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Archived News from September 2003

8th September 2003 14:31

Evening Post, 08 September 2003

Stags boss Keith Curle lavished praise on his players after they responded to a half-time rollicking by coming from behind to win.

The manager was unhappy about the first-half performance, in which two mistakes left his side trailing 2-1 at the break.

But after giving his players a half-time roasting, Curle said they sharpened up and showed great character to triumph 3-2.

"We like to play football but sometimes you have those games where it doesn't work and you have to dig in to get the result," he said.

"Some of our players were making the wrong decisions at the wrong time in the first half, and it was costing us. Basically, I gave them a rollicking at half-time. I told them we do not hide and we go out there, re-adjust and re-focus and perform. That's what they did."

Curle had told his players not to report for training until Wednesday, following last Saturday's 4-1 defeat at Swansea.

He said: "The best thing I did was giving the players an extra two days off. When they came back they were refreshed and focused. It put them back on track."

Curle added that he was delighted with Junior Mendes' performance and the fans' reaction to him.

"Junior was fantastic. He was our spark and he got his reward for the hard work through his goal.

"Junior has a great attitude and is a great asset to the team.

"A lot of people gave him stick and he came through it and showed his professionalism.

"I have always had that belief in him. This year people are appreciating the work he is doing and he is getting the goals as well.

"I believe in him and he believes in himself. He deserves to be getting the recognition."

Evening Post, 08 September 2003

Manager Keith Curle wants his players to produce great entertaining football. But he recognises that at times, it is not always going to work out that way and his men will have to grind out a result.

Saturday was one of those occasions. The first 45 minutes were by no means pretty and although the Stags had their chances, two defensive errors left them trailing at the break and fans may have been wondering what the story of the season was going to be.

But there was no time for self-pity and the players re-emerged from the dressing room full of fight, determination and spirit, digging in their heels to secure all three points.

And with the final moments ticking away, they made sure there was no repeat of the last-gasp wobbles that saw them relegated last season and have come back to haunt them since.

Against Macclesfield, they hit the corners and saw out the dying seconds, refusing to give away the ball.

It was a display of maturity and one that sent home fans away full of expectation.

Everybody knows the kind of dangerous attacking football the Stags can play - the sort that can hammer teams like Scunthorpe 5-0. But now they know the players are capable of securing vital points even when things are not going their way.

And one of the success stories of the day had to be Junior Mendes, the spark in almost everything Mansfield produced. I'm sure all this week he will be training with a smile from ear to ear after he walked from the pitch with all sections of the ground chanting his name.

It was a transformation that he had been desperate to see, after being given a lot of stick by the Stags fans last season. Mendes was not scoring and the critics started to point the finger at him, claiming he was not good enough.

The striker and the manager always had faith in his ability and now it is paying off, as he has silenced his critics with two man-of-the-match performances on the bounce at Field Mill.

Suddenly, he has become the hero, rather than the villain.

Mendes looks now as if he could play a major part in the Stags' promotion push.

He is quick, agile and looks a constant threat to defenders, none of whom since the start of this Division Three campaign have managed to cope with his lightning pace and trickery on the ball.

He notched on Saturday, hit the bar and won the penalty, as well as creating numerous chances for Iyseden Christie and co.

Mendes applauded the fans as he walked back to the dressing room, as chants of "Junior" echoed around the ground for minutes after the final whistle.

Suddenly, the little fellow has a new army of fans and his confidence will rocket as a result.

He complements Christie well but his strike partner failed to get the rub of the green, squandering numerous chances either high or wide.

Macclesfield capitalised on two mistakes but the difference to last season was that Stags heads did not drop. Instead, they came back with a vengeance.

The opener came through the unlikely route of defender Dave Artell, whose month-long contract expired yesterday.

Curle is hoping to sort out an extension to keep the centre-half at the club but if that is impossible, Aretll will leave Field Mill with the memory of his seventh-minute goal, when he met a Liam Lawrence corner from the right and nodded home at the back post.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Macclesfield got a free kick wide on the left and Matthew Tipton swung in a cross.

Both keeper Pilkington and Martin Carruthers missed the ball on the edge of the six-yard box and it floated straight in.

The visitors capitalised on 38-minutes when Rhys Day should have headed a long clearance but decided to kick it, and the ball fell to Danny Whitaker a few yards away. He threaded a neat ball to put John Miles through and he slotted home.

On 52 minutes, Mansfield got their reward for pressure when Bobby Hassell crossed from the right and Mendes raced in to half-volley into the goal.

Then, on 69 minutes, Mendes cut inside the box and was brought down by a heavy challenge from Karl Munroe.

Lawrence made no mistake with the penalty.

Pilkington came to the rescue twice in the last ten minutes, both times denying Carruthers with fine saves to secure all three points for the Stags.


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