STAGS TOO GOOD - COBBLERS MIDFIELDER
Stags too good, says Hargreaves
Northampton Chronicle and Echo
MIDFIELDER Chris Hargreaves says the Cobblers were taught a very harsh lesson by high-flying Mansfield Town on Saturday.
Town were thumped 3-0 by the Stags at a wet and windy Sixfields, Colin Calderwood's men failing to register a shot on target in the 90 minutes.
It was a desperately poor performance from the Cobblers and Hargreaves says he and his team-mates have to hold their hands up and admit they aren't yet good enough.
Town were sloppy at the back, lacked creativity and bite in midfield and were toothless up front, but Hargreaves said: "I still believe we are going in the right direction and Colin Calderwood and John Deehan aren't going to be satisfied until they have turned it round and that is a positive.
"On Saturday we lost to a good team and you have to hold your hand up and say 'we are not at that level yet'.
"We are in patches and have shown that, but not consistently."
Town got off to a dreadful start when a Des Lyttle mistake gifted Mansfield a fifth minute lead, and more shocking defending handed Keith Curle's men further goals after the break.
"We didn't give ourselves a chance," admitted Hargreaves. "We conceded a bad early goal and then we went into our shells and lacked confidence.
"We have to look at our performance, analyse it and then get out on the training pitch today and put it right.
"We made some unfortunate mistakes in the game and they cost us, and conceding so early was always going to put us under pressure.
"Then although we had a lot of pressure we didn't create many chances and we are all disappointed."
The fact the Cobblers failed to trouble visiting goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington speaks volumes for how Town played, and Hargreaves admits the team has to show more confidence and stomach for the fight.
"What we now have to do is make sure that, if we do concede at home, we don't go into our shells.," he said.
"We have to play attacking football and create chances because we aren't going to get back in the game by sitting deep. We have to go and attack teams if we are losing."
The Cobblers' next game is the FA Cup second round clash with Weston-super-Mare next Saturday.
Midfielder Martin Reeves should be fit for that game after missing the Mansfield game with flu.
A disappointed Calderwood implied his team caved in at 2-0 down, but suggested he will not be going into the transfer market, saying: "At the minute I think we have enough players, and are overloaded with players. We have 32 professionals on the books and within that squad we have got enough.
"At 2-0 down on Saturday it wasn't what I would want to see from any team and the players know that."
Cobblers 0 Mansfield 3
Northampton Chronicle and Echo
THE honeymoon period is over for Cobblers boss Colin Calderwood.
After a bright beginning to his reign in the Sixfields hot-seat and just one defeat in his first eight games, things have suddenly hit the buffers.
The 1-0 defeat at Bury nine days ago was not really a cause for any serious concern, but Saturday's home hiding at the hands of Mansfield Town certainly is.
The Cobblers gifted the nation's most prolific scorers three goals with schoolboy defending, while at the other end failed to register a single shot on target.
It was a performance that ranks alongside any of the all-too-many inept showings put in by a Town team over the past couple of years.
Calderwood accepted that his team didn't shine but feels overall that things are progressing as he wants them to.
"It is a strange thing to say after losing 3-0 at home, but I have a strong belief in what I preach during the week and I believe it is right," said Calderwood.
"When the results went for us they gave a belief to the players, now the results are going against us it comes down to are we strong enough characters and personalities to regroup and turn it round?
"I believe within this squad we have enough to do better than we did on Saturday. We will be all right and we will bounce back."
Individual defensive errors and a punchless attack were the root causes of the loss to Mansfield.
The normally reliable Des Lyttle set the ball rolling and the tone for the match after five minutes.
The former Nottingham Forest man tried to pass the ball back to Lee Harper but it cannoned off Ian Sampson and fell to Iyseden Christie on the edge of the box. Lyttle did try to atone for his error but made it worse as Christie's shot took a wicked deflection off the Town man and flew past a helpless Harper.
Playing into a strong wind, Town were denied a clear penalty when Josh Low's right wing cross struck the outstretched arm of defender Tony Vaughan in the area, while Greg Lincoln then glanced a free header wide from six yards.
Low was causing problems and producing plenty of crosses, but as is too often the case there was never a Town man on the end of them. The Cobblers in attack simply have to show more hunger.
Mansfield looked lively up front but, save sweeping up another short Lyttle back-pass, Harper hadn't had much to do until Chris Willmott's rush of blood handed the Stags a penalty.
Junior Mendes had skipped past Lincoln in the Town box but still had plenty of work to do until Willmott crudely charged into him and he hit the deck. It was a clear penalty.
Liam Lawrence sidefooted home to double the lead but seconds later Town were again denied a penalty of their own – the fact Richard Walker stayed on his feet after clearly being pulled by David Artell worked against him.
Willmott's bad day was complete 10 minutes from time when he committed the cardinal sin of playing the ball across his own box. Luke Chambers, who had just come on, hurried his clearance straight to Neil MacKenzie in midfield who fed Lee Williamson on the right and his low cross was touched in by Craig Disley at the far post.
Mansfield could have scored more as Town ended the game in ragged fashion – but thankfully humiliation was avoided.
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