Valois 11, Crowe 22, Nicholls 30 pen, Howard 35, 50   Murray 12, Sellars 42, Greenacre 90
Monday 1st April 2002 - Nationwide League Division 3
Attendance:  8, 231 
Stags were predictably beaten at promoted Luton Town this afternoon. The home crowd were in party mood but Stags could and should have been party poopers in a game of fantastic entertainment. Stags gave away a stupid goal when Corden conceded a needless penalty, and Luton also scored a lucky deflected free-kick. Consider also Greenacre's shot against the inside of the post and it's reasonable to say that Stags deserved a point.

Stuart Watkiss sprang a couple of surprises in the team selection, dropping Pemberton (who informed us from the seats that he was not injured) and Greenacre. Kelly was also dropped, as Sellars started his first game, Jamie Clarke made his debut at left back, and Andy White started at centre forward. It was the first league meeting between the clubs at Kenilworth Road since 1977 when both clubs were in the old second division.

Stags started very positively and it was immediately noticeable that they were trying to bring Wayne Corden into the game on the left wing, as Jamie Clarke fed him several balls. But on 11 minutes Luton scored with their first attack as Frenchman Valois was found unmarked on the left side of the penalty area, and rifled his shot low under Pilkington just inside the far post. Within a minute, Stags were level. Andy White bundled the ball into the box and as he went down in a heap with the Luton keeper, Adam Murray was on hand to shoot into an empty net. The Stags bench jumped for joy and the terrific entertainment was well and truly underway.

The game continued end to end but on 22 minutes Luton were back in front in fortunate circumstances. They were awarded a free kick 22 yards out. The kick from Valois was on target but appeared to be struck towards Pilkington. Then suddenly it took a wicked deflection off Dean Crowe and whistled into the far corner of the net. It was tough luck on Stags, but 8 minutes later they pushed the self-destruct button. Corden had an easy opportunity to clear by his corner flag, but inside dribbled the ball into his box, lost control and then pulled the Luton player Boyce back as he got in front of Corden. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot and Stags keeper Pilkington showed his frustration by hurling the ball down into Corden's midriff. Indeed Corden was lucky to be only booked as he could have been sent off. Nicholls, Luton's player of the season, sent Pilkington the wrong away and scored just inside the post. It was a sickening blow for the Stags. Corden's head was clearly down and he looked red-faced. He was soon substituted as Greenacre was brought on.

But within 5 minutes it was 4-1 as a Matthew Taylor cross was met by Howard with a brave flicked header at the near post as he lost his marker. But Stags heads didn't drop and within minutes, Scott Sellars scored a beautiful goal with a chip over the keeper from 20 yards. At half time it was hard to believe Stags were 4-2 down as the home side had scored with their only 4 attempts on goal.

Half time 4-2

We thought that Stags were playing sufficiently well that if they could get an early goal, the game was not beyond them. There was an early goal, but it was in the wrong net. Valois was given too much room on the right wing and he crossed for Howard to score at the far post.  Again Stags heads didn't drop and they played reasonably for long spells in the second half. Luton rarely caused more danger, but at the other end Greenacre twice caused trouble for the home defence. First he brilliantly wriggled his way down the left wing and pulled a great cross back which was met by a scamble of players two yards from goal. It seemed that Disley got the final touch as the ball whistle two inches past the post. Then Greenacre had a on-one-one with the Luton keeper. Greenacre expertly took the ball around the keeper but his shot was deflected by the covering defender and hit the inside of the post, before coming back into play.  Stags continued to play well going forward, but it clearly was not going to be their day. Then in the final minute, Greenacre did get the goal he deserved. He dispossessed Taylor in the penalty area and toe-poked his shot underneath the Luton keeper into the net. It was his first goal for 9 games.

At the end of the game, the Stags fans gave the team a rousing reception which seemed well appreciated by the players. This had been a much more positive showing than recently and with better defending and a bit of luck should have seen the Stags claim a point. If only Stags had played like this at Swansea, Orient and Torquay, they could well have claimed more points and they would have been less likely to have been punished for poor defending there.

Man of the Match:  Bobby Hassell

Report by Martin Shaw
Pilkington 6 Made two good saves near the end, and could not be blamed for any of the goals.
Hassell 8 Didn't put a foot wrong, defended well and tried to drive the team forward.
Clarke 6 Decent debut, though gave the ball away a bit too often. At least he tried to get Corden into the game early on.
Robinson 5 Looked edgy. Central defence generally looked poor until Reddington came on.
Barrett 5 Put under a lot of pressure and didn't look assured. Had difficulty marking Luton man of the match Howard
Corden 4 Started well for first 10 minutes but gave away a ridiculous penalty at a crucial time. Almost immediately substituted.
Disley 6 Took some rough treatment from Luton midfield. Looked like a marked man. Not back to his best.
Murray 7 Industrious and got forward well late on.
Williamson 5 Completely anonymous for 60 minutes. Finished the game a little better.
Sellars 7 Tremendous goal, and looked good on left wing after Corden went off.
White 6 No cutting edge, appeared to be in good scoring opportunity on a couple of occasions but didn't even get in a shot.
Greenacre 7 (for Corden 35) Very unlucky when he hit the post, would have gone in but for a deflection. Great cross from a difficult angle which Disley flicked inches wide in a goalmouth scramble. Scored in injury time with a clinical finish.
Reddington 6 (for Robinson 53) Strengthened the defence when came on at 5-2. The horse had bolted and he should have started the game.
Subs Not Used: Bingham, Kelly, Bradley.