Mansfield continue to build up steam
MANSFIELD boss Paul Cox wishes the season would stretch on and on into the summer after seeing his in-form Stags demolish the now former league leaders.
Headed goals from Martin Riley, Matt Rhead and Ryan Tafazolli burst Rochdale’s bubble after the visitors had gone 539 minutes without conceding a goal.
Tellingly, two came from corners and the other from a free kick from a near identical position as Mansfield’s physical dominance brought rewards in the last 20 minutes.
“We are playing well at the minute and on this roll we are a match for anybody,” beamed Cox, who was widely expected to lose his job after a 3-0 beating at Rochdale on Boxing Day.
“We work on our set pieces but will take the goals however they come.We seem to do well in the second half of the season and the longer the season goes on the better.
“We were up against a good Rochdale side, one I expect to get promotion quite comfortably.We put on our heads on the line.”
Realistically, Cox and Stags will have to call their significant revival quits after 46 games despite a mathematical chance of making the play offs.
There was no doubting the merits of this impressive victory however as the Stags drew the sting from a lively Rochdale in the first half before taking command.
The visitors will rue an almost casual chip from Ian Henderson against a post after 31 minutes after Lewis Price had denied Scott Hogan. That was one of several occasions when they promised a breakthrough.
Dale’s defensive record of five successive clean sheets was also in regular danger, however, before an inswinging corner from James Jennings was glanced home by defender Martin Riley at the near post in the 71st minute.
Joe Rafferty came closest to an equaliser with a miscue that curled onto the Mansfield bar before Rhead made the points safe and Tafazolli added salt to the wounds with emphatic header.
“It’s not a bad day, it’s a great day – that’s just the game of football,” insisted Rochdale boss Keith Hill. “It was a difficult pitch, against a difficult team and we coped well against their physical presence for most of the game. Our chances came in the first half when a better pass or a better decision could have seen us in front.
“It’s disappointing to concede three goals from set pieces where we have been exceptionally strong all season.
“But we’ll put this behind us and I’m looking forward now to the Easter fixtures.”
STAR MAN MARTIN RILEY Mansfi