Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Jermaine Grandison, Mickey Demetriou, Connor Goldson, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Liam Lawrence (c), James Wesolowski, James Collins, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Scott Vernon 82), Bobby Grant (Jordan Clark 78), Jack Grimmer
Subs: Aaron Wildig, Anthony Griffith, Ashley Vincent, Mark Ellis, Mark Halstead
Mansfield Town: Sascha Studer, Martin Riley, Ryan Tafazolli, Matt Rhead (Oliver Palmer 40), Jamie McGuire, Kieron Freeman, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray (c), Daniel Carr (Rakish Bingham 59), Luke Waterfall, Chris Clements
Subs: Fergus Bell, Reggie Thompson-Lambe, Liam Marsden, Nevadan Oliver, Jamie Sendles-White
Referee: Darren Handley
Assistants: Matthew Donohue & Andrew Newbold
Fourth Official: Darren Strain
Attendance: 5,002 (356 from Mansfield)
Town had four players on duty who missed out in the Cup tie at Walsall last Saturday. Jermaine Grandison returned following his one game ban, whilst James Wesolowski took the place of Ryan Woods who had to miss out under the totting up rule for 5 yellows. Jack Grimmer – who was Cup-tied for the trip to the Banks’s – also returned, as did Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, who shook off a slight hamstring strain. Other good news for Micky Mellon on the injury front was the swift recovery of first choice keeper Jayson Leutwiler who had to be substituted with 20 minutes left last week.
Town made a good start to the game and had a number of decent chances early on, the first a decent curling shot from Bobby Grant after good build up play from Collins and Grimmer, and then Lawrence showed good strength to win the ball in the middle of the park and then power forward, he fed the ball to Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro who cut across the edge of the Stags box and drove in a low shot that was deflected just wide.
Nearly all of the early attacking play was coming from Town and all the players were looking to get forward when they could. Mickey Demetriou picked the ball on the left and then cut inside and breezed past his marker, he kept going and then switched the ball to Grimmer on the right, he rode a tackle and then drove into the box to cut the ball back across goal but the ball had just crossed the dead ball line.
Town were awarded a free-kick just inside the ball Stags half, Lawrence lifted a high ball in that was half cleared but only as far as Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro who attempted to hook a shot in that was blocked and then Tafazolli was happy just to head the ball behind for another Town corner.
Mansfield got their first real sight of the Town goal with just under 25 minutes on the clock, a long throw from Clements was cleared by Grandison, the ball was put straight back into the Town box but the defence was quick to close down and when the shot did come in Nathaniel Knight-Percival was there with a good block with his chest.
Ref Handley had been having a quiet game but then made a few decisions that raised the eye brows of the Town fans. Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro took the ball down nicely and then drove towards goal, he nicked the ball past his marker and then appeared to be shouldered off the ball but the ref waved play on. After that there was a little altercation between Liam Lawrence and Jamie McGuire, the two clashed with Lawro looking a little bit angry about something, after a bit of pushing and shoving between the two the ref showed both players a yellow card.
On 30 minutes Mansfield were reduced to 10 men and it was Jamie McGuire who picked up a second yellow, the ball was around the halfway line and Collins and McGuire challenged for the ball, McGuire caught Collins with a high foot and both players went to ground, McGuire stayed down and needed treatment but once this was over ref Handley was reaching for his pocket for a second yellow quickly followed by the red card.
All the attacking play was coming from Town while Mansfield adjusted to having the 10 men. Lots of pressure and lots of good build up play saw Town pretty much camped in the Stags half. The home side had a great chance to take the lead when Grant fed the ball to Jack Grimmer who skipped past his marker to take him to the by-line, he pulled the ball back to set-up James Collins who connected sweetly with the ball but it was just wide of the target.
Mansfield had a decent chance when Daniel Carr got in behind the Town defence, he was closed down by Grandison but managed to find the space to hit a low shot that Leutwiler did well to get down and save and Goldson was there to tidy things up.
Mansfield were racking up the yellow cards with captain Adam Murray and Kieron Freeman both being booked after pull backs on Demetriou and Grant respectively after the Town players had nicked the ball past them and left them standing.
Town started the half in determined fashion looking to get the all important goal. First good chance was a long range effort from Demetriou that was just over the bar. Next a great counter attack after Town defended a Stags corner well, Demetriou put the ball to Grant who ran the length of the pitch to the edge of the Stags box, he fed Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro who skipped past one tackle and then drove in a good shot that Studer tipped over. Then minutes later another good chance after Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro picked up the ball out on the left, he played it to Lawrence who cut inside and then curled an inviting ball to the back post to find Bobby Grant who got in a decent header under pressure that was just wide of the mark.
Mansfield were proving to be a resolute opposition but Town finally got the break on 59 minutes with a superb goal. It was again from patient build up that saw Town move the ball across the field looking for the opening, the ball was played out to Grimmer on the left, once again he had the beating of his marker and broke into the box, he then laid the ball into space to set-up Bobby Grant who dispatched and unstoppable drive past Studer to make it 1-0 to Town.
Town were really piling the pressure on now and were creating chance after chance to add to their lead. Chances fell to Collins, Akpa Akpro, Lawrence and Grant but Mansfield were doing all they could to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Town continued to create great chances to add to their lead but somehow it was staying at 1-0. Bobby Grant found the space just outside the Mansfield box to hit a lovely dipping shot that had Studer back peddling but it dropped just over the bar. Then more good work from Grimmer saw him cross the ball to the back post to find Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, he headed the ball back for Collins who turned and shot but it was just wide of the target.
Town's pressure finally paid off on 74 minutes when a corner was looped high in to the Stags penalty area, Grandison rose the highest and headed the ball down to James Collins who swiveled and smashed the ball home from close range to make it 2-0 to Town.
Micky Mellon made his first change of the afternoon on 78 minutes brining on Jordan Clark to replace goalscorer Bobby Grant. The minutes later Scott Vernon was brought on to replace Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
Town were now comfortably in control and were passing the ball around the pitch and playing keep ball. There were passages of play where there must have to 30 to 40 passes as Town worked the ball around the pitch and made Mansfield do all the running. The chances were still being created but Mansfield were getting the blocks and saves to keep it at 2-0.
There was a great chance for Town to add a third when James Collins found the space to smash in a superb shot but Studer was there to pull off an equally good save to deny Collins a second goal.