The Stags’ excellent February continued against Aveley with a hard fought draw in windy and freezing conditions. The Wadham Lodge outfit are now beginning to get themselves a reputation for scoring superb goals even though they seem to be letting silly goals in their own net.
The quality of the Stags’ play was seen from the outset when Ian Cooper and Dewayne Clarke combined well to split the home defence on the right wing. Clarke sent a low hard cross in from the byline which Aveley’s ‘keeper Michael Collier managed to fall on just before two Stags attackers could get their feet to the ball.
All the portents looked god for the Stags so when they found themselves a goal down after ten minutes there was some rubbing of heads before they got on with the job.
The goal came by the grace of the lack of tackling back down the Stags’ right flank which allowed Thomas a free run towards goal. He cut the ball back for ex Stag Jermain Hughes to fire in the shot which was well saved by King but Thomas was on hand to stroke home the loose ball.
The game then became a stalemate in midfield with the Stags looking marginally the better side but finding difficulty in coming to terms with the swirling wind.
The next chance came after 36 minutes when Panayiotis Panayiotou sent a beautiful headed clearance to Cooper who sped upfield, saw Collier off his line and sent his shot just wide of the post from 40 yards.
The half concluded with Didier Batunga joining the attack only to see his low hard 35 yard shot amazingly saved by Collier who, diving to his right, must have seen the incoming ball very late.
The Stags opened the second half in determined mood realising that they should not be a goal down to the workmanlike “Millers”. It took ten minutes for the Stags to get back on equal terms. Kanyuka had swapped wings with Bastian and the effect was to give more power down the left whilst freeing Bastian to join the attack at will on the right. On 55 minutes the plan succeeded when Kanyuka found the space needed to cross the ball. The home defence had ball watched and all but one came to the near post allowing Cooper to ghost in at the back post and powerfully head home from ten yards.
Equality was not to last for long ten minutes in fact. Aveley seemed to be going nowhere in attack when there was a mix up in the Stags’ defence which allowed Thomas the gift of walking the ball into the net for his second.
Aveley began to exert pressure and King had to make an excellent save high to his left then Panayioutou somehow came across the goal to head out a fierce goal bound shot.
The play went back up the Aveley end and the Stags should have drawn level when, once again, the home defence was caught ball watching and Chris Cashman was able to send over a low cross for the unmarked Bastian coming in at the back post. He met the ball but seemingly did not realise how much time he had and sent the ball wide of the post.
The game began to get scrappy as refereeing decisions were not as the visiting side would like; in the end three of them were booked for dissent. The incident where the Stags were most aggrieved came after 76 minutes when Cooper was bearing down on goal with only Collier to beat. He was “taken out” by Dickinson who, by rights, should have received a straight red card. Instead, Mr Johnson gave the free kick and the yellow. Happily for the Stags Kanyuka was able to slam the ball over the wall and into the net to bring them back on equal terms.
The Stags piled on the pressure for the last ten minutes but were not able to profit from a home defence that was becoming more jittery by the minute as the Stags’ flair players finally got the measure of the conditions and their opponents.