DISAPPOINTING STAGS BEATEN IN SEASON OPENER
Mansfield Town 0 - 2 Bristol Rovers
Agogo 32, 51.
Att: 5,709 (1325 from Bristol Rovers)
Martin Shaw and Neil Shaw at Field Mill
It may only be a couple of months since the disappointment of the Millenium Stadium, but the new season got underway today at Field Mill, and it started with a whimper from the Stags. In soaring temperatures, Mansfield were well beaten by an organized and disciplined Bristol Rovers side who looked as though they could be promotion contenders this season. The Stags meanwhile flattered to deceive after a positive opening and by the end looked completely devoid of ideas.
Scott McNiven (right back), Alex Neil (midfield) and Derek Asamoah (forward) made their Stags league debuts, while other new boys Joe O'Neill and Chris Tait started on the bench, and Adam Murray was playing his first Stags league game since the promotion season of 2001/2002. The major surprise was the absence of Rhys Day, who is surely now one of the star players at the club. Day was on the bench. For Bristol Rovers, Craig Disley was ruled out by injury and missed out on a chance to play against his former club.
The Stags were kicking towards a packed North Stand in the first half; packed with visiting supporters. Mansfield earned several corners in the opening 10 minutes and the absence of Day was immediately a handicap as they came to nothing, the closest effort being a weak Artell header sent wide. It was all Mansfield early on but there was a scare on 13 minutes when Pilkington came out to clear a through ball and smashed his clearance against the onrushing Agogo, but luckily the ball didn't head towards the net.
On 15 minutes, Mansfield were very unlucky not be in front. The lively Asamoah made a fine run down the right showing great pace before putting in a decent cross. The ball was half cleared but eventually came to Larkin on the left, who crossed back into the middle for Asamoah to side foot into the net. As everyone celebrated, the linesman's flag was raised and the goal was ruled out for offside. From our position in the centre of the West Stand, it looked very close, but difficult for us to say definitively either way. Two minutes later, a brilliant flick from Corden put Asamoah clear in the box, but his cross was put behind for a corner.
On 25 minutes, Larkin found Asamoah in the box, Asamoah flicked a shot with the outside of his right boot. It looked goalbound but the keeper made a good save with his fingertips. A minute later, Rovers had a rare attack and had a shot from a free kick which was blocked, with the rebound smacked over the bar. A minute after that there was more danger for the Stags when a Rovers player was completely unmarked on the left hand side of the box, but Artell made a brilliant block as he unleashed a shot.
On 32 minutes, Rovers took an undeserved lead. Ali Gibb made a quick break and ran at Pilkington. The Stags keeper did well to force him wide, but Gibb then crossed the ball back into the middle and the ball was slammed into the net by a combination of Agogo and Adam Murray. At first sight, it seemed like an own goal to us. The Stags had dominated and forced many corners, so it was something of a sucker punch.
On 36 minutes, Asamoah shot wide from the edge of the box and a minute later Larkin shot powerfully, straight at the keeper from a tight angle, and Asamoah blasted the rebound over the bar.
Mansfield were unfortunate to be behind at half time, but clearly lacked height up front, while Rovers were well organized.
Half Time 0-1
On 50 minutes, Larkin made space for himself and shot just wide from 25 yards. It was a fine effort.
But it was 2-0 on 51 minutes. Once again Ali Gibb, who gave Eaton a torrid afternoon, broke clear down the right and crossed into the middle where Agogo, Baptiste and Pilkington all converged on the ball. Agogo got their first and bundled it into the net from 3 yards.
Just 2 minutes later it was nearly 3-0 as Agogo chased a loose ball. Pilkington came out of his goal but was in no-man's land and got nowhere near it as Agogo chipped the ball over him and wide of the goal. It was a bad miss and a big let-off for the Stags.
The Stags needed to change things and on loan striker Joe O'Neill came on for his debut on 54 minutes, replacing Corden. It was noticeable that Asamoah had disappeared in the second half and Mansfield were now devoid of ideas. On 62 minutes, Larkin made a good run, but elected to shoot, and placed his effort well wide, with McNiven overlapping on the right and a good position was wasted. On 63 minutes, Chris Tait replaced Williamson as Mansfield went to four up front with Larkin on the right, and Asamoah primarily on the left.
But there was another chance for Agogo on 64 minutes. The striker made a fine run, and initially Baptiste was able to hold him off, but Agogo still managed to get in a shot which Pilkington acrobatically tipped over the bar.
The Stags had lost all shape, but on 70 minutes Asamoah was desperately unlucky again. He showed good trickery in the box to make space for himself and smashed a great shot against the bar.
On 76 minutes, the Stags had an amazing double let off, with Gibb and Agogo yet again pulling them apart. It started with a terrible crossfield pass from Murray. It was intercepted by Gibb, who broke down the right and crossed for Agogo who shot against the post. From the rebound, Trollope, who played in the play-offs for Northampton last season, scrambled the ball against the bar.
But on 79 minutes the Stags had their second goal disallowed and it looked a very harsh decision. Murray, with the Stags umpteenth corner of the afternoon, at last found a Stags head, and Artell powered his header cleanly into the net. It seemed a classic goal. But the goal was ruled out for pushing by another player, even though some of the crowd were still celebrating, and the new Field Mill announcer played We Will Rock You for a good 30 seconds without realizing his mistake.
It was clear that the last chance of a recovery had gone, and the Stags were very ineffective with long balls being thrown up to the four man strikeforce which seemed still unable to win balls in the air. On 88 minutes, Agogo broke clear again and got past Baptiste, but Pilkington saved Agogo's effort. Day then replaced Eaton and also went up front but it was far too late for him to change the course of the game, but not too late for him to win two headers and show what we had been missing.
As the game went into injury time Asamoah showed great skill in the box as he lobbed the ball over a defender to set up a free shot for O'Neill but the striker volleyed horribly wide. A minute later Tait also miscued a volley when in plenty of space.
So the new season started with a disappointing defeat. There is a long way to go but this was not a good start. The Stags were too predictable and lacked width and creativity. It seemed a strange decision to take Corden off as there was no-one to put crosses into O'Neill and Tait, while on the right there was no width throughout the game. We had expected Neil to play on the right and in a pre-match interview with both players on Radio Nottingham, the two had talked about linking up on the right. But sadly this never happened as Neil adopted a more central role, and didn't look particularly effective. Asamaoh was the Stags man of the match and looked lively though it was noticeable that he was quiet for the first 30 minutes of the second half. The midfield was disappointing with Murray looking to run the show, but clearly not at his best, and having not found his range with long passing, while Williamson was not able to continue his good pre-season form. At the back, the usually solid Baptiste and Eaton were given a torrid afternoon by Agogo and Gibb, who behind just about everything dangerous the visitors created. We all know Baptiste's pace, but today he found his match in Agogo. The Rovers defence mopped up all the high balls that came their way with Christian Edwards outstanding in central defence.
The Stags visit Oxford on Wednesday evening and a much improved performance will be needed if they are to open their account.
Man of Match: Derek Asamoah
Pilkington 6 A couple of good saves, but flapped at one cross and badly out of position when Agogo lobbed a sitter wide.
McNiven 6 Defended ok but did nothing going forward and missed someone to link with.
John-Baptiste 5 Not at his best. Given the run around by Agogo.
Artell 6 One great block and generally did ok. Possibly unlucky to have a goal wiped out.
Eaton 5 Ineffective against the dangerous Gibb who put in numerous crosses.
Neil 5 Played in the centre, and hence there was no width on the right. Put himself about a bit but created nothing.
Murray 5 Tried to be the playmaker but made some misplaced passes and couldn't create any danger in the opposition box.
Williamson 5 Disappointing.
Corden 5 While he was on, there was no-one in the box for him to cross to.
Larkin 7 Played ok and linked well with Asamoah on occasion.
Asamoah 8 Looked lively in patches of the game, and very unlucky with one goal disallowed and another shot against the bar.
O'Neill (for Corden, 54) 5 Showed little, and just had one effort which was horribly miscued.
Tait (for Williamson, 63) 5 Did nothing at all.
Day (for Eaton, 88) - Only on for 2 minutes, but long enough to win two headers and show the others how to do it.
Subs not used: Langford, Curtis.
Referee: C.Oliver 7 Generally handled the game very well, but was he right to disallow the two Stags goals? A good start to his career as a league referee.
Latest | August 2004