Greenacre 4, White 76   Yates 24
Tuesday 9th April 2002 - Nationwide League Division 3
Attendance: 8, 633 (Cheltenham approx 1,000)   

by Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Field Mill

What a night at Field Mill. In front of an extraordinary attendance of over 8500 with over 7500 home fans plus another 500 locked out, Stags produced a great second display to earn a vital victory in a pulsating game. Stags took an early lead, but were pegged back by a Cheltenham side who looked very lively in the first half, and could easily have led at half time. But Stags completely dominated the second and a late Andy White goal saw them home.  Mansfield were unchanged from the side that had beaten Bristol Rovers, whilst Cheltenham were without top scorer Julian Alsop.

The game kicked off 15 minutes late with Stags fans spilling over from the North Stand into the open areas to the side of the stand, and approximately 500 fans apparently locked out, some of whom took up a vantage point outside  the ground to the side of the Bishop Street stand, where they would have a view of the whole pitch.

Cheltenham had the first attack and nearly scored, after Stags lost possession in their own half. Naylor was clean through but fluffed his lines and Pilkington smothered. Stags went straight to the other end and scored on 3 minutes. A free kick form the right ewas floated to the far post. Andy White won the header which thumped against the inside the post.  Luckily the ball rebounded to Greenacre who dived in despite flying boots, to head into the empty net. Amazingly, within a minute Cheltenham nearly scored again, as a header flew inches past Pilkington's right hand post.  Four minutes gone, 1 goal and 2 near misses. This set the pace for a pulsating and open first half, with some of the most exciting football seen for years. Stags looked dangerous  and Disley had a brilliant shot from 18 yards from an awkward position, where he showed tremendous technique to get power behind it. But keeper Book made a great save to tip the ball round for the corner. However  Cheltenham had more chances as Stags seemed intent on giving the ball in dangerous positions. Cheltenham got a deserved equaliser on 24 minutes after terrible play by Reddington. He had time to clear the ball down by the corner flag, but lost possession and fouled the striker as he pulled away. Reddington was booked, and from the free kick taken by Milton, Yates headed home powerfully from 6 yards. It was the sort of goal that any viewer of Nationwide League Extra will have seen Cheltenham score over and over again this season. By half time, the visitors should have been ahead from several more chances, notably when Tyson drove just wide when it seemed the ball must go in and missed both a defender and Cheltenham striker by the far post. In the final minute of the half, Cheltenham had a trademark set piece yet again, and the a header flew inches wide.

Half time 1-1

At half-time Watkiss made a change to shore up the defence with Tankard replacing Pemberton. He also brought on Williamson for Disley who looked not at his best. Stags immediately looked safer in defence and in truth the visitors created absolutely nothing in the second half. Stags produced a great display and had several chances to take the lead. Greenacre produced a fabulous shot on the turn out of nothing which screamed like a bullet inches wide. Later Murray broke through and was clear on goal just outside the box, when he was clearly tripped from behind. Only one man in the ground thought it wasn't a foul and he was the one who waved play on. An incredible decision. Later Sellars drove a quick 22 yard free kick against the post when it seemed the keeper just got a fingertip to it. At that stage the game had 1-1 written on it. But on 72 minutes, Stags got the crucial goal. Kelly and Hassell were involved as the Stags full back drilled a ball across the box. Time seemed to stand still as Andy White hung out a boot and directed the ball tamely into the corner of the net which the keeper somehow transfixed. The roof came off the West and North Stands as Stags automatic promotion dream was re-ignited.

Cheltenham had surprisingly few opportunities to draw level and Pilkington was largely untroubled as Stags hung on to claim a vital win amid tremendous tension. The referee made few more extraordinary decisions including showing his lack of knowledge of the rules as one free-kick against Andy White was advanced 10 yards despite no show of dissent.  Overall Stags deserved the win for a dominant second half display with visitors showing absolutely nothing, after a first half which was just shaded by Cheltenham.  Two games left. If Stags can win them both, the likelihood is that promotion will be theirs.

Report by Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes

Man of the Match: Andy White

Pilkington 7 Made some good catches and looked solid. Not tested in the second half.
Hassell 8 Terrific game, always first to the ball, dangerous going forward, defended well in the second half.
Barrett 7 Difficult 1st half as Chelts put the defence under pressure, but outstanding in the second half. One fabulous last-ditch tackle to deny Naylor.
Reddington 6 Stupid play to give away free-kick that led to Chelt goal. Torrid time in 1st half. Showed great character to produce solid display in 2nd half.
Pemberton 5 Two terrible lapses where he was caught in possession in dangerous areas which nearly cost goals. Rightly substituted at half-time.
Sellars 7 Very good second half, looking dangerous. Intelligent use of the ball on the right wing. So unlucky not to score from free-kick.
Murray 7 Battled brilliantly especially towards the end when he was clearly injured but couldn't come off.
Disley.6 Seemed to lose 50:50 balls in the first half. One fantastic shot from an awkward position nearly brought a goal.
Corden 6 Not at his best, and gave the ball away too often. But at least he was careful in defence.
Awhite 8 Going from strength to strength. Made the 1st and scored the 2nd goal. He showed great strength, held the ball up superbly, and played well for the team.
Greenacre 7 Brave header for the goal, and so unlucky with a brilliant shot in the second half from nowhere. Won a lot of balls, and caused the defence trouble all game
Tankard (for Pemberton, 46) 7 Made a real difference to the defence. Looked very solid and never looked like giving the ball away.
Williamson (for Disley, 46) 6 Didn't get into the game quickly but improved late on and fought hard.
Kelly (for Greenacre, ) 6 Kept the momentum going after replacing the injured Greenacre. Involved in the second goal.
Subs Not Used: Bingham, Clarke.