Mansfield† 2 Hartlepool 3
Mansfield were rocked by the news at lunchtime that Lee Peacock had to miss the game due to an ankle injury. Michael Boulding came into the side in his place. The other change in the side was Craig Disley, who came into midfield for the injured David Kerr.
In an entertaining and end-to-end first half, Hartlepool took the lead after 15 minutes when a Hartlepool player was allowed too much time down the left hand side to cross into the box for Sam Shilton to nip in front of the static Blake and Williams to sweep the ball past Muggleton. It was a soft and sloppy goal to concede especially as it was Hartlepoolís first serious attack. Mansfield levelled on 20 minutes when Blake fed Williams who whipped in an excellent cross which Tony Lormor attacked with his head to power the ball into the net. It was a terrific goal and very similar to Lormorís goal against Shrewsbury in the previous home game, though this time he did not head the ball down into the ground. Within a minute, Mark Blake nearly put the Stags in front with a rasping drive from 20 yards. Stags midfield played reasonably well in the first half though the team looked a little lightweight up front, badly missing the injured Peacock. Stags best other chances fell to Boulding and Disley who both should have done better. Disley panicked when a slip from a defender let him through on goal and shot straight at the keeper when a pass to Boulding unmarked might have been a better option. Hartlepool looked dangerous on a few occasions and at half time it seemed the game could go either way.
Hartlepool took the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening 20 minutes of the second half. But not before Mansfield nearly took the lead† just after half time. Young Craig Disley went on a fantastic 50 yard run into the box, but shot into the side netting when perhaps he should have crossed for the unmarked Lormor. After 51 minutes, and following a Mansfield corner, Williams gave the ball away, Hartlepool broke to the far end, and Stephenson was allowed far too much time to shoot from 20 yards. But what happened next stunned the home fans. The shot bobbled towards the net and just as it seemed Carl Muggleton would make a routine save, the ball bounced up wickedly off the surface, hit the keeper on the shoulder and bobbled into the net. It was a shocking moment and terrible luck for the Stags keeper. However he will surely feel he should have had his body fully behind the ball. This moment knocked the stuffing out of the Stags and for a spell Hartlepool were first to every loose ball, and it was no surprise when following another break, Shilton surged into the box, leaving Williams stranded for pace. Muggleton was never going to get to the ball first and felled the Pool player for a clear penalty. Muggleton was surprisingly not booked, but could not keep out the penalty from Miller, which was perfectly placed in the corner of the net. For a while it seemed Hartlepool might even add to their lead.
With 12 minutes left, Stags pulled themselves back into the game with a goal out of the blue. Substitute Bobby Hassell picked up a ball 20 yards from goal and struck a wonderful left foot shot into the corner of the net for one of the goals of the season.† Suddenly Stags believed they could rescue a point and poured forward. Clarke headed over and then in injury time it seemed Stags must surely equalise. A long throw from Hassell was flicked towards goal by Lormor but the keeper managed to touch the ball onto the bar and as the ball came down, it was hacked off the line by a defender.
So Stags went down to a second successive defeat due to some poor defending (especially for all 3 goals conceded) and due to losing control of the game for a long spell in the second half. In addition the forward line badly missed the injured Peacock. Hartlepool did defend better than Stags on the day and were certainly one of the better teams Mansfield have faced this season. But overall the Stags probably just about deserved a point even though they werenít able to grab it.
Man of the Match: Darrell Clarke
Muggleton 5 Beaten by huge divot for second goal. Mis-timed dive for third goal to give away penalty, and lucky not to be booked or even sent off.
Asher 5 Not his best game. Replaced by Allardyce.
Richardson 6 Looked slightly dodgy on a poor day for the Stags defence.
Linighan 7 Another solid performance, and could not be faulted for the goals.
Williams 6 Good first half, and excellent cross for first Stags goal, but partially responsible for all 3 Hartlepool goals. Often second to the ball in the second half as Hartlepool took control.
Roscoe 6 Failed to make much of an impact on the game.
Disley 6 Started a game for the first time. Promising first half performance but then lost control too often in the second half. Replaced by Hassell.
Blake 6 Looked short of pace and fitness in the first half, though improved in second half. Surprisingly chosen as sponsorís man of the match.
Clarke 7 Pick of the midfield, starting to look back to his best. Looked good going forward.
Lormor 7 Held the ball up well but received little support from Boulding. Great goal in first half.
Boulding 5 Plenty of endeavour but rarely looked like causing danger. One poor shot in first half.
Hassell (for Disley) 7 Came on into midfield, and looked class in just 20 minutes on the pitch. Scored a sublime goal.
Allardyce (for Asher) 6 Little chance to impress. Brought on, according to Dearden, as a better option than Asher at set pieces.
Bacon (for Boulding) 6 Debut, coming on for the last 10 minutes. Worked hard and was full of enthusiasm.
Subs not used:
After the game, Mansfield were drawn away to Bristol City in the first round of the FA Cup. Within seconds of the names being drawn out, Lee Peacock, who had been subject of a rejected bid from Bristol City 48 hours earlier, was interviewed on Radio Nottingham. Peacock, was uncontrollable with laughter and garbled his words saying he didnít know what to make it, it was unbelievable and he didnít know what to say. After the Stags striker had recovered some composure, he said it would be a tough tie and he would have preferred a lower team as the players are on a good bonus to win matches in the FA Cup. On the subject of the offer from Bristol City, Peacock said he came in on Friday for training, Dearden pulled him into his office and told of the bid which had been rejected. Peacock added that it was flattering but that he is getting paid by Mansfield, that Dearden wants to keep him here, and that Peacock himself is enjoying the season and is happy to stay at Field Mill.
By a remarkable irony, Bristol City boss Tony Pulis was at the game at Field Mill today, sitting just a few rows behind me in the West Stand. If he came to watch Peacock, he would have been disappointed. As it was, he got a chance to watch his opponents in the first round of the FA Cup!