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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
3 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Jones (pen) 12, Connor 27, Bertos 54.
Attendance: 3157 (938 from Mansfield)
Date: 7th February 2004

Graham Parker at Spotland

A squally day greeted the Mansfield faithful as they pondered a trip over the Pennines to Spotland. Rochdale awaited; a tempting morsel on the promotion menu; would we be served up a delightful hors d’oeuvre to whet the appetite prior to the salacious main course coming our way in March? Was this to be the end of the rationing that had so many of us craving for more than dry bread and water – sufficient on which to survive but hardly the fare expected of footballing connoisseurs from Field Mill?

Had Chef Curle done enough by bringing in new seasoning in the form of a young, tender but promising Pacquette?

The pies in Rochdale have a reputation of their own and with 11 days since their last football feed, the travelling Stags were hungry!! Would they be satiated at the end of the day? Sadly not! Meagre offerings turned to starvation at Spotland as the Stags turned in a performance of utmost and abject disgrace which left the travelling faithful calling for their money back – and they had just cause.

Keith Curle gave advance notice that he would have a new look to the side and he did not fail on that front. With Hassell, Day, Dimech and Buxton in front of Pilkington the defence looked solid. A midfield of Larkin on the right wing, Lawrence and Williamson in the middle and Corden on the other wing to feed Pacqette and Mendes up front he certainly looked to be deploying attacking tactics – unfortunately looks were very deceiving today in Lancashire.

From the start Rochdale looked confident. The new loan players from Bolton gave them a stability not evident at Field Mill on Boxing Day. In the 2nd minute Pilkington was called on to make a sharp response save which lead to a corner for the home side – the writing was already on the wall!

Dale began to move the ball around well in midfield with Lawrence looking hapless in the position he had been asking to play. The Stags were second to every ball making Dale look even better value for money than they were.

Bobby Hassell showed some signs of willingness to shift the ball and attack with it, linking up well with Junior but the end product was minimal to say the least. Dale looked to be ready to counter at any moment and sure enough they did.

Breaking through the middle with ease, Dale forced themselves into a one on one with Pilkington. The keeper took his chance to save the ball at the Dale player’s feet only to give away a penalty that James duly converted by dispatching it into the left hand bottom corner.

The Stags attempted a reply via a Mendes run down the wing but nothing came of it – which was the story of the atrocious display by the Stags all afternoon.

Buxton at least looked to be having a good day at the back apart from his momentary lapses which allowed the Dale winger to get in crosses which Dimech had to clear at the last minute. To say the Stags looked ill at ease with the new formation would be the understatement of the year. None of them looked like they knew what job they had to fulfil and neither of them looked that bothered!

Lawrence and Williamson began to put a few moves together which faintly resembled the passing football so eagerly devoured by the Yelllow army at the beginning of the season – sadly today Dale looked more like that team than the one sporting the Amber shirts and odd “white” shorts.

Larkin was the only Mansfield player that looked a threat with his dashing runs down the wing and neat flicks inside to Lawrence who always wanted too many touches of the ball to make it productive. The Stags’ build up play began to look promising but as has been seen for the last month or two, the finishing was inept to be polite.

Run after run, corner after corner and free kick after free kick came to nothing. Add to this the delicate hint of absurd decisions by the referee and you begin to get a flavour of just how bad a day out it was for the faithful band or yellows. At one point the chant of “you don’t deserve us” came from the massed ranks – it was well called today.

On the half hour the Stags looked panic struck as Dale continued to raid into Mansfield territory. Sunday league defending by the Stags saw the pressure begin to mount and no one in the away stand looked at all certain we could pull this game round. Rochdale gave away promising free kick just outside of their area, which Williamson took only to see it headed away for a corner, which Lawrence sent into the box only for Buxton to head away over the bar.

Larkin continued to be our biggest threat but with the newly signed Pacquette looking no better or different to Andy White in front of goal his crosses were of no importance. The game was calling for a more experienced, bossy player – we had to wait till the second half for him to appear.

Dale again looked the more dominant force and pressed Pilkington into a fine diving save to keep the score at one nil, although to be fair Dale should have been two if not three to the good already.

Indecision was ruling big style in the Mansfield camp with play going backward more than forward robbing the away side of countless opportunities. Squeezed out of the midfield by Dale, Mansfield were reduced to hopeful long balls over the top to Mendes – one of the shortest players on the field; the outcome was always predictable – nothing worthy of note.

The Stags lacked creativity in virtually all departments allowing Dale, much to our shame, to give a display of passing football the likes of which we could only hope to aspire.

Fleeting moments of hope were provided by Lawrence, Larkin and Mendes linking up but the inevitable nullified ending only increased the tension and despair amongst the several hundred who had made the journey to the Spotland Stadium.

Pacqette looked too eager to try to make his mark, spurning several chances to feed his better placed team mates with scoring opportunities. Hassell was becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of running for his throw-ins.

Dale upped the anti with their second goal which came from a cross from the right wing. Although the ball looked to be cleared on the line by Williamson the ref gave the goal after his assistant said it had gone over the line. With no Mansfield player contesting the decision it was hardly likely he would rule otherwise.

Half Time 2-0

Curle obviously decided he needed a change and made two. Christie and MacKenzie replaced Corden and Larkin with Lawrence moving out onto the wing. The change seemed to make a difference. MacKenzie began to spread the ball around and looked dangerous in midfield. His passes began to open up spaces and Christie looked like he could win the battle up front – at last, some spirit from the Stags. The wing-play began to make in-roads in the Dale defence and hope of Man City ressurection began to fester in the away fans as the Lancashire rain began to fall on the players.

A mistake by Day allowed Dale to get another shot on goal which but for Pilkington spreading himself wide to disturb the strike could have made it three nil. The ball hit the upright and went behind only for the referee to award a corner to the home side!!

With Dale finding even more space in the middle thanks mainly to MacKenzie failing to defend or giving away the ball, Dimech lunged into a physical tackle that saw the Dale player attempt a double somersault and pike resulting in the referee applying whistle to lips and a free kick. From the moment the Stags’ wall lined up a goal was always on the cards. Roberts flicked the ball with aplomb and the Pennines became the Himalayas for the Stags – 3-0 and it was going to get worse.

Mansfield attempted a minor comeback with Christie being forced to the by-line by the Dale defender only for Christie to turn the ball back toward Williamson who then started a procession of passes to virtually every Mansfield player in a lateral position before we were awarded a free kick. Williamson duly wasted the opportunity.

At this point, I am sorry to say, this reporter put away his notebook and sank back into his seat howling with derision at what has to be the worst performance I have ever witnessed. If Dale had scored 6 or 7 it would have been a fair result – we would not have scored if we had carried on playing for a week.

Is this the same team that showed balls beyond belief at Cambridge? Is this the same manager who instilled vigour and a backbone that we would have died for last season? Does this team actually want to share in the glory of promotion and play what in what could be an amazing series of derbies next season? Does our chairman really believe this performance will pay his pension with someone else buying the club so he can retire?

Today Keith Curle the manager was found wanting. Further excuses will not wash. If we turn out this kind of performance in March we will be taken to the cleaners and our hopes of even a play-off position will disappear in the mist. It simply is not good enough.

Never before in my life as a fan have I been so close to booing a team off the pitch. Today was abysmal, disgraceful.. for a man known for his words, today they fail me. Hundreds of people paid good money to be served nothing short of dross today. Some people called for their money back; if you hear of a queue being formed at Keith Curle’s door, please let me know.

Man of the Match: Colin Larkin

Report by: Graham Parker at Spotland

Line Up:
Pilkington: 6 Made some good saves to save our blushes.
Hassell : 3 The occasional foray made him look interested.
Dimech: 3 Last ditch tackles earned his pay.
Day : 3 Only his heading made an impact.
Buxton: 6 At least he tried which is more than can be said for some.
Larkin: 6 The only real threat we had; why was he taken off?
Lawrence: 3 Would not get picked for Rainworth on this performance.
Williamson: 3 Dire.
Corden : 3 Once again kept out of the game.
Mendes: 4 Occassional displays of speed – no danger.
Pacquette: 3 Andy White with dreadlock; did nothing to impress.
Sub Line Up:
MacKenzie (for Larkin, 45) 4 Made good use of the ball for 15 minutes.
Christie (for Corden, 45) 6 The only forward to put it about.
Disley (for Mendes, 86) -
Subs not used: JWhite, Artell.
Opposition Line Up:
Neil Edwards, Wayne Evans, Daryl Burgess, Danny Livesey, Matt Doughty, Leo Bertos, Sean McClare, Gary Jones, Patrick McCourt (Michael Simpkins, 79), Grant Holt (N'Diwa Lord-Kangana, 86), Paul Connor
Subs: Simon Grand, Matthew Gilks, Scott Warner,
T Bates (Stoke on Trent) 4 Pillock!

Season 03/04 Reports