Monday, 5 March 2012

Mansfield Town 2-1 Lincoln City

Today was one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the season and also the nearest away match for us. Given that it is very close to us you would have thought that we would have a full group of Retford Imps making the short journey to Mansfield. Wrong. Felice had a Junior football game to watch in which his son was taking part, and Baz had booked a trip to the new Legoland in Manchester (I shit you not readers) Now seeing how we fined him with getting the teas in the last time he skipped an Imps match and went to legoland, it will be interesting to see what the committee make of a second offence on the same charge. The fact that it's a local derby could make it even worse for the lad. We knew he was going to Manchester but the fact that he was going to Legoland only came to light after he was rumbled by a workmate. Of course if he wants to bribe me to let him off he could have picked me up one of these from Legoland.
Today i joined life long Stags fans David and his brother Adam and the president of the Tony O'Shea fan club Parko. We met up in the Clumber Inn in Ordsall and viewed the first half of the Liverpool v Arsenal match. I haven't been in the Clumber since it was done up a few years ago and i must say i was quite impressed with it. If you haven't been in its well worth checking out. Liverpool could have, and should have had the game sewn up in the first half an hour but failed to put away their chances. They missed a penalty (after a blatant dive it has to be said) But took the lead through an own goal. The Arsenal then scored with there first attack of the game to level up the scores at 1-1 which was how it stayed till half time which was our cue to leave and head off to Stagland. We had BBC Radio Nottingham on the wireless as we made our way to Mansfield passing through the scenic villages of Ollerton, Clipstone, and Forest Town along the way. After all the Forest and Notts County build up we finally got to the real game of the day Mansfield v Lincoln. The match preview described David Holdsworth (Ex Stags boss) as the pantomime villain ready to try and spoil the Stags party. By the end of the day alot of Lincoln fans would think of far stronger terms to describe the Lincoln Gaffer.
Today was a huge day for the Stags as they were celebrating winning the long battle to gain ownership of their Field Mill stadium. This was a day that many Stags fans thought they would never see, as such there was the expectation of a big crowd in for today's match. Not only was it party time but if you purchased a ticket for today's match before 12.00pm you got a free ticket for the visit of league leaders Fleetwood Town in a couple of weeks time which is a great offer. The supporters bar at the stadium was rammed so we didn't even try to get a pint. We were in time to catch the last 15 minutes or so of the Liverpool v Arsenal match which saw the Gunners grab the three points in a real smash and grab raid. They only seem to lose when Felice watches them. Just inside the clubhouse entrance there was a table selling various Stags badges and various other stuff. For three quid i purchased a rather smart matchday badge that featured both teams' crests. More and more clubs seem to be producing these kind of pins and if City ever started making them i would defintely buy them. Knowing Lincoln however it will take us a good 4/5years to cotton onto the idea of producing them.
Shortly after the game finished i made my merry way round to the away turnstiles. Today it was a reasonable £16 quid to sit in the away end behind the goal. The away stand gives you a pretty decent view of the action. I started to read the matchday programme and i must say it was one of the best efforts that i have seen for a good while, certainly this season. It won the Blue Square premier division programme of the year award last season and its easy to see why. Lots of articles on general football and a good section on the away side. There is also a good puzzle page which comes in handy when the game is dire (as was much of the first half today) Normally i post a picture of the cover on this blog but this time i thought i would post a picture of page three of the programme. We Imps fans need something to cheer us up at the moment
Just before the game, the Stags chairman came onto the pitch to address the crowd and he received a standing ovation from the home faithful. I get the feeling that it will be a long time before a Lincoln chairman comes on the pitch and gets a similar reception. The crowd was a respectable 4,830 with Lincoln bringing 627 supporters. This was the largest following at Field Mill this season (more than the likes of Grimsby and Luton) After bring a following of this size it is just a shame that the City faithful had very little to cheer about for much of the afternoon. As a side note, today marked the second anniversary of former Lincoln and Mansfield legend Keith Alexanders death. This being the case i was slightly surprised the two clubs didn't organise a minutes silence or applause to mark the event. Its easy to blame the home club but i am sure that if somebody from Lincoln suggested it to Mansfeld they would have been happy for it to go ahead. With a large crowd behind them the Stags started the game on the front foot and never let the Imps settle. Matt Green who had been a thorn in the Imps side in the first game at Sincil Bank missed a great chance to give the home side the lead when he placed his free header well wide on six minutes. The Stags pumped quite a few balls into the box but the Lincoln centre halves Rob Williams and Josh Gowling were up to the challenge. Lincoln were struggling to get out of our own half. We weren't seeing much of the ball and what ball we did get we gave it straight back to Mansfield. On the first occasion that we did get out of our own half and had a shot, it appeared to hit a Mansfield players hand. I wasn't to sure about it but i did receive a text from a Stags fan at the other end of the ground saying it was a blatant handball so that's good enough for me. Had we have been given it it would probably have ended up in the Quarry Lane end stand anyway.
Mansfield were forced into an early chance due to an injury to Adam Smith on 23 minutes. The Stags physio bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Mansfield fan (and blogging legend) based in the Retford area. Maybe he has a part time job or something. The game was rapidly going down hill with the ball spending most of the time in the air and neither side being able to string three passes together. The fact that i spent most of the first half texting, tweeting and attempting the maze on the Sammy the stag quiz page in the programme, tells you everything you need to know about the quality on the pitch. Mansfield did have the ball in the net but the linesman's flag was up well before the ball hit the back of the net. It was a relief to everybody when the halftime whistle went. As i am pretty sure everybody in the stadium was bored stiff of the fare in front of them. I had a stroll around the away end at halftime and noticed that behind the away end there was a Pets at home over the road. A day walking around there would have been far more interesting that watched the game. As the teams came out for the second half former Imps keeper (and current Stags keeper) Alan Marriott got a great reception from the City faithful.
It didn't take long for the playoff chasing Stags to break the City resistance in the second half. O'Neil crossed and Dyer finished from close range without an Imps defender anywhere near him. The home fans celebrated and you just got the feeling that the game was up for City. It was real 'backs to the wall' stuff for Lincoln and it was of no great surprise when the Stags doubled the lead when Gary Roberts struck a 25 yard daisy cutter which went straight into the bottom left hand corner as we looked at it. You could see it was heading for the bottom corner as soon as it left his boot so i can only assume Anyon in the Lincoln goal saw the ball late. 58 minutes gone and game as good as over. One interesting fact was that Marriott failed to celebrate either of the two goals. Marriott is held in very high regard by the City faithful (and rightly so) At the other end of the spectrum is former Lincoln striker Ben Hutchinson who was on the bench for Mansfield. After Kyle Perry notched one for Telford last weekend surely lighting wouldn't strike twice. On this note i need to thank Stags Gaffer Paul Cox for not bringing him on. If he had entered the field of play i would have bet 50p and a bag of crisps he would have scored and "given it large" to the Imps fans behind the goal. On the pitch City were a mess. I decided of this dross i could take no more. Now its very rare that i leave a match early but this was simply unbearable. With about 68 minutes gone and as another feeble City attack broke down i headed for the exits. I asked the steward to be let out and he said i could go (how kind) but i wouldn't be able to come back in. No chance of that. Down town Baghdad, a pig farm, or even Stoke on Trent seemed far more appealing than being in the away section of Field Mill stadium. I headed straight over to the Pets at home store and found the experience rather therapeutic.
In is here that some good came out of the day. My Guinea pigs eat a certain type of dry pellet which you can't get in Retford. I was going to pick some up next weekend but City's dire display gave me the chance to pick some up today. Better still the pellets i wanted were £6 reduced from £9, so that's a £3 quid saving thus paying for 3/4 of a large mixed Kebab later on that evening. Bit of a result if i do say so myself.
After my shopping trip i made my way past all the police vans i went and sat near a small lake near to the home end. Again this seemed quite relaxing compared to the dross inside the stadium. From the crowd noise i gathered that Mansfield were still on top. City did score but from what i can gather it was with the last kick of the game and was more luck than judgement. On paper a 2-1 defeat away to a side chasing the playoffs doesn't look too bad but the performance (well what i saw of it) was dire. City did fight and scrap in the first half and didn't buckle under pressure but as soon as Mansfield scored we never really looked like getting anything from the game. In a way we got away with it as none of the bottom four won so the Imps stay 5 points clear of the relegation zone. Next weekends game at home to Alfreton is a "must win" but how many weeks have we been saying that for now? As i said earlier i very rarely leave games early so i just hope i don't have to do that again this season. Elsewhere in the football world Retford United scored 3 goals in the last ten minutes to win 4-3 at Maltby. Felice's son Josh hit the back of the net as his side gained a fine win. It is good to see the young man take after his uncle in the footballing mould instead of his dad. Of the three regular Retford Imps i definitely drew the shortest of short straws today. After the game we headed back to the Clumber for drinks and to see Leeds United latest defeat. In short i enjoyed the pre match drinks, the journey to Mansfield, the trip round the pet shop, and the after match drinks. Its just the bit in the middle that was a bit, well, shit. I would like to thank Dave for the lift to Mansfield and my Guinea pigs would like to thank the Lincoln City team for producing such a poor showing that it forced me to leave early and purchase them some pellets.

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