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Cards topple at Field Mill

Martin Townshend - 2nd September 2012
Mansfield Town 3 Woking 1
Blue Square Bet Premier
1st September 2012

Goals from the first and last shots of the opening period condemned Woking to a third straight defeat and a third successive pointless away day.

With both sides heading into this game on the back of 4-1 defeats, the Cards were hoping to recover from Tuesday’s disappointment and gain their first positive away result of the campaign. Garry Hill made two changes to the side defeated by Braintree, with the injured Bradley Bubb replaced by Gavin McCallum and Brett Williams dropping to the bench to allow Jack Parkinson his first start of the season.

There was a minor scare for Woking in the first minute as Aaron Howe’s clearance upfield ricocheted off Mansfield’s Matt Green, but fortunately the home side were unable to capitalise on the rebound.
With the ball spending a significant amount of time in the air in the opening exhanges, there was little to get excited about, Woking’s forays forward resulting in crosses from Betsy and McCallum that did little to test the home defence, and Town having a similar lack of success.

Until the 10th minute, that is, when the returning Exodus Geohaghon launched one of his long, long throws into the Woking box. The Cards were unable to clear effectively and those travelling fans able to make it up the M1 could only watch in dismay as the ball fell to the feet of Louis Briscoe on the edge of the 6-yard box, the Stags’ forward drilling it low across the goal and into the far corner of the net, giving the home side the lead with the first shot of the game.

Woking continued to launch the ball into the home penalty area but were struggling to make an impression on the game, although Kevin Betsy was denied a chance after 19 minutes when a sliding tackle from Sutton ended his run through the middle.

Moments later Sawyer received a yellow card for a challenge on Junior Daniel as the Cards endeavoured to make headway.

Geohaghon’s throws continued to cause problems for the visitors' defence, Howe being forced to tip one over the bar after 20 minutes to prevent any contact from the Mansfield forwards.

The best chances were falling to the home side, and they should have doubled their lead shortly afterwards, Luke Jones only managing to blast the ball over the bar from point-blank range after picking up a flick from Howell.

Loick Pires did have the Cards’ first shot on goal after 27 minutes, his curling effort from 25 yards being caught easily by the jumping Alan Marriott, before Howe was again called into action, rushing from his line to snatch the ball away from Matt Green after an incisive chip forward from Murray. Geohaghon then almost got on the scoresheet himself, Mike Cestor clearing his goal-bound shot off the line after 31 minutes.

At the other end, a McNerney free-kick and a 35-yard effort from McCallum kept Marriott on his toes, before a mazy run from Betsy through the Mansfield defence came to nothing when the final ball was played slightly too far ahead of the advancing Pires.

However, just as it looked like the Cards would go into the break within touching distance of their hosts, a killer blow left them with a mountain to climb. Trying to break from defence following another troublesome throw from Geohaghon, the ball was intercepted and played through to Rhead who, finding himself in space and with only Howe to beat, calmy slotted the ball past the Cards’ keeper to make it 2-0 with the final kick of the half.

Half-time: Mansfield Town 2 Woking 0

The first chance of the second half also fell to Mansfield, Lindon Meikle cutting inside Adam Newton in the area to unleash a rising shot which Howe was able to tip over the bar, Brett Johnson clearing from the resulting corner.

McCallum continued to be the main headache for the home defence. Although his first long-range effort of the half just after the hour was collected comfortably by Marriott, his next was anything but comfortable for the Stags’ No.1, who was only able to touch it onto the woodwork as it swerved away from him.

Howe was again tested at the other end, this time by Briscoe, who powered his way through the visitors’ defence only to be denied at close-range, before Marriott again foiled the Cards' attempts to get back into the game, spectacularly palming away Jack Parkinson’s vicious 35-yard free-kick with substitute Brett Williams, on for Ricketts, only able to fire the loose ball into the side netting.

Woking were beginning to pressure the home side, Williams and Betsy both having further efforts off target, before a McCallum run was halted outside the Mansfield area just before he was able to shoot.

With time ticking away Dean Sinclair replaced Pires and Joe McNerney moved up front as the Cards pressed for a goal. However, it was Mansfield who nearly added another goal on the break, Green lifting the ball over the advancing Howe from the edge of the box, only to watch despairingly as the ball bounced just in front of the goal and over the bar.

Hopes of a recovery began to look less unlikely six minutes from the end, Sawyer chipping the ball over the home defence from the edge of the area to find McNerney at the far post, who slotted the ball home from a narrow angle to make it 2-1.

It was so nearly level three minutes later, McCallum heading down Sinclair’s cross to Betsy, whose close-range effort was superbly saved by Marriott at the near post with Mansfield becoming more than a little jittery and their supporters beginning to get on their backs.

Almost inevitably then, it was the home side who restored their two-goal cushion in the four minutes of added time, Jake Speight curling the ball around Howe and into the top corner to end the contest.

Again, not actually a bad performance despite the scoreline, especially given Mansfield’s status as one of this season’s promotion favourites, with the Cards undone by lapses of concentration and the need to be a little more confident and clinical up front.

With another of the promotion favourites, Hereford, next up it’ll be a tough Tuesday night for the Cards, but with fellow Blue Square Bet Premier new-boys Nuneaton at home next weekend the Cards will be aiming to end the run of poor results as soon as possible.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Mike Cestor, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson (Adam Doyle 85), Mark Ricketts (Brett Williams 65), Jack Parkinson, Lee Sawyer, Kevin Betsy, Loick Pires (Dean Sinclair 79), Gavin McCallum.

Unused subs: Sam Beasant, George Frith

Cautions: Lee Sawyer 19

Mansfield Town: Alan Marriott, Ritchie Sutton, Luke Jones, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green (Nick Wright 89), Louis Briscoe (Jake Speight 75), Anthony Howell, Matt Rhead (Chris Clements 75), Adam Murray, Colin Daniel, Exodus Geohaghon.

Unused subs: John Thompson, Lee Stevenson.

Cautions: Anthony Howell 33

Attendance: 2061

MOTM: Gavin McCallum. A persistent nuisance to the Mansfield defence. Never stopped running.