Match 30
Mansfield Town v ECFC 29.12.79

Mansfield Town 0-1 ECFC
Scorers: Neville
Attendance: 3,711
Referee: G. Courtney, Durham. 

Match Report by Andy Smart at Field Mill

Exeter City's only shot of the first half gave them a precious lead they then hung on to with grim determination here this afternoon. Steve Neville's goal in the 12th minute gave them the advantage but they then had to go on almost total defence to keep the eager Mansfield forwards out. With Ian Wood still suffering the after effects of the flu bug which ruled him out of the midweek draw at Blackburn, there was a re-call for Barry Foster for his first game since October. Russ Allen dropped down to substitute. Mansfield, without a win in their last six League games, opened in determined fashion, winning a lot of early possession, without really looking dangerous. In fact, it was City striker Rogers who caught the eye with two neat pieces of individual skill. First he turned past Bird cleverly in midfield but
Mann was covering and then he controlled a high ball in the centre circle before spinning and hitting a long pass intended to put Bowker in the clear.
It was hit too long and Arnold was able to get there first. In the fifth minute, Mann and Curtis, who had both been prominent in these early stages, combined neatly for Mann to curl in an excellent cross and, as Taylor raced in looking to turn it past 'keeper Main, Roberts made a vital challenge to keep him out. Mansfield got a warning as to how quickly Exeter could break when a mis placed Bird pass sent Delve free and he skipped past one tackle before crossing but Bird had raced back to cover his own error. Winger Thomson had been trying his luck down the line but for once he switched things and cut inside to try a left foot shot. Although it was fiercely hit it was blocked by the defence. And Exeter's answer to that was to shock the home fans by taking a 12th minute lead. Winger NEVILLE picked up a loose ball just inside the Mansfield half and was allowed to run at the defence before hitting a superb drive from 25 yards which dipped over Arnold and into the top corner. Mansfield immediately began to push forward in a bid for a quick equaliser and the wing play of Thomson looked like a pos- sible avenue of success. Another cross aimed to the heart of that Exeter box brought Taylor and Main into direct confrontation, and it was the Stags' man who came off worst, needing lengthy attention before resuming. Winger Thomson again tried to lift Stags with a good run and cross and they should have made more of it but neither McClelland nor Lathan could control their attempts to turn the ball goalwards. Then Austin twice went close to bringing Mansfield level as he first nipped through on to a loose ball and Main saved bravely at his feet. There was no let up in the Mansfield pressure as they poured in crosses from all angles but time and again the head of Giles and Roberts were there to clear. They had problems, however, with an Arthur Mann corner which was hit tight to the near post and, as Austin turned it back into the middle, a desperate scramble yielded another corner. This time Mann curled it straight out of play. Mansfield's commitment to attack was deserving of some reward and in a tight inter-change of passes inside the City box Austin and Mann were all involved but could not find an opening. It was the coolness of Delve which finally eased the situation for City.


Mansfield emerged needing a quick breakthrough to reward their endeavour but it was City who threatened first from a long throw in by Match which Mansfield did well to scramble. And they came back to create their best chance so far in the 48th minute. Taylor hit a fine cross to the far side of the box where Austin wrong- footed the defence with a header back into the middle and Bird had a clear chance to head the equaliser but put his effort well-wide. Three minutes later there was a splendid piece of action to thrill the fans. Curtis hit a vicious 20-yard volley that was on target for the bottom corner until Main got down to turn it round the post. The goalkeeper, who is still a University student, showed his agility again when winger Thomson combined with his namesake for the full-back to hit a cross which Main took brilliantly at full stretch. A Mansfield freekick was headed on by Austin and it dropped for Mann but as he tried to turn it into the net City somehow managed to get it away for a corner. They could not get that clear but they survived when an Austin shot was deflected just past the post. It seemed certain all this attacking play would pro- duce an equaliser but once again Mansfield were just off target as Thomson and Lathan combined to create a chance for Austin which was just too high. That man Main (photo) was rapidly establishing himself as the hero of the afternoon and in the 67th minute he produced another marvellous save to turn aside a strong volley from Bird. There was no change in the pattern of the game, Mansfield still doing all that could be asked of them in an attempt to draw level, And for once Main was almost caught out as Curtis's header beat him but Roberts was there to hook it off the line.It brought Stags a corner which McClelland won with a clean header but once again Main hung on to it, as he fell to his left. Austin showed his deter mination as he held off the challenge of Roberts to hook the ball goalwards" but Main was up well and managed to turn the loop- ing effort on to the bar and away.


Attendance: 3,711



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