MIDFIELDER DESPERATE TO BE BACK IN SQUAD
Evening Post, MARK ROACH, 11 August 2004
Neil MacKenzie said today he will be banging down Keith Curle's door if he is left out of the Mansfield squad for tonight's clash at Oxford.
The midfielder was unhappy at being left out of the 16 to face Bristol Rovers on Saturday and made his feelings known to the Stags boss.
He said: "I've had talks with him and we'll take it from there, but if I'm not in the 16 I'll be banging on his door until I am.
"He said there will be a lot of players who are left out. I'll just have to keep working hard to get back in there."
Curle said: "He wasn't picked for the 16 for no more sinister reason than I only have 19 professionals to select from and I can only choose 16 for any game.
"So there will always be three disappointed players.
"If they are upset it is a good thing, it means they are keen to play and they will have to show me in the week that they are fit to play."
Curle says one of the reasons MacKenzie was omitted on Saturday was so he could include 16-year-old youth team keeper Michael Langford as cover for Kevin Pilkington, with number two Jason White still out of action.
White has had his cast removed after breaking his thumb, and is set to be available again in the next two weeks.
Steve Basham, Oxford's leading scorer last season, and fellow striker Julian Alsop both missed Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Boston United and are doubtful tonight.
Graham Rix could again start with new strike duo Lee Bradbury and Tommy Mooney up front, possibly in a 4-3-3 formation.
Defender David Woozley is out with a knee injury. Former Chelsea midfielder Rob Wolleaston was one of six summer signings to start for Oxford on Saturday.
Stags squad from: Pilkington, McNiven, Eaton, Day, John-Baptiste, Neil, Williamson, Murray, Corden, Larkin, Asamoah, O'Neill, Artell, Tate, Curtis, Langford (K). Possibles: Dimech, Buxton, MacKenzie.
Oxford squad from: Tardif, Mackay, Roget, Ashton, Robinson, Hackett, Wanless, Wolleaston, Brown, Mooney, Bradbury, Basham, Alsop, Quinn, Cox (K), Molymeaux, Louis, Parker, Morgan.
Stags need Oxford kickstart
MANSFIELD Town head for Oxford United tomorrow night(Wednesday, 7.45pm) looking to kickstart their season after Saturday's 2-0 opening home defeat by Bristol Rovers.
Despite enjoying the lion's share of possession, shellshocked Stags succumbed to a classic smash and grab raid by new-look Rovers.
Manager Keith Curle, now facing back-to back away games with a trip to Chester looming this Saturday (3pm), said: "It would have been nice to start the new season with a win.
"But I know that, just because we didn't win on Saturday, it doesn't mean we won't go up - just as winning on Saturday won't guarantee success for those who did.
"I know that over 46 games we will be successful and we will go to Oxford tonight to try to get our first win.
"We know that any side under Graham Rix will be well organised and like to play football.
"They have brought in some quality players in the summer and they will be dangerous in front of goal if you give them a chance.
"On the whole, I was pleased with much of our play on Saturday - particularly the first 35 minutes.
"We looked solid at the back, creative in midfield and dangerous up front.
"I believe that if we'd scored first we would have gone on to win the match.
"But it suited Rovers' game plan to score first and then sit back and nullify the game by defending deep."
Oxford have certainly been busy on the recruitment front with 11 new players on board at the Kassam Stadium, including players of the quality of Tommy Mooney and Lee Bradbury who will form a potent strike partnership.
However, they, like Stags, began the new season with defeat - losing 1-0 to a late goal at Boston United.
The match will also provide a swift return to the Kassam for Mansfield's new full back Scott McNiven.
On Saturday Stags then have to travel to Chester who, despite seeing manager Mark Wright quit the club on the eve of the new season, managed a battling 1-1 draw at Notts County, thanks to a late equaliser.
Chester are back in the League after winning the Conference and Curle said: "Chester enjoyed a fantastic pre-season and, although there is a lot of turmoil there right now with the manager and the assistant manager going, we know a club so successful recently has a unity and togetherness that can see them through."
A crowd of 5,709 turned out at Field Mill on a very hot afternoon on Saturday.
Unfortunately, it didn't take long before a minority were booing and leaving early.
"I know I have good players in my changing room and that doesn't change just because we lost on Saturday," said Curle. "Similarly, just because a certain section of the crowd booed us, I don't belive we have bad supporters.
"I know when we are successful they will all be backing us.
"It's not as if we didn't create anything. We had two goals disallowed, we hit the crossbar, forced a couple of saves from their keeper and saw a couple of other good efforts blocked. We remained a threat for the rest of the game.
"Junior Agogo won it for them but he didn't look anything in that first half-hour and we needed to score.
"But full respect to Rovers. They came with a game plan and it worked."
There were rumours of a bust-up between Curle and midfielder Neil MacKenzie who was left out of the 16.
Curle said; "I have 19 pros right now and I can only pick 16. Neil was in that 16 originally until I decided I didn't want to risk going without a sub keeper.
"Naturally Neil was upset. But it's no big deal.
"Without a shadow of a doubt I would expect there were players upset at being left out at every club up and down the country on Saturday."
Previews from Oxford sites:
McNiven eyes Stags party
by Mark Edwards on 10 August 2004
SCOTT McNiven returns to Oxford United tomorrow with his new club Mansfield, but insists he has nothing to prove.
McNiven was a virtual ever-present under former boss Ian Atkins, but struggled to keep his place following the arrival of Graham Rix.
Although the former Oldham defender was made a new offer by United in the summer, he was not impressed with the terms, and opted to sign a one-year deal with the Stags.
And who should he face in his first two matches for Mansfield, but Atkins's new side, Bristol Rovers, and Oxford.
"I just could not believe it when the fixtures came out, because they were probably the two games I was looking out for, and there they were, the first two of the season," McNiven said.
"I am really looking forward to going back to Oxford because I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
"The only two times it was not fun, was when we missed out on the play-offs for the last two seasons because we know that we blew it both times.
"But to play against your old manager in the opening game, and then your former club in the second, it couldn't be weirder than that."
McNiven admits that he would have prefered to have stayed at Oxford, but could not accept their offer, and was a little disappointed that they did not come back with an impoved contract.
"I would have liked to have signed a new deal with Oxford, but just couldn't with what they offered me," he said.
"I was not looking for a wage increase, I just wanted the same terms as I was on, but they wouldn't give me that.
"I don't feel that I will go back to Oxford with a point to prove, because I thought I did pretty well while I was there.
“I always felt that I got on well with the supporters, so I am hoping that they give me a decent reception because they were very good to me while I was there."
McNiven says that he expects Oxford to again be among the promotion contenders this season, but is confident that his new side can also be up there.
Both clubs lost their best player to Sunderland in the summer, with Dean Whitehead and Liam Lawrence moving north.
But McNiven is confident that Mansfield have what it takes to be right up there again.
"We can't compete with Oxford in terms of money, but we have a decent side here," he said.
"We knew what to expect from Bristol Rovers on Saturday, and it was obviously disappointing to lose 2-0, but we played quite well.
"Obviously both us and Oxford are looking for our first win, and while they have made a couple of big signings in the summer, we are hopeful."
Mansfield Town are the first visitors of the season to the KasStad when they play United tomorrow evening. Last season the Stags were beaten by Huddersfield in the Division Three play-off final, and after losing their opening game 2-0 to Ian Atkins' Bristol Rovers they will doubtless be keen to get their season back on track as soon as possible. Of course, Oxford also lost their opening game, at Boston, and will be hoping to recapture their home form of last season, that saw them only beaten once at the Kas, by Huddersfield, as it happens.
United still have various injury problems, with defender Dave Woozley and midfielder Mark E'Beyer having to wait to make their Oxford debuts. Mark Rawle is still sidelined with his groin strain, and Steve Basham will probably be unable to take part. Julian Alsop could be fit to be part of the squad, but Graham Rix is likely to continue with the same line-up that lost at York Street, although he could tinker with the midfield, possibly handing Terry Parker his first start in place of Danny Brown, or bringing Barry Quinn into the starting line-up for Paul Wanless.
Mansfield lost many of their key players over the summer, with Liam Lawrence joining Dean Whitehead at Sunderland, Craig Disley going to the Gas, Iyesden Christie ending up at Kiddy, Junior Mendes getting League One football, ironically with Huddersfield, and Bobby Hassell and Tony Vaughan going to Barnsley, amongst others. On the credit side they brought in Derek Asamoah from Northampton, and a certain Scott McNiven. However, the disruption to their squad means that they will probably be satisfied with a mid-table finish.
Tomorrow is Tommy Mooney's birthday, so it's with heavy heart that, following Saturday's reverse, we have to lay aside our uncharacteristic optimistic outlook and revert to cynicism. Mooney may well grab himself a birthday goal, but in a game that promises goals by the bucketful, we can't see further than a 2-2 draw
Mansfield Town Preview
Date: 10/8/2004After both teams suffered disappointing defeats on the opening day against Boston and Rovers respectively, neither will want to lose tomorrow evening and leave them stuck on a big fat zero. Full preview and stats right here.
Stags are visit to Visit the Kassam
We welcome Scott McNiven and the Stags for our first home match of the season. Oxford And Mansfield have met on 22 occasions (23 if you count the abandoned game last year). Oxford has won 9, Mansfield has won 9 and 4 draws.
It couldn't be better balanced.
Mansfield started the season with dissapointment as well as Oxford, them going down 2-0 at home to Ian Atkins Bristol Rovers at Field Mill. So two of the early season favoured teams will be looking for a win to start the campaign or one of us will be 6 points off the pace already. Scott McNiven signed for Mansfield only 22 days before the encounter so will have a lot of inside information on the team.
Mansfield have also signed Ghanaian Forward Derek Asamoah from Northampton on a free transfer. An un settled time at the Cobblers only starting 38 times and making nearly 100 substitute appearances became a bit like our own Mark Rawle a super sub. Scoring only 13 goals in 3 years he obviously left to play more regular first team football.
Asamoah was brought in to replace Junior Mendes who left to join Huddersfield Town.
Mansfield released 8 players in June, Chris Beardsley, Craig Mitchell, Iysden Christie, Mark Carter, James Coates, Andy Jones, Mark Hurst and Laurent D'Jaffo all released without other clubs to go to in what can only be seen as a cost cutting exercise as all with the exception of D'Jaffo were trainees.
Bobby Hassell left to join Barnsley on a free so it seems we are not the only team in the division who have made substantial changes over the summer.
Mansfield have not Beaten Oxford at home since September 1976 when they left the Manor with 2 points after a 3-0 win. The only other Victory for Mansfield in Oxford came in the F.A cup in 1964-5 when a solitary goal gave the Stags progression into the second round. (they were beaten 3-0 on their travels to south Wales when the old Newport county beat them 3-0 in the second round).
Last seasons match at Field mill was abandoned at half time and despite being told by the referee this, Keith Curle who was under fire at the time still sent his Mansfield side out to make it look good for the fans. Mansfield won the re arranged fixture 3-1. After goals from Mendes (16), Larkin (19) and Day (37) was only replied to by Deano (34).
It was also the famous game when Jon Ashton passed back to a Mansfield player when he forgot we were not playing in Yellow and got confused by the seats.
Earlier on in the season second half goals from Paul Wanless (64) and Neil Mackenzie (79) shared the points at the Kassam.
In the last 2 years we have met 5 times with Mansfield winning 3 Oxford 1 and the draw last season.
One thing is for sure we need to bounce back with a strong home start both tomorrow and against Scunny on Saturday otherwise the pressure will start to build up already.
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