LAWRENCE: I`M LEAVING ON BIG LOW
LAWRENCE: I'M LEAVING ON BIG LOW
Evening Post, 02 June 2004
Stags star Liam Lawrence today publicly admitted for the first time the play-off final is likely to be his last game for the club.
The 22-year-old's last kick of a ball in a Mansfield shirt is set to be his penalty miss at the Millennium Stadium as Stags missed out on a place in Division Two.
The club's top scorer told the Post he is likely to move this summer.
A group of Division One and Two clubs are interested in the winger, who scored 22 goals last season.
They include Cardiff, whose manager Lennie Lawrence today said: "We're sniffing around Liam Lawrence. We do have an interest in him and he's a player who could develop into a better one."
Lawrence said: "I think that could have been my last game for Mansfield.
"I wanted to go out with a bit of glory for the fans and the way it happened is not the way I wanted.
"There were teams in touch with my agent a few weeks ago and a couple on the phone yesterday.
"It is a case of weighing up the options. I'm going to go away and get a holiday because it has been a long season.
"But I would just like to say that I love the Mansfield fans with all my heart and I'm just sorry for the way things have finished.
"If I do go I wish them luck in the future but I wanted to leave on a high."
Lawrence is out of contract at the end of the season and because he is under 24, Mansfield will be entitled to compensation from any club he should join.
Mansfield turned down a £125,000 bid from First Division Rotherham earlier in the season. They may not get that much but a fee would be set by an independent tribunal.
However he feels now is the right time to move on to further his career.
"I have had three good years playing first-team football at Mansfield," said Lawrence. "I have been playing well and I want to look to explore new avenues so we will have to wait and see.
"I want to set new challenges and prove myself. I want to see if I can perform at a higher level."
Lawrence is still gutted about the way his Mansfield career appears to have come to an end. Despite scoring 12 out of 13 penalties this season as the club's regular spot-kick taker, he tried a delicate chip and in front of a near 40,000 fans against Huddersfield, it failed to come off.
Keith Curle has stuck by his decision that his players do not have to practice penalties because you cannot create the same atmosphere on the training ground.
But Lawrence is one who takes it upon himself to practice on occasions after training.
He said: "I am absolutely wounded by it. To go through 46 league matches and then lose out on penalties is devastating.
"I had been practicing them beforehand and I was trying all different things.
"I have done that before against Carlisle and it was disallowed because somebody went into the box. But it did work.
"I wish I would have done it different. When you look back to things you think about it but it has gone and I have got to put it behind me.
"The fans were absolutely superb on the day. I think the whole of Mansfield was there. It was great. I just wish it had finished differently."
FROM HOPE TO HEARTBREAK
Evening Post, 02 June 2004
Nothing is ever done the easy way with Mansfield. Those are the words being spoken around the town by fans and players alike following another season full of mixed emotions.
For so long, automatic promotion was such a strong possibility. But as the team began to falter in the second half of the campaign, it looked like even the chance of the play-offs could be missed.
Inconsistency has dogged Mansfield's season and it cost them a top-three finish. At times they have looked world-beaters, but on occasions they have looked like a team of strangers.
Unlike many other teams in the Football League, Mansfield have not had endless changes in personnel during the season.
The manager has stayed the same, few players have left and only Laurent D'Jaffo has signed.
Add to that just one, unsuccessful loan signing in Richard Pacquette and there has not been much activity at Field Mill.
However, the squad Keith Curle placed his faith in at the beginning of the season has ensured an interesting campaign for the spectators.
Since the end of August, Mansfield have never dropped out of the play-off places.
And in the end, they were only pipped on penalties in an enthralling day to remember at the Millennium Stadium, in front of almost 40,000 fans.
The first key moment for Mansfield came during the visit to Cambridge back at the end of September.
It was a time when they needed three points and they delivered - against the odds.
Before half-time, the Stags took the lead through Craig Disley before they were reduced to nine men through the dismissals of Iyseden Christie for two bookings and Rhys Day for a professional foul.
At the break, Keith Curle had a furious bust-up with the referee and was banished to the stands. He was later fined £500.
But it epitomised the whole character and passion of the team's performance. When all the Cambridge fans expected their side to hand out a thrashing, Mansfield came out and won 2-1.
Every one of the nine men threw themselves into everything and the determination to grind out a win was awesome.
It kick-started a two-month spell of good results that when looking back, helped secure a play-off place.
Curle finally got the recognition he deserved by being handed the manager-of-the-month award for November.
There was a great buzz around the club which led to another successful month in December with a massive victory against Hull at the KC Stadium.
Shortly after was another major highlight in the season when Mansfield beat Wycombe in an FA Cup replay at Field Mill, Lawrence scoring a hat-trick.
In the new year, the Stags' fortunes were to change. The transfer saga surrounding Lawrence joining First Division Rotherham resurfaced again after an earlier bid of £125,000 had been turned down.
Stags chairman Keith Haslam blamed the player's agent for interfering and it caused a stir on January 17 when Mansfield travelled to Leyton Orient - minus Lawrence.
Curle left the 22-year-old behind and said all the talk had left him mentally unfit to play the game. When the match was lost 3-1, fans were far from happy.
He returned against Scunthorpe ten days later, but Mansfield's inconsistency was starting to show.
A lack of goals was proving costly and away defeats followed against Rochdale, Cheltenham and Lincoln.
It all came to a head against Bury on Tuesday, March 16.
Everybody said Mansfield's season depended on the result and their poor form needed to be turned around, otherwise promotion was out of the question.
But instead of a reaction, the players put in arguably their worst performance of the season.
The boos rang out from the Stags fans and the 3-0 defeat could have been much greater.
The players lacked passion and bottle and it was the lowest point of the season, especially with Iyseden Christie breaking his foot.
But a five-match unbeaten run followed, including a nail-biting draw at Yeovil.
A disappointing Easter followed and it looked like they could throw it away again.
Their most impressive display of the season followed.
With three points needed to cement a play-off place, the Stags travelled to the McAlpine Stadium to face Huddersfield, who needed a victory to finish in the automatic promotion spots.
It was a massive game for both clubs and the game had to be delayed as the 18,633 spectators packed into the stadium.
But Mansfield proved they could handle the pressure of the big occasion with a gutsy and clinical 3-1 victory against a side which topped the home-form table.
It landed the Stags that play-off place and their season was to end in disaster at the Millennium Stadium as Huddersfield had the final laugh.
Liam Lawrence and Wayne Corden failed with spot-kicks and the promotion dream ended.
Stags had dominated the second half and arguably deserved victory.
Colin Larkin's injury-time goal looked to have won the game but it was controversially ruled out after the referee agreed with his linesman that the ball had gone out of play.
It was disappointing and an unfair end to a season full of different emotions.
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