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Archived News from April 2003

14th April 2003 12:56

BY IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 14 April 2003

Mansfield are likely to be without Adam Eaton for the rest of their relegation fight, in which they now need results from all four of their remaining games to stand a realistic chance of staying in Division Two.

The left-back, signed from Preston after a successful loan spell, had not trained all week before Saturday's 5-2 defeat against Bristol City after suffering with a hernia problem and did not appear for the second half. Assistant manager John Gannon said they have taken a chance on his fitness and the gamble had not come off.

Scott Murray scored a hat-trick for the Robins to keep their automatic promotion hopes alive but the result left the Stags six points adrift of safety with only Northampton keeping them off the bottom.

Gannon said: "Adam did well to carry on as long as he did but it was obvious there was a problem. He just couldn't do any more."

Gannon said the players owed it to the supporters to keep on fighting.

They currently sit six points behind arch-rivals Chesterfield, who lost 3-0 at home to Cardiff and Barnsley, who they face at Field Mill on Saturday.

They then have trips to Blackpool and Tranmere before a final day home game against Northampton, who remain bottom after a 3-2 defeat at Port Vale.

Gannon said: "If there is a chance then we have to carry on. The only thing we can do is go for as many points as we can. There are still games to be played and we have to do the maximum we can for everyone connected with the club."
BY IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 14 April 2003

Bristol City 5 v 2 Mansfield Town

Had I witnessed this match in October, the conclusions drawn would have been remarkably different.

I could have drawn consolation that the Stags had put in a battling performance and, at times, taken the game to their more illustrious opponents.

I might have even been left to form the opinion that it boded well for the remainder of the campaign.

But now that the clocks have been put forward a couple of weeks and desperate times have well and truly set in, no Stags fan needs to be told that it is all a bit too late for such sentiments.

In many ways, their trip to Ashton Gate characterised their season as a whole.

They looked to penetrate and, for the first time in a few weeks, looked dangerous on the occasions they pushed into their opponents' territory.

To use one of their manager's catchphrases, they took the battle to their high-flying adversaries and "gave them a game."

But the other habits that have been their undoing on so many occasions this season were again all too evident. Careless defending came into it again and so did a little bit of naivete, which may prove to be their eventual undoing in the next couple of weeks.

There can be little argument that they lost to an outfit with better footballers in it, at least four of which would be in my Division Two team of the season.

They had no answer to the pace of Scott Murray or the power of Lee Peacock, who should have also had claims for a match ball.

But the win that would have given them and their followers a bit of confidence for the rest of the run-in was missing and now they have taken just one point from the last five games and the goals conceded column is edging towards 90.

I'm afraid that is relegation form in anyone's language.

But they have four games to save themselves and they have little option but to go for it, bearing in mind that their next two games against Barnsley and Blackpool are against sides they beat right at the start of Curle's reign in December.

There is little choice and, in all honesty, the fact no one expects them to stay up should generate a bit of stirring spirit in the search for professional pride.

This was a game from which they could come home with their heads held high, but the difference was summed up in the space of three second-half minutes.

Craig Disley had a great chance and screwed his shot wide, but when the Stags defence was left static at a quick free-kick to Murray, you knew there was no way the Scot would miss.

The endeavour was there but, unfortunately, the quality was not the same and summed up the difficulties Mansfield have had in adjusting to the higher level of football.

At the moment, the quest appears as difficult as Indiana Jones in that pit of snakes.

But, while there are points still up for grabs and the deficit is still less than the tally available, they just have to keep on going.

They will not face the same calibre of opposition for the remainder of the campaign and have beaten three of the four teams they have to face.

The other is keeping them off the bottom of the table.

But relying on such statistics is not going to be enough and they cannot be convinced they are down until their fate is certain.

The picture, admittedly, looks far from rosy for a team that has won just three away games all season.

But, in many respects, the pressure is off because no one believes they can do it.

They might if they get a win over Barnsley on Saturday and other results, finally, go in their favour.

They didn't play badly but in the end there was something lacking.

They were good, but not good enough, and only time will tell if that is going to be the epitaph of their first season in Division Two for a decade.


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