Zamora 18, Hart 90    

by Martin Shaw

In a low key game at the Withdean Stadium, Brighton held off a sprightly young Mansfield side to claim an important 3 points in their quest for automatic promotion. But it was a frustrating afternoon for the Stags, as they dominated possession for 15 minutes in the first half, and the whole of the second half, but failed to create enough clearcut chances to claim a positive result from the game. Bobby Zamora put Brighton in front in the first half, and Gary Hart made it 2-0 for the Seagulls in the 94th minute.  Stags were unchanged from the side that had drawn at Blackpool two weeks earlier, with Mark Blake still suspended, and Stuart Reddington continuing on loan from Chelsea in the heart of the defence. Brighton included the Division's leading goalscorer, Bobby Zamora, while former Stags striker and Lincoln manager, Phil Stant, was on the Brighton bench.

The home side dominated the opening stages forcing numerous corners and Stags were lucky to escape when Dave Jervis completely misjudged a ball over the top and Hart nipped in behind him to tuck the ball into the net, but an offside flag cut short the Brighton celebrations. Zamora headed over when well-placed from a corner, but on 18 minutes Brighton took the lead with a soft goal. A ball was chipped over the static Stags defence and Zamora was left in acres of spaces to chip the ball easily over Mimms into the empty net. Mimms was probably too slow to come off his line, but the blame must
lie with the defence who were hopelessly out-thought.

It took Stags fully 26 minutes to muster a shot, and that was a scuffed, weak shot from Lawrence. Soon after, a Williamson corner was played beautifully for Lawrence on the edge of the box, but the youngster put his shot well over the bar. Stags had a period of 10 minutes of dominance without creating clear-cut chances. Too often the crossing was poor. For example, 3 times Jervis put in identical crosses which were flighted high and which were so easy for the Brighton keeper to claim. As the half drew to a close, Zamora received an injury which would later cause him to be substituted, but not before he had forced Mimms into a good save after fantastic skill from the Brighton striker.

Half time 1-0

Even the most optimistic of Stags fan would not have imagined that Stags would pin Brighton into their own half for almost the entire second half, but this is what happened. Indeed Brighton were rarely in the Stags box, in fact just 3 times in the entire half. On the first occasion, Zamora put a free header wide; on the second occasion Paul Brooker broke clear of the Stags defence and, with just Mimms to beat, struck the inside of the post.  Brighton's third chance of the half came four minutes into injury time when Gary Hart broke clear, and tipped his shot past Mimms and into the net to seal a 2-0 victory.

It was so tough on the battling Stags who had knocked the ball around well for 45 minutes but lacked the final killer pass to create guilt-edged chances. Too often balls were knocked forward from the back, and easily cleared by the packed Brighton defence. Stags best chance of the half was created by Disley, who skipped away down the left, before playing a perfect pass into the stride of Darrell Clarke. But with only Michel Kuipers to beat, Clarke placed his shot too close to the Brighton keeper, Kuipers palmed it away with his left hand, and the ball rebounded agonisingly away from the onrushing Stags players. It was pure frustration for the Stags who just couldn't find that final pass to turn pressure into chances.

During the second half, Stags midfield had really taken a grip of the game with Disley, Hassell, Williamson and Lawrence in fine form. Hassell was forced to go off with a leg injury after a very bad tackle, and replaced by Williams. After 88 minutes Stags got a free-kick just outside the box.  Corden was quickly brought off the bench to take the kick, but on this occasion couldn't work his magic, and the kick flew over the bar.

After the game, Brighton boss Micky Adams admitted his side had not been at their best and had lost the midfield battle in the second half, though he was pleased with his defence and noted that his keeper Kuipers had little to do. Meanwhile Stags boss Billy Dearden was pleased with his side's second half performance and felt they could have claimed a point. But he was very disappointed to lose the game.  The harsh reality is that Stags are now on a terrible run and have taken just one point from 5 games. Close inspection of the bottom half of the Division 3 table shows that Stags are just 8 points ahead of bottom club Torquay and the Devon side have a game in hand. Halifax are 7 points behind Stags, again with one game in hand. Long time strugglers Carlisle are just 4 points behind Mansfield. Stags mustn't panic of course but points are needed quickly to ease relegation worries, and there is no better place to start than at home to Darlington next Saturday.

Man of the Match - Craig Disley

Attendance:  6,703

Stags:  Mimms, Reddington, Robinson, Asher, Jervis (Corden 88), Williamson, Hassell (Williams 74), Disley, Clarke, Lawrence (Boulding 68), Greenacre.  Subs Not Used:  Pilkington, Andrews

Seagulls:   Kuipers, Watson, Mayo, Crosby, Rogers (Thomas 60), Brooker (Freeman 84), Carpenter, Melton, Virgo, Hart, Zamora (Jones 62).  Subs Not Used:  Oatway, Stant

Referee:  A Bates (Stoke)