Mansfield Town 4 Darlington 2
Kelly 2, 76, Corden 21 pen, Greenacre 32. Clark 23 pen, Sheeran 74
Att 5,107 (313 from Darlington)
Saturday 16th February 2002 - Kick-off 3pm
Nationwide League Division 3
Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Mansfield put in a professional performance to demolish a truly diabolical Darlington defence at Field Mill this afternoon. Darlington were missing numerous regular defenders through injury and suspension, and it showed, as the Stags, with Kelly, Corden, Greenacre and Williamson in great form, simply tore them to shreds. However the Stags did not look so comfortable at the back and indeed often looked hesitant, giving the ball away in dangerous positions too often, with Corden, Lawrence and Robinson guilty.
Stags made two changes from the side that put four past Lincoln with Les Robinson returning from injury to replace Bobby Hassell who pulled out with a late calf injury (though he should be fit for Shrewsbury), and Chris Greenacre replacing Andy White.
Stags got off to a perfect start with a goal in the second minute. Wayne Corden surged forward and slipped a lovely ball through to Lee Williamson on the edge of the box. Just as Williamson was about move the ball to his right into a shooting position, a defender slid the ball away, but only as far as David Kelly, unmarked 8 yards from goal on the left hand side. Kelly
showed all his experience to simply the roll the ball into the net, and wheel away to celebrate his first goal for the Stags. Stags then had a goal disallowed when Reddington headed home a corner, but the whistle had already gone - quite what for, it wasn't clear.
Stags continued their great start, and it was no surprise when they went further ahead after 21 minutes. Martin Pemberton got clear inside the box on the right from a great Williamson pass, and from a tight angle, shot right footed which the young Darlington keeper Finch stopped with his bottom and sort of sat on the ball. But as the ball squirmed away, poacher David Kelly nipped in to tip the ball away (although he was going away from goal) and his foot was clipped from the side. Video evidence showed it was a clear penalty despite the protests from the away side. Wayne Corden stepped forward to take the kick after a short discussion with Chris Greenacre, and coolly slotted the penalty into the right hand side of the net, sending the keeper the wrong way.
But within 2 minutes, Darlington had a penalty of their own. Barry Conlan played in Mellanby, who slipped the ball past Pilkington in the Stags box, but as the Stags keeper tried to play the ball away with his foot, he only succeeded in bringing down the Darlington player for another clear penalty. Ian Clark, but some distance Darlington's best player on the day, confidently smacked home the penalty. For 10 minutes the Stags were rattled, and were lucky on one occasion. Corden tried to take one touch too many, and let in Wainright, who surged forward, and elected to square the ball to the unmarked Mellanby. Pilkington had already dived to the ground, and amazingly Mellanby side-footed his shot straight into the keeper's grateful arms. Watkiss went absolutely mad with Corden from the dugout.
It took a moment of Chris Greenacre brilliance to settle the nerves. Adam Barrett played a ball from the back which should have been headed away by the Darlington defender Adam reed, but he completely missed, leaving Greenacre a free run on goal. Greenacre charged forward, and from 18 yards, curled a perfect chip over the keeper's shoulder into the top right hand corner of the net. It was a sublime finish, very reminiscent of a Michael Owen goal in the Champions League.
Stags were now rampant with Corden twisting and turning and Darlo's makeshift defence looking bamboozled. Chances came and went, but at the back Stags were looking less assured and Corden (again), Lawrence and Robinson, all stupidly gave the ball away unnecessarily in dangerous positions.
Half time 3-1
At half-time Stags had been dominant, but couldn't feel comfortable, as defensively they looked nervy. The game entered a quieter spell at the start of the second half. Stags were generally on top.
Stags best chance fell to Kelly who raced through for a one-on-one with the keeper. Kelly side-footed his shot towards the corner of the net, but it was too close to the keeper who had narrowed the angle well, and the ball deflected wide. Amazingly the ref and linesman awarded a goal-kick - an extraordinary decision, though generally the handling of the game was good. Just 2 minutes later, on 74 minutes, the miss looked very costly as Darlington pulled a goal back. After good play by Ian Clark, Darlington substitute Sheeron beat Pilkington at his near post, the shot actually hitting the inside of the post and nestling in the far corner of the net.
Just as at Lincoln, the Stags reacted immediately and within 2 minutes extended the lead. Corden's great corner was met by an unmarked David Kelly at the near post, who headed towards the far post. The ball was heading in to the net, and just after it had crossed the line, it was chested on by Lee Williamson standing unmarked on the goal-line. According to Neil Richardson after the game, there were some arguments going on in the dressing room as to who was claiming the goal. It was just as well that the ball was already in before Williamson touched it, as he was standing 2 yards offside.
Soon afterwards a great snap-shot by Kelly nearly brought him his hat-trick, but instead brought a great save from the young keeper. That was more or less the end of the action though Stags had late chances to increase the scoreline, notably Liam Lawrence whose shot from 25 yards was rather scuffed straight at the keeper.
So a great result for the Stags, and basically a fine performance going forward against a poor defence, but the Stags own defence could do better. 14 games left, and if Stags can play like this in home games against Halifax, Oxford, Bristol Rovers and Carlisle, they should be able to pick up 4 of the 7 further wins that Stuart Watkiss thinks are needed this season.
Man of the Match: David Kelly.
Pilkington 6 Little to do. Claimed crosses well. Just a fraction late getting the ball in giving away the penalty. Lucky not to be booked.
Robinson 6 Steady at right back. Just had a tendency to take one touch too many at the back and give the ball away unnecessarily.
Reddington 6 Fairly solid.
Barrett 7 One fabulous tackle saved a goal, otherwise a decent game.
Tankard 7 Looked good at left back.
Lawrence 5 Disappointing game.
Williamson 8 Tremendous in midfield, as we have come to expect.
Pemberton 7 Played well in midfield, and looked solid when moved to left back.
Corden 8 Fabulous going forward and would have got a 9 if he hadn't made 2 defensive howlers.
Greenacre 7 Very hardworking, and a magnificent goal reminiscent of Michael Owen.
Kelly 8 Great all round performance scoring two, earning a penalty, and going close with two other efforts. Also held the ball up very well.
Disley (for Tankard, 64 mins) 6 Great to see him on for 30 minutes, though he hardly got into the game
Subs Not Used: Bingham, Jervis, AWhite, Bradley.