Mansfield Town 1 Wrexham 0

Football folk don’t generally want to make excuses, so I’ll make them on our behalf this time.  If the ref hadn’t controlled the game (and yes, thats a very poor choice of verb to describe his performance) then a genuinely encouraging performance would have had a tangible reward at the end of it. Oh and we’d have two centre backs for the play-offs.
I have to admit that the context of this match is everything. We were dominated for long stretches of the game, created virtually nothing, and had to thank the impressive Andy Coughlin for repelling Mansfield in the first half. But when you weight up the circumstances it was impressive: that eleven came closer than you’d have ever imagined to winning Kidderminster the titlle..
From pretty early one I had a bad feeling Mr Kinseley didn’t envisage party-pooping being part of his remit. When Louis Briscoe took one for the team and stuck his hand out to block the ball and stop a threatening attack but didn’t get booked, it was clear that the ref was approaching it as if it was a friendly.This is one of my bugbears, and I had a good rant about it in commentary: when refs go out to consciously leave their cards in their pockets they often set the disciplinary bar too low, lose control and end up sending someone off.
In a way that’s what happened: the ref’s over-excited sprint across the pitch to send David Artell off betrayed that he was going to deliver a red card before he produced it. It almost seemed like he was delivering a final surprise present to the celebrants. In fact Paul Cox was standing so close to him he could have handed him the card and said that, as a special treat, like a child being allowed to sit in the cockpit of a plane, he could brandish it himself!
It was a dreadful decision, and one which will cost us dear, I fear. A three-game ban ends his season, and quite possibly his Wrexham career.  It was a mistimed challenge, certainly not malicious: we’d managed a spell of late pressure and as the ball was half-cleared he attacked a 50-50 on the halfway line with the intention of volleying it back in: Colin Daniel just got there first, nicked it away and therefore got kicked instead of the ball. A yellow card for carelessness, but not a red.
Billy Barr was adamant after the game that we would appeal, but that’s a forlorn hope, I’m afraid: we’re going to have to show on the video that what the referee’s report said happened didn’t actually occur to have any chance of success. The report will say Artell kicked Daniel; Artell kicked Daniel. Case closed.
It wasn’t the ony decision Wrexham were unhappy about, of course. The pnealty award was confusing – I’ve watched it a few times and still can’t quite work out who conceded it. Glen Little, who most people thought was the perpetrator, pulls out of any challenge and almost seems to be getting out of Louis Briscoe’s way; if anything, it’s Rob Evans nibbling away at his ankles from behind who seems a more likely culprit. Whatever happened, Kinseley seemed eager to point to the spot given an opportunity, affording mansfield their breakthrough and giving Matt Green one last chance to show what a class act he isn’t this season with his rather pathetic mockery of the Wrexham fans when had two sides of delighted Stags fans he could have celebrated with (In fact, sorry to get on my high horse once more, but the jeering of the uncharacteristically low away support, suspiciously annoucned first by the PA man, was a real contrast to the round of applause the eight Braintree fans got when their number was declared at The Racecourse on Tuesday).
Wrexahm could have done with Kinseley being so generous at the other end. An incident which the TV cameras didn’t pick up at 0-0 could have turned the game. Johnny Hunt was deftly played in by Dele Adebola on the left flank and really ought to have done better with his cross as both Adrian Cieslewicz and Rob Ogleby had dropped off for the pull back. However, he screamed vehenmently for a penalty when his cross hit a defender: at the time I thought his appeal was an attempt to cover his blushes after a poor decision, but a look at the TV pictures suggested he had a very good case.
There was a stray elbow from Green on Declan Walker to worry about too, but by then the possibility of Kinseley doing something to upset the home crowd was about as likely as Premier Sports not cutting to Carolyn Radford at every opportunity.
Believe it or not, I’m not ranting on about Kinseley’s decision-making in order to vent some spleen against the injustice of Mansfield’s win. It wasn’t an injustice: they werre the better team and, over the course of the season, deserved title winners. But it’s worth monetioning these crucial moments because they illustrate just how well this remarkable Wrexham eleven performed.
It was remarkable because it was an incredible mixture of the extremes of experience. Johnny Hunt and the three strikers are the only players in the squad who’d realisitcally expect to get a start with the whole squad fit, although that’s perhaps a disservice to Artell, who was outstanding in the heart of the defence and, although he is a genuine emergency loan, has been an asset to the squad.
There was an inherent, inevitable imbalance to the side too, as Morrell and Barr looked to shoehorn available player into a system. A lack of a natural holding midfielder was an issue and allowed Mansfield to get at us in the first half: the penalty came about from Briscoe turning easily away from Evans and isolating Little in the box, after all. It also meant that Glen Little, our play-maker, found himself very deep as he sat in front of the back four and was unable to animate play.
But the side did terrifically well. The younthful defence was robust and Coughlin excelled behind them. The fact is that Mansfield needed a penalty to break them down, and the only notable opportunities they created came from Adam Chapman’s long throws. There was one exception, one decent chance created in open play, when Briscoe drove a shot from the right channel with Coughlin parried…and that came about because Kinseley ignored an arm in the face of Jay Colbeck.
The kids did themselves proud – even the likes of Jon Royle, who came on for the closing minutes and found himself shunted from midfield to defence as we tried to chase the game and adapt to the loss of Artell. A few young lads have shown signs of growing into men over the last couple of weeks, which bodes well for the future. Pity we’re probably not able to cash in on their promise over the course of the next week.

Wrexham (4-4-3): Coughlin; Walker, Clowes, Artell, Hunt; Evans, Little (Royle 84), Colbeck; Adebola, Cieslewicz (Creighton 76), Ogleby (Reid 59). Unused subs: Parle, Morton.

Referee: Nick Kinseley (Essex) Attendance:6,394  (Away fans: 142)

Miscellaneous: Mansfield win the Conference title; Adrian Cieslewicz’s 150th career game; Jon Royle’s leageu debut; Glen Little’s first start of the season.


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