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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
1 - 0
Larkin 55
Attendance: Att 6,963 (471 from Rochdale)
Date: 26th December 2003

Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Mansfield Town ground out a 1-0 win over Rochdale at a wet Field Mill this afternoon thanks to a great finish from Colin Larkin after a terrible defensive error. The Stags were never at their best and without the Christmas gift from the Dale, would have played out their first 0-0 draw for just under 12 months.

The Stags were without 4 key players through injury: Lawrence, MacKenzie, Christie and Artell. This allowed recalls for Larkin and Dimech. The bench of Jason White, Thomas Curle, Jamie Clarke, Beardsley and Mitchell highlighted that the Stags are down to the bare bones in the middle of the busy festive programme.

The game started slowly and was to get no better during the first half. On 18 minutes Corden gave away a free-kick right on the edge of his own box. He could have only been inches away from conceding a penalty. The free-kick was curled just wide of the post. The first real action at the other end came after 20 minutes when Larkin completely missed his kick when in a good position 12 yards out, and he did the same thing again a few minutes later. This summed up his lack of confidence and the lacklustre showing from the Stags.

Rochdale’s first showing in attack came when they had a two-on-one breakaway, but a great chance was spurned and Curtis did well to deflect a cross over the bar. Then Disley made a great tackle tracking back to repel another Rochdale attack. A great free kick from Corden on the right was somehow missed by everyone when just a touch could have taken it into the back of the net. On 40 minutes Mansfield had the best chance of the half when Mendes did a great turn 35 yards out, and charged at goal, before unleashing a low shot that the Dale keeper did well to stop. It was very reminiscent of Mendes’ first goal against Boston a few weeks ago.

Just before half time, Dimech tried to the run the ball out for a goal kick on the bye-line but was caught out and lucky that the Rochdale forwards were too inept to make anything of it. It was the second time in the space of a few moments that Dimech had been lucky to get away with such a tactic.

Half time 0-0

The first half had been very poor. The Stags looked very disjointed and rarely looked like scoring, though were reasonably solid in defence against a Rochdale side that passed the ball nicely but were pathetic in the final third.

Ten minutes into the second half Mansfield took the lead completely out of the blue. Rochdale defender Griffiths somehow played the ball backwards towards his own goal from 25 yards but it was never going to get there and Larkin pounced on it, before striding forward and burying a great shot with the outside of his right boot from 15 yards, low into the far left hand corner of the net. Larkin had had a poor game, but in a one-on-one position, you really wouldn’t want anyone else to be there for the Stags.

The game continued with little goalmouth action, and on the hour Vaughan went off, having been injured earlier in the game, to be replaced by Jamie Clarke who slotted in at left back.

The Stags were denied a penalty when Mendes was clearly tripped right in the corner of the penalty box, and although he was going nowhere, it should have been given but was missed by the referee. On 71 minutes Corden had a shot blocked for a corner. Then on 80 minutes the Stags had a great chance to finish the game when Williamson had a shot after a ball in from Corden, but it was blocked by the keeper when he seemed certain to score, and his rebound was also blocked.

A great break by Mendes on 83 minutes, led to a shot from Larkin which was saved. Rochdale broke straight to the far end and in a two-on-one situation a player was completely unmarked 8 yards out at the far post on the right, but amazingly he shot straight into Pilkington’s midriff. It was a rare moment of bad defending from the Stags and so nearly cost them 2 points.

In the final 10 minutes it seemed to me that the Stags seemed to be standing off Rochdale allowing them to come forward too much, but fortunately the visitors were truly awful in the final third and unable to make any possession count.

At the final whistle there was a feeling a relief around the ground. With so many key players out injured it was a great result, even if one that probably was not deserved. If Rochdale had had more attacking prowess then they would probably have claimed a point. It was particularly surprising that the dangerous Kevin Townsen was only brought on as a late substitute, as he looked more likely than most to unlock to Stags defence.

This was a bumper home crowd, with both the West Stand and North Stand full to bursting. In fact it was the largest number of Stags fans inside Field Mill since the promotion winning game against Carlisle over 18 months ago. About 200 fans had to be moved from the two stands into the Bishop Street stand, at one point causing a two-minute hold-up in the game as the referee thought the fans were too close to the touchline as they were being ushered around the pitch.

And so on to Macclesfield on Sunday. The Stags will be hoping that an extra two days rest will allow Lawrence to recover and provide more of a spark for the team going forward. However if the defence can remain firm then there will always be a chance of winning the points.

Man of the Match: Junior Mendes

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Great handling and one good save to rescue the day in the second half.
Hassell 6 A few misplaced passes, but defended ok.
Day 8 Pick of the defence. Won everything in the air.
Dimech 7 Defended well. Nearly caught out when trying to run the ball out of play on two occasions.
Vaughan 7 Solid enough at left back.
Disley 6 Unable to fill Lawrence’s position effectively. One excellent defensive tackle when it was needed.
Curtis 7 Worked tremendously hard in midfield and won a lot of the ball, though distribution was very poor.
Williamson 6 Not at his best. Unable to provide a spark to push the team forward.
Corden 6 Too quiet, though put in a couple of fine crosses.
Larkin 6 Poor game overall, but when it really matters, you wouldn’t want anyone else in a one-on-one position.
Mendes 8 Excellent first half: the only player who looked like creating anything. Still lively in the second half.
Sub Line Up:
Clarke (for Vaughan, 60) 7 Did well at left back, looking quite solid.
Subs not used: JWhite, TCurle, Beardsley, Mitchell.
Opposition Line Up:
Edwards, Burgess (Grand 74), Evans, Griffiths, Simpkins, Beech, Bertos, Doughty (Donovan 66), Jones, Bishop (Townson 68), Connor. Subs not used: Gilks, McClare.
Paul Robinson (East Yorkshire) 6 Generally handled the game ok.

Season 03/04 Reports