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Archived News from August 2003

16th August 2003 21:55

Mansfield Town 1 Leyton Orient 1
Dimech 13, Alexander 90+2

Att 3920 (322 from Leyton Orient)

Match Statistics (Stags / O's)
16 Goal Attempts 13
10 On target 10
5 Off target 2
1 Woodwork 1
9 Corners 4
13 Fouls 6
13 Offside 13

Stagsnet report by Bard at Field Mill:
Deja Vu for Stags as last gasp goal haunts Field Mill.

Exasperation and elation were the emotions shared by Stags and Orient fans on this sun drenched Saturday – unfortunately for Mansfield, it was the Orient fans who went home with smiles on their faces.

The 3600 Stags fans who had paid good money to watch their side throw away two points at the death must be wondering what the team must do in order to keep a clean sheet till the last whistle. The ghost of last season's downfall – conceding late goals – floated across Field Mill with all too much comfort as a very plain looking Orient side found the all too familiar sight of a gaping whole in the left back defence to allow the Londoners to return home with an undeserved point.

Following Iyseden's warm reception by fans of his former side, the Stags started very positively with Andy White and Christie forming an attack duo that caused the Orient back line problems from the off. White, looking more aggressive than he has for a while, forced a blocked save and collection from Glen Morris as early as the 4th minute.

White and Christie worked well with their differing styles of play to disrupt the Orient defence to the point where the men in black looked completely at odds in the game.

Orient's undoing came on the 12th minute when following a fumbled ball by Morris, Luke Dimech picked up the loose ball and cannoned it into the back of the net – something he has been threatening to do since he came to the club and an act that surely must do his chances of a longer term contract no harm at all.

The Stags were moving the ball around the park very well with Corden in excellent form crossing balls at will. Mendes was looked to be getting the measure of the Orient left back on several charging runs but his final ball seemed to let him down too often.

On 15 minutes a beautifully weighted ball from Corden found Christie who pirouetted in the way only he can do and let rip with a scorcher that Morris tipped over the bar.

Defensively the Stags looked very settled, with Clarke and Pilkington in particular answering many of their detractors in the first half – Pilkington surprised many in the crowd with his aerial collections of the ball.

Dave Artell was an absolute rock in the central defence. His ability to read the game and distribute the ball at the first touch more than made up for his less than thoroughbred speed – however, he paid the price for what appears to be a slight lack of match fitness later on.

Williamson continues to look like a very different player from the impetuous midfielder we saw last season. His composure is far better and his temper seems under control. His attacking play is markedly improved and he put it to good use tormenting the Orient midfield and defence on several occasions, sweeping up everything that came anywhere near him.

A much improved Tom Curtis was unlucky not to get his name on the score sheet on 20 minutes when Andy White took a pass from Christie which he laid on to Curtis only for the ex Chesterfield player to blast wide and into the Quarry Lane stand.

The Stags were offered a chance to put themselves firmly in the driving seat on 25 minutes following an Orient player being booked. The resultant free kick by Corden was wasted as the lofted ball was easily collected by 20 year old Orient keeper.

Orient looked a poor and uncreative side, one that looked like they had conceded a basket load of goals in their last two games – three of them at home to Doncaster. The midfield lacked creativity and up front was about as fruitful as the Sahara desert in drought.

However, on the half hour the O's picked up the pace and began to apply pressure with a series of half chances that really amounted to very little – Pilkington will not have a far easier wage earned than this one. Orient began to work the ball well down the left hand side and won a corner which Christie cleared with a header. Christie was clearly up for this game in the first half and showed a lot of what made him the fans favourite last season. Unfortunately he also showed what made him popular with defenders as time after time he was caught meandering off side.

The first real scare of the day, and it should have been seen as a warning by the Stags, came in the 36th minute when a mistake by Clarke resulted in the O's scoring a disallowed goal. The jubilation of the travelling 322 fans was short lived but the omens were there to be read.

Dimech came to the Stags' rescue on 38 minutes when he closed down Gary Alexander who was closing in for the kill to volley in a right hand corner; Luke's presence being enough to put the Orient number 9 off and fire wide.

Good constructive passing play between Mendes, Hassell (who looked very hungry going forward) and White saw the 6 foot plus striker scissor kick the ball only to find a static Christie too slow to take advantage.

Dimech and Corden exchanged delightful passes to put hope into the home fans but once again the Stags were denied by a goal keeper enjoying far too much freedom on the park as he punched the ball away to safety.

Just before half time Mansfield enjoyed a period of sustained pressure with the midfield linking well with Mendes and Christie to force a series of corners and throw-ins in the Orient half. This pressure should really have been made to pay off as was to prove later on the Stags would rue missed chances and a lack of total commitment at the end of the day.

The nearest the Stags came was just before the whistle when Williamson drove the ball down to the line to win a corner of Corden to lob into the box only for White to head over the bar.

Half-time 0-1

Curle should have known the O's were not going to lie down and die for him when they came out early to warm up and the writing was on the wall when Stags took the field. Disley came on for White at the beginning of the second half with Mendes joining Christie up front. The whole team looked very different in attitude and shape from the positive, controlled side in the first half. Whether the disciplining of Liam Lawrence and his subsequent side-lining from the team had anything to do with it we will never know. What is absolutely certain is that Stags fans will be wondering what Andy White did wrong to be taken off at half time and replaced by a very flimsy looking Disley.

The attacking style of play continued for the Stags but gaps began to appear in the midfield. Curtis did his best to cover as much ground as possible but they still allowed Alexander to be left unmarked with 11 minutes gone with the Stags getting out of jail when the striker hit the post and Pilkington collected the ball from the floor.

15 minutes in and Williamson was unlucky not to score with a thumping drive at goal followed by a rare Disley break saw him cross the ball into the box. Hassell picked up the resulting clearance only to lose it to a goal kick on the line in a tussle with their defender.

Curle replaced Mendes with Beardsley on the hour and the youngster certainly showed a willingness to get about the park and prove his point to the manager. The changes may have unsettled the side as they began to wobble in the face of more pressure from Orient and they will have Dimech to thank for saving their skin on 65 minutes as he cleared the ball off the line.

By now the Stags looked short of passion and commitment – was it something said in the changing rooms? Who knows but this cannot continue if we are to mount a serious challenge this season.

What seemed like a stream of Corden corners produced chance after chance for the Stags to kill off the game. Following an Orient substitution Christie found himself in space and slammed a shot into the box, a corner coming when the ball deflected off the back of an Orient player. Corden's corner bobbled about on a number of heads before it fell at the feet of Clarke who, for the second game running, drove a clear chance wide of the mark.

On 70 minutes the home fans were given a treat by Christie as he mesmerized the Orient defence with a ballet of twists and turns that left him open to pass the ball to no one waiting in the box – the script began to feel very familiar at this point.

Yet again the Stags were denied a clear penalty. A blatant handball by Orient went unpunished as the ref had his back to the play; why the “assistant” did not raise his flag is anyone's guess. Many decisions in the second half left both sets of fans wondering which rule book the officers had read that morning.

75 minutes into the game and Beardsley was left gasping as he was a gnat's whisker short of poking the ball into the North Stand goal for what would have been a win sealing score.

Corden and Dimech still looked to be the most dangerous Stags players as the Maltese international found Corden with a wonderful cross field ball which Corden then gifted to the keeper.

Hassell, Williamson and Artell linked up on 80 minutes to provide the former Rotherham and Shrewsbury player with a chance that he drove over the bar in the same way Christie did against Peterborough at London Road last season.

By now Artell was beginning to look tired and many in the stands began to wonder why our Welsh international was not on the pitch.

At the other end Beardsley was again unlucky not to benefit from a race with the keeper to a lose ball on the edge of the box- at least he was prepared to run and create chances, which is more than can be said for some today.

With 5 minutes to go Curle brought MacKenzie on for Corden who very quickly showed what the Stags are missing – that killer pass to the forwards. Unlike his performance on Wednesday against Sunderland, Mac gave us a taste of what he can do with a ball and cut through then O's on several occasions.

But it was all to come to nothing much as the inevitable endgame arrived. A poor clearance by Artell deep into injury time dropped at the feet of an Orient player who then crossed the ball to the right hand side of Pilkington's net, a cross field ball found Alexander in acres of space in the left back position from where he blasted past Pilkington setting off incredible celebrations among the away fans.

There was not even a sense of injustice in the stands as Stags fans resigned themselves to another season of missed opportunities and less than adequate performances. How is it that a team that has had two successive defenders as managers cannot keep a clean sheet? Only time will tell if we can do anything that amounts to much this season – one thing's for sure, 90 minutes is going to be a long time each Saturday at this rate.

Man of the Match - Williamson

Pilkington 7/10 had little to do for much of the match
Hassell 7/10 stuck to his task and supported up front well
Dimech 9/10 excellent performance and not just cos he scored
Artell 6/10 good first half, should have gone off when he got tired
Clarke 5/10 his weaknesses do not make up for his strengths
Mendes 5/10 could be a good winger if he finds pace and a good cross
Williamson 9/10 determined and attacking all day
Curtis 7/10 fought well with better distribution, needs to be more accurate
Corden 7/10 seems short on pace, crossing was top drawer
AWhite 6/10 45 minutes of hard work, still needs more confidence
Christie 7/10 seemed up for it to begin with then went luke warm
Disley (for AWhite, 46) 4/10 probably the worst performance from him yet
Beardsley (for Mendes, 56) 7/10 good effort and determination from the youngster
MacKenzie (for Corden, 81) 6/10 not on long enough to judge but better passing
Subs not used: JWhite, Day

Ref: A.Marriner, Warwickshire


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