No hiding place as pressure mounts
LAST Saturday's home embarrassment by Peterborough leaves Stags with a 'must-win' situation when fellow strugglers Port Vale visit Field Mill this Saturday (3pm).
And the players know they will need a 100 per cent improvement on what happened last Saturday when Posh sprang a shock 5-1 success at the Mill.
Player-manager Keith Curle pulled no punches as he declared: “One thing is certain - there is no hiding place for anyone.
“If we had only got beaten 1-0 things could have been masked. Players could have said well we only lost 1-0 and hid behind it.
“But we were turned over 5-1 and that left me with disappointment, disbelief and anger.
“Each and everyone at this football club now has to stand up and be counted on Saturday.”
Stags have just six games to save their Second Division future and the club are calling on those fans who walked out well before the end of Saturday to come back and get behind them this weekend.
“Saturday happened and we are glad it's over and out the way now. It wasn't our day and we can't afford to have another one those.
“Yes, a lot of our fans went home early and I think a lot of our players would have joined them when we went 4-1 behind if they could have done.
“I felt like walking out as well but I didn't have the option. The fans were very frustrated and disappointed. They couldn't believe what they were seeing.
“But I know they won't just abandon us. They will be back this Saturday and it's up to us to prove it was a one-off.”
Saturday's increased long ball tactics by Mansfield did not go down well with many home fans.
But Curle countered: “You can't gift a team, who has come to defend, a 3-1 lead as it suddenly becomes hard to break them down when they get eight men behind the ball with two left up front chasing everything.
“Peterborough didn't need to come out and play so we could have just played passing football all half and lost 3-1.
“We needed to have a go at them and you can't do that by playing 'tippy-tappy' football.
“I have watched a video of the game and thought long and hard about the preparation of the players physically and mentally last week and I decided everything had been done right. Maybe they just froze on the day.
“But it was those same lads who have got us into the present position of a chance to stay up.
“It was the same group of players who ground out results against Swindon and Huddersfield and did the club proud in defeat at Cardiff with their commitment and style of play.
This football club was going nowhere when I came here. They were bottom of the table playing 'tippy-tappy' five-a-side car park football and going nowhere.
“I am not going to just abandon ship over one result and I don't think the supporters are either.
“What happened on Saturday had nothing to do with formations, style of play or preparation.
“You can train all week. But if individuals fail to do their jobs on a Saturday afternoon and allow free headers like we did there is no legislating for it.
“Their third goal saw us give the ball away and then they had a bit of luck with a deflection.
“Having to chase the game we were committing men foward when they scored two late goals on the break and we even had 10 men when they got their fifth with Rhys Day off injured and all the substitutes used.”
Curle added: “If fans want excuses I can give them excuses. Adam Eaton needed an injection in an injury before the game and was at Kings Mill Hospital at 2pm.
“Rhys Day was away all week with the Welsh Under-21s so he couldn't prepare with us for one of our biggest games of the season and even played the night before and had to travel back.
“There were some very young players out there who were feeling the pressure. But I don't do excuses and we just have to put it behind us.
“We have six games left and it's still in our hands. There are still nine clubs in it.
“The players will feel the pressure as I will. But if everyone does their own job properly as an individual then they will function as a team.
“On Saturday certain individuals did not do their jobs and using the style of play is just an excuse.”
Vale have only lost once in five games - they drew 1-1 with promotion hopefuls Oldham last Saturday - and Curle added: “I think Vale would be happy to come here and get a point.
“It will be up to us to break them down - and we won't do that with car park 'tippy-tappy' football.”
Curle confirmed he would be back in the side to face Vale.
Rhys Day and Junior Mendes are both expected to be fit for Saturday's showdown.
Day was stretchered off near the end of the Peterborough game after taking a kick on a nerve ending in the knee. But that has settled won and he is expected back in training today (Wednesday).
Mendes came off with a slight calf strain but nothing serious.
It was a miserable weekend for Day as, captaining the Welsh Under-21s against Azerbaijan in Barry on Friday night, he was sent off after 29 minutes for an altercation with Fgan Shahbazov. The Welsh went on to still win 1-0.
The Welsh went on to still win 1-0.
Congratulations to 13-year-old Rachel Wilson, winner of our Chad Sport competition to be a Mansfield Town mascot for last weekend's home game with Peterborough United.
Don't miss your final chance to win a Stags mascot package with Chad Sport for the home clash with Barnsley on Saturday, 19th April.
The competition will be in your Chad on Wednesday, 9th April.
Issue 13 of Stags fanzine DejaVu will be on Sale on Saturday for the Port Vale game. It includes an interview with Colin Larkin and is priced £1.
Mansfield Town Football in the Community have a full programme of events lined-up for youngsters over the Easter holidays.
There will be two-day courses at both Queen Elizabeth School (14th/15th April) and Ravenshead Leisure Centre (16th/17th April).
Cost at both is £12 non-members and £13 members with brothers or sisters able to attend for half-price.
On 22nd April there will be the chance to take part in a World Cup Day competition at Field Mill (10am-3pm), costing £6 per child.
And on 23rd April there will be a coach trip to Merseyside to visit Premiership grounds Anfield and Goodison Park. Cost is £22 per child and the coach leaves Field Mill at 8am.
To book or for more details call Mark Hemingray on 07977 428147
No ins and outs at Field Mill
Transfer deadline day came and went without any movement in or out at Field Mill on Thursday.
Stags boss Keith Curle had three loans left to use up but wasn't about to bring players in for the sake of it.
He did have an experienced striker at the top of his shopping list but had no joy from the names he chased.
I made enquiries about certain players but I was told some just wanted to stay put, one had a testimonial coming up and wanted to stay around the club, and another wanted to stay and fight for a new contract, he said.
I have had agents on with players available but none were better than what we have already. Then there were other players who we would clearly not be able to afford to bring here, even on loan. I am more than happy to go with what I have got.
Stags left shellshocked as five-goal Posh romp home
Mansfield Town 1 Peterborough United 5
THE belief that Mansfield Town have got what it takes to avoid relegation had become a steadily growing bandwagon over the previous three games.
But the wheels came off that bandwagon in dramatic style on Saturday as fellow relegation candidates Peterborough ended a five-game run without victory in some style at shellshocked Field Mill.
There was a train of thought that Stags would be in the mood to give Posh a hiding while others felt United would crowd their defence and a frustrating afternoon of one-way traffic for Mansfield may ensue.
However, no one had read the particular script that actually became reality – and few could believe what they were seeing.
The bandwagon of home believers had reached just under 5,000 in the 5,653 crowd and were in fine voice at the start as requested by player-manager Keith Curle in the week.
But somehow the team went missing in action and many of those fans were on the road home well before Posh hit their fifth before a half-empty West Stand.
The side that has created a wealth of chances in almost every home game this season could barely find a way into the last third of the field for the whole 90 minutes.
And, at the other end, the defence that Curle had so admirably sealed up from its earlier leaking incarnation this season suddenly crumbled to gift the visitors a comfy 3-1 half-time lead and leave a mountain to climb.
It's easy with hindsight to say Curle, free from suspension, should have returned to centre half where Adam Eaton, a left back by trade, had been filling in. But Eaton had done a great job there before Saturday and Posh were hardly expected to cause anywhere near as many problems as Cardiff did last weekend.
Was Rhys Day 100 per cent after playing for the Welsh U21s the night before? Well he battled well and was one of the better players on the day.
Maybe Liam Lawrence, possibly Stags' most consistent performer this season, should have started the game. But Junior Mendes had scored and looked lively in the previous home match with Luton.
Whatever your views, Curle has picked the side since 7th December and come up with some cracking results along the way.
Maybe the biggest post-match critisism of the side in the pubs on Saturday was the over-use of the long ball game. Things have certainly been more direct since Curle took over, but Stags have generally still found their moments to play their football in the right areas of the park.
On Saturday it was desperate at times as ball after ball was lumped forwards which the Posh defence happily swallowed up to start one of their potent counter-attacks with the pace of Leon McKenzie and Andy Clarke causing umpteen problems.
So why the sudden change? Was it then a case of players suffering stage fright and treating the ball like the proverbial hot potato or did Stags see it as the only way through the stuborn Posh defence?
Whichever, I cannot remember a game this season when Stags looked so ineffective as an attacking force.
And memories of the days when they gifted free headers for fun earlier this season came flooding back with both of United's first two goals. It's hard to believe either would have been scored if Curle had been on the field.
After allowing Simon Rea to head home Matthew Gills' eighth minute corner from six yards without challenge, Stags were fortunate to get back in the game through some hawk-eyed refereeing from Alan Kaye on 16 minutes.
He decided goal hero Rea had handled though the visitors furiously denied it. Up stepped Wayne Corden to send Mark Tyler the wrong way for his third penalty success in four games.
And that, in truth, was the sum of Stags' real attempts on goal.
Corden did float a free kick from a tight angle onto the roof of the net on 19 minutes. In the second half Corden's long cross was met by a looping Disley header which Tyler decided to turn over at the last minute as it threatened to dip under the bar on 64 minutes.
And Lawrence got a toe onto the ball in acrobatic style 20 minutes later though it was never a real test for Tyler. All were nothing more than half-chances.
Peterborough hardly murdered Mansfield for 90 minutes at the other end. But, given the odd sight of goal, their finishing was deadly.
McKenzie restored their lead on 37 minutes when he powered in his free header from six yards after Gill crossed when his corner found its way back out to him.
And Mansfield should have known it wasn't going to be their day a minute from the break when Posh added a freak third after sloppy play gave the ball away.
Ian Hendon reached the by-line and crossed the ball as Ben Doane challenged. Somehow the ball clipped Doane's leg, spun wickedly goalwards over a bemused Keith Welch and just under the far angle.
So bizarre and so late in the half, that goal could have been nothing but deflating.
Curle brought himself and Lawrence on at the break for Craig Mitchell and Bobby Hassell and it was hoped the half-time talk could work a minor miracle.
But nothing improved and Andy Fotiadis should have made it 4-1 on 80 minutes on yet another breakaway but pulled his finish wide of the far post.
The fourth goal did come just two minutes later as a Posh counter-attack down the left saw Clarke rewarded for his lively afternoon with a crisp, low left foot finish.
That signalled a mass exodus of the home fans who could bear to watch no more.
With four minutes left Stags went down to 10 men. Andy White had joined the fray on 65 minutes so all substitutes had been used when Rhys Day stayed down after sliding into a challenge and was stretchered off, ending a miserable weekend for him after being sent off for Wales U21s the previous night.
It was 5-1 just before the end as again Peterborough soaked up more pressure and hit back swiftly with David Farrell racing down the left and pulling the ball low into the path of fellow substitute Fotiados for a simple tap-in.
The big questions now - was this result a freak one-off when 11 players decided to have an off day together? And have Stags lost the fragile trust of their floating supporters at such a crucial time of the season.
Both questions will be answered this Saturday when Port Vale visit in a game that cannot be dressed up as anything other than a must-win match.
In life it is always hard to forgive. But anyone with Mansfield Town at heart needs to be at Field Mill this coming Saturday for what has suddenly become the club's biggest and most important game of the season.
There is time for recriminations and reflections - or celebrations - come May 5th. Right now, while there is a realistic chance of staying up, your football club still needs you!
MANSFIELD TOWN: Welch, Christie, Mitchell (Lawrence 45mins), Eaton, Corden, Day, Curtis, Hassell (Curle 45mins), Doane, Disley, Mendes (A. White 65mins). Subs not used: Pilkington, Williamson.
PETERBOROUGH: Tyler, Gill, Arber, Rea, Scott, Clarke (Farrell 83mins), Hendon, McKenzie (Fotiadis 66mins), Jellyman, Shields (Boucaud 85mins), Burton. Subs not used: Lee, Scully.
REFEREE: Alan Kaye of Wakefield.
SCORERS:Stags - Corden (pen) 16mins. Peterborough - Rea 8mins, McKenzie 37mins, Hendon 44mins, Clarke 82mins, Fotiados 90mins.
IN THE BOOK: Stags - A. White 89mins (foul). Peterborough - Arber 16mins (ungentlemanly conduct), Shields 73mins (foul).
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Rhys Day.
Latest | April 2003