Chester City 5 Mansfield Town 0

Saturday 25th March 2000

Heggs 17, Beckett 21, Hemmings 29, Eve 59, 69.

Att 1,953

 

by Martin Shaw at The Deva Stadium

 

What an extraordinary collapse by a Mansfield side cock-a-hoop from winning their last match away at the league leaders Rotherham, live on television. This performance at Chester was on a par with that at Brighton on the opening day of the season when Stags lost 6-0, and was, in short, another debacle. Chester had only scored more than 2 in one league game all season, and sent 5 goals into the Mansfield net without reply. After the game, Chester manager Ian Atkins said it could have been 10, and he was right.

 

Mansfield made 3 changes from the side that had beaten Rotherham 8 days earlier as Richardson, Kerr and Andy Evans came in for Fortune, Sisson and Boulding. Andy Evans was making his debut on loan. Boulding was suffering from illness. Bobby Mimms was on the bench for the first time. Chester included former Stags loanee Andy Porter in midfield and Hemmings, recently of Ilkeston Town.

 

Stags started with a 4-4-2 formation with Asher at right-back, Andrews at left-back, and Linighan and Richardson in central defence. It was Richardson`s first game returning from injury.

 

After a quiet start, Stags found themselves under great threat when former Swansea and Northampton striker Carl Heggs was left unmarked in the 6 yard box, but his shot was well saved by Thompson. Incredibly within 2 minutes, Heggs was left alone again in the 6 yard box, and this time he couldn`t miss, to put the home side 1-0 in front.

 

Within 5 minutes, Mansfield were 2-0 down. The pacy Heggs ran from the half-way line unchallenged, before crossing for the unmarked Luke Beckett whose shot from 8 yards easily beat Thompson and nestled in the bottom left hand corner of the net. Stags were being completely run ragged by Chester`s fast breaks, with the lack of pace of the 2 central defenders hopelessly exposed.

 

It was no surprise when Chester scored again after 29 minutes. Left wing-back Hemmings, who had been involved in some less than friendly banter with some Stags fans in the stand after needless time-wasting, picked up a loose ball with no Stags defender in sight 25 yards from goal. He ran forward unchallenged, and hammered a beautiful left foot shot with the outside of his boot just inside the right hand corner of the net giving Thompson no chance, once again.

 

Before half-time, Stags were very lucky when Heggs shot just past the post after another jaunt into the Stags box unchallenged. It was an incredibly inept defensive display from Mansfield. Even the usually reliable Asher was guilty of some horrendous defending, and his head dropped so badly after the early goals that twice he let simple balls to him run into touch. In an attempt to stem the flow of Chester attacks, Andrews and Linighan swapped places, but it made no difference.

 

Stags did have chances of their own. Greenacre, who ran tirelessly, had one shot past the upright, but the best 2 chances fell to new boy Andy Evans. The tall striker was wide with one header, and from another cross, he fired a shot over the bar from close range.

 

Half time 0-3

 

At half-time it seemed there was no way back for Stags, not just because of the scoreline but because of the way they were playing. And so it proved as the second half continued in much the same style as the first. Chester added a fourth goal on the hour as more atrocious defending from Mansfield was punished. Beckett ran unchallenged at the Stags defence and played a ball to the unmarked Angus Eve on the penalty spot. He easily beat Thompson with his shot. Soon afterwards, Asher was put out of his misery and replaced by Roscoe, and Hassell replaced Andrews. But it didn`t seem to make any difference.

 

Ten minutes later it was 5-0. More astonishingly bad marking left Beckett with a free header from 8 yards. His header was towards  the post but Eve, unmarked one yard out, got down virtually to his knees to head it in with no defender in sniffing distance.

 

By now it was just a matter of how many Chester would score. Other chances then went begging for the home side. Fortunately Chester removed their potent strikers Beckett and Heggs with 10 minutes still remaining and the game fizzled out with no further alarms for the bedraggled Mansfield defence.

 

In fact the game ended with most Stags fans having long since departed, and it seemed only Chris Greenacre came over to thank those fans that had stayed.

 

This was a truly disastrous performance from the Stags. Against a team with pacy forwards such as Chester, it is a mistake in my opinion to have both central defenders in Linighan and Richardson who are both clearly lacking in pace. Indeed had Bromby or Fortune been playing today, I think the result would have been very different. But they are no longer available, and perhaps Bobby Hassell will be given a place in the starting line-up against Rochdale on Tuesday. In midfield, Blake was effectively on his own, as Kerr and Williams contributed nothing at all to the game, and Clarke was a totally different player to the one who was so outstanding in front of the TV cameras. Up front Greenacre kept running all game, and new boy Evans tried hard but looked ineffective. Overall the loss of Fortune, Sisson and Boulding seemed to knock too much out of the side that played at Rotherham. The only defence I can find for the Stags was that the pitch was very bumpy, which did not help the Stags passing game. Having said that, they didn`t really try to play the passing game, instead reverting to humping the ball up front, particularly guilty being Linighan and Asher.

 

For Chester, Heggs and Beckett were quite outstanding, and it was ironic that Andy Porter, who was generally so ineffective in Stags midfield earlier in the season, at last looked a commanding midfield player.

 

Stags are indeed lucky that it is only 3 points dropped and not more. With crucial home games coming up in the next 7 days against Rochdale and Barnet at Field Mill, it is not too late to make amends for this debacle, but the team will have to show a lot more spirit and above all, tighter defending, if 6 important points are to be gained.

 

Man of the Match: Chris Greenacre

 

Thompson 7 Could not be blamed for any of the goals, and actually made some good saves

Asher 4 Played at right back. Head dropped dramatically after the early goals and guilty of some very poor passing

Linighan 5 Static in defence and very poor distribution

Richardson 5 Also static in defence

Andrews 5 Started at left back, then moved to centre of defence. Very poor.

Williams 6 Contributed nothing to the midfield

Blake 7 Tried hard on his own to get control of the midfield

Kerr 5 Contributed nothing to the midfield

Clarke 5 So good one week (against Rotherham), so poor the next. Never looked like creating anything going forward.

Greenacre 7 Kept going throughout the game, tigerish in tackle, but given no support whatsoever

Evans 6 Won a few headers, and had a couple of chances, but generally quiet

 

Subs:

Roscoe (for Asher, 61 mins) 6

Hassell (for Andrews, 62 mins) 6

Bassinder (for Richardson, 72 mins) 6

Not used: Mimms, Cowling.