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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
3 - 1
 Oxford United
Mendes 16, Larkin 19, Day 37
 
 Whitehead 34
Attendance: 5,132 (378 from Oxford)
 
Date: 6th April 2004

Keith Curle is looking at some consistency from his team by way of trying to keep the starting 11 together during this good spell of form. The only change tonight was an enforced one, Lee Williamson taking the left-back berth in place of the suspended Tony Vaughan. There was probably little need for any kind of team-talk following the farcical end to the original game against tonight’s visitors.

During an opening 10-minute spell of high-tempo, quick passing football it was Oxford who came closest to taking an early lead. With just 2 minutes on the clock, Baptiste and Day were caught out and it was left to Kevin Pilkington to stop the Stags going behind. The opening exchanges set the tone for the whole of the first half with some very crisp and fast passing football played by both sides.

The Stags began to find their attacking game as the clock approached the quarter-hour mark. A Lee Williamson free-kick was headed down superbly by Rhys Day and Junior Mendes just failed to take it in his stride. Junior was not made to wait too long before continuing his recent rich vein of goalscoring form. With 15 minutes gone, Bobby Hassell played a free-kick up towards the visitors box and Alex John-Baptiste managed to knock it down to Rhys Day. His lay-off was perfect for Tom Curtis, who hit an excellent drive that was too much for the United keeper to hold and Junior Mendes reacted quickly to place the ball into the far corner of the net.

Within five minutes the Stags emulated their good start of the Torquay game by doubling the lead. This time the opportunity was gift-wrapped by an Oxford central defender and taken well by Colin Larkin. A disaster of a back-pass found Larkin in enough space to gather the ball, take it round the keeper and close in on goal before making sure of the finish.

Despite this setback and the fact that the Stags were playing with a great deal more confidence, Oxford were sticking to their task and still looked dangerous.

Just after the half-hour point, the visitors got their reward that the quality of their play deserved. The Stags were a little slow to react after a short corner and Whitehead was able to get close to the box before unleashing an unstoppable rocket into the far corner – the sort of goal that we have seen from Neil Mackenzie on occasion. It was a great strike but rather than handing the initiative to Oxford, it seemed to stir the Stags and drive them on to raise their game again.

Once again, it took less than five minutes for another goal to come. With Lawrence, Corden and Mackenzie all hovering over a free-kick that was well within the range of all three, it was no surprise when Corden touched it for Mackenzie to strike. His shot only found the gaggle of players on the edge of the box and it was Rhys Day who got the next significant touch with a well-struck effort that found the corner of the visitors’ goal.

As the half drew to a close, Liam Lawrence showed his audacious side with an effort from the half-way line that unfortunately did not find the target. However, it was a good spot as the Oxford keeper appeared to be on “walkabout” and may have been in trouble with a more accurate strike.

Half-Time Stags 3 Oxford 1

There were a number of ironic cheers from the home faithful as Oxford took the field for the second half – just proves that a sense of humour does exist amongst Mansfield Town followers!

We were ten minutes into the second period before the first significant action. It was the lively Colin Larkin with some great work on the right-hand side, pulling the ball back for Junior Mendes to get a shot in which did not work the United keeper too much.

Then came what was, ultimately, the opportunity that Oxford needed to take to give them a chance of getting a result in this game. A deep cross from the visitors’ left-hand side was misjudged by Kevin Pilkington and found its way to a free Oxford shirt. The increasingly impressive Lee Williamson, though, superbly blocked the attempt on goal. At this stage it was beginning to feel that this was going to be the Stags night.

What followed during the second half was a growing gap in confidence and quality between the two sides. The Stags were getting stronger, keeping the ball better, passing the ball better and creating chances. Oxford, on the other hand, were looking more like a beaten team as time went by. The longer the game went on they were finding it more difficult to create any sort of opening and their passing had started to slip with many balls finding home shirts.

It was strange that the scoreline remained as it was. A succession of opportunities arrived for the Stags that were not taken. Junior Mendes failed to capitalise on Wayne Corden’s good work in midfield to shoot wide. Then more excellent work from the revitalised Colin Larkin gave Junior another chance but this time he found the young Oxford keeper in better form.

Neil Mackenzie came close to adding another long-range effort to his season’s efforts after more good work by Wayne Corden.

With ten minutes remaining, Colin Larkin left the field to a well-deserved standing ovation, his place being taken by Chris Beardsley.

Inside the last ten minutes and both Junior Mendes and Liam Lawrence could have extended the Stags lead. First, Lawrence and Corden combined well to give Junior a headed chance that found its way just over the bar. This was followed by Junior setting up Liam Lawrence only for his shot to fly past the angle of bar and post.

It only seemed a question of when the score would become 4-1 and old “twinkle toes” almost provided it all by himself. Wayne Corden did his best “John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever” impression before powering a shot just over the top corner – this would have been just reward for a super display by “Cordinio”.

Andy White was used as an injury time substitute for Junior Mendes, a move that I think was designed to give the fans a chance to show their appreciation for the in-form version of “Albert” – after 3 goals in as many games this was well deserved.

So the home faithful left with a smile on their faces, just as the manager would like to have them. This is a good time for the Stags to come back into a good run of form and we must be positive about our chances. With 6 matches to go, each one is a big game and the supporters can play a part.

COME ON YOU STAGS.

Sponsors MoM: Junior Mendes

My (joint) MoM: Rhys Day and Colin Larkin (I could not split them)


Report by: Gary Tyldsley



Line Up:
Pilkington 6 - Not a great deal to do, one hairy moment in the second half but the rest was very professional
Hassell 7 - Another good day for "Sir Bobby"
Day 9 - Immense
Baptiste 7 - Not at his best first half but all action in the second
Williamson 7 - Slow getting up to pace but had a wonderful second half
Lawrence 6 - Absent for a lot of the first half but, again, busy in the second
Mackenzie 6 - Good team job today
Curtis 6 - As busy as ever and did his job well
Corden 7 - Not in the game much first half but absolute class after the break
Mendes 8 - Can we keep this Junior please - 3 goals in 3 games
Larkin 9 - Possibly his best performance in a Stags shirt, deserved his goal
Sub Line Up:
Beardsley (for Larkin, 77) 6 - Did ok.
AWhite (for Mendes, 90) -
Subs not used: JWhite, Artell, Disley.
Opposition Line Up:
Cox, Waterman, Ashton, Crosby, Robinson, Hackett, Whitehead, Wanless, Hunt, Rawle, Basham.
Subs: Woodman, Bound, Walker, Steele, Pitt.
Referee:
H Webb (S Yorkshire)


Season 03/04 Reports