Rushden & Diamonds 3 Mansfield Town 1

Hassell 31 og, Burgess 34, Partridge 77
Bradley 5
Att 4,937

Saturday 27th October 2001 - kick off 3pm

Nationwide League Division 3

Martin Shaw at Nene Park

In front of a large following of around 1000 Stags fans, Mansfield crashed to a 3-1 defeat at The Diamonds this afternoon, despite dominating the opening 30 minutes and taking an early lead.

It was of course Mansfield’s first visit to Nene Park for a competitive match and it was my first visit too. Whilst the facilities like club shop, bars and toilets, etc, were excellent, I was surprised at how small the ground was. Indeed, three sides of the ground had a distinctly non-league feel.

Stags were rocked by the news that captain Les Robinson and leading scorer Chris Greenacre were both out injured. This gave an opportunity for Adam Barrett to start his first game of the season, returning from injury in central defence, whilst on-loan striker Jason White returned to the side to partner Bradley up-front.

The game started with Mansfield in complete control and, after Lawrence had missed a good chance, Bradley gave the Stags the lead on 5 minutes. From a throw-in by Hassell, Jason White’s flick was parried by the Diamonds keeper Turley into the path of Bradley who couldn’t miss from 5 yards. Shortly afterwards, terrible Stags defending from a Rushden corner allowed former Peterborough midfielder Hanlon a free header from 5 yards but incredibly his header bounced into the ground and up and over the crossbar. This was Rushden’s only worthwhile effort in the opening half hour as Stags neat passing saw them in total control.

But on 31 minutes, a needless own goal changed the course of the game. A routine cross into the box was going nowhere but with no Rushden striker within 10 yards, Pilkington, who appeared to have an easy opportunity to collect the ball, hesitated and Bobby Hassell panicked, heading the ball into the net. It was a numbing moment for Stags players and fans, and resulted from poor communication between the keeper and right back. Within another 3 minutes, Stags were behind. A cross from Paul Hall was headed goalwards by Darby, but Barrett’s header only cleared the ball to the edge of the box from where Andy Burgess shot low through a ruck of players into the bottom corner of the net.

At half time it was hard to believe the Stags were behind; it certainly felt like they had bossed the half.

Half time 2-1.

Stags started the second half well and had numerous chances but were unable to break through. The best chances fell for Hassell, who had a fine shot, Corden, who shot wide on a couple of occasions, and Bradley, who should have done better when he shot straight at the keeper after a fine ball from Lawrence. Disley had a good chance when he seemed to reach a long ball before keeper Turley, but couldn’t direct his shot goalwards and the ball went out for a goal-kick. Stags had a couple of appeals for penalties, most notably when Disley went down under a challenge, but the referee waved play on. After the game, Stags assistant boss Stuart Watkiss complained that it seemed a clear penalty. At the other end, Stags were continuing to defend abysmally with Reddington particularly poor and Barrett seemingly giving away countless free kicks.

On 77 minutes, Diamonds proved it was their lucky day. A cross from the right wing was flicked on by Scott Partridge against the inside of the post and it rolled along the line into Pilkington’s grateful grasp. To the disbelief of players from both sides, the linesman signalled that the ball had crossed the line. After the game, Diamonds’ boss Brian Talbot admitted that his striker had had a bit of luck and that the linesman was on his side today. This sealed the victory and despite the introduction of on-loan striker Richard Harris, Stags were unable to break down the Diamonds defence.

After the game, a disappointed Stuart Watkiss admitted his side must defend much better and refused to blame the referee despite commenting that both referee and linesmen were shocking. Normally I don’t comment on referees but today, Mr. P. Rejer might as well have had a white and blue shirt on. I have rarely seen a referee that seemed so biaised to the home side. Meanwhile Brian Talbot admitted "Obviously we are very pleased that we have won but I think we were a little bit lucky at times."

Overall, this display was a cause for concern for Stags fans. Pilkington continued to look far too hesitant on crosses and surely the time is right for young Michael Bingham to be given a game on Tuesday night. Reddington had a poor game, while Barrett gave away far too many free kicks and generally looked rusty. Nevertheless the goal attempts count of 12/8 in Stags’ favour does indicate the balance of play and if Stags can sort the defending and goalkeeping out, there is still much to look forward to this season.

Man of the Match: Lee Williamson

Pilkington 5 Too hesitant again

Hassell 6 Poor communication with Pilkington for the own goal but otherwise did okay

Barrett 5 Gave away far too many free kicks and generally looked rusty

Reddington 5 Poor performance, consistently beaten on crosses and poor distribution

Pemberton 6 Generally did okay though allowed Paul Hall to get in too many crosses

Lawrence 5 Looked ineffective today

Williamson 7 Fairly solid in midfield

Disley 7 Positive going forward

Corden 6 Managed to get in a few shots but not on target today

J White 6 Showed good skill on a couple of occasions and made a nuisance of himself

Bradley 6 Scored his first goal of the season but should have done better with a good chance in the second half

Subs:

Tankard (for Lawrence, 77 mins) 6 Barely involved

Harris (for Corden, 77 mins) 6 A couple of dangerous long throws but not given enough time to be involved

Subs Not Used: Bingham, Asher, A White.

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood (Setchell 45), Peters, Butterworth, Partridge (Folan 86), Darby, Burgess (Brady 88), Hall, Hanlon, Sambrook, Hunter.  Subs not used: Carey, Pennock.

Referee:  Mr P Rejer