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Archived News from August 2003

11th August 2003 14:00

BY STEVIE RODEN, Evening Post, 11 August 2003

Mansfield Town boss Keith Curle said he has no concerns about his side's quest for promotion - despite defeat on the opening day of the season.

The Stags manager said if it was not for an outstanding display by Kidderminster keeper Stuart Brock, it could have been a runaway victory for his side.

He said: "There was no surprise their keeper got the man-of-the-match because he saved them.

"We gave a cracking account of ourselves and we created many chances. I would have been worried had we created nothing.

"On another day we would go away from home, make two chances and score them both and win." The Mansfield manager also praised striker Colin Larkin and defended substituting him on the half-hour mark, a move met with boos from travelling fans.

He said: "It was pleasing to see Colin posing a threat and creating chances but he missed a lot of last season and we have to keep him fit because when he is, he is a superb asset."

Assistant manager John Gannon added: "He was suffering in the heat and felt some discomfort in the hamstring. We don't want him missing large parts of the season again."

Evening Post, 11 August 2003

Kidderminster Harriers 2 v 1 Mansfield Town

Walking across the railway bridge behind Kidderminster's stadium, an old steam train was just pulling away below me. At the time I gave it a passing glance, but giving it further thought after the match it told the story of this opening game.

It took a while for it to get started, but once it did, it began to pump out the steam and turned the heads of spectators on their way to Saturday's match. It looked in prestige condition and the further it moved forward, the more momentum it built up until it had passed into the distance.

That was Mansfield on this opening game of the season. The first ten minutes were a little slack and Kidderminster were the real threat. Whether it was opening day nerves, I don't know, but it took a little while for things to start to click. But once they did, the Stags looked dangerous.

For those who were not there, it may seem strange to be impressed by a team who have just slipped to defeat on the opening day. But even the most loyal Harriers fan would have to admit that their side was lucky to steal all three points.

Keith Curle's men got better has the game went on, never once wilting in the ferocious heat. And by the end of the first half alone they could have had three or four.

In he second, the same happened again. At times the finishing was not the best but the difference between defeat and victory for the Stags was Stuart Brock in the Kidderminster goal.

And in Bo Henriksen up front, they had a quality goalscorer. Albeit one came from the spot, he had two chances and took both of them. Maybe that is a lesson to be learned by Mansfield.

Colin Larkin, who missed most of last season with hamstring trouble, was as sharp as a butcher's knife. The young Irishman caused Kidderminster enormous problems, whether from his darting runs, quick turns or trickery with the ball at his feet.

He is one asset both Curle and the fans do not want to lose during this campaign and on another day he could have had a hat-trick.

So when he was substituted on the hour mark after ripping the home side to pieces, it was understandable the travelling faithful were disappointed.

At 1-0 down, he looked like the spark that could ignite any move to bring the side level. The chants aimed at Curle of "You don't know what you doing," appeared to be a little harsh. Afterwards, the Stags boss confirmed that the heat was affecting Larkin and he was feeling some stiffness in his hamstring. Had he played on another 20 minutes only for it to go again and be out for the next few months, it would have been a bitter blow.

At the end of the day, given that scenario or having him causing defences problems for just an hour week-in, week-out, you would take the latter.

But the whole side played well, including Junior Mendes and Craig Disley when they came off the bench, making sure the gaffer has a headache when he comes to choose his team for Wednesday's clash with Sunderland.

Kidderminster's Stuart Brock produced a catalogue of great saves, one of the best from Liam Lawrence whose low-driven 30-yard free-kick was somehow scooped round the post by the unsighted keeper. And he was responsible for denying Dimech twice from corners in either half, tipping a Christie thunderbolt just over the bar and stopping a point blank effort from Craig Disley.

But he was unable to do anything with a Beckham-style free kick from Wayne Corden. On 66 minutes he curled a right-footer from 20-yards-out straight into the keeper's right hand top corner.

It cancelled out Bo Henriksen's delightful strike on 15 minutes when he raced onto a long ball and somehow looped it into Pilkington's top left-hand corner from just inside the box.

The winner for the home side came after a handball in the box.

Kevin Pilkington rushed out and dived to punch clear but a challenge saw the ball land at Coleman's feet. He fired goalbound only for it to strike Jamie Clarke's hand.

The referee pointed to the spot and in the confusion booked the wrong man in Tom Curtis for the offence. But in did not affect Henriksen who slotted home from the spot to earn his side all three points.

Nobody wants to lose at any time, especially the opening day of the season. But this was a positive performance in which many chances were created and the team played some quality football.

It doesn't alter the fact that three points have been lost, but had the players put in a dire performance and died in the sweltering heat towards the end, it would have been far more disappointing.

Instead, they grew more confident, looked dangerous throughout and only a fine string of saves stood between them and victory.

If good football was played every week and still the points did not come then there would be a big problem. But for now, it's not too much of a concern.

The boss and the players are not too worried. As Curle put it, it's a marathon, not a sprint and on another day his side could have had an avalanche of goals.

He just needs to make sure his team keep greasing their wheels and stay on the right track. If they do, with time, it will be full steam ahead and other teams in the Division will be looking at the Stags as the one to beat.


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