The Stags made a great start to the Christmas season with a hard won three points against Tilbury who were much better than their lowly league position would suggest. Manager Hakan Hayrettin fielded a very attacking line-up with Ian Cooper and Tero Karhu making home debuts and Dewayne Clarke back from suspension creating probably the most attacking midfield ever seen at the club.
The first half was an unsettled period for the Stags as they came to terms with the system and the new faces, this allowed Tilbury to push up and play the off side trap to some effect until the Stags’ midfield started to become used to each others runs and movement off the ball.
The Stags came close to going ahead from the kick off when they won two corners in as many minutes and just missed the crossbar with a shot from the left of the goal.
Indeed, Tilbury too had a number of half chances that would have yielded goals had their forwards been sharper and home defender Panayiotou Panayiotis not been having a great game at the back.
After 8 minutes Tilbury’s Keith Wilson shot from about twenty yards, debutant ‘keeper Ameka Eneke stopped the shot but could not keep hold of the ball and a chance of a tap in came and went, the bal going off for a corner.
Tilbury continued to pressure the midfield but did very little with the ball perhaps waiting playing too much of a passing game and not being direct enough.
The Stags had their moments too especially when Cooper, Clarke and Kanyuka combined, on 25 minutes for, Kanyuka to finish by unleashing a powerful shot which ‘keeper David McCartney somehow got in the way of.
By the end of the first half, the Stags were starting to gel and were getting more and more shots in but they still had to work out a way through Tilbury’s off side trap with Cooper being caught five or six times.
Right on half time, Tilbury should have been reduced to ten men when Kimble took down Cooper on the edge of the penalty area. As last man and with Cooper on his way to goal, consistency in refereeing suggested a red card. But then, is there ever consistency in refereeing? The yellow was brandished and the game carried on.
The second half was a totally different affair with the Stags springing the off side trap more and more. As the game went on Tero Karhu began to terrorise Tilbury with his pinpoint passing the like of which had not been seen at the Lodge since the days on Neil Tilley. Karhu is a different kettle of fish though, he’s good in the air and can tackle.
The first goal came on 56 minutes when Karhu won the ball in midfield and cut the ball through to Dewayne Clarke in the inside right channel, he took a couple of strides and slammed the ball home from 25 yards. This settled the Stags and allowed them to take the game by the scruff of the neck!
Four minutes later Cooper presaged what was to come when he won the ball on the edge of the centre circle and raced through on goal before the defenders knew where he was. Unhappily Mccartney was not sleeping and came out to make a good save at Cooper’s feet.
Cooper began to find more and more space as the Stags gained freedom on the wings and on 76 minutes Kanyuka came through on the left, and jinked past three defenders before reaching the byline and cutting the ball back for Cooper to plant home his debut goal after a jinking run from close range.
Before the next goal, the Stags began to create more and more chances which all could have resulted in goals.
However, Cooper now had the Tilbury defence over a barrel and sealed the match on 84 minutes after running on to a long clearance from home ‘keeper Ameka Eneke and coolly slotting home under McCartney’s body.