October 05, 2013

Mansfield Town - As I Seen It

UNEXPECTED RESULT

Mansfield Town 1, Pools 4 (Four)   League 2 Saturday October 5th 2013

Match report by POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM at Field Mill

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The sun was shining on an unseasonably warm October day, as me and son Ewan made the short journey to whatever Field Mill is called nowadays.

It's been a while since we played there (one of those wins during that amazing unbeaten run under Danny Wilson), and the landscape around it seems different to how I remembered it.

After a drive round we found a free parking spot near the bingo, a short walk away from what used to be the away end, near the 'Early Doors' pub. Except the pub is now an Indian restaurant. Like thousands of pubs across the land, it has probably been lost forever, although at least the building is being put to good use rather than standing empty, playing host to rats, pigeons and the odd junkie. Mind you, I've been in plenty of allegedly 'open' pubs which would fit that description.

 If we play Mansfield again next season I'll plan a pre-match visit to the Indian as part of the day out. I did something similar at Orient a few years back, and the only drawback was nobody wanting to sit near me in the second half, thanks to my highly efficient digestive system which results in plenty of rich, spicy flatulence. You know the type - dense and heavy, that takes an age to disperse, even with a breeze.

The away end is now on the opposite side of the ground, which meant a stroll past the Mansfield supporters bar. Thankfully there was no hint of chew in the air, possibly in part due to plenty of plod. This is a fixture which has seen plenty of argy-bargy in the past, apparently dating back to the early 80s, when the Mansfield miners broke the strike and obviously made themselves more than slightly unpopular with fans of teams from mining areas such as Durham.

Now if any wannabee hooligans are reading this, if you want to smuggle anything into a ground then all you need to do is go in with a 5 year old boy. I was carrying Ewan's usual bag of stuff, which included plenty of food and drink plus some toy cars to keep him going through the dull bits. I don't object to it being searched as there's nowt to hide, but it never has been scrutinised by someone in high-vis in visits to about ten different grounds. I could easily have smuggled in a few flares, cudgels, knives, pistols etc, but in reality the worst that would have happened was a player being struck by a bag of Mini Cheddars or a Matchbox Cortina.

Ewan and I sat right at the back row slightly to the right of the goal, and the view was pretty impressive. Apart from the still-empty stand running the length of the pitch. We were joined by Andy Ramalamadingdong and also Grantham John, with whom we enjoyed a very drunken post-match pub crawl in York not long back. He was without his son Tom, who has just started a job which involves working on Saturdays, and therefore rules out attending most Pools games, his main passion in life. Therefore proving the point that all the shite written about apparently feckless, lazy youth is not strictly true.

Whoever won the toss decided to swap ends, so Pools were attacking the goal at our end in the first half. And attack they did. Monky continued his remarkable renaissance with a scorcher from distance that the keeper was still trying to get near as it rolled back out of the net. If we thought that we had been given false hope then we were mistaken.

Wave after wave of Pools sorties had the Mansfield defence and keeper scrambling, and it was a thoroughly deserved 2-0 lead Pools took to half time. Jack Compton provided a superb finish after some magic passing, overlapping and general all-round cushtiness from the lads in red with a white stripe down one side. We should have had a penner too, but the ref inexplicably saw it the other way, choosing to book Little Lukey for diving when he was clean through, in a situation where he probably would have scored and had no reason to go to ground.

Now the main fear during the discussions during the break was that we would repeat the standard Pools format of great first half, crap second. Thankfully Compton soon put the game further out of reach with a beautiful curling pearler free kick, more than answering some of the critics who have questioned his commitment and eye for goal.

Although we were 3-0 up, many in the crowd could not forget that fateful day many years ago when Pools scored to lead 3-1 at Field Mill with about 8 minutes on the clock. Naturally we finally managed to lose the match 4-3, and that nightmare has haunted me and others ever since."Flinders had no chance with the well placed spot-kick, and all of a sudden the fingernails started getting bitten a bit further up."

Things took a turn for the worse when the ref awarded a very harsh penalty against Big Sam for handball. Flinders had no chance with the well placed spot-kick, and all of a sudden the fingernails started getting bitten a bit further up. We needn't have worried though, as James Poole re-inflated the comfort cushion with another superb effort from distance.

I haven't been to loads of games when Pools have scored 4 , and I definitely haven't been to one when all of the strikes were of such high quality. This really knocked the stuffing out of Mansfield, and from then on it was one of those games I didn't want to end. Every single Pools player wanted the ball. They were finding their men, they were making runs, they were trying to score more, they still had bags of energy, and most of all were thoroughly committed to the cause.

The final whistle did come, and it was hard to pick a man of the match. Little Lukey deserved a goal for his utterly tireless workrate, Compton was like a different player, Monky continued to show signs of his vintage brilliance, and James Poole played brilliantly in what I think is his perfect (if slightly rude sounding) position - in the hole. Baldwin was far more composed in the middle, and Walton looked decent in spite of a few wayward passes. Duckworth is a revelation at right back, and Austin was solid on the other side of defence. Burgess was pure class, and Big Sam will be hard to drop on that performance. Flinders was solid despite having a quieter game than usual.

After a lot of jiggling about with starting line-ups, I reckon Cooper has probably hit on the best starting 11 at the moment, with the possible exception of Walton, who in my opinion should be behind Walker or Dolan in the pecking order.

What should have been a quick walk back to the car was prevented by Notts Police, who insisted we had to take the long route round the ground, presumably to avoid us coming face to face with disgruntled Mansfield fans from the home end heading back in the direction of the town centre. Given that Mansfield fans also had to take this long route round, it meant we came face to face with lots of them. Well away from the ground and the wistful gaze of the boys in blue. Thankfully there was no menace, and quite a few gracious Mansfield fans gave us some "well done" and "you deserved it" comments as we passed by.

Lets hope the result will spur on a few more performances of this quality, and see us move up the table away from that terrible, frightening possibility on the bottom 2. It took Mansfield several years to claw their way back to this level, and I really don't fancy a trip to Alfreton, Salisbury, Welling or Forest Green next season.