretching challenge by Sam Hatton saw off a three on three Mansfield break. The visitors just weren’t troubling the Dons goal, their game plan was direct but their play was directionless. Their best player – by some way – was substitute Jake Speight, the only Mansfield player who seemed to show any inclination or ability to take the ball and run at Wimbledon. The difference between the two teams was the home side had players like this all over the pitch, and while the Dons could just about handle Speight, with the likes of Taylor, Hendry and Main among others bombing forward, Mansfield couldn’t really cope.

Hendry was withdrawn for Ricky Wellard with fifteen minutes to go, after proving what a fantastic signing he has been. Hendry seems to have almost single-handedly made the Dons midfield a more offensive unit, he slipped straight into the squad as if he had always been there at just the right time. I still think the Dons squad is poorer without Luke Moore, but Hendry is a more than worthy replacement for him.

Elder made way for Montague with seven minutes remaining, to huge applause from the home fans. Yet it was a fifteen minute cameo from Ricky Wellard that almost stole the show and gave Wimbledon breathing space. First, Montague chased down a through ball that Marriott was clear favourite for, but the Mansfield goalkeeper seemed to be distracted by one of his own defenders and mishit the ball to Wellard just inside the visitors half. As Marriott retreated, Wellard rounded an opponent, and urged on by the crowd struck a perfect dipping effort that the goalkeeper somehow managed to tip over the bar.

Then two minutes later he picked up the ball wide right, cut inside leaving two Mansfield men for dead, and smashed a left footed effort towards the top left corner. Marriott was once again equal to it, just, flying across goal and getting enough on the ball to divert it over for a corner. Marriott won this personal battle, but Wellard showed just how much more confident he has become of late. Not long ago it seemed in the balance whether he would make it at Wimbledon at all, but ever since he turned down the chance to move on loan he seems to have really come on. Yes, he will still suffer from the inconsistency of youth from time to time, but he has shown he has the ability to blossom into a Football League midfielder if he applies himself further.

In between Wellard’s attempts to steal the show, Mansfield managed to get the ball past Sebb Brown only for the effort to be ruled out for offside. Some suggested after the game that an extra goal for each side would have been a more accurate reflection of the game, this would have been at the expense of yet another clean sheet for Sebb Brown and the back four. The Dons have now only conceded once in the last eight league games, and Decembers Conference Player of the Month winner Brown has kept eight clean sheets in his eleven full games for the club.

Adjei and Conroy had twenty-five yard efforts that just cleared the bar in stoppage time, but the points were Wimbledon’s by this stage. The victory moved the Dons up to fourth, which perhaps disguises that there is still plenty of work to do – the Dons find could drop as low as seventh if sides below them (including Mansfield) win their games in hand, and until a few of those games have been played, and points are dropped by promotion rivals, Wimbledon really need to be aware that they haven’t really broken into the playoff places just yet. Stretching the gap between the clubs below them should be their first priority.

If anything the Dons playoff ambitions could be decided between now and the end of February, with winnable home games combined with some very tricky road trips, and if Terry Brown can ensure his newly reinforced squad can remain in the top five by the time March rolls around, we will know whether this is a serious promotion push or not. While Batsford loomed large on the front of the programme, the rear cover featured an advert for our sponsors new game, urging you to ‘Make History’, like Allen did, and Terry is trying to. If Brown can guide us from the Ryman League to the Football League in three consecutive seasons, well, that would be an achievement that would even eclipse the achievements of the great man himself in the seventies. And should it happen, I’m sure there would have been no prouder man than Allen Batsford himself.

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Mansfield (H) – A Match Preview

Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to be confined to my house thanks to the freak snow we received preventing me from reaching work (actually my boss called me and told me not to bother as the office would be closed – it wasn’t – which made me look a bit of a tit when I spoke to my colleagues this morning who HAD battled their way in). I blame South West Trains and the dodgy wiring at Surbiton station… exactly how many times can they claim to have no information due to ‘power failure’ before the public realise they just flicked the light switch to the off position?

Fortunately, I spent my time constructively. I wrote an article for this here blog entitled ‘Bonus’, yet perhaps due to recent inactivity I somehow forgot to post it. Never mind. You didn’t miss much. Plus I’ll probably recycle most of it in this little preview – of a game that may or may not take place…

As many of you will notice, there was an appeal on the website requesting supporters arrive this morning to clear the pitch of snow, to allow the frozen surface underneath the best chance to recover. I have noticed a few people pondering why we don’t have a pitch cover when extreme weather is expected. I vaguely remember that these type of things cost tens of thousands of pounds, so I wonder whether it would be worthwhile making our own? All we would need are a few hundred old duvets and a load of Tesco Value binbags to line it… I’m sure we have a few thrifty supporters who wouldn’t mind devoting some time to knit it all together… then bingo! No more postponements!

For those of you wondering why Danny Webb’s old training kit couldn’t be used for this job, it’s currently on its way to Haiti to be erected as a tent and used as a field hospital…

I suppose clearing the pitch has become a bit of a race against time, with rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday allowing the snow to melt and saturate the playing surface probably isn’t an option. Yet it must be a careful procedure… after all the pitch itself has cost a fortune to get into its present state, and the investment in playing staff on it means the last thing we need is Danny Kedwell turning his ankle on a pothole created by a well-meaning volunteer rushing to remove a pile of snow and ice…

Not that I’m slagging off those who rushed to the ground this morning – all I’m saying is Saturday will be a big, big game for us, and I don’t want any of them coming away thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t bothered now’… Some of the other ‘big’ ex-League clubs have looked ordinary so far… Hello, Cambridge and Wrexham by the way… and those who are the real deal are starting to rise to the top. Stevenage, Oxford, York, all unbeaten at home this season. And lying just below them, a point ahead of us and with a game in hand, are Mansfield. Luton may have three games in hand on us, and are only three games behind, but they actually have to win those games. At this stage of the season I would prefer to have the points in the bag.

Now I haven’t seen much of Mansfield this season, and its fair to say their away form has been indifferent, but they have picked up wins rather than splitting points – winning six and losing six of their road games this term. Last time out on the road they lost 0-3 to York (and we know all about York…) yet followed it up with a morale boosting win against Cambridge before the big freeze set in. The question is, does this form make any difference after a two-week break? Perhaps there is a Mansfield blogger sitting there now, drawing strength from our defeat at Hayes on New Years Day.

In reality our lacklustre performance was more down to the players that weren’t on the pitch than those who were. With two signings that could potentially start on Saturday (Blanchett and Poole), and another signing apparently on the way, it could be said Wimbledon are a team in transition at the moment. Not pre-season style transition – it won’t take weeks for the new boys to settle, and they could always click straight away. But perhaps enough of a reshuffle for Mansfield to catch us cold?

The flip side of the coin is that we now have the strength in depth that we have been crying out for. As I said last time out, genuine contenders are looking to strengthen now and not release players (Hello, once again, Luton Town…), so to see Terry so active in the market is encouraging. The lack of news about the striker we have been promised doesn’t seem so much of a problem knowing we have a fully fit Danny Kedwell and Jon Main, the most potent strike force in the division with 28 between them, and if anything service should be improved now we have the likes of Will Hendry and Glenn  Poole to add to the likes of Lewis Taylor and the much-missed Luke Moore. (The one thing I do wonder about is where this leaves Elliott Godfrey, such a hard-working but desperately unlucky player, once Moore returns from injury…).

So should we put more pressure on our young team by expecting a win on Saturday? Hmmm, I think some of us would just feel quite privileged to see a game of football again…

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