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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
1 - 2
 Lincoln City
Lawrence 34 (pen)
 Butcher 3, Gain 50
Attendance: 5,797 (1008 from Lincoln)
Date: 13th December 2003

Following the great win at Northampton and a good show at Wycombe in the FA Cup, many had high hopes that Stags would approach the big game at Hull next week with a win against our near-neighbours. On the basis that our home form has been good and Lincoln's away form has been poor, this looked to be a reasonably safe home win. It is always prudent, however, to remember that there are very few easy and straightforward games in this division where every point won is going to be hard won and has to be deserved.

Stags went into the game with 3 changes; the welcome return of Adam Eaton in place of the suspended Tony Vaughan, Tom Curtis in for Neil Mackenzie and Wayne Corden in for Craig Disley.

The early minutes had the feel of a derby game and it became clear that Lincoln were here on a mission to end their bad travel days. After a cheap giveaway by Lee Williamson in midfield, there did not seem to be much danger. However, Richard Butcher had other ideas and quickly unleashed an unstoppable missile shot to give the visitors a great start to the game.

There was a reasonably prompt response from the Stags with one Liam Lawrence effort bringing a good save from the visiting keeper. The next half-hour developed the main pattern of the game, with Lincoln employing an effective flexible formation and Stags simply not filling any gaps in midfield. This allowed the visitors too much of the important possession and meant that Stags would always have to build patiently from the back.

The moment that could have ultimately turned the game in favour of the home side came 10 minutes before the break. A rare moment of sloppy defending allowed Iyseden Christie to collect the ball in the Lincoln box with only the keeper to beat. Before he could steady himself, though, his legs were taken away and the referee had no hesitation in giving the penalty. Liam Lawrence confirmed his place as number 1 penalty-taker with an excellent spot-kick to level the game.

H-T: Stags 1 – 1 Lincoln City

The home faithful were probably confident of the Stags going on from this position to win the game. A timely reminder of Lincoln's poor away form and memories of home performances this season would still appear to have suggested that the worst result possible was a draw. However, sometimes things just don't take the expected course.

The pattern of play for most of the first half came to the fore again during the second. Red shirts seemed to be picking up all the second ball in midfield and the Stags midfielders appeared to becoming extra defenders at times. This left the Stags front two with little service and also meant they had to drop deeper to try and get a touch of the ball.

It was not long before defensive frailty put Lincoln back into pole position. After two efforts to clear the ball were not successful it was given to Peter Gain just outside the Stags penalty area and, as with the earlier goal, an early well-struck shot gave the visitors the lead again.

The rest of the half was not much to shout about in real terms. There was plenty of effort shown and also attempts by Keith Curle to change the course of the game with his substitutions and formation changes but this was not to be the Stags day. Lincoln defended well and took any opportunity to catch Stags on the break. They could have stretched the lead in the dying moments but for an excellent save by Kevin Pilkington.

Colin Larkin and Neil Mackenzie were given the opportunity to try and change the game, Stags eventually finishing with a 3-4-3 formation, but the visitors goal was never troubled to the degree that an equaliser was inevitable.

In terms of quality on the day, there was little to choose between the teams. The major difference was the flexibility of the Lincoln formation which appeared to give them more options and the higher level of commitment offered by their players on the day. It does make the game at Hull slightly more important and it is now extremely unfortunate that the FA Cup replay against Wycombe takes place during this week. The Stags have shown in matches this season that they are able to pick themselves up when things go against them, it is now imperative to show that they can do this between matches as well.

Man of the match: Tom Curtis

Report by: Gary Tyldsley

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 Not a lot to do, not much chance with the goals, 1 excellent stop near the end
Hassell 7 One of the bright lights of the day
Day 6 OK in the air but some poor distribution
Artell 6 Not a bad game
Eaton 6 Did look rusty but OK for his first game in a long time
Lawrence 6 Excellent penalty and some OK midfield play, crossing a bit hit-and-miss
Williamson 6 Caught out early in the game, bags of effort with little reward
Curtis 7 Solid show but a little deep too often
Corden 6 Not given the ball in the right area often enough
Mendes 6 Worked hard with little reward
Christie 6 Looked lively but had to pull deep too often
Sub Line Up:
Larkin (for Corden, 77) - Not in the game enough
MacKenzie (for Eaton, 83) - Hardly touched the ball
Not used: JWhite, Dimech, Disley.
Opposition Line Up:
Marriott, Weaver, Bailey, Futcher, Mayo, Morgan, Gain, Butcher, Richardson (Bloomer 83), Yeo, Cropper (McNamara 76). Subs: Liburd, Sedgemore, Pearce.
C.Webster, Tyne & Wear

Season 03/04 Reports