Worthington Cup Second Round First Leg

Wednesday 20 September 2000

Southampton 2 Mansfield Town 0

Tessem 35, Le Tissier 67 Att. 8,802

Martin Shaw at The Dell

After the poor performance at Chesterfield on Saturday, what Stags fans were looking for more than anything in this Worthington Cup game at Premiership Southampton, was a performance to make them proud. And that it precisely what they got, as Mansfield put in a gutsy and determined performance to keep the scoreline to a level that keeps the two-legged tie very much still open.

Stags made two changes to the side with Alistair Asher replacing injured Jamie Lomas, and John Andrews replacing on-loan Jon Fortune, who again was not allowed to play in a cup-tie. Southampton were missing talented striker Marian Pahars, Hassan Kachloul, and Mark Draper, all through injury, but were still able to field a very strong side that included Matthew Le Tissier, in his first start of the season.

Saints starting very powerfully and Stags were pinned into their own half for the opening half-hour. But gutsy defending from the back four, boosted by midfielders Mark Blake and Bobby Hassell, restricted the home side to few clearcut chances. On 8 minutes, Le Tissier struck a shot from 20 yards against the foot of the post with Bobby Mimms beaten, and 12 minutes later Le Tissier had another shot from 15 yards, this time Bobby Hassell cleared off the line. Then another Le Tissier blast was blocked, and James Beattie shot inches wide, before the pressure paid off on 35 minutes. After Bobby Mimms had punched clear a cross, another cross came in, was headed on by Le Tissier and Jo Tessem smashed a low drive under Mimms from a tight angle for a great goal. It was a fitting reward for Tessem, who looked a high class player, and for Le Tissier who was enjoying his return to the side.

It was a blow for the Stags, having hung on for so long, but the defence held strong for the remainder of the half with no further chances for Saints. Stags only goal effort of the half was a wayward shot from Lee Williams.

Half-time 1-0

The second half was a much more even affair, as Stags started to play some lovely flowing football, without usually getting close to a sight of goal. Lee Williams started to get some space down the right wing, and several times tried his step-over trick, usually without success. But it indicated Stags increase in confidence as the game went on. Eventually Stags started to get a sight a goal, as Darrell Clarke and Greenacre had a couple of long range efforts. Then, out of the blue, Stags had a wonderful chance to equalise. Greenacre outpaced a home defender and his snap shot seemed to be heading for the corner of the net, but Paul Jones made a tremendous save to beat the ball away. The loose ball fell to Darrell Clarke on the edge of the box, but his shot was cleared.

But on 67 minutes, Southampton made it 2-0, just as it seemed Mansfield might be looking to pull off a surprise result. It was Le Tissier this time who scored after receiving a knock-down from Tessem, and smashing his shot low into the net from 15 yards.

It was important for Mansfield to hold firm and not crumble in the last 20 minutes, and so it was that the Stags defence gained more resolve, and the midfield started to hold the ball much better. Stags made a change, bringing on Danny Bacon in a bid to grab an away goal and amazingly it nearly paid off within 30 seconds. Before Bacon had even touched the ball, he received the ball from Greenacre after a defensive mistake, and had only the keeper to beat from 12 yards. Unfortunately Bacon screwed his shot a couple of yards wide. It really was a glorious opportunity, and perhaps if Bacon had been on the pitch a little longer, and become accustomed to the pace of the ball, he would have turned the ball into the net. But it wasn't to be. Then, Stags were inches away from a penalty as Wayne Corden was fouled less than a yard outside the right hand side of the penalty area, but the resulting free-kick came to nothing.

But it could have been 3-0 in injury time. A free-kick was harshly awarded right on the edge of the box, and Matt Le Tissier seemed more likely to score than not. But Bobby Mimms was equal to it, magnificently turning the ball over the bar with a one-handed save.

Overall this was a performance to make Stags fans proud of their team, and this was summed up as the Stags players were applauded off the pitch by the home fans. Every player stuck to his task well, and kept Mansfield in the tie. For Saints, Le Tissier was involved in everything, and I was left thinking afterwards that if he hadn't been playing, Stags may have got away with a better result. There was an impressive turnout of about 400 Stags fans, in a higher than expected gate of nearly 9,000.

Man of the match: Mark Blake

Mimms 8 Some excellent saves and commanded his box well.

Asher 7 Good return to the side, though guilty of a few misplaced passes

Robinson 8 Solid and tough tackling

Hicks 8 Towering defensive display, until injured late on

Andrews 7 Given a tough time by Tessem bit generally did well

Williams 8 Seemed to enjoy his role down the right wing, but had trouble skipping past the enormous Dean Richards

Blake 8 Excellent display in more defensive role than usual

Hassell 8 Fine display in defensive midfield role

Corden 6 Didn't really have a chance to get into the game

Clarke 7 Looked sharp in attacking midfield position

Greenacre 7 Worked very hard and had very good effort well-saved

Subs:

Bacon (for Andrews, 77 mins) 6

Williamson (for Hicks, 81 mins)

Boulding (for Corden, 85 mins)

Not used: Pilkington, Disley.