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Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
3 - 3
 Mansfield Town
Blinkhorn 30, Pilkington OG 43, Taylor 90
 Clarke 13, Larkin 46, White 86
Attendance: 6,173 (1,123 from Mansfield)
Date: 21st April 2003


Stags suffered a familiar heartbreak at Bloomfield Road this afternoon as they conceded an injury time equalizer to drop two priceless points. It was a tremendous performance from the Stags: one to really put the pride back into the club and one which warranted the tremendous reception the large Stags following gave them.

Stags made three changes from the side that started against Barnsley with Eaton finally left out due to injury, Disley dropped to the subs bench, and Christie dropped completely. In came Jake Buxton at centre half for his league debut, Williamson and Mitchell. The Stags defence was (we believe) the youngest to have ever played in a league game. The home side were without their giant leading scorer John Murphy.

In the first 10 minutes the home side had a couple of chances which were well saved by Pilkington, but the Stags took the lead after 13 minutes with the first goal in the career of Jamie Clarke, and what a beauty it was. He picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, played a quick one-two with Lawrence, and then as he moved forward, the defence seemed to open up in front of him. No-one challenged him, he cut inside and from 10 yards he slotted a right foot shot past the keeper just inside the left hand post.

Soon afterwards Pilkington made another good save.

Then after half an hour came the first refereeing decision that was to cost the Stags dear. Curtis made a very good challenge for the ball and won it 35 yards out from his own goal, but amazingly the referee awarded a free kick to Blackpool. To make matters worse, when the kick was quickly taken it was played straight at Lawrence who was just 5 yards from the ball. The referee awarded correctly awarded a free kick against Lawrence and as Lawrence reacted angrily he was booked and the free-kick was moved 10 yards closer to the Stags goal. Wellens took the kick and hammered it goalwards. Pilkington got a hand to it and deflected it against the underside of the bar. As the ball dropped there were two Blackpool players and no Stags defenders in sight as Blinkhorn couldn’t miss from 6 inches.

Stags had a succession of corners but failed to create a good chance. Meanwhile Stags were lucky when Burns fired into the sidenetting when he should have scored.

But the home side grabbed the lead after another poor refereeing decision cost the Stags dear. A ball went out for a throw-in down by the corner flag near the Stags fans. It was very clearly a Stags throw-in but awarded to Blackpool. Very quickly the ball was crossed into the Stags box and it was Blinkhorn, completely unmarked, who headed the ball over Pilkington. The ball hit the underside of the bar, bounced down, hit Pilkington on the back and went in for an own goal. From my position it seemed that Pilkington should have saved it.

Half time 2-1

At the start of the second half, Curle brought on Larkin and White for the ineffective Mendes and Mitchell. And what a difference it made. Inside 50 seconds, Stags were level. Larkin picked up a ball 30 yards from goal. He ran at his defender and as he moved just inside the corner of the penalty area he was clearly tripped. The referee put his whistle to his mouth waiting to see whether to give a penalty or to play on. Within a second, Larkin regained his balance, and curled a beautiful shot around the keeper and high into the top right hand corner of the net.

Stags were now playing superb football, their best for some weeks. As they poured forward Corden should have put them in front, but with the goal at his mercy, his side-footed shot was blocked. Then came an incredible miss after 70 minutes. Hassell did superbly on the left wing to put in a pinpoint left-footed cross. It sailed over the defence to the unmarked Lawrence just two yards out. Lawrence headed it powerfully but keeper Barnes amazingly tipped the ball around for a corner. In frustration, Lawrence grabbed the ball and booted it 30 yards into the air, risking a second booking.

Stags continued to play great football and push for the winner. Then after 86 minutes it seemed they had done it. Lawrence played a great ball with the outside of his right boot from the halfway line to set Larkin off down the right. Larkin moved forward and crossed to the unmarked White, 10 yards out by the far post. White acrobatically volleyed it, the ball flew into the ground and over the keeper. The Stags travelling army went mad in celebration as did the Stags players. It was a lead the Stags second half performance had deserved.

The home side pushed forward but without creating a chance. In the final minute, they won a corner. The ball went out again and many around me thought it should have been a goal kick. I admit I could not tell as it was fully 140 yards away. But a corner was awarded. The corner came in as the game ticked into injury time, and as time stood still, the ball flashed into the net, apparently turned in by Scott Taylor (TV replays showed that the corner flicked off Hassell’s head into the path of Taylor, who headed home from 2 yards). It was horrible, sickening. Almost an exact repeat of Wycombe away: the same sequence of goals until 2-2, then Stags take the lead for 3-2 after 86 minutes, and then concede a last minute header.

In fact Stags could still have won it as Curtis got into a good position on the edge of the box but didn’t pull the trigger. And so the game finished in despair for the Stags after a very good performance. The failure to defend from crosses has cost us dear for the umpteenth time and how it hurts. At the end, the 1000 Stags fans gave their players a brilliant reception despite the huge disappointment. After 5 successive defeats and some poor displays, at least the performance has restored a large amount of pride.

We will now be looking for a continuation of the performance at Tranmere. Six points from the last two games might still lead to a miracle if Chesterfield, Cheltenham and Huddersfield continue to slip up.

Man of the Match: Colin Larkin.

Report by: Martin Shaw at Bloomfield Road

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Some very good saves in the first half, but at fault for the second goal where he shouldn’t have been beaten by a header over him.
Clarke 8 Outstanding goal and very good all-round display. His best game for the Stags.
John-Baptiste 7 Defended well again in his second game for the Stags.
Buxton 7 Very assured performance on his league debut.
Hassell 6 Looks out of position at left back. Some good defending but too often caught out.
Lawrence 6 Plenty of effort but things didn’t quite run for him today. So nearly scored with a header at 2-2. My player of the season.
Curtis 7 Tackled very well and worked so hard. Had a chance to shoot in injury time to win it, but couldn’t get a shot in.
Williamson 7 Worked hard until injury. Played the ball around neatly.
Corden 6 Got the ball on the wing quite a lot but couldn’t find any decisive crosses.
Mendes 5 Totally ineffective yet again. Never looked dangerous. I have had to say “ineffective” every time he played recently.
Mitchell 5 Tried hard but didn’t make things happen.
Sub Line Up:
Larkin (for Mendes, 46) 8 Outstanding. Scored a beauty within 50 seconds of coming on. Set up the third with a great cross. Showed what we have missed this season due to his injuries.
AWhite (for Mitchell, 46) 8 Outstanding. Put himself about and was a real handful for the home defence. Deserved his goal.
Disley (for Williamson, 69) 6 Didn’t get into the game.
Not used: Welch, Gadsby.
Opposition Line Up:
Barnes, Grayson, Flynn, Clarke, Burns, Bullock, Wellens, McMahon, Coid, Robinson, Blinkhorn. Subs: Milligan, Walker, Herzig, Taylor, Hills.
M.Jones. 5 Two mistakes led to Blackpool’s first two goals. Otherwise handled the game ok.

Season 02/03 Reports