Mansfield 0, Southend 0
by Martin Shaw at Field Mill
Mansfield failed to break down a resolute ten man Southend in what turned out to be surely the most frustrating game of the season. Stags had a number of chances in the first half, during which Southend defender Booty was sent off for a foul on Lormor, but in a terribly disappointing second half, barely managed to create a clear cut chance.
Stags were unchanged from the side that got a valuable point at Torquay. Southend included former Stags centre half, and now balding, Simon Coleman in their central defence. Prior to the game there was a minute`s silence that was perfectly respected for Stags supporter and historian Jack Retter and former Stags midfielder Gordon Hodgson, both of who died in the last week.
The game was played in sunny conditions throughout, but in a strong swirling wind that was mostly in Mansfield`s favour in the first half, but became even stronger in the second half in Southend`s favour. Mansfield had much the better of a quiet first half and managed to create a number of decent chances for themselves. These included a cracking volley from about 20 yards by central defender Craig Allardyce which was tipped over the bar by the Southend keeper Capleton, a free shot from the edge of the box by David Kerr that skimmed inches wide of the right hand post and a header from a corner which went just past the post (couldn`t see who had the header). But the best chance may have been in the 28th minute when Tony Lormor was clean through on goal with only the keeper to beat a yard outside the box when he was hauled down from behind by Martyn Booty. It seems to me that Lormor was likely to score, and a free kick from outside the box would have been scant justice, but the referee deemed that Booty was the last defender and despite many protests from the visitors, Booty was sent off. It was surprising to me that in the post match interviews, Stags manager Parkin felt the sending off may have been harsh, when to me it seemed the only possible decision. Peacock took the free kick but it was wasted, as one from slightly further out by him had been earlier. Stags other chance in the first half was a shot by Peacock from open play that was superbly tipped round the post by the Southend keeper. It was mostly one way traffic, though Mansfield had two scares. On 34 minutes a cross from the left hand side was met at the far post by Southend`s David Morley whose crisp volley found the back of the net but very luckily for the Stags, it was immediately ruled out as offside. However I was reasonably well in line and it seemed to me that Morley was not offside. The other scare was when Southend had a two on two situation but when it seemed they must score, one of the attackers managed to play it behind the legs of the other and Stags managed to play it to safety. At half time Stags were booed off which seemed to me very unfair but perhaps some supporters had a premonition of what was about to happen in the second half.
Half time 0-0
I was very confident at half time that Mansfield would win since they were so much on top during the first half. But probably I shouldn`t have been because Stags recent record playing against ten man opposition has been very poor. As it turned out, Southend`s dogged determination to get every man behind the ball in the second half made for one of the most tedious but at the same time desperately frustrating halves of football that I have seen recently. It has to be said that Southend did their job effectively and that Mansfield were hopelessly short of ideas. In fact, during the second half, it is hard to recall a single serious chance for the Stags. The introduction of Christie and Clarke for Lormor and Walker made little difference, though Clarke was somewhat better than the other midfield players. One might have expected Mansfield to up the tempo as the game drew to a conclusion, but they were unable to do so and the referee blew his whistle for full time slightly before I thought we had reached the full 90 minutes.
It seemed to me that where Stags went wrong was in consistently hoofing the ball forward from the back instead of trying to play the passing game that has basically taken them to their current position. I warned about this in my report of the Peterborough game when the entire central defence made their debuts. So although the central defence have indeed looked solid, they have in my opinion impeded the overall balance of the team. Perhaps the main culprits of the day were the midfield where Kerr, Walker and Tallon were totally unable to create anything.
So two points slipped away against one of the relegation contenders and Stags were once again fortunate that other results went their way with all the teams immediately beneath them also failing to win. Tuesday`s match against Halifax at Field Mill now takes on monumental proportions. A win will see the Stags back on track, but a draw or defeat could spell disaster.
After the match, Steve Parkin said he thought Mansfield made it easy for Southend to defend, after they had a man sent off, by continually playing high balls into the box instead of trying to get the ball down and pass it. He said too many Stags players had off-days - this was clearly true. Steve Harper commented that Stags weren`t sharp enough and did not pass the ball well enough. This was an understatement and undoubtedly he was a major culprit on this front.
It is very difficult to pick a man of the match for Stags. David Linighan was the sponsor`s man of the match but I felt that his distribution and that of the other defenders was partially responsible for the poor performance. Darrell Clarke did reasonably well coming on as substitute and gets my vote for man of the match despite the fact that he was not on the field for very long. Overall man of the match was Simon Coleman who was outstanding in Southend`s defence.
Bowling 6 Absolutely nothing to do, though was beaten for the offside goal
Williams 5 Poor distribution - virtually every cross was headed away by the defence
Harper 5 Poor passing, and gave the ball away in defence on occasions
Willis 6 Barely required
Allardyce 6 Solid but poor distribution. Unlucky with one good shot
Linighan 6 Solid though messed about with the ball in defence, and poor distribution
Kerr 5 Reasonable first half with tough tackling, but very poor second half
Walker 5 Poor game, no invention
Lormor 6 Seemed set to score before the sending off - unlucky to be substituted
Peacock 5 Quiet game, might have been better off in midfield
Tallon 5 Poor game, second to many balls in the second half
Christie 5 Poor impression, not his usual exciting self
Clarke 7 Looked more positive than other midfielders
Schofield Not used