Stags Still Marching

Mansfield Town 2-1 Walsall (EFL League Two) 28.10.23

Nigel Clough’s Mansfield Town continued their incredible, unbeaten start to the 2023-23 season with a hard-fought, 2-1 home win over Walsall on Saturday in EFL League Two.

The Stags, who are now unbeaten in nineteen matches in all competitions this season (twenty matches unbeaten with the win at the end of last season), were made to battle throughout against the mid-table side but three points, it’s three points.

Unchanged from the starting eleven that saw off Harrogate 4-1 last time out the hosts did lose striker Lucas Akins after half an hour, by which time they were already a goal to the good; both Ollie Clarke and Davis Keillor-Dunn had registered early efforts on Owen Evans’ goal, both from distance, then, in the 16 minute, the breakthrough arrived.

A corner to the Stags was taken by George Maris which is met by the head of defender Aden Flint, which is also saved well by Evans in the visiting goal, as is the follow-up shot from Keillor-Dunn before, and at the third time of asking, Flint reacts to fire home from close range to open the scoring.

The hosts were then forced into making that early change as James Gale comes on for Lucas Akins with a little less than thirty played; shortly after, Stags defender Calum Macdonald is seen to release Maris with a little cut-back, the attackers first-time effort though is deflected away.

Chances hard to come by the hosts did look to break through as the half moved towards its close, substitute Gale pinching the ball off the visitors Montserrat defender, and Walsall captain, Donervan Daniels, before looking to play in Maris, however, the pass falls the wrong side and the move comes to nought, the hosts holding a slender, one-goal advantage at the break.

The Stags should have doubled their lead early in the second period, Keillor-Dunn having shown great footwork on the attack and playing in Aaron Lewis, the midfielder however sees his effort go narrowly over Evans’ cross bar and, within minutes, the visitors were level.

In what was their first real shot on target during the contest, the Saddlers equalised after Tom Knowles produced a great burst forward and squared the ball nicely for Ryan Stirk, the Welshman, and former Mansfield midfielder (made over thirty appearances on-loan in 2021-22), fired past Christy Pym in the home goal, from a dozen yards.

Will Swan came on for Maris just after the hour mark and within ten minutes had played his part in what proved to be the winning goal for the hosts.

Having received the ball on the left, Swan produced an inch-perfect cross for Jordan Bowery, and he released a curling, left-footed effort that went into the visiting net off of Evans’ upright, a sweet way to claim your first of the season, and with it the twelfth Stag to find the back of the net thus far.

An even later change saw Hiram Boateng on for Ollie Clarke with ten remaining, and he came close to adding a third for the Stags in the closing minutes, however, he saw his effort blocked, the hosts holding out for a tight, 2-1 win.

Victory sees them sitting fourth (joint-third, 29 pts, level with Crewe Alexandra) in the table, with a game in hand on the three sides, Stockport County (35 pts), Notts County and Wrexham (30 pts) above them – only leaders Stockport boast a better goal-difference also.

It is Carabao Cup action next for Nigel Clough’s charges, they welcoming League One side, Port Vale (sitting 16th), to the One Call Stadium in a fourth round tie on Tuesday (31 October) night, KO 19:45, before returning to league action on Saturday (4 November), in a mammoth home clash with fellow high-fliers, Wrexham.

Mansfield Town: Christy Pym, Jordan Bowery, Aden Flint, Lewis Brunt (Baily Cargill, 46), Calum Macdonald, Aaron Lewis, Louis Reed, George Maris (Will Swan, 63), Ollie Clarke (Hiram Boateng, 79), Davis Keillor-Dunn, Lucas Akins (James Gale, 29).

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Stags celebrations during another league win.

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