Wednesday, 17 January 2018

16/01/18 Review: Mansfield Town vs Cardiff City

Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City (FA Cup Third Round Replay)
One Call Stadium

A welcome to 2018 for Pint of Football saw me make a return to Nottinghamshire and after a ride through Staffordshire and Derbyshire I was taken back to the part of the country where I saw my last FA Cup bout. Although there were similarities in the chilly conditions, passionate fans and goals flying in, this trip to Mansfield Town's One Call Stadium offered a much different experience to November's First Round match at Meadow Lane with Notts County and Bristol Rovers. Unlike the previously mentioned tie, this encounter was likely to offer a clear favourite and despite their poor goalless draw at home to the evening's League Two promotion hopefuls they would go into this one feeling confident after notching four at the weekend against free-falling Sunderland- but nobody obviously told the hosts, as they seemed well up for this match which could have seen them rewarded with a mouth-watering home draw with Manchester City, who awaited the winners of this match. My pre-match prediction today was for a 0-2 win to the Welsh visitors from two divisions above.
Here we go again- new year, new ground
Despite enduring a fairly laborious drive to Mansfield, I soon forgot my woes when I parked up and followed a group of rowdy supporters towards the ground with plenty of time to grab my ticket from the office before entering. With queues in every direction from the burger van, ticket office, turnstile, bars and toilets, you instantly got the feel that the FA Cup tie was in full-swing and although it was bordering on freezing outside, nobody cared because they were all wrapped up and ready for the big game. When I managed to get into the Ian Greaves Upper Stand, I made my way straight over to grab a pukka pie and beer meal deal and savagely demolished the two before taking the walk out into the seating area with just moments before kick-off. First impression of the ground was very good, with the three-stand stadium looking pretty jammed. Over to my right was the Quarry Lane End looking pretty full with well over a thousand of the home faithful, meanwhile in the North Stand on the left, Welsh flags were waving and an intimidating posse of Cardiff fans sang aloud as their team entered the field- and directly across from me was a wall of advertising boards and the metal shed on top, housing the film crew and presumably some other media reps. Although this particular feature was a bit of an eye-sore for the few thousand of us in the Main Stand, the noise from my left and also around me meant we were in for a proper battle and this was put into perspective when the seemingly subdued pensions I was sat with decided to start joining in with many of the anti-Welsh chants. Cardiff absorbed the first couple of rounds which included the English national anthem and a few of the usual references to what the Bluebirds fans may or may not get up to with sheep, but once a solid chant of "England, England, Englaaaaaand" was in full-swing, the vocally capable North Stand responded with "are shit, are shit, are shiiiiiiiiiit!" and with that, pleasantries had been exchanged for the time being and it was time to focus on the action on the pitch.

Game on!
Cardiff's line-up looked strong and was full of international experience with the likes Jazz Richards, Wales player who featured at the impressive EURO's campaign in 2016, starting alongside Scottish international Callum Paterson and Danish former U21 striker Kenneth Zohore- with additional inspiration on the bench from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Omar Bogle if needed. There was also a place for Canadian speed demon Junior Hoilett too, who I have admired since his time as a Premier League goal-getter with Blackburn Rovers and more recently at QPR. For Mansfield it was an expected first eleven which included former Rochdale lads Conrad Logan and Rhys Bennett, as well as lone-striker Danny Rose and former Scotland U21 Alex MacDonald. Paul Anderson, who years ago my Dad touted to be the next big England player after following his progress at Liverpool's youth team, was also taking up his place on the right-wing. The game kicked-off dot on 7:45pm and although this game wouldn't prove to be as famous as the tie against Liverpool back in 2013, when the then National League side lost out 1-2 after goals from a debuting Daniel Sturridge and a Luis Suarez strike, it would sure to be one to treasure if they could knock out the 3rd placed team in England's second tier and secure a home-tie with the soon-to-be crowned Champions of the Premier League. The match started fairly evenly and as I joined in with all possible MTFC chants (which are great to be involved with as a Macc Town fan!) the home side actually seemed likely to try and grab an early initiative, and following 10 minutes without a chance, it would be Joel Byrom who had a pop first.

The lime green Cardiff side certainly weren't going to get a walkover
With 52 places separating the sides domestically, Cardiff City eventually carved their own attacking move and in the 15th minute it could have been 0-1 but for Zohore's inability on this occasion to find his feet- in the end Logan calmly gathered it from the Dane's toes. This near-chance wasn't going to be a one-off for the visitors and aside from a characteristically wound-up looking Neil Warnock sauntering about, the away fans seemed to sense the goals would eventually come- and at the other end Mansfield had a chance of their own when Malvind Benning saw a clever set-piece cut across to him, only for him to just set his effort just off target. This chance would prove to be a costly miss and as the Bluebirds surged forward again they this time won a corner that would lead to the opening goal. Some dreadful and lifeless defending culminated in Logan flapping the ball haphazardly, meaning that Bruno Ecuele Manga could stab the ball home. Mansfield 0-1 Cardiff. With 34 minutes gone it was now the time to see what the hosts were made of and I think the next 60 seconds answered that for me. Danny Rose, who had been invisible so far, soon saw the chance to draw the leveller after a good cross evaded everyone but the poacher, who confidently slotted home his 13th of the season. Mansfield 1-1 Cardiff. As you were, lads. 1-1 at Half-Time.

2 Degrees by this point- a bit nippy!
With the crowds flooding to the limited beer supplies, I spent the break having a wander around the Ian Greaves Stand and taking in the mass of yellow and blue painted concrete- it is true that the One Call wasn't quite as pretty as some of the grounds I'd been to this season and it certainly didn't have the views that Darby Way in Bishop's Lydeard offered, but to be fair what Football League ground does? Anyway, enough reminiscing, it was time to get back out there for some more goals.
Half of the home fans were still waiting for their pies by the looks of it
With the crowds flooding to the limited beer supplies, I spent the break having a wander around the Ian Greaves Stand and taking in the mass of yellow and blue painted concrete- it is true that the One Call wasn't quite as pretty as some of the grounds I'd been to this season and it certainly didn't have the views that Darby Way in Bishop's Lydeard offered, but to be fair what Football League ground does? Anyway, enough reminiscing, it was time to get back out there for some more goals at my 18th of the 92. As with the first-half, Mansfield showed glances of looking like a side capable of holding their own, but unfortunately this would not remain the case as time elapsed. The side began to tire and as some would have predicted the floodgates would soon open for Cardiff City's pacey outfit. Junior Hoilett had ran the show on both wings throughout and when Patterson gave him the chance from close-range, he finished with ease to restore the away side's lead and give the Welsh travellers a big reason to roar from the away end. Mansfield 1-2 Cardiff. "Two-one, to the sheep shaggers" was the chosen chant from the visiting section, who didn't have to wait too long for the security goal and fourth of the evening. My main critique of the home side was a lack of movement at the back and it seemed as though this, mixed with a resistance to clearing the ball quickly, had been picked up by Warnock and crew as this time Republic of Ireland International Anthony Pilkington prodded home and killed off the Cup dreams of the Stags. Mansfield 1-3 Cardiff. At this stage in proceedings I saw a man dressed in vast amounts of winter-wear assisted by security guards leave the ground and I remember thinking to myself at the time, it's cold, but not that cold. Turns out the cold-fearing patron for the evening was in fact the one and only Mr Guardiola, scouting out his next FA Cup opponents, and not just your average fan who can't hack the weather.

It's a shame he didn't stick a round, I'd bought him a pie and a pint
With Pep now gone the match came towards the end and with that we saw the likes of Greg Halford and Omar Bogle brought on to see things through, but this didn't stop the boisterous old gits around me giving out verbal encouragement to the lads and as they pushed for a goal at one end, they soon fell flat-footed at the other- more statuesque defending watched as Bogle brought the ball down for Hoilett who scored goal of the game with his second, a well-hit half-volley from just outside the box. Mansfield 1-4 Cardiff. Five would have been harsh on the League Two outfit but with a couple of counter-attacks been launched it could have been the case, but in the end enough was enough and Referee Mr Eltringham ended the game with the Bluebirds taking the leap into the next round. It is unlikely that the Cardiff lads will replicate the success of the Cup Final run in 2008, but with a glamour tie against Man City they will at least look forward to testing their credentials against a side who they will hope to join in the Premier League next season. As for Mansfield, the aim will be to get back to winning ways as they host 16th place Cheltenham Town in a League Two fixture that could see them rise as high as 3rd or as low as 10th. And finally, for me, the fixtures are hopefully to come thick and fast after a quiet couple of months- I aim to do an U18 match between Stoke and Man United on Saturday morning, before crawling up the M6 to Fylde in search of an away day with my beloved Silkmen.... aka the real MTFC.

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