Sunday, 18 January 2015

Mansfield Town 2 v 3 Exeter City

Football League Two
Saturday 17th January 2015
Admission: £7.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 3,881
Match Rating: 4

Today I was inspired to tick off another of the 92 once I learned that Mansfield Town were selling tickets at roughly a third of their standard prices for this game (and two others) - usual ticket prices this season being £22 on the day, or £20 if purchased in advance.

Field Mill is conveniently located about a ten minute walk from Mansfield train station, from which one certainly can't miss the stadium, with its large main stand clearly visible, standing high above the surrounding housing and retail park. Despite the imposing nature of the stand, and plenty of attractive signage around the ground, inside Field Mill is a rather dull stadium, devoid of any traditional character apart from a disused stand. Facilities are good though - apart from a very faintly audible PA system. The main stand, where i sat today, is a modern two tiered affair, with excellent views of the action and with no obstructing pillars. Behind both goals are much smaller, modern single tiered stands, but again with unobstructed views. The remaining length is out of bounds, with a small stand straddling the halfway line that is boarded up with advertising boards after the stand was declared unsafe some years ago, and the advertising boards continue towards each corner flag. The programme, was impressive, consisting of 76 pages, printed on good quality paper with a stiffened matt cover, attractively laid out, and there was plenty of interest to read regarding all areas of the club, as well as six pages devoted to today's visitors.

Mansfield have had a difficult season so far, and went into this game in 20th position, four points above the relegation zone having won and drawn six of their 24 games. They have lost their last two league games, and picked up just one win and two draws from their last six games. Exeter were in tenth plach, winning 10 and drawing seven of their 26 games, and are just two points off a playoff berth. They have been in very poor form recently though, losing their last three games, and four of their last five. When the two teams met earlier in the season in Devon, Mansfield won 2-1.

On a bright but bitterly cold afternoon, this proved to be a most enjoyable game to watch, which really could have gone either way, but Mansfield will wonder how on earth they finished this match on the losing side. They started strongly, and had their first of half a dozen goal bound efforts cleared off the line in the eighth minute. After the home side dominated the opening half hour but failed to convert their attacking intent into goals, Exeter came more into the game and took the lead on 36 minutes. The ball was chipped into the box from the right, and Tom Nichols glanced a header over the keeper and into the far corner of the net. That seemed to set the home side back for the remainder of the half, but no doubt that Exeter were fortunate to be ahead at the break.

Mansfield came out full of attacking intent in the second half, forcing two more goal line clearances, good saves from the keeper and desperate blocks from defenders, until Mansfield finally got a deserved equaliser on 57 minutes, Billy Kee heading home a corner by Chris Clements. The home side were really in the ascendancy now, driven on by their fans, and took the lead on 68 minutes, when Kee knocked the ball down into the feet of Vadaine Oliver, who showed good composure in taking a touch before smashing the ball low past the keeper. Mansfield undoubtedly deserved their lead, and still against the run of play, Exeter got back on level terms on 77 minutes. Liam Sercombe drilled a corner low to the near post and Scott Bennett hit the ball first time into the net. The game then became much more even and end to end, but the home side gifted the visitors the chance to go back into the lead on 83 minutes when a suicidal short range back pass by Martin Riley close to the byline resulted in the keeper bringing down David Wheeler, and the referee awarded a penalty. Eight minutes after coming on as a sub, Alex Nicholls drilled the ball low into the bottom left corner, despite the keeper going the right way. That was the fatal blow as Exeter saw out the remaining minutes comfortably, for what was a real smash and grab victory. This was an extremely entertaining game of football to watch, with 35 shots on goal, 22 from Mansfield, 17 being on target, 9 from Mansfield, but football can be a cruel game, with Mansfield dropping to within a point of the relegation zone although the remain in 20th place, whilst Exeter rise two places to eighth and now just a point adrift of a play off spot, albeit having played a game more than the teams immediately above them.

Video highlights of the game can be found here

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