AFC Mansfield 1 Stocksbridge PS 2
By: Owen Harrison
Stocksbridge steered further clear of the relegation zone on Saturday afternoon as two first half goals from Scott Ruthven and Luke Mangham saw the Steels overcome relegation rivals AFC Mansfield at the Forest Town Arena.
Today’s hosts came into the tie with poor form as of late. AFC Mansfield, otherwise known by their nickname “The Bulls”, haven’t managed to win a league game since the 12th of March when they beat fellow strugglers Pickering Town 3-1. Since then, AFC Mansfield have tallied up only 2 points out of a possible 18 and with results not swinging in the Bulls’ favour, they have gone from sitting in a comfortable position mid table to battling at the bottom end of the league, struggling to stay in the division.
A win would move AFC Mansfield into 15th and would surely consolidate their position in the Evo-Stik East Division for another season. But their opponents would prove to be a trickier test than the hosts initially expected, especially after an upturn in form as of late which has seen the Steels move from a perilous position of 19th in the table to 14th, 9 points away from the relegation zone that they were once sat in at the beginning of March before results began to improve.
The hosts should be aware of a young and buoyant Steels side who’s hard work and resilience saw them take all 3 points against mid table outfit Loughborough Dynamo last Saturday. Not only that but Stocksbridge have won three on the bounce before this clash at the Forest Town Arena, taking all 3 points at home twice, to Loughborough Dynamo and bottom of the table Gresley and coming out victorious away once in their winning streak against fellow strugglers Spalding United at the Sir Halley Stewart Field Stadium. Stocksbridge would have to overcome an AFC Mansfield side, who walked out onto the field with intentions of ensuring safety in the Evo Stik East Division, if they wanted to extend their winning streak to four games.
As the clock struck 3, the referee put mouth to whistle and Steels number seven Alex Wiles kicked the first ball of the game. In the opening ten minutes, very little chances were created. Notably, one sight of goal for the Steels in the first ten minutes of the opening showing fell to Luke Mangham. The Steels number 11 drove into the right hand side of the box from the half way line, but as he got into a promising position, he took a heavy touch that left him vulnerable to being dispossessed.
Due to this, Mangham took the risk and took down an AFC Mansfield defender crudely, and the referee blew his whistle to hand a free kick to the hosts as a result of the challenge.
Luke Mangham was involved in another Stocksbridge attack shortly after that incident when the Steels attacker did good work in midfield to play the ball neatly into Scott Ruthven, who failed to meet a Steels counterpart’s head with his high cross into the six yard box. There could have been a penalty given in favour of the visitors from South Yorkshire after five minutes when Ruthven was held back in the box by Jordan Annable, who made a number of errors in Saturday’s encounter at the Forest Town Arena. Although Scott Ruthven went down under the challenge, there were very little appeals from the Stocksbridge bench, and the incident was waved away by the referee.
A dangerous situation ensued minutes after involving Reece Fielding and David Robson. As Fielding played the ball back to Steels number one Robson after pressure was applied by the Mansfield attack, he nearly gets caught out after his tame pass back nearly fell into the path of a Mansfield attacker. But David Robson did exceptional to divert danger by clearing the ball up field quickly. But Reece Fielding nearly made amends for his mistake by nearly breaking the deadlock. After good work on the left by Jordan Lemon, his pass found Reece Fielding who hit low at goal. Although his shot looked to have nestled into the net from the stands, it was blocked by Jason White in the AFC Mansfield goal and the Steels couldn’t find the golden touch to bury the ball into an open net after the ball pinballed around the six yard box as a result of Fielding’s initial blocked shot.
A Mark Dudley free kick from the far side was a promising one. It created an excellent opportunity as it found a way past an unaware Steels defence, but no AFC Mansfield player was there to take the golden opportunity that was created with a moment of excellence by the Bulls’ number 3. Luke Mangham, again, did excellent work in midfield to commence a counter attack after Mansfield were dispossessed but no real chance was created through this opportunity.
Following this chance, James Morris, a former Doncaster Rovers graduate was, again, called into action. The Steels attacker did marvellously to hold up the ball in an area of promise with AFC Mansfield defenders man-handling him. He managed to claim a throw in through a deflection off one of these defenders, however Morris’ work came to nothing as the resulting throw materialized in very little.
The visitors hard work paid off, however, in the 29th minute with a beautifully worked goal. After brilliant work by the Steels midfielders to create the opening for Luke Mangham on the right hand side of the box, Mangham cut the ball back into the centre of the box where Scott Ruthven was ready and waiting to pounce like a tiger on the opportunity at his feet. The Steels number nine smashed the ball, first time, into the roof of the net, beating Jason White with his ferocious shot that all developed because of the goalscorer dispossessing a Mansfield Town defender earlier on in the build up to the goal.
A glorious opportunity to level the game followed moments after. A ball from Liam Marsden on the right hand side was tipped away by Hull City Academy loanee David Robson but the goalkeeper’s stop fell into the path of Julian Lawrence who tried a cheeky attempt at an overhead kick. Although it was a big ask for him to convert the moment of trickery, he only narrowly missed, with his shot curving to the left of goal, inches wide of the near post.
The Steels’ second then followed. Stocksbridge did well down the right wing to work the Mansfield defence, the winger on the far side cut it back and Rory Coleman aimed his shot for the bottom right corner. His shot was blocked by the AFC Mansfield defence who did well to divert danger away for a corner, but the resulting corner which was taken by Rory Coleman found the head of Luke Mangham who was situated on the far post. His header found the bottom left of the goal, beating Jason White for the second time. Although, many AFC Mansfield players protested as they thought there was a foul in the build up to the goal and that it should have been ruled out because of this. But the referee waved it away as nonsense and the goal stood.
HT-AFC Mansfield 0-2 Stocksbridge
As the second half began, the domination of AFC Mansfield began. Stocksbridge began to sit on the back foot whilst the hosts continued to build momentum to try and find a goal that would bring them back into contention of picking up at least a point. A half chance was created when Kurtis Turner dispossessed Mansfield after they were too slow on the ball. The Steels number 4 began his run from inside the Steels’ half and although he did superb work in paving his way towards the penalty area, he was caught out by a Mansfield defender at a crucial time as he looked for an opening to take fire at goal. The interception by the opposition’s defender meant that Turner failed to capitalise on his fantastic work earlier on.
The Steels could have made it game, set and match though on the 50 minute mark through defender Jordan Lemon. The Steels number two decided to take fire at goal from outside the box and his fierce shot cannoned off the woodwork and trickled across the goal line before coming back into play again, but no Steels player was there to pounce on an opportunity from 3 yards out.
Another chance went begging for AFC Mansfield in the 65th minute when Phil Buxton’s volley fell inches wide from beating Robson in the Steels goal and burying into the back of the net, but the shot fell just short of the bottom corner. As the game went on, AFC Mansfield became more agitated with their habit of wasting valuable opportunities.
But then the tables turned. As substitute Dawes ran down the right wing, he cut back to find a way into the box. But as he found a route into a promising position, Jordan Lemon made a mistake by taking down the Mansfield attacker in the box and the referee had no other option but to point to the spot. Dawes stepped up against young keeper David Robson and turned the Steels keeper the wrong way, slotting the penalty straight down the middle with Robson diving to the right of goal.
As pressure mounted on a vulnerable Stocksbridge side, the visitors battled incredibly hard to claim all 3 points. They had to endure numerous opportunities being fired at them by the hosts. Notably, Julian Lawrence, the match’s man of the match, dragged the ball back on the right hand side of the box into the path of Phil Buxton who tried to twist and shoot but the shot missed agonisingly wide as time started to swing in the Steels’ favour. After Stocksbridge intercepted the ball from Mansfield as they looked to pepper the visitors net with more shots, Alex Wiles ran through and chipped the keeper from 30 yards but Jason White got his fingertips to the shot to prevent what would be a blowing third goal.
Despite two late penalty shouts being turned away by the referee, one that was very lucky to have been waved away after a Steels defender handled the ball in the area, Stocksbridge held off the AFC Mansfield pressure to earn a valuable 3 points in their relegation battle. For the Steels this win moves them 12 points above the relegation zone after 19th placed Carlton Town were thrashed 6-0 by mid table Frickley Athletic. For AFC Mansfield, it’s now seven games without a win, with pressure continuing to mount on the Bulls who sit in 16th place, 4 points away from the looming relegation zone. They next face Marske Utd who are in fine form as of late. For the Steels, their next tie is at home against high fliers Cleethorpes Town which will prove to be a massive test for this young but resilient Steels side who with today’s win, have surely consolidated their place in the Evo-Stik East Division for next season after an earlier relegation threat.
FT-AFC Mansfield 1-2 Steels