|Season 6 - Mansfield|
|Written by Terry Doran|
|Wednesday, 18 December 2013 08:59|
Mansfield Town v Oldham Athletic - F.A. Cup 2nd Round Replay
One Call Stadium, Field Mill, Mansfield
Tuesday 17th December 2013
The recent arrests in connection with match-fixing allegations had shone the wrong sort of spotlight on clubs, including Latics. Match-fixing is not new and it even goes back as far as 1915, when seven players were found guilty of conspiring to throw a match between Liverpool and a relegation-threatened Manchester United, which United won 2-0.
I can remember back in the 1960s, when three Mansfield Town players were imprisoned for their involvement in a fixed odds betting ring. Sammy Chapman served six months and Brian Phillips served 15 months. The third Stag was Jimmy Gauld, who was sentenced to four years, with the Judge describing him as an “unpleasant rogue and the spider in the centre of the web”.
‘The People’ newspaper alleged that Mansfield had won promotion by bribery, claiming that a handful of the club’s players paid some of their Hartlepools counterparts to ensure a vital fixture went their way. Mansfield won the game 4-3 after trailing 2-0 and subsequently moved up to Division Three, but the allegations were never proven.
After travelling the 36 miles almost door to door on the A38, here we were in Mansfield, armed with my lucky F.A. Cup badge and rosette.
There could be no possible accusation of match-fixing, because both Clubs were determined to win a game which would bring about for the victors a trip to play Liverpool at Anfield, with the consequential boost in income through prize money and a share of large gate receipts. Obviously Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was hoping to play Mansfield, where his team had won in the 3rd round last season, thanks to a controversial winning goal courtesy of the hand of Luis Suárez, which he continues to thank by kissing it after each goal scored.
Brendan would be dreading the repeat of last season’s defeat by Latics, for whom his son now played.
According to the Oldham Chronicle’s calculations, the odds on Latics playing Liverpool for the third time in successive F.A. Cup competitions were 31,497,984-1. With a £1 bet at those odds Cristian Montaño could not only have paid his legal costs but also bought Boundary Park!
Mansfield were rooted four points off the bottom of the Football League, with only one point from the last six matches. They had only won one game since the end of September and that was against non-league St. Albans in the previous round. So, on the one hand, surely nothing could go wrong but, on the other hand, here was an accident waiting to happen.
The Stags’ rutting season had ended but there was still one on the lookout for a mate.
Latics had already let this cup-tie slip from their grasp after taking the lead at Boundary Park, but now was the time for the players to prove that they wanted it more than their lower-league opponents. With a victory not needing to be essential, so long as defeat was avoided, there was always the penalty shoot-out to fall back on, but with one route to Wembley having already been closed via this lottery last week against Chesterfield, it was going to be a very nervy evening.
The match was being televised by BT Sport, who had proved to be very astute in selecting their matches. Having already shown what has been classed as the best ever Merseyside derby and last Saturday’s 6-3 victory for Manchester City against Greedy League leaders Arsenal, their viewers would have been salivating over this one in the world’s best cup competition.
The magnitude of the stakes for both clubs was evident and in order to counteract Latics’ manager’s use of Subbuteo players to demonstrate tactics, the Stags had resorted to garden ornaments on which gnome expense had been spared.
After refreshments in the Talbot pub, we took the obligatory picture with the Flag.
Bizarrely Mansfield had made this game all-ticket for us, because they did not have facilities for visiting supporters to pay on the night. So I had ordered the tickets from Latics last Thursday, being told they would be with me in the post on Saturday. It was now Tuesday, match-day, and still no tickets. A phone call to the ever-reliable member of staff at Boundary Park resulted in Latics emailing MTFC authorising the issue of duplicate tickets. This bizarre policy meant a loss of income for both clubs from visiting supporters who would have been willing to pay on the night. Unsuspecting Latics supporters who turned up at the ticket office were amazed to be denied entry to the visitors’ section. Instead they had to go in with the home fans.
All this when we could have stayed at home and watched it on the telly. But Lee Johnson says he and his players value the support of the ‘12th man’, so here we were in good voice. It was now in the players’ hands (not meaning like in the case of Luis Suarez).
In the first half Latics played some pretty football but looked lightweight as the Stags got stuck in. After 12 minutes Meikle looked to be offside when he crossed for Dyer to head the home side in front. The lineswoman got plenty of stick from those convinced she had missed the offside. She was sharing her touchline with the technical areas, due to the narrowness on that side of the pitch, so I imagine her ears were burning.
Things got worse when Wesolowski went off injured and Johnson Clarke-Harris had a goal disallowed for offside. At half-time Anfield looked closer to Mansfield than Oldham.
After half-time Latics started to impose themselves and Mansfield’s tackles became more desperate, with one on Petrasso resulting in a free-kick just outside the penalty area after about 15 minutes. Danny Philliskirk’s free-kick into the top corner of the net was a beauty. Game on!
A few minutes later, Petrasso dribbled through once again and Jonson Clarke-Harris took over to slam the ball home to put Latics in front. I was beginning to wonder if my ball-fumbling skills might be needed if we were still only one goal in front and vital seconds were needed late in the game. I needn’t have worried, because in the 76th minute Philliskirk’s corner was headed home by Lanzoni and, with a two-goal lead, even I had enough confidence in the outcome to join in the singing of the rarely-appropriate seasonal favourite “Jingle Bells….oh what fun it is to see Oldham win away”. More celebrations were to follow within five minutes when Dempster blocked a JC-H shot with his hand and was sent off, with Rooney scoring from the spot to make it 4-1.
Ironically, as I went down behind the goal to retrieve the Flag, the ball came to me and, although time-wasting was not required, I couldn’t resist a couple of fumbles for old time’s sake before giving the ball to the keeper, who had a smile on his face.
After the final whistle, the players and manager came to salute the 223 making up the ‘12th man’, not realising there were about 20, who had needed to keep quiet being in with the home fans, due to Mansfield Town’s inability.
Those dejected home fans who had left early to drown themselves in the Rebecca Adlington Swimming Centre would be disappointed to find it closed.
Anfield here we come!