Mansfield Town put in a disappointing performance to go down to a 3-1 defeat at Conference North side Boston United yesterday afternoon.
The Stags had started well as Louis Briscoe hit the underside of the bar but conceded two first half goals with poor defending, and then another just after half time with more poor defending, before substitute Ben Hutchinson pulled one back with a fine goal after 76 minutes.
Manager Paul Cox was visibly annoyed by the performance and kept the entire squad on the pitch after the game for a public running session.
With the Stags having played Coventry City at the One Call Stadium on Friday night, Cox named an entirely different starting XI for this game just 18 hours later. Goalkeeper Ian Deakin was injured, so there was a surprise appearance for youth team goalkeeper Harry Waldram, who acquitted himself well. The outfield players were made up of potential first team players, while the bench also included some trialists and youth teamers. The Boston tannoy man took great delight in announcing that the 15 substitutes on the Mansfield bench was a record at the ground! The Boston side included former Stags centre-half Scott Garner, while another former Stag Gary Mills, was rested.
Mansfield made a positive start and on 5 minutes Louis Briscoe bulldozed his way into the box past two defenders and crashed a fine shot against the underside of the bar. Then two minutes later Lindon Meikle put a good ball in from the left which was just cleared before Jake Speight was able to apply the finishing touch. At the other end a minute later, Boston striker Ricky Miller got past Martin Riley and volleyed wide. More good play by Meikle on 15 minutes as he got past 2 defenders to set up Jake Speight but Speight was offside and shot wide anyway. On 17 minutes, Boston’s Indy Aujla shot wide from 20 yards.
Boston took the lead on 19 minutes and they were gifted it on a plate. Stags left back Paul Black tried to play a back-pass back to young keeper Waldram, but left it short, allowing striker Ben Milnes to nip in and fire the loose ball past the keeper from 8 yards giving him no chance.
On 21 minutes Lee Stevenson fired well over the bar for the Stags from 22 yards. A minute later, Meikle's shot from left was just out of the reach of Speight and went wide via a deflection.
On 26 minutes, a low shot from Milnes was well-saved by Waldram to give the young keeper some confidence. Straight to the other end, and a cross from Stevenson was just out of the reach of Briscoe. Then on 28 minutes, a good move from the Stags ended with Briscoe finding Speight on the left and Speight curled a decent effort just wide of the right post. On 31 minutes, Milnes shot from distance and Waldram did well to claim it at the second attempt.
Boston increased their lead on 34 minutes and it was more poor defending from the Stags. It started with a Mansfield corner which broke down. Boston counter-attacked through Ricky Miller who cut inside Black before unleashing a wonderful shot just inside the right post, giving young Waldram no chance.
On 39 minutes, Lindon Meikle cut inside from the left and sent a decent shot just wide and high. But Mansfield were fortunate not to be 3-0 down on 44 minutes as Marc Newsham crossed from the right and Ben Milnes bundled an effort against the right post before Martin Riley cleared the danger.
Far from getting better in the second period, matters became worse when Boston made it 3-0 on 49 minutes. The Stags defence completely switched off as Boston took a quick free kick on the right 26 yards from goal. With three quick short passes, Boston had Ben Milnes free in front of goal and he fired into the bottom left corner of the net from 8 yards, again giving Waldram no chance.
Mansfield tried to fight back and on 54 minutes Jake Speight’s snap shot from 17 yards from the right scraped the top of the bar. Then a minute later, Pilkington’s low left-footed shot from 25 yards was straight at the keeper.
Paul Cox made his second change on 58 minutes as Ben Hutchinson replaced Meikle, and slotted in on the left side of midfield. On the hour, Briscoe broke forward and shot wide of the left post. Two minutes later, Martin Riley headed goalwards from a Chris Clements corner, but it was cleared away.
Substitute Hutchinson almost made an immediate impact on 64 minutes as he fired in a great effort with his right foot from 25 yards, which Boston keeper Ashley Timms palmed away. It was reminiscent of Hutchinson’s terrific goal against Ebbsfleet at the One Call Stadium last season; straight to the other end, and Boston substitute Spencer Weir-Daley fired wide of the right post, from an unmarked position.
Paul Cox made another change on 69 minutes as Ryan Tafazolli had to leave the pitch. Already wearing a headband from a head injury previously sustained, Tafazolli was told to leave the pitch by the referee as blood dripped onto his shirt. Tafazolli was replaced by young Liam Marsden, who slotted in at right back, with captain Ritchie Sutton moving from right back to centre half. A minute later, Cox made three more changes, as three trialists came on: strikers Jordan Ball and Brent McGrath, and midfielder Eddy Gnahore. Ball is a Mansfield born former Doncaster Rovers player, McGrath is an Australian international formerly of Brondby, and Gnahore is from Birmingham City. They replaced Stevenson, Speight and Clements.
The Stags pulled a goal back on 76 minutes. Jordan Ball was straight into the action driving a low cross from the right into the area, and Ben Hutchinson fired home with a first time shot from 13 yards to make it 3-1. Quality finishing from the Stags substitute.
Gnahore impressed in midfield as the Stags looked to get a bit of a grip on the game. But the Stags couldn’t create any more chances until 89 minutes when Jordan Ball went down on the edge of the box, but the referee waved away his appeals for a penalty. Then a minute into stoppage time, Ball blazed over the bar from seven yards following a Hutchinson corner.
The final whistle brought delight for the home fans, at a very good performance from Boston, but manager Cox was left furious with his side.
The game was not filmed so there will be no highlights on StagsPlayer, and the players will not have to watch the game back. After this performance, some of the players might be grateful for that.
Stags: Harry Waldram; Ritchie Sutton (captain), Martin Riley, Ryan Tafazolli (Liam Marsden, 69 mins), Paul Black (George Pilkington, 46 mins); Louis Briscoe, Chris Clements (Eddy Gnahore, 70 mins), Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle (Ben Hutchinson, 58 mins); Lee Stevenson (Jordan Ball, 70 mins), Jake Speight (Brent McGrath, 70 mins).
Subs not used: Jordan Fell, Chris Spencer, Jason Gregory, Jack Thomas, Ben Birch, Trovarn Demar-Thompson, Jack Hawkins, Jordan Vilums, Amari Morgan-Smith.
Boston: Timms; Bore (Sanders 85), Aujla (Green 74), Garner, Sansara; Piergianni, Ross (Weir-Daley 54), Marshall; Miller (Fairclough 74), Newsham, Milnes. Subs not used: Nuttell, Bennett, Vince.
Referee: Declan Ford (Leicestershire)
Attendance: 393 (55 from Mansfield)