Result: Mansfield Town 4-0 Morecambe (EFL League 2)
Venue: Field Mill (Friday 19th April 2019, 3pm)
My first game of the Easter weekend’s festivities saw me heading over to another ground of the 92, though this one had been earmarked somewhat earlier than the previous Saturday’s visit to Stoke’s Britannia Stadium had been. This time I was off to Mansfield Town’s Field Mill as they welcomed the Shrimps of Morecambe, the hosts looking to keep up their strong promotion challenge, whilst Morecambe were on a mission to secure their evermore likely safety. The weather had taken a turn for the better also and so all was set up for a decent trip.
After taking the trip through Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham, a change at the latter of the three had me on a stopper service along the Robin Hood line to Mansfield. Arriving at just before midday, the rarity of the sun’s heat was something to behold as I clocked the floodlights of the ground peering up over the nearby retail estate, but with me certain that tickets weren’t going to be an issue within the away end today, I instead took a left turn away from the ground and towards the town centre. However, the Railway Inn just across from the bus station was calling and I popped in for one here to plan out something of a trip around town that would bring me back groundwards. After finishing up a pint of Stella in the beer garden, off I went to see what sights and sounds Mansfield holds.
Walking alongside the railway, the towering viaduct that seems to split the town into two’s size really becomes apparent once you reach the high-street. It’s a decent sight, but I had little time to stare as my tour de pub continued unabated with a visit to the old, wooden-beamed Ye Olde Ramme Inn (many ‘e’s in there) and due to it being a Friday, they had offers on (though I must admit I bemoaned my bad luck on entering, thinking it was a Saturday) and so the San Miguel I opted for set me back just the £2.30. The same would happen just up the way too, the White Hart just the other side of the viaduct’s arches seeing a Taddy Lager come in at the same price. Don’t you just love a Sam Smith’s?
Next door to this was the Swan Hotel which was a pleasant place but was, unsurprisingly, the home of the dearest drink of the day as a pint of Estrella cost £4.10. Still not too bad when you consider the prices this reaches here and there. From there I crossed the bustling market square and to another pair of neighbouring pubs – the Market Inn and the Dial. The Market was ok but empty, bar me, and so I opted for a Strongbow (£2.50) on the case of finding somewhere a little more on the lively side and the Dial was that place – although the curse of the “choosing beers that are off” would strike hard on this day as not one, but two went down before I settled on the safety of a £2.90 Dark Fruits….only for the barrel to run out almost immediately. By that point, even the barmaid was a believer in the ‘Chopper Curse! Luckily, another barrel was on the go soon after and I quickly downed it before any more bad luck could befall me in there and headed for the ground.
Mansfield is a market town in Nottinghamshire and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the main town in the District of Mansfield and the urban area thereof. The area has been heavily influenced by its pastimes of coal mining and textile making that continued through to the 1990’s and led to the growth of the town into the place it is today. Settlement of Mansfield is thought to date back to Roman times with the discovery of a villa between Mansfield Woodhouse and Pleasley found in the 18th century and the early English monarchy is said to have lived in the area at times in the 12th century King John’s Palace (the remains of which lie near Clipstone) and hunted within Sherwood Forest. Indeed a plaque on West Gate marks the spot thought to have once been the middle of the forest in its heyday. Not sure if Robin Hood was about, though….
The Domesday Book lists Mammesfield within its pages but this had changed to Maunnesfield by the mid-13th century and by the time King Richard II had signed a market warrant in 1377, the town was known as Mannesfeld and its name has since become simplified to its current title. A number of the town’s old coaching inns served as stopping points and were known to date back to medieval times, though many of the older buildings have been lost, sadly, with only a handful remaining standing strong. Its market dates back to the original 1227 charter and the Mansfield Brewery was once the largest independent brewery in the UK prior to it being sold in 1999 and production spread far and wide across the country, though not in its homeland. On a side-note, Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington is from the town.
Prior to the re-introduction of the railway to Mansfield in 1995, it was thought in many quarters to be the largest town in Britain to be without a rail connection, though Alfreton was known as Alfreton & Mansfield Parkway until that date, though it’s not exactly local if we’re honest. Having once been home to two rail stations (Mansfield Town and Mansfield Central) one previously for each of the service providers Midland Railway and the independent Mansfield Railway, also served by Grand Central. The latter of the two lost its passenger link in 1956 and Town duly followed in 1964 with no link until the Robin Hood Line came into being and restored it. A tram link was operated for a time from 1905-’32 and the Midland Railway line was previously utilised by the Mansfield and Pinxton railway as terminus and home to a horse-drawn plateway from 1819.
Passing through the aforementioned retail park, I arrived at the ground’s exterior to find a booth reading “programmes” outside the away end. As you would, I headed up and asked for one only to be told that this was in fact the away ticket booth and the programmes were actually around the front end. At least I’d found the tickets early, as this could have proved an issue had I been later and in something of a rush! Anyway, ticket (a mesmerising £24!!) and programme (£3) were soon in my possession and I reckoned I may as well head inside and get a bite to eat before the remainder of fans came in, just in case there wasn’t much on. This wasn’t an issue and being the good Christian man that I am(!!) I tried out a cheese and onion pie on the basis I’ve been beginning to enjoy cheese and onion on pretty much anything I can eat at this point. It was decent too and kept me busy through until kick-off.
Heading up into the away end, Field Mill is a ground that, despite being relatively modern in many ways, still maintains its character. Indeed its old, almost condemned stand that lies on the far side of the pitch and is filled with adverts certainly gives it a unique look and one that, I’m sure, the club won’t be too keen to lose. Imagine all that prime estate sponsorship cash was the conversation between a few of us! Opposite that is the large, imposing Main Stand that towers over its elder statesman and the two almost identical structures, one at each end, with the corners all open – though a scoreboard does stand alongside the old stand/repurposed advertisement hoarding, though good luck seeing that from my position today. I could just about make out a stag when it was pointed out! Anyway, that’s Field Mill in a nutshell and this is the story of the Stags of Mansfield….
Mansfield Town Football Club was founded in 1897 as Mansfield Wesleyans and would enter the local Mansfield & District Amateur league after five years playing friendlies and the like, later joining the Notts & District League after four years there, when the league dropped its amateur suffix and the church abandoned the club. This lead the club to shorten their name to Mansfield Wesley for this stint, but they hey would soon become Mansfield Town in 1910 and a year later the club moved from the now named Notts & Derbyshire League to the Central Alliance. They would remain here through to World War One and after moving to a new home in the form of Field Mill – recently vacated by the turfed out (pun intended) Mansfield Mechanics – won the league after the end of hostilities in 1920, going on to then join the Midland League for 1921 onwards and taking the title here on three occasions (1924, 1925 & 1929). The latter season of the three title winning campaigns also saw Town reach the FA Cup Fourth Round, a run which saw a defeat of 2nd Division Wolves along the way before they bowed out to First Division side Arsenal.
The Stags were admitted to the Football League in 1931, joining the Third Division South for a year before going North and they would remain at the level, switching between North and South fairly regularly, through its change to a national division. Avoiding requiring re-election with no relegation forthcoming in 1947 after ending up bottom, they went on with little change in fortunes until 1960 and their eventual relegation to the Fourth Division. The club returned to the Third Division in 1963 and stayed for a further nine seasons before being relegated once more, however things would quickly take a turn for the better.
Town swiftly made it through to the Second Division for the first time via two title wins – the 4th Division won in 1975 and Division 3 in 1977, only to then juxtapose this with two relegations in three seasons meaning the Stags found themselves back in the bottom division by the turn of the decade. A lengthy spell of six years would follow prior to their promotion in 1986 and further silverware would arrive at Field Mill the following year in the form of the Football League Trophy via a penalty shoot-out triumph over Bristol City.
The start of the 1990’s saw Mansfield enter something of a yo-yo existence – relegation back to Division 4 in 1991 was followed by a promotion and relegation over each of the next two seasons which meant they would maintain a place in the bottom tier (now Third Division after the creation of the Premier League in ’92) through to the early 2000’s when they would achieve another promotion to Division 2, only to again suffer an immediate return at the close of the following campaign. The club would stay in the newly titled League 2 until 2008 when they were relegated from the Football League for the first time since their admission and entered into the Conference.
After losing out in the 2011 FA Trophy Final to Darlington and in the 2012 play-off semis to York City, the club’s four-year stint in the top-tier in non-league was ended with the Stags winning the Conference title in 2013 after winning 20 of their last 24 games (including 12 consecutive triumphs), a strong run in the FA Cup prior to their bowing out in the Third Round to Liverpool giving the club momentum to build on and began going on to consolidate a place in the League 2 ranks under new owner John Radford.
The game got underway with promotion chasing Mansfield quickly asserting themselves on their long relegation threatened rivals. Gethin Jones saw a header superbly saved by Barry Roche when the keeper had no right to get there in the first clear chance of the half and Jacob Mellis stung the hands of the Shrimps stopper from range. Roche then had to get back to claw a Jorge Grant effort behind from on the line, before the Stags finally broke the deadlock when Mellis drilled a low effort through a crowded area that left Roche rooted to the spot. 1-0.
I did manage to seek out a now mohican-less Shrimps fan Paul in the crowd, largely by asking another Morecambe follower, Steve, where the man in question was. You can’t be too careful! Town almost added a second soon after when Grant curled a free kick just over the bar, before Mellis almost notched his second of the game minutes later as his low drive was deflected inches wide of Roche’s upright with the stopper left helpless.
After the break, the game continued on in the same vein with Mansfield dominant against the visitors who were on course for mathematical survival, regardless of the result at Field Mill. It was probably a good thing too as Town went on to well and truly secure the game. Grant was again denied by Roche – the veteran having a fine game between the sticks – but he was beaten again on 70 minutes when skipper Krystian Pearce found the corner after good play from him afforded space. Game over, you felt.
A few minutes later and it well and truly was as CJ Hamilton’s mazy run saw him advance towards goal where he fired under Roche to record a fine solo effort and the ground was a cacophony of noise at this point. The cherry was placed on top of the win with five minutes to play as Mal Bennett fizzed one off the post and in from distance to round off a fine display from the Stags. Full-time, 4-0.
After the game, I bid goodbye to Steve and Paul (now I’d got used to his non-Mohican ways) and I returned from whence I came, back through the retail outlets and its milling shoppers and I headed to what I thought was a ‘Spoons, only to find out it didn’t actually seem to be a ‘Spoons, despite saying it was a ‘Spoons on it and displaying all the hallmarks of being a ‘Spoons including having ‘Spoons like furniture and a number of ‘Spoons’ selection of drinks. Still with me?! A bottle of Baltika was selected (£3.20) and I was out of there before the confusion truly got to me!
A stop-off on the way back to the station in the Byron was enjoyed (largely on the basis the Strongbow was just £1.99 here!) before I opted to pop into the station neighbouring Midland Hotel to grab a bottle for the train ride home. However, I would be informed that you can’t take bottles out on match days for some reason and despite it having been about two hours since it had finished and the fact there were around about five people dotted around, so I was left with a bottle of Bud and just over five minutes to get rid of it in. Easy-peasy. The journey back was uneventful until we arrived at Sheffield, where we spent the best part of an hour awaiting a “member of train crew” to arrive and we could eventually set off, though this did bring a strange sense of camaraderie between the three of us sharing a table seat, a student, an alcohol-fuelled groundhopper and a travel weary gentleman. Make a joke, anyone?!
That ends off another trip and it was a great way to begin the weekend. Mansfield is a nice town and an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon. Indeed, I look forward to getting back there for AFC Mansfield at some point in the near future. Football-related, the ground was fine and is strangely up there in my count for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, the game was ok before the Stags ran away with it and the food and programme were decent too. The following day would see a return back down into the lower-leagues as I visited Crewe F.C. of the Cheshire League as they welcomed Eagle Sports in a game to decide third-place and ‘best of the rest’. I needed a rest too….
Value For Money: 7