Mexbrough & Swinton Times April 5th
Impetuous Denaby Forwards Baffled.
Denaby United 0, Mansfield Town 1
On Monday, the prospective champions of the Midland League, went to Denaby to meet their last and most serious challengers for the honours of the season. The visit had been awaited with keen anticipation and the crowd was the largest seen on the ground for a long time. The game was a stirring one, but the result was a terrible disappointment to the Denaby club and their supporters. By the only goal of the game, Mansfield won, and thus put the seal on their hopes of the championship.
Denaby were all out to win this game. They were on their mettle. From the out-set they revealed their eagerness to get goals. In the first few minutes it appeared that they would sweep Mansfield off their feet and carry the day by sheer impetuosity and zeal. But their very eagerness was their undoing. Against any other defence in the Midland League, we have no hesitation in saying that Denaby would have gained their end. But the Mansfield defenders opposed to vigorous impetuosity, cool, calculating judgment, the steadiness of masters, and they held out to the end. It was a glorious display of defence. Even in their might disappointment, the Denaby supporters themselves must have been thrilled by the heroic defence of Brelsford, Coupland, Bayliss and Holden. Theses men were the central figures of the game, with Brelsford standing out as the greatest player on the field. He held the key to the situation, and he held it coolly and indomitably. Nothing could shake him, nothing make him waver. Again and again, when the Denaby forwards and halves were simply hurling themselves on the Mansfield goal, the defence gave back through the sheer weight of the attack. But always at the last, there stood Brelsford, standing by his goalkeeper, a second goalkeeper himself, heading out shots that Hardstaff would have found it no easy matter to repel. As united attacks failed, one after another of the Denaby team tried desperately to thrust through on his own, but again in vain. And in the end, it was Denaby who slowed up, exhausted by their striving, and the defence that had borne the brunt stodd, still undaunted and undefeated.
The fateful goal came three minutes before the interval. For at least thirty of the forty-two minutes that had gone, Denaby had been battering against the wall of defence put up against them, and Shaw had very nearly injured himself seriously in the strenuousness of the effort. Bellas had been carried off, a victim of the battle. And Brelsford and Bayliss stood gamely as he last line of protection to the goalkeeper, holding the breach had been all but forced. Twice, Hardstaff had kicked desperately away from under the bar, when neither time nor circumstance allowed of his doing anything else. On the second occasion, Denaby had appealed strongly that the ball was over the line, and that Flanaghan´s shot should count as a goal. Probably it was it certainly appeared so from the Press-box. But the referee had ruled that somebody was offside, and the goal was not granted. Twice, Hardstaff had leaped from his goal high into the air, to fist away dangerous centres from Flanaghan. Once Hamilton had dropped a ball the wing right on the top on the bar, and it bounced off to remain in play, and Godfrey was desperately near with his header. These were but a few of the incidents that had thrilled the crowd, and made everyone wonder how long any defence could hold out under that terrific pressure.
Then came the counter-thrust. At infrequent intervals, the Mansfield forwards had made spasmodic rushes to the other end, but rarely to get near enough to shoot. The Denaby halves and backs, working for the most part with nice understanding and cooperation, appeared to have the opposing attack in its pocket so to speak. But, three minutes from the interval, Holden burst through on the right, passed Rhodes and Matt Taylor, and centred well. Someone fired in, and Coope, standing practically under the bar, headed out. Again it was returned, and there was a quick passage of the ball hither and thither, Bromage being seen to pull down a shot off the bar, and finally DONOVEN threw himself at it to get it into the net. It was a terrible shock to Denaby. They protested vigorously, almost mobbing the referee, with frantic representations. Apparently their contention was that somebody was offside. So close was the press before the Denaby goal at the time, that it was impossible to form any judgment from the stand. The referee, to satisfy the appealing players, consulted the linesman on the line nearest to the incident, and then returned to the centre to confirm his decision.
Thus came the goal that gained Mansfield the victory. The second half brought no more scoring. It was a long tale of ceaseless but vain effort on Denaby´s part varied only, when the forwards had to pause for a moment to draw breath, with swift but short raids by the visitors´ attack. These were always dangerous, but they were always beaten back. Bellas, who had returned limping on the resumption, was a passenger on the right wing, and Bayliss had fallen back to the rear line, against which every Denaby attack broke and recoiled. Hamilton made a sudden incisive thrust, and shot, for Hardstaff almost to lose the ball as he attempted to clear. For some three minutes on end, the Denaby forwards swarmed round the Mansfield goal, and five or six men stood on the goal line desperately kicking out shot after shot. The fusillade was terrific, but not an unguarded spot could be found. As the game progressed, the baffled Denaby men began to lose their cohesion, and to rely rather on individual thrusts, now here, now there. Chambers tried several times to weave a way through, and one or two of his shots flashed past or over within a narrow margin of the mark. Flanaghan repeatedly manoeuvred on the left, and worked his way into a shooting position, and twice Brelsford made great saves from him with his head. Towards the end, Godfrey retired on to the right wing, and Hamilton went into the centre, but by that time the Denaby attack had lost its vigour, and the game was as good as over. The Mansfield defenders were the masters of the situation.
This briefly, is the story of the great struggle at Denaby on Monday. One of the first conclusions that one has to come to, is that Mansfield are worthy champions of the Midland League. We may sorrow over Denaby´s failure, we may, in the first bitterness of defeat, say that the visitors were decidedly lucky to win. They had a little luck-fortune usually favours the brave. But Denaby had some narrow escapes, too. Those raids of the Mansfield forwards, brief as they were, were often very dangerous and there was that great shot of Coupland´s that hit the bar with a mighty whack, and that swift drive of Jone´s which crashed in the net just behind the post. On the other hand, Flanaghan´s may have been a legitimate goal, Donoven´s may have been offside. We are not in a position to give an opinion on either point. But these last points are neither here nor there, now. The game is lost and won, and to the victors we are sportsmen enough to give the credit that they deserve. Their defence is the finest we have seen for many a day, and to Brelsford, in particular, must go to the honours of the day.
As for Denaby, they can be offered a good deal of praise and a lot of sympathy. Their splendid efforts certainly did deserve a better result. They spared themselves not at all – some of them, in fact, risked life and limb in throwing themselves in inspiring recklessness into the strife. They were not Denaby at their best, but that was probably because their opponents did not allow them to be. They did not work in such close cooperation and complete understanding as did the champions. The Mansfield men rarely wasted a ball, except when the pressure was heaviest, and they had to kick out. From the backs to the forwards there was, as it were, a continuous chain of communications. The ball was always got rid of promptly, disposed of with judgment and precision. It was the swift passing of the forwards, set going by judicious clearances by the men behind them, that started the raids Mansfield made, including the one that brought the goal. In this respect, Denaby were not the equals of their opponents. The back usually kicked cleanly enough but not with quite the judgment of Brelsford. The whole team did not hang together in the same coordination of effort. There was a little too much individualism, too much hugging of the ball in attempts at close passing, which was very pretty to watch, but reduced the problem with which the Mansfield defence had to deal. This, in our opinion, was the cause of Denaby´s defeat. Had they coupled with their high spirit and impetuous zeal, an open swinging game, with quick passing, and rapid shifting of the point of attack from one side to the other, it is doubtful if in view of Denaby´s mood, even Brelsford and his colleagues could have withstood them. It is as well to accept the lessons of a defeat, and particularly one sustained in such a stirring struggle as that on Monday. Denaby, we contend, would have won the day had they not concentrated their attack, for it was this that enabled the defence to anticipate so coolly every move, and to checkmate it.
Flanaghan is a useful addition to the Denaby attack. He is fast, but relies mainly on his ability to trick a man, a feat he is very capable of performing. It is in this that he is a great improvement on previous experiments of Denaby´s on this position. He centres well, though sometimes a little too much in the air, but he needs a little more power behind his shot. None of the forwards were at their best, simply because of their extreme eagerness to win. This prevented their playing their usual clever game. They tried to carry the day by storm, and cool calculation outwitted them. The halves were good in patches. Illingworth played well in the centre, although he made mistakes in his distributive work at times. Rhodes did some good work, but was inclined to overdo the dribbling a fault that was general in the team, and which did not pay under the circumstances. Chambers was a great spoiler and attacker, but he, too, was guilty of taking too little space to work in. The backs were sound, as was Bromage, who must not be blamed for the goal. Shaw and Flanaghan formed the best wing, forward.
Denaby United: Bromage; Coope and Taylor; Chambers; Illingworth and Rhodes; Hamiton; Picknett; Godfrey; Shaw and Flanaghan.
Mansfield Town: Hardstaff; Bellas and Brelsford; Bayliss; Coupland and Holden; Sheldon, Gillatt, Donoven, Taylor and Jones.