Lawrence 9

Tuesday 22nd January 2002 - Kick-off 7.45pm

Nationwide League Division 3

Attendance:  3,106

Stags produced a powerful and dominant display to claim all 3 points against a very poor Exeter side at St James Park tonight. The only goal came early on when Wayne Corden's excellent cross from the left wing was headed home at the far post by the leaping Liam Lawrence for his second goal of the season. Stags had enough possession and chances to have sewed the game up early, but in the end Exeter were easily kept at bay by a tight Stags defence.  Stags were unchanged from the side that had beaten Hartlepool at Field Mill, with both Hassell and Tankard recovering from knocks. Robinson and Disley were still kept out by injury. Exeter included former Stag Andy Roscoe, but there was a boost for the Stags with keeper Arjan Van Heusden, Exeter hero at Field Mill just before Christmas, being kept out by injury.

There was a following of about 100 from Mansfield, with about 60 getting soaked on the terrace and without a good view of the game from pitch level behind the goal, and another 40, including us, in the rickety old stand along the side, surrounded by several 100 squealing kids who had been let in free, creating a rather surreal atmosphere. But at least we had a good view.

Stags started excellently with Corden seeing a lot of the ball early on and creating havoc down the left as well as cutting in from the wing. This was soon rewarded as Corden's excellent left wing cross was met high in the air by a leaping Liam Lawrence at the far post who simply guided the ball into the top right hand corner of the net. Stags were in total control early on, though Exeter had occasional moments of danger. These mostly stemmed from Andy Roscoe's corners, one of which was badly punched by Pilkington where Stags were lucky to escape as the ball pin-balled around the area. Exeter just had 3 other first half chances as Pilkington saved low from a shot from outside the area, Roscoe drove a free-kick straight at Pilkington who tipped it over the bar, and Hassell headed off the line from Exeter's best move of the game, instigated by their best player Christian Roberts.

Stags had numerous chances and were so close to extending their lead when Williamson broke through from midfield and virtually passed the ball onto the right hand post with the keeper watching in admiration after half an hour. It seemed a goal all the way. Stags other best chances fell to Piper, who shot just over from 18 yards, and Corden, who had 2 trademark efforts cutting in from the left.

Half time 0-1

At half time, Stags had played really well, and seemed in total control of the game.  The second half started as the first half finished with the Stags still in total control, and the passing game simply a joy to watch. Often the Stags were so much on top, it seemed too easy, but the second goal wouldn't come and as the game wore on, there was a little anxiety that the home side could squeak an undeserved equaliser. Early on a Corden cross reached Greenacre, who was ruled offside as he netted the ball. It was very tight and from our position looked as though it may have been onside. Stags had many chances to finish the game off, but the final touch was missing.  Lawrence had the best chance when he was completely unmarked 12 yards out but clipped his half volley well wide as the ball came to him quite quickly. Piper tormented the Exeter defenders down the right wing time after time but the Stags just couldn't get on the end of his crosses.  Corden again had a couple of good chances when cutting in from the left, and Greenacre shot just over the left angle. Generally the Stags were queuing up to score as it looked like men against boys, with Exeter unable to get hold of the ball.

However as time went on, Exeter seemed to sense the chance of an undeserved equaliser but were well kept at bay by the solid back line. Indeed there really weren't any late chances for the home side though Pilkington had to be alert to collect a couple of through balls. Exeter's frustration boiled over in injury time when Barrett was fouled with a leading elbow, and Roscoe got involved with Lawrence off the ball, but Williamson intervened to stop Lawrence getting booked. Roscoe and another Exeter player were booked in the incident. After 6 minutes of injury time, the final whistle went and Stags were delighted to have claimed the win.

This was a highly competent display from the Stags, worthy of a team in the promotion places. The defence and goalkeeper were rarely troubled, Williamson was outstanding in the midfield, Corden and Piper were dangerous on the wings, and on another day, the Stags could have had a hatful. As it was, one was enough, and results elsewhere put Stags in a very healthy league position. Once again the local reporters from the opposition were praising the Stags as the best team they've seen this season. Another clean sheet shows that the defence is settling into a nice rhythm even without captain Les Robinson, who may now find it difficult to win his place back.  Piper was terrific on the right, with Lawrence playing a little deeper than usual.  Stags now have a week to rest before 3 tough looking home games in 7 days, starting with in-form Kidderminster next Tuesday.

Man of the Match:  Lee Williamson

Report by Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes

Pilkington 7 One poor punch early on, but after that excellent handling in greasy conditions. Very few shots to save. Did well coming out of his box to collect loose balls late on
Hassell  7 Good defending and some good penetrating forward runs.
Tankard 6 Steady though caught in possession occasionally. Possibly carrying an injury, and then replaced by Jervis.
Barrett 7 Very strong in the air. Forming an excellent partnership with Reddington.
Reddington 7 Dealt well with the height of Steve Flack. Very solid.
Lawrence 7 Great header for the goal. Carried out his defensive duties well, and linked well with Piper on the right wing. Played behind Piper, in the midfield.
Corden 7 Outstanding first half creating lots of danger as he done so often before. Not as effective in the second half.
Pemberton 6 Solid in midfield. Often won the ball well.
Williamson 9 A class act, the best player on the pitch, and led the team well. So unlucky not to score when his slide-rule shot came back off the post
Greenacre 6 Quiet evening, with one chance.
Piper  8 Excellent performance on the right wing, beating his marker time after time and creating chances
Bradley 5 (for Greenacre, 73)  Showed poor control when a cool head was needed just to keep the ball, late on. Looked out of touch.
Jervis 6 (for Tankard, 84) Looked steady.
Subs Not Used: Bingham, Asher, White.