Mansfield 3 Cardiff 0
by Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Swansea`s win on Thursday night had meant that Stags could no longer reach the play-offs. Today`s opponents Cardiff were already promoted and could not win the title. You might have thought the game would be a damp squib with both teams playing as though nothing was at stake. Not a bit of it. It proved to be a really exciting game with chances at both ends and plenty of passion from both teams. In an interview afterwards, Cardiff full back Andy Legg admitted that despite being promoted, the Cardiff players were terribly disappointed by this defeat at Field Mill and that they had indeed been `up for the game.` Meanwhile the Stags players` celebrations following each goal clearly showed how much victory meant to them. Overall this was a good performance from the Stags to end the season in rousing style.
Mansfield made two changes from the team defeated at Shrewsbury: Schofield came in for Clarke in midfield, while Christie came in for Lormor in attack.
The first half was very even as neither side was able to dominate for long spells. The best chance of the half fell to Mark Peters who picked up a rebound from a corner and cracked a 10 yard shot against the angle of bar and post, the ball coming straight back into play but not falling for a Stags player. Cardiff also hit the bar with a header from a cross, though most fans failed to see that the offside flag was already raised. Stags defence generally looked comfortable though Linighan`s lack of pace nearly caught him out on a couple of occasions. On another occasion where Linighan was chasing back with a Cardiff striker, he just managed to put the Cardiff striker off and the shot over Adamson was just wide. Stags midfield of Schofield, Kerr and Williams were competent and didn`t allow themselves to be overrun. Cardiff wing back Andy Legg, who Stags fans may remember for his 86th minute winner for Swansea against us at Vetch Field some years ago, was a threat throughout the first half down the left wing.
During the second half, Mansfield began to get a grip on the game and remarkably Cardiff failed to create a single chance of note in the whole half. Stags brought on Tony Lormor for the tiring Tony Ford (Ford getting a terrific reception from the home fans) and then Clarke for Kerr and Walker for Schofield. Peacock moved back into midfield, while Williams moved to right wing-back. Despite dominating the whole half, we had to wait until 71 minutes for the first goal. Christie managed to put Lormor through in some space. Lormor moved forward and struck a lovely shot low in the left hand corner of the net from 20 yards to give the keeper no chance. It reminded me of Lormor`s goal against Southport way back in November. Stags were visibly raised and I soon commented to my brother that it looked like they could score at least once more. And so it proved. Within 5 minutes, Christie was through on goal and was brought down by the keeper in a similar incident to that in the game against Shrewsbury at home in December. Peacock blasted the penalty down the middle. Stags were now really on fire and soon afterwards we were treated to the goal of the season as Clarke picked up the ball 40 yards out, strode a few yards forward and to his left and from a good 30 to 35 yards smacked the ball left footed into the very top right hand corner. The Cardiff keeper didn`t even bother to move and just watched the ball sail into the net. From Clarke`s celebrations, you would have thought he had scored the winner at Wembley. Stags continued to go forward but couldn`t score again. At the final whistle all the players made a dash for the tunnel which meant the team failed to get the standing ovation they deserved on the day.
So overall this was a good team performance from the Stags. No-one was outstanding but all played fairly well. Adamson in goal looked very assured as he did at Shrewsbury. It is to be hoped he can be back at Field Mill at the start of next season to cover for Ian Bowling. The defence generally coped well and restricted Cardiff to a few chances in the first half and none in the second. In midfield, Kerr and Schofield played well in what could possibly be their last games for the Stags. Williams also played well in midfield before moving to right wing-back. Up front, Christie looked sharper than of late - he was just wide with one good shot in the first half, then set up the first goal for Lormor, and was fouled for the penalty. Peacock had a decent game as usual, and Lormor on as substitute scored a cracking goal, as did the second substitute Clarke. So in summary I couldn’t pick out a man of the match and give it to the whole team. The match sponsors also gave man of the match to `the whole team with special emphasis on the attack`.
So Stags finished one place beneath the play-off zone and 4 points behind Swansea. It`s small consolation that we finished above rivals Halifax, Peterborough and Plymouth.
Ian Bowling was presented with one player of the season award at half time which drew rich applause from the Stags fans. He was dressed in a white tee-shirt and looked basically ok, with his arm bandaged of course. Prior to the game, Lee Peacock received another player of the year award.
The game was played throughout with an unpleasant atmosphere in the West Stand where about 300 Cardiff fans, who had managed to get tickets intended for home fans, had been congregated together at the North Stand end of the West Stand. A decision had clearly been taken that ticket seat numbering would be abandoned in an attempt to keep the Cardiff fans together. There was much baiting between the sets of fans which my brother and dad and I found ourselves in the middle of. So at half time when a large number of Stags fans moved from the South Stand end to the North stand end to get nearer the Cardiff fans, we made our way in the opposite direction, away from the nasty atmosphere. We did not see any actual violence - I am not sure if there was any. There was a large police presence outside the ground and fans without tickets were not allowed into Quarry Lane.
Lormor (for Ford) 7
Clarke (for Kerr) 7
Walker (for Schofield) 6