|Nationwide League Division 3||
|2nd December 2000|
|Kyle 21||Pemberton 6|
|Atkinson 62 (pen)|
|Attendance: 3, 087|
|Rob Wheldon at Feethams|
Stags gave a debut to new signing Adam Barrett, who partnered Les Robinson at the centre of the Stags defence, with Stuart Hicks still injured and John Andrews not even on the substitutes bench. Lee Williamson made his full league debut after a fine performance in the FA Cup defeat at Peterborough, whilst Martin Pemberton played his first full league game since his injury in the Worthington Cup tie at home to Wrexham three months ago. Youngsters Alistair Asher and David Jervis retained their places at full back and Chris Greenacre and Michael Boulding again continued in attack. Craig Disley could be disappointed with the fact that his excellent midweek performance was only rewarded with a place on the bench.
As early as the opening minute the Stags goal came under threat, Asher caught out of position giving Kyle a free header which bounced in front of Mimms and fortunately over the bar. After that early scare the Stags produced a fine move of their own which lead to the opening goal of the game. Breaking free on the right Greenacre found Pemberton on the edge of the box and after shifting the ball to his less favoured right foot he curled a fine shot past the Darlo keeper to notch his first goal for the Stags. Darlo almost struck back when the very impressive Butler fired over from 20 yards whilst at the other end Greenacre forced a save out of Darlo keeper Collet. Darlo then equalised on 21 minutes when Kyle latched on to a long ball from defence. Kyle looked well off-side when the ball was played but his finish on the half volley was superb. Mimms goal was from then on rarely threatened for the remainder of the half whilst Bobby Hassell hit a spectacular 25 yard effort narrowly over the bar.
Stags had a major let off in the opening moments of the 2nd half when after failing to clear a corner from the right Aspen had time to side foot the ball home, however, the ball sliced off his right boot and went well wide. The next in a line of unbelievable refereeing decisions was made a few minutes later. Robinson slid in a perfectly timed tackle to deny Kyle a run on goal but when Mimms picked up the loose ball the referee awarded an in-direct free kick for a back pass. To compound his error he then gave Darlo two attempts at the kick, both of which flew over the bar. Then just after the hour came yet another unbelievable decision from referee Leake. Barrett did well to win a header in the box with Aspin and cleared the ball to safety, however, the referee somehow adjudged that Barrett had fouled Aspin, much to the disgust of the Stags players and to the surprise of the Darlo players and supporters, none of whom had appealed. The spot kick by Atkinson was almost saved by Mimms but crept into the far corner. This was the 5th successive league game when the Stags have conceded a penalty - not one of them have been even remotely justified!! Hassell then almost won the Stags a deserved point when his fierce 20 yard drive was palmed by the post by Collett. In a late change the Stags brought on Williams and Bradley for Williamson and Boulding, but to no avail and the Stags slumped to their third successive defeat.
Once more the Stags fell to a totally inept performance from another very poor referee. The penalty decision was one of the more disgraceful you will ever see - even the alleged victim Aspin said after the game that it was not a penalty. Indeed only the referee thought a foul had been committed as their were no appeals from either Darlington players or spectators. There was also considerable doubt whether Kyle was on-side for Darlo's first goal, though it was a fantastic finish. Turning to the game, hard considering it had been spoiled by the referee, there were many positives for the Stags to draw on. Adam Barrett made an excellent debut and looks like he could be exactly what the Stags have needed all season to shore up the leaky defence. Les Robinson alongside Barrett was his usual immaculate self and Martin Pemberton gave excellent natural width down the left hand side and scored a fine goal. Bobby Hassell more than held his own in the midfield and had two terrific long range efforts, one of this produced a fine save. The strikers were perhaps guilty of not holding on to possession long enough and Michael Boulding has still failed to recapture his form since returning from his injury lay off. One final point, the substitutions were again made far too late to have any impact on the game, nor, in Shayne Bradley's case, would the very short time on the pitch have helped his return to match fitness. After the game Stags new man Adam Barrett said "The penalty decision was scandalous. Their man was holding me and then he just fell over." "I was happy with my performance but obviously none of us are happy with the result. This are going against us at the moment but we will get things right sooner rather than later."
Man of the Match: Adam Barrett
|Unused: Pilkington, Bacon, Disley|