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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
LDV Vans Trophy Round 1
Mansfield Town  
1 - 2
Day 59
 Barlow 11, 85
Attendance: 3,718 (160 from Stockport)
Date: 14th October 2003

Stags poor run in the Associate Members Cup (aka LDV Vans Trophy) continued tonight but with a much better performance than in recent years. In summary, a very poor first 10 minutes and a sucker-punch in the last 5 minutes put paid to any chance of progressing this season. Everything between was encouraging and the 90 minutes for some players was good preparation for the big game at Doncaster this coming weekend.

There were 5 changes from the starting 11 of last weekend and it did lead to a situation where, early in the game, the Stags looked like they had not really played together before. The key changes were in the defensive positions, with only Jamie Clarke continuing from the game against York. A welcome return for Rhys Day was coupled with fresh starts for Alex John-Baptiste and Jake Buxton. In midfield, with Liam Lawrence and Tom Curtis given a rest, there was a chance for Craig Disley and Lee Williamson to reaffirm their claim for a place in the squad for the weekend. Whilst the Stags were having a nightmare start to the game, it would be unfair to detract from the visitors determination to take this game very seriously. They started very strong and did look a different proposition to the team we saw last season.

It came as little surprise when ex-Tranmere frontman Stuart Barlow put Stockport ahead. An excellent through ball saw Barlow race ahead of the Stags back-line and when Kevin Pilkington decided, quite rightly, not to risk giving away the foul and a certain red card, Barlow steadied himself before lifting a delightful chip over the recovering keeper and beyond the despairing lunge of Rhys Day.

Stags steadily grew into the game from this point and really should have gone in level at the break. First Craig Disley and then Neil Mackenzie had excellent opportunities which were put wide of the keepers left hand post. During this spell of increasing Stags domination and from one of a succession of corner-kicks, the ball bounced around the box and back off a post before being cleared to safety.

H-T: Stags 0 – 1 Stockport County

The second half continued in much the same vein as the first had finished with Stags growing in confidence and Stockport looking to take any opportunity for a breakaway.

Some key moments appeared to go against the Stags in this half with one foul on the edge of the box being flatly denied and a situation where the Stockport keeper appeared to carry the ball over the line not turning in the home sides favour. The foul on Beardsley was a clear trip, very close to being inside the area and much to the home fans dismay the referee made a signal that the ball had been won. Strange.

Another key moment came from a Wayne Corden cross-cum-shot. With the County keeper back-pedalling furiously to get underneath the ball at the far post, he appeared to be well inside the goal before falling forwards with the ball in his hands. Again, the people that mattered did not agree with the view of the home faithful and the game went on.

To cap a fine return performance, Rhys Day popped up with an equaliser that gave us hope of a well-earned victory. A superbly flighted free-kick from Lee Williamson saw Day being able to dance through a static County defence and head past the stranded keeper.

The home side did seem to be the most likely to go on and win at this point, but the visitors were very good on the counter and with Stuart Barlow getting better as the game went on it was very finely balanced.

Bizzare moment of the evening came when Chris Beardsley was clearly obstructed by a player who had already been booked and must have been close to a second yellow. Stags were given the free-kick but it was actually Beardsley who picked up the yellow card.

In the end, it was the visitors who got the break and, unsurprisingly, it was Barlow who conjured up a winner. It was a bad goal to concede and came at a time when there was little opportunity to get back on level terms. Andy White made a brief appearance late in the game and had a good chance to take the game into extra-time but lacked the composure required at the vital moment. Colin Larkin also suffered the same fate when another chance dropped to him in injury time, blazing an effort way over the bar and into Row X.

The most encouraging point for me tonight was the performance of Neil Mackenzie. He worked harder than I have seen for a while and still treated us to some high class passing of the ball – the way football is supposed to be played.

Man of the match: Neil MacKenzie

Report by: Gary Tyldsley

Line Up:
Pilkington – 6 Kicking much better and still made some excellent saves and catches
Clarke – 6 Steadily improving with each game
Day – 7 Excellent in the air and took the goal well
John-Baptiste – 7 Cultured performance against a very good striker (Stuart Barlow)
Buxton – 6 Shaky start but much improved as the game went on
Disley – 6 Reasonable performance but should have scored in the first half
Williamson – 6 Little rusty but did get better and stronger later in the game
MacKenzie – 8 Bags of effort, won the ball well and passed it superbly
Corden – 7 Put in some quality balls and denied what looked to be a good goal
Beardsley – 7 Lively show from a player in form
Larkin – 6 Still looking short of match fitness – needs a goal to boost his confidence
Sub Line Up:
A. White (for Beardsley, 87) – 5 Not sure the trip to Boston has helped
Artell (for Disley, 90) – Played as an extra striker for the last 3 minutes
Not used: J. White, Dimech, Hurst.
Opposition Line Up:
Spencer, Clare, Challinor, Jones, Pemberton, Gibb, Goodwin, Hardiker, Ellison, Barlow, Wilbraham. Subs: Lambert, McLachlan, Morrison, Welsh, Williams.
T.Bates, Stoke on Trent

Season 03/04 Reports