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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Hull City  
0 - 1
 Mansfield Town
 MacKenzie 84
Attendance: 15,005 (1,545 from Mansfield)
Date: 20th December 2003

After the disappointment of the performance and result against Lincoln, followed by the Jeckyll and Hyde last-gasp win against Wycombe in the FA Cup, an away game at one of our top 6 rivals was hardly one that you would pick as a "confidence-builder" before the holiday program. But the old, well-worn cliche has to be rolled out again as we are given proof that "football is a funny old game".

The first thing to look forward to on the day was an initial look at the most modern of the new stadiums in the lower leagues. On first glance the thing is impressive, albeit in surroundings that you would not match with the statement "state of the art". Getting inside, the surroundings pale into insignificance as the stadium gives you that big-time feeling. This is an excellent football arena and one that certainly should support a club in a higher division, however, you have to get there first – just ask Sheffield Wednesday! With games in the Premiership and Division 1 being called off, it is testament to the facility provided for this club that the pitch was in excellent condition and proved to be perfectly playable throughout the 90 minutes.

Manager Keith Curle applied his "horses for courses" policy for this game, bringing in Craig Disley for Wayne Corden to provide a slightly more defensive feel to the left hand side. This was to prove a good choice as Hull employed a system that effectively had 3 front players in Burgess, Elliot and Price.

The only real action of the opening exchanges was the effort of a home fan (use this term loosely) to decapitate Tony Vaughan with a ball. The dork (better description) seemed to have enjoyed the unsuccessful attempt and appeared to be happy with the adulation of his mates but the most worrying aspect was that the stewards in the vicinity did not seem to want to make any effort.

The game never really got off the ground in the first half. There were glimpses of what either team were capable of but most situations came to nothing due to some very good defending by both back lines. Dave Artell and Rhys Day were having good days and ex-Stags loanee Damien Delaney was the pick of the bunch for the home side.

The only key moment of the first half came moments before the break. A ball in from the Hull left-side was met by Ben Burgess with an effort that struck the foot of the post, allowing Stags to go in for their tea on level terms.

H-T: Hull City 0 – 0 Stags

As with the first half, the match continued in much the same vein with both sides cancelling each other out in most situations. This inevitably led to a cat-and-mouse game between the respective managers in terms of how they would use their substitutions and whether they would change their tactical game-plan.

It was, then, fairly ironic that the substitution forced by an injury to Iyseden Christie changed the course of the game. Neil Mackenzie came on for the limping Iyseden and took his place in a now 5-man midfield with Junior Mendes left to plough his own furrow across the front line. Whilst this appeared to be a move by Keith Curle to tighten the ship and ensure that a draw was secured, it actually put Stags on the front foot with a little more possession and more quality in the middle of the park. Whether this was intentional on the part of the manager is unsure but it certainly worked!

However, it did seem that whilst Stags appeared to have the better of the closing stages a goal was not going to come and the points would be shared.

A common view in the Stags area of the ground was that we could "nick" the points from a set-piece (how funny would that have been last season!!!??). It proved almost true as a ball knocked out from a crowded penalty box fell towards Neil Mackenzie. As the ball was still in the air, his shape told you that there was only one thought in his mind. As soon as he struck the ball, true and with power, it had "GOAL" written all over it. With this one to add to his equaliser at Oxford, Macca is becoming a man for the bigger games.

There were a couple of scares in the dying moments for the Stags. Hull did seem to lift their attacking game with the introduction of ex-Magpie Danny Allsopp but the back-line and Pilks came out on top and an excellent 3 points were in the bag.

Overall, a good performance from the point of view that everyone did their job well – even if that contributed to what some call a dull game (oddly enough most who called it dull were reporting for the Humberside media!). The job for Keith Curle and John Gannon now is to ensure that this level of performance and work ethic is carried into the Rochdale and Macclesfield games.

Man of the match: Bobby Hassell (had a tricky customer to deal with in Stuart Elliot but did it superbly)

Report by: Gary Tyldsley

Line Up:
Pilkington – 7 One scary moment but the rest was excellent
Hassell – 8 One bad pass second half but otherwise was superb
Day – 7 Not a lot wrong
Artell – 7 Seems to get better with each game
Vaughan – 6 Had to work hard against Jason Price – his experience is essential to the team
Lawrence – 6 Very busy but some crosses were a little off-target
Williamson – 7 Must be eating 3 Shredded Wheat for breakfast
Curtis – 7 Another solid show
Disley – 6 Worked his socks off and did his job well
Mendes – 6 Bags of energy – needs a goal at the moment
Christie – 6 Worked hard but not much to feed on
Sub Line Up:
Mackenzie (for Christie 63) 7 Quality passing and a super goal
Corden (for Disley 74) 6 Silky skills even in the short time he was on
Subs Not Used: White (J), Dimech, Larkin
Opposition Line Up:
Myhill, Dawson, Joseph, Hinds, Delaney, Keates (Allsopp 60), Green, Ashbee, Burgess (Holt 83), Elliott, Price (France 60). Subs: Musselwhite, Whittle.
Mark Halsey

Season 03/04 Reports