{ match reports }
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 02/03 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 2
Mansfield Town  
2 - 1
 Northampton Town
White 62, Lawrence 77 (pen)
 Stamp 1
Attendance: 3,928 (645 from Northampton)
Date: 3rd May 2003

Stags produced an encouraging display to win their final match of the season and condemn the Cobblers to the wooden spoon, in the battle of the bottom two teams at Field Mill this afternoon.

Before the game, Liam Lawrence was presented with all three Player of the Season awards, from the SSA, CHAD, and Ollerton Supporters club. He had been an over-whelming winner. Meanwhile 17 year-old Alex John-Baptiste, who has played so well for the first team in the last few games, received the Jack Retter Youth team player of the season award from Paul Taylor.

Stags made two changes to the side beaten at Tranmere, with Corden and MacKenzie replacing Disley and Curtis in midfield. Mendes retained his place as a late replacement for the absent Iyseden Christie. After the game, manager Curle told Mansfield 103.2 that Christie was absent due to a “situation that will remain within the football club”. If one is looking for any hints from the team chosen today towards next season’s squad, this might be the only one. There was a place on the bench for 16 year-old youth team striker Dean Hankey, who was later to become the 40th player used by the Stags this season: an extraordinary number.

Stags started dreadfully and went behind within 50 seconds. A ball was punted over the top, and Cobblers centre-forward Stamp broke clear of the defence to finish clinically right footed into the bottom left hand corner of the net. Jake Buxton was later blamed by Stags assistant manager John Gannon for the goal. From the video replay, it seemed that Buxton had misjudged the flight of the ball over the top.

Stags continued woefully and could have been 3 goals down in the opening 15 minutes.

At that point it was hard to imagine that Stags would dominate for the remaining 75 minutes creating a whole host of chances, but that’s what happened. In the first half, Lawrence, Hassell and Mackenzie all had fine shots beaten away, and several chances fell to Mendes. Mendes had in truth started ineffectively, as he has through most of his games for the Stags this season, and he shot hopelessly wide from a couple of good positions. But then he was unlucky with the next two chances. First he ran down the right and from a tight angle crashed a low drive that former Stags loan keeper Glyn Thompson just managed to hold. Then Mendes was even more unlucky when his left-foot shot cannoned off the bar, after a deflection.

Stags seemed to me to be very unlucky when Lawrence had a goal disallowed. White went up for a challenge and the ball fell to Lawrence who tucked it a crisp shot, but the foul was given against White. It seemed a harsh decision.

Half time 0-1

Stags continued to be right on top at the start of the second half and had two chances to equalise. First Mendes had another good run and shot which was again well-saved by Thompson, who somehow sat on the ball to keep it out. Then White broke down the left and curled a fine right-foot shot a yard past the right hand post from a tight angle.

Stags got the goal that their play so richly deserved just after the hour. MacKenzie flicked a great ball out to the right for Lawrence, who played in a magnificent cross from the bye-line onto the head of White, who made a good connection as he out-jumped his marker, to power it past Thompson from 5 yards.

Then Stags got the winning goal 15 minutes later. Mendes made a fine run down the left and appeared to be fouled outside the box. As he made his way into the box he went down under a very slight push from a defender and the referee pointed to the spot to the delight of the home fans. From my position it looked a generous decision for the Stags. With Corden having already been substituted, Lawrence stepped up and placed a side-footed shot low into the right side of the goal, with keeper Thompson having dived the wrong way. Lawrence celebrated by removing his shirt, as he did at Chesterfield, and kissing it.

It wasn’t quite all over of course, as the Stags record of conceding costly late goals this season has been well-documented. Indeed it could have happened again as the Cobblers twice went close late on. First, substitute Gabbiadini came within a whisker of scoring from a free-kick stupidly given away on the edge of the box. Gabbiadini’s shot was inches wide of the right hand post with Pilkington rooted at the other side of the net. Then Pilkington made a very good save with the his legs, deflecting a Hargreaves shot over the bar,

So there was to be no late drama and the Stags deservedly won the game to leave the Cobblers firmly at the bottom of the table. It was a good performance after a terrible opening 15 minutes and sent the Stags fans home with hope for a quick return to Division 2 next season. The Stags finished the game with 5 teenagers on the pitch: young subs Hankey and Mitchell, along with John-Baptiste, Buxton and Jamie Clarke. At the end of the game there was the inevitable pitch invasion and it was amusing to see Lawrence strip to his underpants and fans rush towards him and hand his shirt and shorts to John Gannon. Clearly Stags players had been told not to relinquish their shirts, as they will be used for next season! After the pitch had been cleared, Stags players returned to the pitch to appaud the fans who had stayed behind and receive the applause back. The Stags players included the injured Eaton and Day in suits, and also Scott Sellars, who has announced his retirement from the game.

Stags fans will now have to wait a few weeks to hear who will be staying at the club. Before the game Keith Haslam said that he expected “3, 4 or 5 players to be leaving the club” and that he and Curle had already held preliminary talks to discuss the budget for next season.

Man of the Match: Andy White / Liam Lawrence - can’t split them.

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Not too much to do, but did well when needed.
Hassell 6 Didn't make any mistakes, but didn't sparkle.
John-Baptiste 7 Another promising game.
Buxton 6 Early mistake to give away a goal, but recovered well.
Clarke 7 Defended very well. Poor crossing let him down when he got forward.
Lawrence 8 Was behind everything good that the Stags did. A few poor crosses early on, but more than made up for by a great cross for White's goal. Well taken penalty. Must not be allowed to leave in the summer.
MacKenzie 7 Started excellently. Faded in the second half and gave the ball away a few times.
Williamson 6 Worked hard. Decent performance.
Corden 6 Never got into the game. Finished the season in disappointing form.
Mendes 7 Started very ineffectively, but burst into life with 3 good efforts: 2 very well-saved and one against the bar. Then won the crucial penalty. His best game for the Stags.
A.White 8 Very good performance. Worked hard and caused the defence trouble. Should be offered a new contract.
Sub Line Up:
Hankey (for Corden, 65) 6 Looked ok. The 16-year-old didn't look out of place on his debut.
Mitchell (for Mendes, 80) 6 Not enough time to get into the game.
Not used: Welch, Curtis, Disley
Opposition Line Up:
Thompson, Marsh, Sampson, Hope, Carruthers, Dudfield, Harsley, Trollope, Hargreaves, Morison, Stamp.
Subs: Harper, Gabbiadini, Lincoln, Chambers, Cavill.
P Prosser (Gloucestershire) 8 Handled the game well.

Season 02/03 Reports