Stags Fight Back In Seven Goal Thirller

Mansfield's mettle was well and truly tested on Saturday afternoon as they fought back from 3-1 down to beat Dagenham and Redbridge by four goals to three. The winner was a first goal for the club for Adi Yussuf and beautifully taken. It followed up the promise he had shown in pre-season and proved that the Stags do have striking options beyond Matt Green. The character displayed by Mansfield fully encapsulated the spirit within which their manager used to perform; never say die.

Adam Murray kept faith with the side that earned an excellent 2-0 victory at Stevenage in midweek, which meant the returning Mitchell Rose had to settle for a place on the bench. Dagenham had only won one game all season, back on the 5th September. Despite their league performance, Murray had earmarked the strugglers as troublesome opposition, due to the unorthodox methods they employ.

The Stags started promisingly and were in front on 5 minutes, having already shown up leaks in the home sides defence. After a chip forward by Chapman, the ball dropped onto the head of Green outside the area on the right. He looped a header towards Lambe on the penalty spot, which was in turn headed towards the edge of the D by Obileye. Benning had anticipated where the ball was going to land and unleashed a thunderbolt of a volley into the roof of the net. Awesome technique by Benning to execute such a finish with his weaker foot. The full back was clearly delighted with the goal and celebrated in front of the travelling fans.

On 9 minutes, another effort on target for Mansfield as Hunt's cross form the right was headed straight at the keeper by Jack Thomas. Despite being dominated in the opening exchanges, the hosts were level soon after.

Andre Boucaud was in possession just into the Stags half and threaded a ball between both Chapman and McGuire to find Chambers in a central position 25 yards for goal. Chambers moved the ball left to find McClure. Pearce failed to closed down the striker and McClure hit a low left footed shot into Jensen's bottom left hand corner. Words were exchanged between Pearce and Chapman, the latter angered by Pearce's failure to close down McClure and Pearce by the space the midfield had allowed Chambers in the first place. A sloppy goal to give away which Dagenham did not have to work hard for.

Three minutes later, the Stags should have retaken the lead. A free-kick from the left was expertly delivered by Chapman to find Tafazolli with the freedom of the penalty area. Unfortunately, Tafazolli could not increase his goal tally for the season as he somehow missed the target from six yards. He could not believe that he had missed and neither could the fans behind the goal. On 14 minutes, Westcarr's cross from the left fell to Green but the striker was off balance and could not keep his shot down.

A slice of luck for the Stags on 20 minutes, slice being the operative word. A cross the right from the lively Jodi Jones saw McGuire swing a leg and miscue his clearance, the ball rebounding off the crossbar. Dagenham had a chance from the follow up, which was squandered after an airshot from Chambers. At the other end, Benning delivered a wicked cross from the left but Westcarr's touch let him down.

Another excellent chance for Mansfield to retake the lead fell to Tafazolli on 28 minutes. A further free-kick from the left, this time by Benning, found the towering defender at the far post. This time Tafazolli did everything right, heading the ball downwards only for Daggers keeper O'Brien to make a fantastic save. The Stags have been extremely impressive from attacking set pieces so far this season.

On 30 minutes, there was a further sucker punch for the Stags as they went 2-1 down. The goal arose from Jamie McGuire pumping the ball forward under little pressure without looking. His clearance was easily intercepted and Dagenham could come forward. Boucaud was again the orchestrator, this time sliding the ball into the left side of the Mansfield area between Benning and Tafazolli to find Chambers. Chambers feigned to shoot with his right, sending Tafazolli sliding, before cutting back on to his left and firing into the opposite corner. It was poor from McGuire in the first instance but the gap between Benning and Tafazolli was too large.

It got worse for Mansfield on 32 minutes, as the home side increased their lead. Again, the goal stemmed from the Stags needlessly conceding possession. This time it was Chapman, who ran the ball out of play deep in Dagenham's half.  Then Jack Thomas ran into a dead end, presenting the ball to Connors at right back. Connors played a long ball into the Stags left channel which evaded Tafazolli and found Chambers through on goal. Chambers slotted the ball past Jensen into the same corner he had found two minutes earlier. Looking back at the goal, it seems Tafazolli got caught under the ball and despite having a five yard head start on Chambers could not beat the front man to the ball. Question marks should also be raised over Pearce, who was by the side of Chambers when he started his run but five yards behind by the time the striker controlled the ball. The defensive line was too high and Mansfield paid the price.

It was hard to believe that the Stags were two goals down, the hosts having scored three goals from three shots. Matt Green and Adam Chapman had to be pulled apart before the restart as some harsh words were exchanged. Adam Murray revealed after the game that two players had to be separated in the dressing room at half time, so it would not come as a surprise if it was those two. It appeared the defence had been well and truly jinxed by my midweek praise. On the touchline, Murray was already preparing to introduce Adi Yussuf.

On 35 minutes, a long range effort by Adam Chapman was wide of the target. The majority of the away support were sat mystified at how the Stags could be losing the game, but Mansfield fired back on 37 minutes.

Craig Westcarr dinked an excellent pass over the top to find Matt Green in the left side of the area. It looked as if Green had delayed the shot too long as he was forced towards the touchline by the defender. Just when it looked like the striker had lost control of the ball, Green outwitted his marker by performing a Cruyff turn but was hauled to the ground by two red shirts. The referee spotted the foul and pointed to the penalty spot. Green himself put the ball on the spot, having missed a penalty earlier in the season against Oxford. Perhaps mindful at the excess power he struck the ball with that day, Green's penalty was strange to say the least. He skidded the pall slightly to the keepers right and the ball somehow squirmed though O'Brien and into the net. The penalty actually bounced before it got to the goal, but nevertheless the Stags were back in the game.

Immediately following the penalty, Adi Yussuf was introduced in place of Jack Thomas. Thomas did not look pleased, as should be right of any player being dragged off before half time. Yussuf went straight up top to partner Green. It looked as if Murray felt the more bodies we have in the attacking third, the more pressure they could apply to defenders to prevent the release of pressure.

Yussuf made an immediate impact with some strong play down the right and an excellent cross with his weaker foot to pick out Westcarr, who headed over when unmarked. The cross was perhaps a little too high for Westcarr.  The home side created a further opening from a silly free kick conceded by Benning. The ball was whipped in and headed over by Hemmings when free inside the area.

A final chance to level for Mansfield right on the stroke of half time. Green brought the ball down on his chest 25 yards from goal and fired in a low shot which was turned around the right hand post by O'Brien. The referee blew for the interval before the corner could be taken.

An action packed first half and Mansfield  were unfortunate to be behind. After all the praise of Mansfield's defensive record of late it was disappointing for the Stags to concede three very preventable goals. The positive aspect was that it had probably been Mansfield's best first half performance in terms of creating chances. The travelling yellow shirts were still very much behind the team, as it seemed sure that there would be further opportunities in the second period. Jamie Cureton replaced goalscorer McClure at half time, a thorn in the side of Mansfield and the rest of the Football League over his 20 year plus playing career.

As the second half began, the Stags continued to look dangerous. On 48 minutes, a great move ended with Yussuf intelligently picking out Lambe, whose first touch was poor and made his finish more difficult, but still managed to produce another fine save from O'Brien and win a corner. The corner was met by Tafazolli but was cleared by the Dagenham rearguard. On 52 minutes, the ball was in the net for the visitors but the assistants flag was raised for offside. Champan's long throw from the right was helped on by Tafazolli and met by the sliding boot by Green, however the striker was judged to be offside.

Mansfield continued to exert pressure for a 15 minutes spell but could not find the breakthrough, Green shooting from long range when others were better placed and Tafazolli again meeting a set piece but failing to hit the target. Dagenham finally livened up on 69 minutes as another long ball was misjudged by Tafazolli and latched onto by Chambers. The pacey front man teed up Cureton, who curled an effort towards the top corner, only for Jensen's outstretched left hand to tip the ball over the crossbar. Excellent save by Jensen.

On 75 minutes, Westcarr was replaced by Nathan Thomas. It was surprising that Westcarr was taken off ahead of Lambe, who had contributed little throughout and arguably possesses less of a goal threat than Westcarr. Despite Mansfield's best efforts it looked as if Dagenham may see it out. I noticed Chambers remonstrating with a ball boy to return the extra ball he had retrieved to the dugout to prevent Mansfield from taking throw-ins quickly. On 79 minutes, Cureton again found himself with space in the area on the left and sent an audacious lob inched wide of Jensen's left post.

The Stags finally equalised on 81 minutes. A corner from the right by Chapman was delivered to the far post where Krystian Pearce powered on to the ball and headed past a static keeper. It was the defenders first goal for the club but he was not content with that, as he automatically picked up the ball and sprinted back to the half way line. The 193 Mansfield fans were now in full voice and urging their team to find a winner.

Five minutes later, the away fans were to erupt for a final time. Green initially did well to hassle the Daggers defender in the home half. Both players became tangled and Yussuf surged onto the loose ball 35 yards from goal right of centre. Yussuf sold the defender with a step over and pushed the ball into the area on his right foot. You could visibly see the striker steady himself as he passed the ball under the advancing goalkeeper and into the net on with his unfavoured foot. A fantastic, composed finish from Yusuff, especially considering recent failings from similar positions. Cue delirium in the away end, the Mansfield boys making all the noise after a three goal comeback.

All the Stags had to do now was see out four minutes plus stoppage time. With three of those already gone, Lee Collins was introduced to steady the ship, in place of Matt Green. Collins went and sat just in front of Pearce and Tafzaolli.

A final scare came shortly after Collins' introduction, as following a corner which had been punched away by Jensen, the ball was delivered back into the box and headed harmlessly wide by a Dagenham central defender. Neither of the home sides central defender's had made a meaningful contribution all afternoon and it would have been extremely cruel had they started at that point.

Despite making extremely hard work of it, Mansfield had turned the game on it's head and secured all three points in a thrilling encounter. There were fist pumps galore at the final whistle, from manager and players alike, as the Stags secured back to back away victories. The win moved Mansfield into 6th position.

Adam Murray is making quite a name for himself at the moment, and added to his repertoire the gumption to make extremely bold substitutions. It takes huge guts to make a change before half time and could have hugely backfired, but the introduction of Yussuf ultimately proved to be a match winning decision. He must also be praised for whatever he said at half time, as the defence turned from a first half shambles to a second half clean sheet. Murray admitted before the game that Dagenham were somewhat of an unknown quantity, but the defence sat much deeper in the second half, nullifying the pace of Chambers.

After the hardship of 554 miles on the road this week, Adam Murray's squad now face a week on the training ground ahead of the visit of bottom side Newport County next Saturday. After the dismissal of Terry Butcher, Newport are now under the stewardship of John Sheridan and are likely to benefit from 'the new manager syndrome'. The Exiles have a similar record to Dagenham and Redbridge, but Murray will be hoping for an altogether more solid performance than his side produced this weekend.

Player Ratings :

Jensen - 7 - At fault for none of the goals. One cracking save to deny Cureton.
Hunt - 6.5 - Hardly any of the play was down his side. Did ok.
Pearce - 6.5 - Should have done better for the first goal and question marks over the third. Good second half. Towering header for equaliser.
Tafazolli - 6 - Constant threat in opposition box but should have scored at least one. Misjudged the flight of the ball on a couple of occasions.
Benning - 7.5 - Good game. Perhaps could have tucked in more for second goal. His goal was one of the best I have ever seen live. Several good crosses.
McGuire - 6 - Battled but plays as times as if he has been given a two touch rule. So many passes without looking first.
Chapman - 6.5 - Assist for Pearce goal. Generally ok.
Westcarr - 6.5 - Good ball to Green to win penalty. Surprised he was subbed ahead of Lambe.
J. Thomas - 6 - Not really in the game.
Lambe - 6 - Still not doing enough. On the pitch for 90 minutes and apart from one shot not really invovled.
Green - 6.5 - Got lucky with his penalty but good skill to win it in the first place. A bit greedy on a couple of occasions in the second half. Does work extremely hard though and must be a pain for defenders.

Subs :

Yussuf (J. Thomas 38) - 7.5 - So pleased for him scoring the winner. Looked very good in pre-season and hoped his recent missed would not turn him into one of fans 'boo boys'. Hope he can now kick on.
N Thomas (Westcarr 75) - Should have been introduced earlier in my opinion but did not matter in the end. A few bright moments.
Collins (Green 89) - Brought on to sit in front of defence. Looked very confused for the time he was on.