Shrimps Draw Is An Improvement On Last Time.
It is less than four months since Morecambe last travelled to Nottinghamshire to face Mansfield at Field Mill. On that occasion, they lost four-nil to a team which was destined to reach – and then fail – in the Play-Offs. Since then, there have been many changes at the Lancashire club and six of the players who lined-up for Jim Bentley last time out plus two of the substitutes who came on are no longer on the club’s books. As for the opposition, there was a lot more continuity in their team selection today although Jacob Mellis was not available. He was sent-off in the opening fixture at Newport last Saturday for stamping on a fellow professional. In what seems to have been quite a feisty affair (no less than five of his team-mates went into the book as well), the Stags came from 2-0 down at half time to force a draw against the team that knocked them out of the Play-Offs on penalties during May. They could have won the latest clash if ex-Bury newcomer Nicky Maynard had not had his penalty saved. One thing that has changed, however, is in terms of the man at the top. Former Youth Team Coach John Dempster took the reins at Field Mill following David Flitcroft’s sacking as manager after the Play-Off failure.
As Mansfield were claiming their first point of this season’s campaign, the Shrimps were putting on a feeble display at home against Grimsby Town, who won 0-2 with quite a bit to spare. On that showing, there would be no contest either today or next Tuesday, when the sides will meet again at the same venue in the League Cup. To add to the home team’s hopes, Mansfield had won nine of the fifteen previous meetings between the clubs to Morecambe’s five.
On a sombre note, there was a one minute’s silence before kick-off in memory of Stags’ fan Liam Peters who was fatally stabbed recently at the age of just 18.
It was a lively start with an even livelier wind in Nottinghamshire. Virtually right from kick-off Otis Kan tried his luck with a shot which was deflected for a corner by Adam Buxton. After four minutes, Andrew Tutte’s corner was cleared by Danny Rose at the near post only for Lewis Allesandra to miss with his follow-up shot. Just two minutes later, though, the visitors took the lead. From a corner, Buxton took a shot; the ball was deflected to John O’Sullivan who floated a perfect cross over for Sam Lavelle to score with a hearer at the far post. The hosts struggled to get back into it but the next decent chance also fell to the visitors. O’Sullivan set-up Kevin Ellison this time and his shot from outside the area was brilliantly turned away for a corner by Conrad Logan. Two minutes later, it was Kev’s turn to become provider. He lofted another perfect cross over for Allesandra to open his second account with the Shrimps with a decisive lobbed goal. They could have gone even further after 24 minutes when space opened-up for Cole Stockton following a pass from Luke Conlan but his shot went wildly over the bar. They came even closer to making it three after almost half an hour when Buxton’s long-range shot from a free-kick smacked against the home bar. What could have been a key moment in the match also arrived in the first half when Matt Preston was booked for a foul on Aaron Wildig after 36 minutes. Three minutes later, though, the home team reduced the arrears. Alex Macdonald’s powerful shot from was well-saved low down by Barry Roche but the big Irishman was unable to hold it and Nicky Maynard smashed home the rebound. The goal stirred the Stags into action and Maynard was lively right until the end of the half, drawing another good save from Baz just before the end.
Still a goal in arrears, Town continued to apply the pressure at the start of the second period. Maynard came close again after four minutes of the restart when his volley was deflected wide. After 51 minutes, Neal Bishop met Khan’s corner and headed just over the bar. Mansfield were having the best of the game but Kev was denied by Kellan Gordon with a tremendous tackle inside the Town penalty area after 57 minutes. Three minutes later though, Khan took another quick corner and Malvind Benning was quickest to the ball but headed an excellent chance wide. Five minutes later, the home crowd rose to their feet to applaud Matt Preston, who made a tremendous tackle to dispossess Alessandra in a dangerous position. Benning became provider with seventy minutes on the clock but Bishop headed his precise cross following a corner wide again. Straight after this, though, Town rode their luck when Stockton headed substitute Jordan Cranston’s cross against the post with Logan beaten: a combination of goalkeeper and defender managed to block Aaron Wildig’s follow-up effort. With 72 minutes played, Danny Rose finally brought equality to the match when he headed home from MacDonald’s cross. The Stags built up a head of steam after the equaliser but the closest they came to winning the game arrived after eighty minutes when Rose struck Benning’s pass against the Shrimps’ post. Two minutes later, following a foul on Alessandra which was deemed worthy of a red card on its own by Referee Christopher Pollard, Preston was sent off. With him went the home team’s dominance of the game. And Morecambe went back onto the front foot for the last ten minutes, with Allesandra and substitute Shaun Miller being caught marginally off-side when well placed on more than one occasion. But the game ended as Mansfield’s first one had in Wales – they managed to claw back a two-goal deficit.
Jim Bentley will probably be the more disappointed of the two managers after the game. With a little bit of luck, the Shrimps could have been three-nil up after half an hour and he must be disappointed to let a two-goal lead slip. However, a draw at the home for one of the favourites for promotion is no mean feat and he must be more confident of getting a decent result on Tuesday night when the two teams try all over again than he might have been prior to kick-off today. Morecambe remained twenty-first in League Two; Mansfield fell to fourteenth from tenth.
Mansfield Town: 1 Conrad Logan; 20 Kellan Gordon (C); 4 Matt Preston (R); 5 Krystian Pearce; 3 Malvind Benning; 6 Neal Bishop; 10 Otis Khan; 11 Nicky Maynard (17 Ryan Sweeney 84 mins); 7 Alex MacDonald; 32 Danny Rose (19 Robbie Cooke (Y ) 90 mins); 22 C.J. Hamilton.
Subs not used: 31 Aiden Stone; 2 Hayden White; 14 Dion Donahue; 24 Omari Sterling-Jones; 30 Alistair Smith.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (C): 2 Adam Buxton (Y) (12 Ritchie Sutton); 3 Luke Conlan; 6 Andrew Tutte (Y) (4 Alex Kenyon 76 mins); 5 Steven Old (Y); 16 Sam Lavelle; 15 Aaron Wildig; 7 John O’Sullivan (33 Jordan Cranston 67 mins); 8 Lewis Alessandra; 11 Kevin Ellison; 9 Cole Stockton (24 Shaun Miller 76 mins).
Subs not used: 21 Mark Halstead; 18 Rhys Oates; 23 Tyler Brownsword.
Ref: Christopher Pollard. 4465 (110 from Morecambe)