Here is PDW’s excellent report on today’s match:
Personally, can handle losing but can’t cope with being cheated out, even of a minor cup competition. Wonder whether the Darlington v Mansfield final will be all ticket with all the hoardes coming down from Durham and Nottinghamshire. Best start at 8am to control the 20,000 crowd ( may have added an extra zero, mind).
A referee performance of Kettle-esq propertions handed Mansfield the opportunity of a stag party at Wembley. Fair dos, he was consistent, he got everything wrong. The referee’s performance will deflect away from the fact a Luton Town team had a gay huddle before kick off. 10/10 for fake unity, gentlemen, wasn’t long before the bickering started amongst themselves again.
We put in a heroic rear guard with nine men following the sending offs in quick successive of Gnakpa and Lawless. Claude already on a soft booking, was foolishly to dive in and catch Spence near the Mansfield bench. ironically he was about to be hooked in favour for AMS, but the fourth official took an age to work out how to use the board. We should appeal and try and get it extended to a five or even better a ten game ban! Lawless did catch Nix in an aerial collision, but looked nothing worse than a free kick and a booking. Mansfield themselves could have easily lost a player or two, Istead ‘s stab into George Pilkington’s foot with a studs up tackle, then Pilkington was penalised for barely a foul on Istead outside the box, Istead shoved him into the face, Pilkington retaliated and which one of the two players do you think the referee lectured?
However the team recovered to manage the game rather well, kept their shape and gameplan, showing grit and determination rarely seen recently, even Danny Crow was charging the ball down in lost causes. If we can replicate that spirit on a more regular basis, there is still hope. Mansfield had long since ran out of ideas, being reduced to scraps from set pieces and long range pot shots, before an incredibly harsh looking penalty for handball, which few of the Mansfield players appealed, after Istead had found Briscoe on the left channel, his shot charged down by a Luton player (not sure who), at worse at was ball to hand and how the hell can you get out of the way from point blank range?
Briscoe took the penalty, not a great penalty but a fine save for K.Pilkington raising a hand, after diving to the left, with the luck we are having currently, it went straight back to Briscoe to score into the empty net.
If the team can use this disappointment as a catalyst to drive themselves forward when the play offs come along and win the bloody thing, then something good will have come out of the day. As our crowd tend to get the blame for everything, the support today when the team were down by two men was excellent. When they see the team putting in some effort, they will always back the team, but won’t when the team fart about. After all, the team are the ones getting paid for being there, we have to stump up for the privilege.
Before the sent offs, it was a largely bog standard fare. We went far too long again in the first half and apart from a five or ten minute goal, struggled to break through. The second half got off to a perfect start, Owusu slotting home a fine strike to level the aggregate scores, we pressed on, but a combination of solid Mansfield defending and us not creating many chances for our play, Owusu taking far too long after being the recipient of a poor offside call. Generally once again, we didn’t get enough men in the box. Over committing is one thing, but only have a maximum of two men forward is a bit too cautious.
Four changes from the turgid tripe at Cambridge on Tuesday, Pilkington for Tyler, Lawless for Carden ( Cambridge’s best player on the night by far), Gnakpa for Willmott and finally MBH for Crow. Would have gone for AMS for Newton personally, as Mansfield’s weakness is down their flanks and would have been good to have any width in the side. As Claude spent a lot of the first half wandering infield and playing as a third striker. As Newton tucked in, the pitch was squeezed and it was hoof time.
Mansfield themselves were unchanged including the subs from Sunday. Their league position is an accurate reflection on them. Defensively they are OK with their outstanding young Hungarian in goal from Notts County, look decent on the counter attack through their width, but their final ball was little short of hopeless.
The pitch had more than a hint of green, the third of the pitch nearest the Main Stand was softer, but it’s getting better now. We started the quicker, but it didn’t take long to become a nervy, tense scrappy game.
Gnakpa opened up them up down our right, finding MBH, in return finding Newton who screwed his drive off target of the near post, without much convinction. MBH holding off the close attntions of Naylor, probably should have cracked in an attempt at goal, elected to roll the ball forward to Owusu, whom failed to control the ball with only Grof to beat, but Spence on the cover cleared away.
Mansfield created little all afternoon, even against eleven men. Although the strong running Briscoe cut past Lawless and thumped a low effort which was comfortable for K.Pilkington to gather in. Our first attempt on target was unfortunate not to go in. Lawless’ flighted free kcik towards the far of the area, Graham powered a header at goal, which Grof repelled. MBH on the left swept in a cross, which Grof incepeted before Owusu.
Cain pulled up with a hamstring strain, a pace or maybe two from the touchline, rather than rolling him off for treatment and resuming play. But, oh no, lets have a drinks break. Cain was replaced by Smith, another direct wide player, who caused Graham a few problems, some help back by Gnakpa would have been nice. But naturally none was forthcoming.
Had a small purple patch, and almost took the lead, after Keane passed forward to Owusu, the strike wasn’t clean but beat Grof across him, hiting the far post and dribbling across goal, but not in . Typical! It was identical to Mitchley’s goal at Mansfield, except that shot struck the far post and rolled in. Soon after Grof blocked a sweetly hit volley by Gnakpa to preserve the Notts side clean sheet.
Claude lost his marker to smash a header over from Lawless’ corner. For a corner (erm..). From which Mansfield cleared, Lawless played a poor pass ( not one of his better games) across to the breaking Mitchley, with only Howells to beat for a one on one , however Mitchely could only casually lob into Pilkington. They came closer, after Sandwith nodded down Briscoe’s corner from the right, for Naylor to stabh goalwards , blocked by lawless, the rebound smashed over by Connor, after pressure by Kroca.
Long ball by Silk, intelligently guided down by Connor into the path of Mitcheey, his shot from outiside the box was tame and no danger to the goal. Receiving a pass from Lawless, MBH stood up a fantastic centre which Naylor headed away from Owusu.
We took the lead in the second half, in the opening moments, a poorly directed header by Spenceh, was pounced upon by Owusu who thumped a clincal effort past the previous unbeatable Grof, into the left hand corner, after steadily himself. Despite getting on top, we struggled to create many opportunities.
Mansfield flattered to decieve on the break, Smith had the beating of Graham with ease, although he’s out of position with no cover and also on the right through Briscoe. But, apart from sandwith heading weakly wide from Spence’s corner, Pilkington wasn’t exactly over tested against his former employers.
Howells travelled forward well , his cross sat up and appeared to hit Naylor on the hand. With this referee it was hardly worth appealling.
Owusu should have done an awful lot better than scoop over, after Gnakpa running past Silk, could have hit it, elected to past, Owusu looking miles offside, stopped, but was slow getting the ball under control and rounding Grof, with his notorious first touch, managed to muscle through a group of defenders before turning and shooting over.
A few times we got the ball into decent areas but wasted it. MBH had a poor opening to the half. Keane drilling a ball at him, but a simple lay off to Newton rolled out for a throw. Another opportunity wasted. Newton and Barnes -Homer had space, but MBH could only hit the first defender with the cross.
The first change saw Walker for Newton, who had been running on empty. Walker went upfront, with MBH dropping back to the left wing. Briscoe brushing aside Lawless, passed to Connor, fed back into the path of Silk to fire in a centre, Graham cleared but only as far as Smith, setting himself up to whizz a drive across goal.
Mansfield were beginning to take control, nothing serious the “Pilkington brothers” almost had a lack of understanding which could have allowed Connor an opportunity.Nix’s nudge forward could have fallen again for Connor, Kroca allowing him slightly to much room, but K.Pilkington came out to the edge of the box.
Crow replaced Owusu ( good lord the manager has finally realised Owusu can’t complete ninety minutes) to go upfront with walker. Not that partnership had long together. As we lost two players in the space of five minutes. Claude chopped Spence in half, it was worthy of a yellow card, and despite the fact the first was dodgy, if you are on a booking, don’t dive in. From the resulting free kick, Spence lifted the ball into the bopx, Mitchely headed it towards Naylor who tried an acrobatic overhead but it sailed over the target.
Lawless whom had a lengthy dialogue with the referee all afternoon, caught Nix, in an aerial battle. He caught the man, if it’s deliberate then fair enough, didn’t look much to be honest. Worth the club appealing?
With a further seven minutes left, the nine men held out well. Barnes-Homer on his own up front, with an unlikely midfield trio of Walker, Keane, Crow. With Walker supporting MBH on the rare occasion, we had a break on.
We protected the centre of the pitch well, not bothering to go for the ball unless it was forty yards near our goal. Pleased the way the team kept the shape, and battled away. At times, mansfield looked to have an alarming lot of space, although without two men, gaps were bound to appear.
In normal time, except for Istead’s wild strike over, after Thompson had held up Spence’s pass we were untroubled.
Naturally Mansfield had the vast majority of the ball. It was like a training session attack v defence. We restricted them to a few half chances and long shots, but we never allowed ourselves to drop too deep. The first chance of the extra time spell was our, Walker won a good header, dropping to MBH who belted the ball with the outside of his right foot, not far away.
Smith a constant problem on the left, knocked it to Istead , gave it to Connor, but some brilliant running back by Walker (are you watching Gnakpa?), allowed the ball to drift back to K.Pilkington.
Naturally K.Pilkington wasted as much time as he could, one time Istead thrown the ball back to Pilkington and he merely wandered to the other side of the six yard box to eat up a precious few seconds. All very funny, but really he was taking the piss but the referee just watched on.
Mansfield continued to find chances hard to carve out, Connor turning into Silk’s pass, could only shot at Pilkington, and Briscoe was unable to turn in Spence’s cross at the far post.
The worts tackle on the day, was an awful late, high attempt to win the ball by Istead on G.Pilkington. A disgutsing tackle, not even punished. As the half ran out, so did Danny Crow closing down Spence, and then followed the ball to the byline. maybe he confused the ball with a burger? For the first time for a long time, there was more of that old Luton spirit about the team today.
Second half continued in the same vein, Mansfield headbutting an orange wall. Pilkington stuck his foot out to deflect istead’s cross over, lucky after the eralier challange he had a foot at all. Briscoe curled an effort wide and K.Pilkington got down well enough to stop Naylor’s toe poke from the edge of the box.
As Mansfield kept the ball, Briscoe slide the ball down the left, and Mitchely dived in an attempt to win the a penalty, Graham his marker was nowhere near him. Still, no booking mind. Istead awarded a free kick for a very soft tackle by G.Pilkington. Istead pushed the Luton number 6, who pushed Istead back in the face. Rather like at Cambridge when the ref ignored Partridge’s assault on Gnakpa , nothing was done. The free kick was in a dangerous position, Sandwith being a left footer, had the perfecter angle, his free kick drifted wide, but not by much.
As the game drifted to penalties, which I think over the balance of two legs was the least we deserved. Istead squared the ball to Briscoe, his shot deflected behind for a corner. Except the referee pointed to the spot. Brsicoe toiok the penalty, despte a marvellous one handed block by Pilkington, Briscoe followed up and Mansfield’s place in the final was assured.
What a coincidence the refree got as near to the tunnel as possible before whistling for final time.
Hopefully this new found spirit can be replicated in an twelve warm up games for the play offs begin. With the suspensions, injuries and tiredness after this game, not much recovery time before Rushden on Tuesday. After Cambridge, not sure I can cope with three matches of Cambridge Xavi, Mr Carden. Any chance of giving Godfrey a little run in the team whilst Lawless serves his ban? No.
Kevin Pilkington 6, Luke Graham 5.5, Zdenek Kroca 7, George Pilkington 8.5, Jake Howells 7.5, Claude Gnakpa 4, Alex Lawless 6, Keith Keane 7.5, Adam Newton 6( Jason Walker 6.5) , Matthew Barnes-Homer 6.5( Amari Morgan-Smith), Lloyd Owusu 6( Danny Crow 7)
Subs not used – Mark Tyler, Godfrey Poku. Booked Graham, Morgan-Smith, Crow. Sent Off – Gnakpa, Lawless.
Mansfield – Grof, Silk, Naylor, Sandwith,Spence, Cain (Smith), Thompson, Nix(Istead), Briscoe, Connor, Mitchley.