Peterborough 1 Stags 0
By Martin Shaw at London Road
This was a desperately disappointing defeat for Mansfield who had one day earlier dropped out of the play-off zone for the first time in a very long time and who needed at least a point to get back into the top seven. For much of the game Stags new look defence looked like securing a 0-0 draw but in the end Mansfield slipped to a 1-0 defeat against a poor Peterborough side who were heavily under-strength through U21 call-ups and suspensions with most notably Matthew Etherington and Simon Davies missing.
After conceding 7 goals at Cambridge one week earlier, Steve Parkin completely changed his central defence by dropping Peters, Schofield and Ryder. In their place came David Linighan, who has signed on contract until the end of the season, loan signing Adam Willis, and Craig Allardyce who was also making his debut after signing some months ago. Up front Iyesden Christie returned to the starting line-up from suspension in place of Tony Lormor, who we assume was injured. On the bench there were places for Karl Rose (on loan from Barnsley) and Bobby Hassell (after a long spell out through injury), plus Tony Ford. Surprisingly there was no place at all for Cyrille L’Helgoualch.
The first half was a surprisingly dull affair with neither side creating much up front. Stags new look central defence looked very solid with Linighan and Allardyce especially commanding in the air. However it was noticeable that Steve Harper seemed not to have learnt his lesson from Cambridge where he continually gave the ball away in dangerous positions. Once again he was caught out a couple of times in defence but this time got away with it. In midfield, Walker and Kerr got really stuck in and Kerr was again booked in the first half as he was at Cambridge and looked like getting sent off. Chances were few and far between; and Bowling was not troubled at all as Peterborough’s rookie number 9 blazed wide twice when well positioned. Peacock and Christie both had chances for Mansfield but 0-0 was the only possible score at half-time.
At the start of the second half , it was soon clear that neither side was happy to settle for a draw and the game quickly became very open. Chances were still at a premium but Mansfield looked comfortable until a cross from the right after 60 minutes found Posh danger man Giuliano Grazioli less than 2 yards out from goal and under pressure from a Stags’ defender he hammered the ball against the underside of the bar and out. It was clear that the ball had not crossed the line but Peterborough players and fans complained bitterly. That put the writing on the wall for the Stags and after 77 minutes a similar ball from the right hand side from Peterborough substitute Green found Farrell in the penalty area who made no mistake shooting home unchallenged. The way the game had gone, I immediately thought that was it, and sadly I was right. Stags had made a very surprising substitution earlier when Peacock was replaced by Rose. But the combination of Rose and Christie in truth never looked like causing the home defence any problems. Both Christie and Rose were full of pace but did not look an effective partnership. In fact the final 13 minutes following the goal showed a feeble response by the Stags aside from a couple of attacks in the last 2 minutes but it was hard to see where a goal was going to come from.
So the Stags went down to another defeat. But the manner of the defeat was quite different. At Cambridge, Stags had been beaten by a truly outstanding performance from the home side, and although defending appallingly, Stags had looked very positive going forward. The defeat at Peterborough was in many ways harder to stomach because there was no disguising the fact that Peterborough put out a very poor side on the day, missing most of their best players. But Peterborough deserved their win. While it is true that the Stags central defence looked solid, there seemed to be a new policy of just hoofing the ball upfield and hoping Christie would get on the end of it. Christie in fact did not have a good game though he was unlucky with one powerful strike in the second half that whistled just past the post. Peacock played reasonably well alongside him but in my opinion, Parkin made a tactical error taking him off as Rose and Christie never looked an effective partnership. The midfield battled hard in the first half but in the second half, and especially towards the end, seemed to be second to all of the loose balls.
After such an inept attacking display where Stags never really looked like scoring, I was left fizzing with frustration that we had slipped to a defeat against poor opposition. Whilst it is not time to panic with 9 games to go, Stags must be much more positive in the upcoming games at home to Brighton and away to Torquay, two sides who are in poor runs of form. As I suggested after the Cambridge game, there is no doubt that Stags could barely have asked for an easier run-in but failure to punish poor opposition may well cost the Stags a position in the top 7 which seemed to have been theirs for so long.
An impressive following of about 400-500 Stags fans cheered the team throughout, but what was more surprising was that there were 5000 home fans there to support such an ordinary looking team. If only the wonderful entertainment consistently produced by the Stags at home could attract so many fans.
Man of the match: David Linighan.
Bowling 6 Virtually no saves to make.
Williams 7 Reasonably solid and positive going forward.
Harper 5 Again dodgy at the back. Posh’s shot against the bar and goal both came from right wing crosses.
Willis 6 Solid debut.
Allardyce 7 Impressive and especially good in the air.
Linighan 7 Very solid.
Walker 6 Decent first half.
Kerr 6 Decent first half but faded towards the end.
Tallon 6 Still underperforming compared to early season form.
Peacock 7 Fair performance. Very surprisingly substituted.
Christie 6 Not one of his better games and should have been substituted.
Rose (for Peacock) Looked quick but not the right partner for Christie.
Ford (for Walker) No time to get into the game.
Hassell (not used).