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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Cheltenham Town  
4 - 2
 Mansfield Town
Henry 42, Spencer 61, Brayson 70, Odejayi 90+3.
 Christie 64, Corden 83.
Attendance: 3,818 (435 from Mansfield)
Date: 28th February 2004

Martin Shaw at Whaddon Road

Mansfield Town slumped to a disastrous 4-2 defeat here at Cheltenham this afternoon. The home side had only scored 4 goals in their previous 8 games, whilst keeping 6 clean sheets in that same period. With the Stags goals having nearly dried up a low scoring game seemed on the cards, so after a quiet opening 42 minutes, it was a huge surprise to see so many goals go in.

The Stags made two changes from the side that had lost at home to Doncaster: Dimech replaced the out of form Williamson in midfield, while Mendes returned in place of Pacquette. Bobby Hassell returned to the bench after injury.

The first half was poor from both sides. Chances were few and far between at either end. Pilkington made a fine save from a McCann free-kick, and dealt comfortably with other moments of danger. The Stags came closest when Day expertly headed a Lawrence free-kick back across the box and Christie sent an acrobatic shot just over the bar. Earlier Christie had nearly beaten the keeper when put through by Vaughan, but the keeper saved well, and a late offside flag meant it wouldn’t have counted anyway. There was a booking for Dimech for persistent fouling. And no-one could argue against it, as every time he went for the ball he seemed to commit a foul. After that he calmed down a little, but he failed to get a grip of the game.

There was a bizarre moment when Corden was about to take a Stags corner (one of several corners in the first half), he appeared to be leaving it for Lawrence to take, but caught his boot on the ball and moved it a few inches, and with Lawrence still nowhere near it, a Cheltenham player simply came and dribbled the ball upfield. I noticed Corden and Curle both with huge smiles on their faces moments later. There was another comedy moment when Buxton tried to clear the ball with his left foot, but flicked it with his right in the process and let in a Cheltenham forward, but was rescued by a great Day tackle.

But any humour turned to despair in 42 minutes when the home side went ahead, out of the blue, after the Stags had largely been on top for a twenty minute spell. McCann played in a cross from the left. The Stags seemed to get a lucky break as it struck a foward on the back the leg, but the Stags were unable to clear it and Karl Henry was left unmarked 25 yards out. He composed himself and sent a magnificent shot into the top right hand corner of the net giving Pilkington no chance.

Half time 1-0

Hassell replaced Buxton at the start of the second half. It was a bit tough on the youngster Buxton, and perhaps it should have been Vaughan to be replaced. Disley and Lawrence swapped places allowing Hassell and Lawrence to link up down the right. And they did this effectively on a few occasions. The Stags had a number of corners early in the second half and were pushing hard for an equaliser when Cheltenham scored again on 61 minutes and again it was out of the blue. Devaney, who gave Vaughan a torrid afternoon on the right wing, played in a good ball from the right and Spencer found himself unmarked in the 6 yard box to rifle a shot into the roof of the net. It was slack marking from the Stags, though it was difficult to see if it was Day or Artell who was at fault.

Moments later, Corden, who was causing the home side lots of problems, made space for himself and fired a super shot inches wide of the right post. Larkin was brought on for the ineffective Mendes, and immediately the Irishman was involved in a richly deserved goal. He played a great ball forward for Christie to run on to. Christie held off two defenders and placed a fine shot just inside the right hand post from about 12 yards. Three minutes later, on 67 minutes, the Stags should have had an opportunity to equalise when Larkin’s header in the box struck a defender’s hand, but the referee waved away the appeals.

But on 70 minutes it was 3-1. Jamie Victory seemed to commit an offence on the halfway line but was allowed to move forward and played a ball through for Brayson who slotted past Pilkington in a carbon copy of Christie’s goal.

It was tough on the Stags who had been playing quite well, but the home side came close to a fourth when Spencer sent a snapshot inches wide.

On 83 minutes the Stags pulled it back to 3-2 and it was Corden with a richly deserved goal for a fine performance. Too often Corden had played in a great crosses but no Stags player had taken a gamble to get on the end of it in the 6 yard box. But this time Lawrence’s bobbling cross evaded several home defenders and Corden gambled at the far post and was rewarded as the ball came to him and he smashed it home from 5 yards.

As the Stags pushed forward they were left exposed at the back and Cheltenham twice went close to a fourth. First Pilkington made a brilliant save as Devaney struck a thunderbolt from the right which the keeper tipped onto the post. Then Odejayi took advantage of Stags hesitancy when they thought Spencer would be flagged offside, but he was not interfering with play, and Odejayi flicked the ball over Pilkington but the keeper just managed to touch it onto the bar.

Then came a crucial moment in the game on 89 minutes. Substitute Pacquette, who had been truly awful since replacing the impressive Christie, played a ball inside for Larkin. Larkin moved forward and struck a shot goalwards. For a moment it looked like the equaliser, but keeper Higgs made a superb save and the chance had gone. In the final minute of stoppage time, Day played a square ball to Hassell on the halfway line. The defender seemed to want to play the ball forward for one last push but his route was blocked by a Cheltenham player, so he turned and played the ball towards Pilkington. But his pass was too weak and Odejayi nipped onto to it, took it round Pilkington and scored into an empty net.

It was a rough scoreline on the Stags who played well in patches, but two bad goals conceded cost them dear. There were some encouraging performances, notably from Corden, Christie and Larkin, along with Lawrence particularly when he moved to the right wing, and Pilkington made some good saves. But there were too many players out of form, notably Disley and Dimech in midfield, Mendes up front, and Vaughan and Artell in defence. The defensive midfield position is a key one and neither Williamson in previous matches, not Dimech today, have provided the effectiveness that Curtis provides and Keith Curle’s post match comment that the Torquay game might come too soon for his return does not provide any comfort. Curle’s substitution of Pacquette for Christie certainly provided a real talking point after the game, for Christie looked to have regained some long-lost confidence with a good display and fine goal, and Pacquette again failed to deliver - indeed he was awful.

The league table makes horribly depressing reading now with the Stags just two points clear of Lincoln in eighth place. With a game against Torquay, who have now gone above the Stags following a run of 7 wins in 8 games, on Tuesday night, confidence is low in the Stags camp - a point admitted by manager Curle in a very candid interview after the game. One thing is for sure, never can the Stags have been more desperate for three points than they will be in midweek. Come on Mansfield!

Man of the Match: Wayne Corden

Report by: Martin Shaw at Whaddon Road

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 A number of good saves. Not at fault for any of the goals. One unforced error.
Buxton 6 Some poor distribution, but generally defended ok.
Day 7 Pick of the defence. Also provided danger at set pieces.
Artell 5 Not at his best.
Vaughan 5 Didn’t defend too well. Given a torrid time by Devaney in the second half.
Disley 5 Didn’t really get into the game enough.
Lawrence 7 Did ok in the centre in the first half, and did well on the right in the second half.
Dimech 5 Poor. Early on he gave away two many fouls and was rightly booked. Ineffective after that.
Corden 8 Excellent second half. Some fine crosses but no-one gambled to get on the end of them, then a fine shot, and finally a goal.
Mendes 5 A good pacy run early on, but contributed very little. Poor.
Christie 8 His best performance for a while, and capped it with a good goal. Strangely substituted.
Sub Line Up:
Hassell (for Buxton, 46) 5 Horrible back-pass to give away for the fourth goal. Before that, linked up ok with Lawrence.
Larkin, (for Mendes 62) 7 Looked sharper than he has for a while.
Pacquette (for Christie, 72) 4 Dreadful. Almost every touch of the ball was poor.
Subs not used: JWhite, Williamson.
Opposition Line Up:
Higgs, Griffin, Victory, Brough, Duff, Brayson (Odejayi 84mins), Spencer, McCann, Devaney, Finnigan, Henry. Subs not used: Book, Forsyth, Bird, Gill.
K.Friend (Leicestershire) 7 Decent game. Really didn’t notice him.

Season 03/04 Reports