McConnell (pen) 52

Friday 21st December 2001 - Kick-off 7.45pm

Nationwide League Division 3

Attendance:  3, 958

Stags were beaten 1-0 by Exeter City at Field Mill tonight to register successive defeats for the first time this season, after the 3-2 reverse at Oxford United. It was a desperately disappointing result for the Stags who had the opportunity to return to second place.  Earlier in the day, Stags had turned down an improved (though undisclosed) bid from Wigan Athletic for Chris Greenacre. On the field, the Stags were unchanged. Exeter included former Stags player Andy Roscoe in the left side of midfield, along with keeper Arjan Van Heusden who will be remembered by Stags fans for his inspirational performance at Field Mill last season.  Despite their defeat at non-league Dagenham just 48 hours earlier, Exeter entered the game with 6 clean sheets in the previous 8 games and just one defeat in that time.

The opening half was extraordinary for its total domination by Mansfield.  Rarely can a half have been so one-sided. Indeed Exeter only made it into the Stags box on 3 occasions that I could remember. The first was a corner that nearly crept in as Pilkington looked unconvincing. The second was another corner seconds later and the third was a Christian Roberts run to the bye-line on 42 minutes, when Barrett sensibly avoided a rash challenge and pushed the striker wide so that when he shot it was far too tight an angle and ended up in the side netting. At the other end Stags had so many chances to take the lead. Greenacre could easily had a hat-trick, with his best chance falling from a free header which sailed agonisingly wide. From an earlier corner to the near post, Greenacre picked up the ball, turned and his shot was blocked, with the resultant chanced from Lawrence also blocked. There were other chances for Lawrence, who sent a great free kick inches wide, Hassell who had a couple of shots, Williamson with a fine shot from the edge of the box, and Corden who shot well from 18 yards. Time after time, Van Heusden pulled great saves out of the bag and looked almost unbeatable.

Half time 0-0

Somehow the Stags really didn't get going in the second half and couldn't break down a resolute Exeter defence that never tired despite their cup game just 2 days earlier. The only goal of the game came on 52 minutes.  After Disley had given the ball away, the lively Christian Roberts broke into the Stags box and showed great pace to fly past Les Robinson but stupidly the Stags defender bundled him over and the referee pointed to the spot after a glance at his assistant. If Robinson had shown the same restraint as Barrett in the first half Stags would probably have escaped.  McConnell placed an accurate spot kick right in the corner to give Pilkington no chance. Stags rarely looked like conjuring an equaliser, and easily the best chance fell to Disley after Lawrence had rounded the keeper and provided an almost open net, but unfortunately for Disley a defender threw himself in front of the Stags midfielder and deflected the shot just over the bar. One other good chance came when a ball through the middle seemed to find Piper as favourite to chip the ball over Van Heusden as the keeper charged out of his box. But the keeper somehow smothered with his body fully 10 yards outside his area and the chance was gone. It summed up a poor evening for Matt Piper.

In a surprising substitution, Corden was withdrawn, with Bradley coming on, and Lawrence moved the left wing, where he looked particularly ineffective.  But Bradley never got into the game and the Stags never really came very close to an equaliser. So a second defeat within a week leaves the Stags needing to bounce back away to Lincoln on Boxing Day. It was a bad start to the festive season. Somehow it seems that all the talk of the Leicester game, combined with the incessant rumours over Chris Greenacre, are causing the Stags to lose some focus. But in the end it was the failure to convert
a whole host of first half chances against an inspirational goalkeeper that cost the Stags dear.

Man of the Match: Adam Barrett

Report by Martin Shaw

Pilkington 6 Very little to do, and given no chance with the penalty.
7 Particularly good first half going forward, but quieter in the second.
6 Very rash challenge to give away the penalty, after a confident opening half.
8 Excellent opening half to prevent any Exeter pressure.
6 Replaced at half with an injury.
6 Good first half on right, looked out of position on left after the substitution.
6 Totally anonymous in the second half after a reasonable opening half.
5 Looked totally out of sorts and also gave the ball away in the lead up to the only goal.
7 Good first half down the left, but quieter in the second..
6 Looked lively in the first half and could have had a hat-trick, but couldn't get into the game in the second half.
5 Very disappointing, too often went for the wing instead of heading for goal.
Pemberton (for Tankard, 46 mins)
6 Did ok as a replacement for Tankard.
Bradley (for Corden, 74 mins)
6 Never got into the game.
Subs Not Used: Bingham, Reddington, Asher.