As I Seen It - Mansfield (a)


Mansfield Town 1 Pools 1
League Two
Friday, 26th December 2014
Field Mill

Calling round on Christmas Eve to drop off a big jar of kets for the bairns, Big Mark was greeted by my exuberant 6 year old son Ewan. "You look excited little 'un," Big Mark remarked, "although you don't have long to wait now. Aye, it's only two days till the Mansfield game."

Whilst the day before the Mansfield game was more important to Ewan, he was still pretty fired up for the short trip to Field Mill.* He was present at the 4-1 victory last term, which featured an unplayable Pools team firing shots in from all over. I warned him that we were unlikely to see such a dominant performance from Pools, although it would probably be better than the 4-0 nadir we'd witnessed in Burton a couple of weeks ago.

Come Boxing Day, Big Mark made the shortish walk round to our house, not long after Andy Ramalamadindong had driven over from Derby. The four of us piled into my old Golf and headed north. Parking up near the cinema, we strolled through the bracing north Nottinghamshire air to the ground. We passed yet-another-pub-turned-into-an-Indian, formerly known as the 'Early Doors', the scene of a proper barney between Pools and Mansfield fans a few years ago. Andy told Ewan that it used to be called 'The Flying Bottle', in recognition of the western-style saloon brawl that occurred in there, kicking off before kick-off.

The game was declared all-ticket not long before Christmas, and by the time I got round to ringing Pools up to buy the tickets over the phone, it was dangerously close to the supposed-to-be-better-under-privatisation Royal Mail deadlines for getting delivered to me in time. The bewer in the Pools ticket office assured me that they would send the tickets down to Mansfield, and I would be able to pick the tickets up there. Despite her reassuring tones, I still had a nagging doubt that I'd turn up at the ticket office only to be greeted with a blank expression and no knowledge of my purchase.

The Poolie contingent in the away end. As you can see, the rain at this point was literally coming down like stair-rods! (photo: Dan Westwell)
We joined a great big queue for a booth labelled 'matchday tickets', which didn't seem right somehow. Big Mark went to investigate, and found out that we needed to join a slightly smaller queue at the proper ticket office. Andy pointed out an odd notice displayed in the window: 'For tickets, please go to the other ticket office', which caused a bit more concern. After a bit of banter with Mansfield fans in the queue, we reached the window, and an envelope with my name on was produced. I opened it, and thankfully it contained three adult and one child tickets, rather than one adult and three child.

As we walked round to the away end, we could hear Pools fans already in fine voice under the shallow and echoey roof. We entered through the automated barcode-scanner-operated turnstile and took our seats right at the back of the stand in time for kick-off. The first half saw Pools slow to get going, and it wasn't long before a Mansfield winger dribbled through with the ball, evaded half tackles/half lunges, and shot low through Flinders and into the net.

Thankfully Pools' heads didn't drop like they normally do, and we created a couple of good chances before half time. Mansfield did too though, and it was a relief that we went into the break only trailing by the single goal. Bovril was definitely in order, but it proved to be a bit of a mission. Now Mansfield knew how many tickets they'd sold to Pools fans, so they can't really have been surprised by the large number of hungry/thirsty Poolies crammed up to the refreshment hatches, baying for sustenance. So it's anybody's guess why they chose to only staff it with just three slower-than-average individuals who all appeared to have dropped handfuls of strong sedatives earlier that day.
"Gaps started to appear down the Mansfield right flank, but unfortunately it was Franks who kept popping up in them."

Eventually we got our drinks and scran, and sat down to enjoy the second half. It is clear that Moore is already making a difference, and Pools emerged with a real sense of purpose. Gaps started to appear down the Mansfield right flank, but unfortunately it was Franks who kept popping up in them. Time and again he got into promising positions, only to fire an attempted cross hard and low straight into the nearest defender. Duckworth had been having more luck down their left hand side, and it was only right that he should put the finishing touch to a well-worked equaliser. Except he didn't really get the finishing touch, as his shot took a deflection from defender. I'd like to think it was going in anyway though.

The goal was greeted with utter jubilance from the travelling army, including Big Mark, who didn't realise Ewan was holding a half-eaten sausage roll when he high-fived him. Pools really got the bit between their teeth, and could sniff three points up for grabs. Mansfield seemed to be feeling festive too, especially when one of their players picked up a second yellow for an early bath.

Despite mounting more attacks, Pools couldn't capitalise on the advantage, and it wasn't long before the diminutive referee evened up the numbers. Harewood and a big donk Mansfield defender tussled in the box, and after a bit of handbags (more like suitcases) between them on the deck, the official finally produced a straight red for Marlon. It was difficult to tell if he deserved it from where we were sitting, and it seemed to be the linesman who said that Harewood should walk.

As the game drew to a close play was getting stretched, and with a bit more quality in the final third either team could have stolen it. The only person on the pitch determined to play a starring role was the ref however, and he chose to give Woods a second yellow after tussling for the ball after the whistle had gone. Pools held out for what on reflection was a hard-earned point, especially given the two suspensions we'll now have to endure.

The consensus as we drove home is that we are no closer to survival, but on the bright side we are 100% unbeaten under Moore. We have improved, and provided we can buy some half-decent players in January then all is not lost. We've got a bit of bite, look fitter, more purposeful, and Pools are at last giving us a reason to chant and cheer.