Mansfield Town Ladies closed their season with a disappointing 6-1 defeat to Long Eaton United on Sunday afternoon.
Despite taking the lead and looking promising in the first half, they were eventually outclassed by a clinical Long Eaton outfit.
Manager Lewis Saxby was presented with some tough choices to make for his line-up but he opted for the Development side’s four-goal hero Becky Braithwaite up front ahead of this season’s top scorer Abbey Hawkins. His other big decision was to put Sarah Chapman in net instead of usual goalkeeper Jay-Leanne Fenton.
Despite having the better of possession and a number of half-chances, it took until the half-hour mark for Mansfield to finally break the deadlock. The opening goal came following a great team move down the pitch, which resulted in Player of the Season Marie Wayne prodding the ball home following a cross from winger Androulla Kokkinou.
It took just seven minutes for Long Eaton to get back into the game, however, as Precious Hamilton was able to meet the end of a long ball forward before calmly chipping it over the on-rushing Sarah Chapman.
Then just six minutes later, the tie was completely turned around when Cara Newton headed in for Long Eaton following a brilliant ball forward from Hamilton.
Things then went from bad to worse for Mansfield only seven minutes into the second half as Long Eaton further extended their lead.
It was the league’s top scorer Precious Hamilton who widened the gap between the sides after she collected a long, diagonal ball on the far left before turning inside the Stagettes’ defender and firing it into the bottom corner.
As the game entered its latter stages with the Stagettes still trailing by two goals, manager Lewis Saxby decided to ‘go for it’ and changed his formation into a 3-3-4 system.
It was a risky decision which ultimately resulted in a collapse, as in the 89th minute Long Eaton put the game out of reach when Alena Moulton benefited at the back post following a deep cross which Sarah Chapman couldn’t collect.
With the Stagettes looking completely deflated, Long Eaton took complete advantage and extended the gap even further.
Their fifth of the game came through the ever-dangerous Hamilton who managed to grab her hat-trick by finishing off a great team passing move to score her 46th goal of the season.
The league winners then wrapped things up with virtually the last kick of the game when they were able to bundle the ball home from a corner, amidst a sea of bodies.
After the game, manager Lewis Saxby said: “We are gutted, we’ve lost to a very good team. You don’t win the league and the cup without being good. The score finishing 6-1 was cruel, we didn’t play that badly but when we were behind we just threw everything at them and they benefitted from that.”