KEEGAN PRAISES STAGS
KEEGAN: "Mansfield've done a good job, they played some good football at times."
Blue afternoon for Blue Moon fans!
THEY started the day singing their trademark anthem Blue Moon . . . but Saturday turned into a Blue Afternoon for the Premiership Manchester City's fans.
And after Mansfield Town's fine 2-1 victory over their star-studded visitors, City manager Kevin Keegan was full of praise for the Stags.
"They've done a good job. Mansfield asked us different questions, ones we don't get asked every week in the Premiership, but they played some good football at times.
"We didn't come here to showboat, we came for a proper game and we got one.
"It was competitive and that's not a problem for me.
"I don't like losing, but today wasn't really about the result. It was about fitness and getting sharp. Mansfield are about 10 days ahead of us in pre-season training and it showed.
"Perhaps the game came a little too early for us, but the club promised a pre-season friendly here since we signed Nicky Weaver and it has been put off before.
"It was a different test for us and a good workout . . . apart from the result it was worthwhile coming here.
"Mansfield have made some money from the game and I'm delighted for them. Smaller clubs need all the help they can get."
Super Stags dump City slickers!
THE international superstars strutted into town, but left with their tails between their legs after Mansfield Town claimed another notable Premiership pre-season scalp with a 2-1 win over Manchester City.
Robbie Fowler, Nicolas Anelka, debutant David Seaman, Eyal Berkovic, Paulo Wanchope and Kevin Keegan were brushed aside as magnificent Mansfield thoroughly deserved a famous victory — just two years after a similiar win over Sunderland provided the spark for a promotion campaign.
This time, too, the morale-boosting win offered hope for the forthcoming season.
The Stags retained possession for long periods, comfortably soaked up pressure at times, never stopped running and refused to be over-awed by their star-studded opponents.
Liam Lawrence's creative role in the centre of midfield will have given player manager Keith Curle another midfield selection headache, while 17-year-old Alex John-Baptiste again showed that he has a fine future ahead of him at the Mill.
The cynics would argue that City, after fielding eight or nine first team regulars in their starting line-up, were weakened by 11 half-time changes.
But in truth the replacements still featured several stars — including Berkovic, Wanchope, Shaun Goater and Jon Macken — and for the first 15 minutes of the second half they looked sharper and more hungry for victory than their more illustrious colleagues.
The Stags also made several second half substitutions as Curle gave almost his whole squad the chance to take part in a memorable victory.
There were times when the Stags rode their luck, but two vital goalline clearances by John-Baptiste and the improving Jamie Clarke, plus several fine point-blank saves from Kevin Pilkington, were nothing more than the Third Division side deserved for their endeavour against a top flight side.
Three times in the first half hour John-Baptiste thwarted French international Anelka, twice with good blocks and then with a goalline clearance after Pilkington had stopped the striker's first shot with his legs.
John-Baptiste then left the action with a knock to his wrist, but his replacement — trialist Dave Artell from Rotherham — did his cause no harm as he slotted into the back four.
The national press, Sky TV and the 1,800 City fans had come to see England keeper David Seaman's debut, but he almost marked it with a clanger.
First he chased out of his area to deny Iyseden Christie, then crowded out Colin Larkin as he threatened to shoot into an empty net before Shaun Wright-Phillips came to the rescue with a block to deny Tom Curtis.
Then in the 25th minute the keeper was embarrassed when he spilled Lee Williamson's tame, curling drive, only for Junior Mendes to spare the keeper's blushes by striking the rebound straight into Seaman's arms.
But just seven minutes later the Stags did take the lead, and no keeper in the world could have stopped them.
After impressive work by Bobby Hassell down the right, the ball eventually looped over the area to the unmarked Larkin who lashed a fierce, first-time volley into the roof of the net.
Pilkington preserved the lead with excellent saves, holding Ali Bernarbia's low cross-shot, again denying Anelka and then saving at the feet of Fowler as the striker tried to walk his way through the defence.
But in the 39th minute the former Liverpool star did create a City equaliser, falling somewhat easily under a challenge from Hassell to allow Anelka to level from the penalty spot.
Two minutes later Fowler again should have scored, but this time his close range finish lacked power a common fault with City's finishing all afternoon — and Pilkington saved on the line.
City's wholesale half-time changes created several problems for the Stags as Berkovic linked well with Wanchope, the Costa Rican international squandering three chances in five minutes in his first game for 17 months.
Then a clever lobbed pass from the Israeli released Chris Shuker, but his thumping drive from acute angle was headed off the line by the back-tracking Clarke.
In the 56th minute the Stags regained the lead.Justice was done when the referee this time awarded the home side a penalty after Shuker handled Artell's powerful 20 yard drive, and half-time substitute Wayne Corden coolly rolled in the spot kick.
When Wanchope and then Macken wasted further City chances, the Stags took control and perhaps deserved to have won by a greater margin.
For the final half hour they controlled the match, keeping the ball for long periods and creating a couple of chances.
George Wiekens, lucky to escape giving away another penalty for a blatant handball, slipped to allow Craig Mitchell a run on goal, but his shot was excellently saved by Kevin Ellegard. Then Corden's cheeky lob forced the keeper into a save.
Latest | July 2003