PREVIEWS AND TEAM NEWS
Injury worries as Stags set off to storm York
MANSFIELD Town head for York City this Saturday (3pm) looking to immediately get last Saturday's tame surrender at Rochdale out of their system.
But they may have to do it without three key players.
Bobby Hassell is struggling with knee and calf problems from last weekend, Neil MacKenzie has aggravated his knee again and Tom Curtis underwnet a cartilage operation on Monday.
It was a success but necessitated more cartilage being removed than first expected and, although he is back on an exercise bike this week, it will be two to three weeks before he can contemplate a first team return.
Stags are now six points off the top three with a game in hand after Oxford's late 3-2 win over Scunthorpe last night (Wednesday).
But they will certainly have a point to prove at Bootham Crescent.
Stags' worst display of the season coincided with Rochdale's best as Steve Parkin's men won 3-0 at a canter.
But, while bitterly disappointed - particularly with the reaction of some of the travelling fans - Stags boss Keith Curle urged his players to quickly put it behind them.
"If you look at the table we are still in fourth place," said Curle. "It's not a disaster - we've lost one match.
"I'm glad it was 3-0 as players can try to hide behind a 1-0. But too many players had an off day together on Saturday and the performance was unacceptable.
"It won't happen again. I've been in the game long enough not to get conned and too many players were trying to hide.
"Good teams react after a result like that and that's what I want to see at York.
"It's not a case of changing the team, it's a case of the team changing their attitude.
"You can see they have been on their tiptoes in training this week.There's no need to shout and scream at them - they know they've let me, the club and the supporters down. And that's not something I've had to say very often since I came here.
"It's a young team and these things can happen. Sometimes I've been in a side that has lost four or five-nil. Yet before the game everything felt right, the preparation was right and then individual mistakes happen and you get stung.
"I believe someone is due a right hiding from us."
He added: "It's hard to understand how we have looked so solid in recent weeks watching that.
"The back four looked like they had been thrown together and never played together before. You can afford one or two players having an off day but only Liam Lawrence and Kevin Pilkington can hold their heads high after that one.
"Richard Pacquette made his debut but was as poor as the others. To be fair you often need a week to 10 days at a new club to settle and he must have wondered on Saturday how on earth we are fourth in the table!
"We needed a spark on the field and Liam tried desperately to give us that.
"Lee Williamson missed a great chance in the opening minutes which would have made a huge difference.
"Even at 2-0 down we came out much brighter after half-time and, if we could have pulled one back, I fancied us to go on and win it. Instead we gave away a silly free kick and Rochdale found the top corner."
Although Hull City won to extend their lead at the top, Oxford United lost and Doncaster Rovers needed a last minute equaliser at Scunthorpe for a point.
So not much ground was lost on Saturday. Nevertheless, for the first time this season, a section of almost 1,000 travelling Stags fans, vented their anger which actually led to scuffles with fellow Stags supporters who thought they should stay behind the team.
"A section of fans voiced their disappointment and they are entitled to their opinion," said Curle. "No one was more frustrated than me."
Curle was particularly hurt by suggestions from some fans that he had got it wrong for 'dropping' Tom Curtis on Saturday.
"Tom was diagnosed as neeing his cartilage trimmed on Friday and we booked him in to have it done on Monday morning.
"I did not drop him. Tom was injured. But some folk want to pick up on negative things and don't want the truth.
"The fans have been absolutely magnificent away from home this season and have turned up in their numbers. No one likes to be booed and I do take it personally and I've told my players that.
"But, if we are to bounce back this Saturday, it is important that everyone - and that includes the fans - stays very positive at York. We will take the fight to them from the kick-off.
"It won't be pretty looking at their style of play as they get men behind the ball and then kick it long and hard and chase it.
"It will be blood and thunder. It's going to be a tight old game and the players know we need a result."
Defender Tony Vaughan is back in the squad after a knee injury. He came through a 45-minute work-out in a reserve friendly against Chesterfield at Saltergate in midweek.
CURLE LAYS DOWN THE GAUNTLET
BY STEVIE RODEN
Mansfield boss Keith Curle has backed his players to bounce back from last weekend's disastrous defeat at Rochdale - and is confident his men will respond.
The Stags were torn apart last Saturday and the score could have been worse than 3-0 had Kevin Pilkington not pulled off a string of fine saves.
But Curle said his players had looked hungry in training this week, knowing they had let themselves down.
And he has told them to go out tomorrow and put it right.
He said: "It is a chance for them all to put their hat in the ring and fight for their shirt.
"If they play well then they will stay in the team and now it is up to them to respond and put things right.
"Last week was a performance which lacked any spark and there were too many under-par players out there.
"There were mistakes but now they have a chance to make up for it.
"They have been back in training and they are on their toes because they know they didn't give a good account of themselves."
York have not won in their last four games and player-manager Chris Brass has called for his side to be more ruthless in front of goal.
But Curle is confident his players will pick themselves up and make amends.
"York is a difficult place to go and, after last week, the players are aware that we need a result," he said.
"It is a tight, compact ground but we can get the result.
"They will make it difficult and throw everything at us.
"It will be tough but we will get at them and put them on the back foot.
"We have nothing to fear. I have 21 fit players available and they should all be fighting for a shirt."
Many of the 1,000 travelling Mansfield fans voiced their disapproval at the performance during the second half and Curle heard them.
But he said: "People were frustrated and disappointed just like I was on Saturday.
"The supporters at this club are absolutely magnificent. They voiced their disappointment and I will accept it, but I take it personally.
"It is an important time for myself and there is going to be a change in attitude around this football club.
"So I want them to carry on getting behind us and we will be looking to bounce back at York tomorrow."
Stags (probable): Pilkington, Hassell, Vaughan, Day, Artell, Williamson, MacKenzie, Lawrence, Disley, Mendes, Pacquette. Subs: J White, Dimech, Buxton, Larkin, Christie
Lev's revved up
by Dave Flett
YORK City boss Chris Brass is ready to give Lev Yalcin his first start of his senior career against Mansfield Town tomorrow.
Brass has deliberately restricted Yalcin's appearances to late substitute outings since his return from 18 months of injury problems but the Turkish youth international is now approaching full fitness.
Teenage striker Yalcin did not play any part in the reserves' 4-1 defeat at Boston on Wednesday night, leading to speculation that he may be considered for a more substantial first-team role against promotion-chasing Mansfield.
Brass also believed that last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Hull once more highlighted the need for a natural goalscorer in attack with makeshift striker Lee Bullock missing an excellent opportunity to give City the lead.
The City boss said: "Lev's done well and kept banging on the door with the bit parts he's been playing. At this moment in time, I have no qualms about throwing him in and he's not so far away from starting."
If Yalcin is used from the start, it is likely to be as a replacement for Bullock and as a partner for player-coach Lee Nogan.
That would mean Brass will have to decide which three midfielders to perm from four with Bullock, Darren Dunning, Justin Walker and Mitch Ward all in the frame.
Bullock is expected to be available after flying back from his trial with Cardiff City yesterday.
Both City and Cardiff agreed before Bullock's trip to Wales that any transfer talks would take place after the weekend and Brass will now decide whether to play him from the start or name him as a substitute.
Jon Parkin will continue on the bench after completing 90 minutes in the reserves' 4-1 defeat at Boston on Wednesday.
Brass said: "Jon's got to keep plugging away until his chance comes again. At this moment in time the two Lees have done well up there.
"He's had to be patient but reserve football is there to keep your fitness levels topped up. Now, when his opportunity comes, he's got to be ruthless and make sure nobody can take the shirt off him."
Liam George, who has not started a game until September, could also be back in first-team contention next week after returning to full training today.
Brass said: "Liam's fitness levels are not that far away because he's worked extremely hard to keep on top of them and he will be a good man to have around again."
The City manager added that it was too early for Leigh Wood to earn a recall after his comeback for the reserves on Wednesday but added: "I'm sure he will play a part between now and the end of the season because he had a good start to the season and is progressing at a speed of knots we are happy with."
City's juniors are at home to Darlington on Saturday, kick-off 11am.
Latest | February 2004