EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
CURLE: THE HARD WORK STARTS NOW
Evening Post, 05 May 2003
Stags boss Keith Curle was pleased his side avoided bottom place in Division Two with a 2-1 win over Northampton - but warned that the hard work starts now.
Mansfield slipped behind to a goal from Darryn Stamp inside the first minute but an Andy White header and a Liam Lawrence penalty gave Stags the points. Curle was pleased with the way his younger players performed, especially 16-year-old substitute Dean Hankey.
Curle said: "I thought it was a decent performance and we had a very young team out which played above their age.
"Plenty of people have been given the opportunity to show what they can do and I was particularly pleased with the young defenders and Dean Hankey, who has already shown the sort of attitude I like."
The manager reaffirmed his position that no one would know for two weeks who was staying at the club.
"I don't think now is really the time to talk about individual players because they all know I will not be saying anything about it until the third weekend in May and no one is going to know before then," added Curle.
"I have to sit down with the chairman and finalise things.
"I said to all the players this game was not the end of this season but the begining of the next and it was good to get a win."
STAGS PROVE THEIR POINT
Evening Post, 05 May 2003
With all the Division One issues sorted out yesterday, and only a few teams in the other two leagues with their fate still undecided at 3pm, it was a funny sort of final Saturday in the lower reaches of the Nationwide League.
Certainly, there was an absence of the sort of nail-biting at Field Mill we saw on the last Saturday of last season. But the faithful had a week to let an immediate return to Division Three sink in. And that's just those who hadn't given up several Saturdays before.
However, to say the match against Northampton didn't matter was missing the point.
Firstly, Stags didn't under any circumstances want to end up bottom of the league because, if relegation had not fairly reflected some of the performances they put in this season, finding themselves at the basement would have been an undeserved kick between the legs.
But it ran deeper than that. What the Stags were looking for was the sort of performance that would leave them departing their sporting Mecca for a summer break in the knowledge they could make a decent go of fighting their way back into the Second Division.
That's what they got, although conceding inside the first minute against a team who were relegated a week before they were is not perhaps the best tactic to adopt in the process of confidence installation.
What Darryn Stamp's opener and the following ten minutes that saw the Cobblers miss at least two clear-cut chances did demonstrate was that they could brush themselves down and get on with the job in hand, something that has been missing in a run-in that promised much but ended in utter disappointment.
They got the upper hand towards the end of the first half and took it into the second, where Northampton rarely managed to trouble Kevin Pilkington and Stags managed to gain their just desserts with a fine recovery.
It just made you wish there had been a bit more of that over the last weeks but, there you go, such is life in the bottom four.
Keith Curle said he wanted his players not to see the match as the end of the season but as the start of the next one and it's not a bad way of looking at things.
The damage to the season just completed was done a while ago but dwelling on what happened will not really help anyone.
Certainly, there appear to be a few things that the manager is keen to address but, if those are sorted in the weeks before the new challenge kicks off as he has promised, then they have got to be considered good value for a swift return.
There are players who have developed in the last year and dropping back down should provide them with the confidence to push on again.
Andy White, for example, has played in the robust manner that he hasn't managed to maintain consistently this season. But, on the form he demonstrated on Saturday, there is no reason why he shouldn't be an asset next term.
Whether Curle offers him a new contract or not will probably be the key consideration he has to make when dealing with his existing squad before adding players to it.
But the effect on individual personalities is minimal compared to the place on the whole and at least Stags fans have something to smile about from the final day, even if Chesterfield did manage to stay up.
Whoever comes and goes, the club remains and there was an undoubted need for a bit of good news after what has generally been a miserable nine months.
The fans need an excuse to come back next season and a comprehensive win over a team going down with them should warm the blood.
They should enter the new season in a positive frame of mind and, having had something to cheer, the punters should remain hopeful that it won't be another ten years before Division Two football is played at Field Mill.
And that's why it was important.
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