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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
3 - 1
Vaughan 13, Christie 59, Corden 65
 Clark 45
Attendance: 4,621 (307 from Darlington)
Date: 4th October 2003

Not surprisingly the Stags began with the same side that emphatically defeated Bristol Rovers in midweek, the bench was also unchanged, which meant there was still no Bobby Hassell, Lee Williamson or Alex John-Baptiste in the Stags 16. This was a game dominated by a truly awful performance from referee Trevor Kettle, however, on this occasion it was the Stags who benefited from some very poor decisions and a frankly ludicrous number of yellow cards for the visiting side.

The game began quietly but the Stags dominated both possession and territory without really creating any early clear cut chances. Indeed, it took until the 15th minute for the Stags to test the Darlo goal, and when they did the home side took the lead. Disley was fouled in the midfield area and Lawrence curled in the free kick which Vaughan got to before the Darlo keeper and watched as his header looped into the back of the net. Ten minutes later, another free kick after a foul on the lively Mendes saw Lawrence put in anther fine cross which Day met perfectly but could only turn away in anguish as the ball hit the outside of the post. Clarke, getting forward well from right back, put in a telling cross which the Darlo keeper could only palm away to Day whose attempt to lob the stranded keeper flew just over the bar. Conlon was booked for an innocuous challenge which set the standard for the referee's performance. Christie should have done better after an outstanding driven pass by Lawrence gave him some space in the area, his first touch took him past the defender but his shot was screwed wide. Lawrence then burst through himself from the right, but surrounded by defenders his shot was weak and easily saved. It was all Mansfield but clear cut chances were proving hard to fashion and it was noticeable that the high tempo of recent games was missing. Kevin Pilkington was a virtual spectator for the entire first half though Dimech did well to cut out a dangerous left wing cross just before the break. However, the first on target shot Darlo mustered came courtesy of a penalty after Day clipped the heel of a Darlo striker inside the area, it was one of the few decisions the referee happened to get right. Ian Clark took the penalty which Pilkington saved well, but sadly for the Stags the rebound fell straight back to the spot taker who headed past the Stags keeper. These were Darlo's only two attempts on goal of the first half and lead to them going in at half time rather undeservedly level.

Half Time 1-1

The Stags made one change at half time, Wayne Corden coming on for Craig Disley. To be fair Disley hadn't done anything wrong, but it was clear the Stags needed a new attacking option and the decision to bring on Corden was clearly the right one. Buoyed by the goal right at the end of the 1st half Darlo began the 2nd half strongly, the Stags seemed nervous in possession though still defended well and the visitors never troubled the home keeper. Referee Kettle, having a dire match, then entered the fray once more and this time his decision was to be the key turning point of the match. Both Vaughan and McGurk went in for the 50-50 ball, both players looked to have dived in a little, with Vaughan certainly equally as culpable. However, the referee deemed the Darlo player had fouled the Stags midfielder and issued him with a second yellow card - without the benefit of a video replay, I'd say this decision was incredibly harsh on the Darlo defender. Just a minute later the Stags took the lead, Lawrence took a short corner to Corden, who whipped in a perfect cross which Christie, who ironically was just about to be replaced by Larkin, headed in at the far post. Just a couple of minutes later the game was effectively over, Christie was fouled on the edge of the area and Corden curled in a fine free kick which the keeper got a hand to but failed to keep the ball out. This was Christie's last notable action as he was replaced by Colin Larkin with 20 minutes to go. Mendes then created a superb chance for himself after a great turn inside the area, but his shot was straight at the keeper and saved comfortably. The game ended in further farce as the referee produced more yellow cards for the Darlo players, one issued directly in front of us was a terrible decision which lead to the Stags players and the fans in the stands shaking their heads in disbelief.

This wasn't a great display from the Stags, but they were comfortably the better side throughout the game. It has to be said the home side were helped by an incredible refereeing display, Kettle managed book 8 Darlo players, plus a red card, yet there were probably only two bad challenges in the whole game. The sending off was a key moment, though in truth the game should have been over in the 1st half, with Darlo barely getting in the Stags half until the penalty on the stroke of half time. There were some solid performances from Stags players, though no-one touched the heights of the last two away performances. Notably Liam Lawrence had a fine first half and Neil Mackenzie performed very well in the 2nd half. Luke Dimech did well at the back but my man of the match for probably his best performance in a Stags shirt goes to Jamie Clarke. His distribution was generally excellent, he defended well throughout and got forward more than I've seen him before - it is a well deserved reward.

Man of the Match: Jamie Clarke

Report by: Rob Wheldon

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 - Little to do but saved his 2nd penalty of the season, could do nothing about the rebound
Clarke 8 - Excellent defensively and pushed forward well
Vaughan 7 - Decent defending but his crossing and passing weren't always as good as a player of his ability can produce
Day 6 - One fine challenge and a good header which hit the post but gave away the penalty
Dimech 7 - Good game from Luke, very solid
Lawrence 7 - Good 1st half but a bit quieter in the 2nd
Disley 6 - Quiet first half, did nothing wrong but didn't provide a real threat
Curtis 7 - Excellent ball winning performance though lacked a little creativity
Mackenzie 7 - Anonymous in the 1st half but an excellent 2nd half display
Christie 6 - Quiet game but got the important 2nd goal
Mendes 7 - Lively but didn't make the most of his chances
Sub Line Up:
Corden (for Disley, 46) 8 - Turned the game when he came on with a fine cross for the 2nd and great free kick for the 3rd
Larkin (for Christie, 70) 6 - Looked sharp but missed one good chance
Beardsley (for Mendes, 82) 6 - Did OK in the brief time he was on.
Subs Not used: JWhite, Artell.
Opposition Line Up:
Price, Valentine, Liddle, McGurk, Hutchinson, Keltie, Nicholls, Hughes, Clark, Clarke, Conlon. Subs: Convery, Sheeran, Robson, Maddison, Coghlan.
T. Kettle (Maidenhead) 2 - Dreadful, but the Stags benefited

Season 03/04 Reports