EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
STAGS YOUNGSTERS OUTSHINE THE STARS
Evening Post, 21 July 2003
The autograph hunters lay in wait before a mad frenzy erupted to catch the signature of Kevin Keegan and his collection of international stars.
And for many of the 6,655 fans crammed into Field Mill, the reason they had paid the admission fee was to see David Seaman make his City debut and the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler in action. But everybody got more than they could bargain for as the Stags youngsters stole the show with a 2-1 victory to give the fans something to cheer following last season's relegation.
Anticipation was growing around the ground right up until kick-off, especially when the team sheet revealed an array of international talent in the starting line- up.
Despite it being just a friendly, the caliber on show made many contemplate that the Stags players could be torn apart if the visitors turned on the magic. What would that do for the confidence following last year's relegation?
The players had been told by their boss Keith Curle to keep the ball and be brave and the former Manchester City player made a point of his players taking the game to the visiting superstars.
And it worked. Although at times the visitors were simply going through the motions, the home side's punishing pre-season schedule seemed to have paid off as they looked sharp, fit and, most of all, full of confidence.
And by the end of 90 minutes, it was the boys in amber and blue who came out feeling like superstars after a great exhibition of passing football put one over Kevin Keegan's men.
The City boss fielded his strongest side in the first half, including Seaman, who made a far from confident start before being beat by a thunderous Colin Larkin volley into the top corner to demolish any hopes of keeping a clean sheet on his debut.
Admittedly, the ponytailed keeper did not stand a chance with the shot from 12-yards out, but earlier he caused a couple of moments of alarm, once when spilling Liam Lawrence's soft shot into the feet of Larkin.
Manchester City had their chances, through both Anelka and Fowler, but Kevin Pilkington was up to the challenge between the posts and Baptiste cleared an effort off the line during the first half before Anelka equalised from the spot after Fowler was adjudged to have been fouled by Hassell.
But in the second half the tables were turned after the referee pointed to the spot after Shuker handled Rhys Day's stinging drive from the edge of the box. It was then down to substitute Wayne Corden, who made no mistake from 12-yards out on 58 minutes.
If anything, the 2-1 victory will give a massive confidence boost to the Mansfield players. It lifted the crowd and Curle couldn't help but smile at the final whistle.
He admitted it was going to be difficult next season, but he was trying to educate the players to play a passing game.
"They have done as I asked today and kept the ball and tried to play football," said Curle. "I told them if you give the ball away cheaply to this side then you will need to put a bell inside it, because you will not be able to see it for the rest of the afternoon.
"They have listened and were a credit to themselves. They are looking very fit and today was a test, which they came through.
"It's going to a long, tough season but if they keep trying to play football we should do well. Football is a beautiful game and I want the players to enjoy playing it the right way and develop that bit of arrogance and swagger that players need. That's what it's all about."
Kevin Keegan also heaped praise on the Stags. He said: "I thought they played very well. As a team, they worked very well for each other and passed it well, especially for a Third Division side.
"And when they did knock it long they had the energy and fitness to go and chase the ball. They have played a good side here and got a result."
The former England manager added: "If they get the ball down and play like that at home and show the same determination and energy to win their home games, you do not have to get much on your travels to earn promotion."
STAGS: Pilkington, Hassell, Baptiste, Day, Clarke, Lawrence, Curtis, Williamson, Mendes, Christie, Larkin. Subs: White (J), Corden, Beardsley, Disley, MacKenzie, Attrell.
MAN CITY: (First half)
Former Nottingham Forest defender Tony Vaughan was expected to sign for Mansfield Town today.
Vaughan did not play against Manchester City but is expected sign for the Stags subject to passing a medical. The exact length of the contract will be ironed out today.
The 27-year-old is one three defenders on trial at the club, along with New Zealand captain Chris Zoricich and former Rotherham centre-half Dave Attrell.
Vaughan, 27, went to Field Mill on loan last season, making four appearances. That was followed by a spell with Motherwell.
Latest | July 2003