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Archived News from August 2004

9th August 2004 14:32

Evening Post, 09 August 2004

Mansfield Town 0 v 2 Bristol Rovers

Stags fans know that an opening day defeat does not mean a poor season ahead.

Mansfield lost 2-1 at Kidderminster Harriers on August 9 last year - and failed to win in their first three attempts - but still managed to reach the play-off final.

There were plenty of positives to come out of this League Two clash even though they crashed to two Junior Agogo strikes.

But a 2-0 defeat against another new-look side - who were without injured ex-Stag Craig Disley - was still a huge disappointment for the expectant fans.

Rovers deserved the win. They took their chances and Ian Atkins' tactics worked well.

But the visitors' opening goal knocked the stuffing out of Keith Curle's men and they never recovered.

Home fans left Field Mill talking about two disallowed efforts but that does not hide Rovers' incisive play on the break and the form of Agogo and wing raider Ali Gibb.

Curle will hope that Derek Asamoah and Wayne Corden can terrorise opposition defences in the same way that Agogo and Gibb did to his side on Saturday.

There was no place in the starting 11 for new signing Joe O'Neill - but Stags fans got a chance to see all their side's strikers at once late in the second period as Curle went for broke.

It wasn't to be, though the manager will reflect on an encouraging first 30 minutes as a benchmark to work from.

Dave Artell went close with a header in the opening minutes and Asamoah, who looked lively from the outset, had a close-range effort ruled out for offside in the 14th minute.

For half an hour, the two sides took turns to attack - as referee Clive Oliver attempted to let play flow as much as he could on his debut at this level.

Asamoah went close ten minutes after his disallowed effort, but it was the visitors who took the lead.

Adam Murray's free-kick was cleared and Agogo raced towards Kevin Pilkington's goal like a bullet from a gun.

The pace of the counter-attack had Stags scrambling desperately to defend and, when Gibb homed in on goal, Pilkington committed himself.

Gibb nicked the ball past the Stags' keeper and sent in a low cross for Agogo to drive in Rovers' opener at the far post.

The game changed after that. Up until then, Stags were full of energy, but the goal took the wind out of their sails.

Rovers settled into a rhythm, soaked up the pressure and coasted to half-time a goal to the good.

The second-half response from Stags was good, with Colin Larkin trying his luck.

But a second Rovers goal was the killer blow.

Stuart Campbell set up Gibb on the right flank and the winger picked out Agogo at the far stick.

The former QPR and Barnet striker finished with aplomb.

It wasn't all over yet as Agogo was gunning for a hat-trick and nearly got it when his chip beat Pilkington, but dropped wide of the upright.

Fit-again Chris Tate and O'Neill joined Asamoah and Larkin up front as Curle switched to a 4-2-4 formation, with Atkins countering with a couple of tactical switches of his own.

Despite Rovers' more defensive formation, Agogo still had time to create another chance - a fierce strike which Pilkington tipped over - before Asamoah came close to handing Stags a lifeline.

Larkin teed up the former Northampton man, who cut inside and saw his powerful shot thump the bar.

Agogo refused to give up in his quest for a first-day treble and had other chances to add to his tally - and Paul Trollope's late effort struck the bar.

But the big talking point among Stags fans was Artell's disallowed effort in the 79th minute. Artell wasn't at fault, but the referee spotted a push elsewhere and left Mansfield with a little over ten minutes to find two goals.

They couldn't manage one, even after Rhys Day had been thrown on as a last-gasp bid for a late lifeline.

So one of the main talking points in the play-off final was a disallowed goal - and the new season has started in similar fashion.

Stags tasted defeat on the first day of last term and on the final day.

And after their League Two reverse on Saturday, the Field Mill fans want a different outcome at the end of this season's campaign.

Evening Post, 09 August 2004

Mansfield assistant boss John Gannon believes luck was on Bristol Rovers' side.

"For the first 30 minutes we played very well," he said.

"We caused them a hell of a lot of problems and should have scored on a number of occasions, but then we got caught on the break and it cost us."

Gannon did not want to dwell too much on the referee ruling out a Mansfield goal.

"It's just one of those things. You need a bit of luck on the day and we didn't get that.

"The first goal was always going to be a massive goal, especially with the way Bristol Rovers play.

"They got that goal, defended deep and played on the break - which they did very well.

"Derek Asamoah was a huge positive - he was very lively and caused problems, and the majority of the team played very well in the first half. You've got to wonder how we came in 1-0 down."

Keith Curle's number two said Mansfield had no option but to go for broke at the end.

"In the last 20 minutes we had to take desperate measures - we had to throw front players on.

"We lost our shape and left holes at the back which was going to happen. We felt we had to take risks to try to get ourselves back in the game, but it didn't work out."

Rovers boss Ian Atkins believes Stags are promotion contenders again this season.

The former Oxford boss admitted he was pleased to get his new side's trip to Field Mill out of the way.

"It's nice to get a first win under the belt," said Atkins. "It just adds a bit of pressure if you don't get a result.

"The first goal was always going to be very important and whoever got it would have probably gone on to win.

"Mansfield have got very good players and I think they'll do well again this season. They'll beat a lot of sides and I expect them to be at the top at the end of the year."

Evening Post, 09 August 2004

Former Stags favourite Craig Disley's ideal end to the season involves promotion for Mansfield Town.

Disley missed the chance to play against his former side because of injury.

But, after watching from the sidelines, he believes his current side Bristol Rovers and the team he played for last season both have what it takes to win a place in League One next season.

"It was a pretty even game and we took our chances when they came along," he said.

"They had chances but we could have scored a couple more. It was a good end-to-end game and both teams played some good football.

"Mansfield have got some great players and I think they will be up there at the end of the season, without a doubt - hopefully it will be Bristol Rovers first and Mansfield second."

Evening Post, 09 August 2004

Dave Artell still can't understand why his goal was ruled out, even after quizzing the referee about his decision.

Artell looked to have given Stags a late lifeline when his header from a corner found the back of the net.

But the effort was ruled out and Artell said he thinks Clive Oliver got it wrong.

"I had a word with the ref and he said it was a good header. He said someone had pushed someone in front of me."

Artell said Stags were up against it after Rovers' opener.

"The first goal knocked the stuffing out of us, but for 35 minutes we were the better side.

"We'd had one goal disallowed and the second goal was a killer punch."

Evening Post, 09 August 2004

Derek Asamoah admits he thought he had registered a goal on his League Two debut for the Stags.

The striker, who had an effort ruled out for offside, said: "We played very well. We were unlucky, but you have to take your chances.

"We scored a couple of goals which were disallowed and that was the difference.

"I thought I was onside - and the second one was a clear header and a clear goal. You are always going to get confusion at a corner, but we were very unlucky with that one."

Evening Post, 09 August 2004

Joe O'Neill didn't have much of an opportunity to show the Mansfield Town fans what he is capable of during his League Two debut for the Stags on Saturday.

Manager Keith Curle threw on two extra strikers, including O'Neill, as Stags looked for a way back into the game after going 2-0 down.

The 21-year-old striker, signed on a three-month loan from Preston, said: "It was a difficult game to come on in. We were putting pressure on them, but there were a lot of bodies about so I didn't really get involved too much - but I thought I did all right.

"We had to go for it and sometimes it's quite difficult playing like that but other times it can go for you. We were just unlucky.

"We had two disallowed goals, hit the bar and had three or four other half chances and conceded two sloppy goals."

O'Neill is looking forward to his spell at Field Mill.

"I like the style of the team and the way the lads play and I'm looking forward to having a good few months here.

"I've come here to try to play some first-team football and I'm just looking forward to playing."


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