REPORTS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
STAGS GRAB GAME BY THE THROAT
Chester City 0 v 3 Mansfield Town
As half-time team talks go, Keith Curle's must have been right up there with some of the best.
Stags fans are still trying to work out how their afternoon was transformed from one of despair to jubilation in such dramatic fashion.
At half-time, a high proportion of the Mansfield faithful were contemplating a disappointing season.
But in the space of 30 or so second-half minutes, their promotion dreams had been restored.
After defeats against Bristol Rovers and Oxford, it looked to be going from bad to worse for the visitors.
They were fortunate to still be level at the interval, after a poor first-half display and a host of chances for the home side.
But Stags fans will be hoping they see more of the Mansfield side which appeared for the second half, after Curle's men turned the game on its head with a spectacular flurry of goals.
The four changes Curle made to the side paid bumper dividends eventually, but his 4-3-3 formation couldn't cope with Chester's first-half onslaught.
Tom Curtis capped a promising first-minute Stags move by shooting wide.
But that was as good as it got in the first period, as wave upon wave of City attacks produced a string of chances.
Kevin Pilkington wasn't doing much to inspire confidence and, although he did make one acrobatic catch to deny Kevin Ellison, the former Manchester United keeper flapped on occasion.
He acted as an extra outfield man at times, racing out to sweep up behind the defence but it was one of his less convincing performances.
Michael Branch and Stewart Drummond posed an early threat for Chester and, after the home side failed to capitalise on Pilkington's slippery grip, Kevin Rapley went close with a long-range strike and a lofted effort from an angle.
Derek Asamoah squandered an opportunity to give Stags the lead against the run of play when Chester keeper Wayne Brown palmed away his shot after the striker had beaten his man on a penetrating run, then Paul Carden fired wide at the other end as Chester resumed normal first half service.
Rapley and Drummond wasted opportunities before the break, although Adam Murray twice tried his luck in the closing minutes of the period.
If a match in the Olympics football competition swings as much as this one did in the second half, the drug testers could well be summoned to see if the half-time drinks had been spiked. They hadn't, of course.
Mansfield came out all guns blazing and took the lead two minutes later.
A great ball from Joe O"Neill, who was booked on his full debut, set up Larkin and his pass gave Asamoah the opportunity to crash in Mansfield's first goal of the new campaign.
Branch was cautioned after squaring up to Jake Buxton, making his first appearance of the season, before Asamoah went close to grabbing his second.
The former Northampton striker shot straight at Brown after racing clear of the defence, but Stags' pressure paid off in the 62nd minute as the visitors opened a two-goal advantage.
Buxton's strike forced Brown into a great save during a series of Mansfield corners and, when another was only half cleared, Dave Artell and Murray combined to create a goalscoring opportunity.
Asamoah failed to connect with an overhead kick as he attempted to convert Murray's centre, but Buxton was well placed behind him to fire home for only his second Stags goal.
Asamoah outpaced the floundering Chester defence before wasting yet another good chance, but there was still time for Larkin to put the icing on the cake with a powerful 30-yard strike which found the top left corner and set the seal on a remarkable victory.
Safe in his job?
Chester's sponsors won"t have been over-impressed with the lack of enthusiasm shown for the money they have put into the club.
A local car dealership has sponsored Chester's ground, which has been renamed the Saunders Honda Stadium.
But the new name is clearly taking some getting used to.
City's tannoy announcer continually referred to the venue as the Deva Stadium - the former name for the ground - before his error was pointed out.
And he made it clear what he thought of the name change when he announced: "Unfortunately, we've got to call it the Saunders Honda Stadium now."
CURLE: WHY I NEVER HAD ANY DOUBTS
Keith Curle says he never doubted that things would come right for his side.
And he says the manner of Mansfield's victory at Chester highlights the talent he has at his disposal.
"Sometimes it's not going to be pretty and you're not going to be able to play through teams," said the Stags boss.
"We showed that sometimes you're not going to hurt teams by playing attractive football, you have to do what is needed to hurt them and we did that down the sides with Derek Asamoah and Colin Larkin.
"Without a shadow of a doubt I've always known we are going to be successful this season.
"Sometimes you get other people who might doubt that, but I will never doubt my ability and the ability of my players.
"I heard that a few people were saying that because we lost the first two games, we won't be automatic promotion contenders - why not?
"I believe we are going to be in the shake-up at the end of the season.
It's a long season and I've got confidence in myself and my players."
Curle was happy with his team's performance as a whole, not just in the second half.
"In the first half we knew we had to come here and get a foothold in the game, and make sure we didn't give anything away.
"They play direct football and turn balls in behind teams and try to play at a tempo and we had to match that.
"We caused them problems in the first half and we knew we would cause problems in the second half - and we got our rewards."
He added: "Sometimes it's easy to pick up on negatives. This team has got goals in it and we will play attractive attacking football, as we did in the first two games.
"You have to give credit to Chester, they know we've got decent pace and in the second half they tried pushing forward.
"But we're going to be dangerous if teams play a high line against us."
TATE: THIS IS JUST THE START
Chris Tate hopes Saturday's victory has kick-started Mansfield's campaign following the defeats against Bristol Rovers and Oxford.
And like his manager, Tate believes Stags did well to contain Chester in the first half and set up a platform to go on and win the game.
Tate, who came on as a substitute to face a club at which he has spent two spells on loan, said: "I didn't think we were playing that badly in the first half.
"Away from home you've got to play a bit differently.
"We played an attacking line-up wiith the three players up front and we played pretty well and contained them.
"They threw everything they could at us but our defence held them off.
"The ideal thing was to score an early goal in the second half and Derek (Asamoah) deserved a goal.
"It calmed us down and deflated them."
MATHIAS: WE HAVE TO LEARN
Chester's temporary manager Ray Mathias said his players were "gutted" after Saturday's defeat.
And he admits life back in the Football League is a steep learning curve for the club.
Mathias, who was installed as caretaker after the shock departure of Mark Wright the night before the start of the new campaign, said: "We dominated the first half and when we conceded in the first couple of minutes of the second it was disappointing to see heads go down.
"We switched off and you can't do that in this league.
"We didn't stick our chances away and that's what happens in football. It was a lesson for the players.
"We've got lots of habits to learn - the Conference is different from the League and you get punished for your mistakes."
Mathias believes Mansfield have what it takes to be successful this season.
"I saw them play against Oxford and they played differently against us," he said. "They were very pacy with Asamoah and Larkin up front. In the first half we switched on to that but in the second they got behind us.
"In the past they've been the best footballing side in the division and they've obviously got confidence from this win.
"You can see them going on from here."
Football First match report:
By Simon Doyle
transcribed by Carole
CITY WELL BEATEN
CHESTER caretaker boss Ray Mathias believes his team will have to improve quickly or they will be back in the Conference.
Mathias watched his team capitulate in the second-half as Mansfield ran out 3-0 winners.
Second-half goals from Dereck Asamoah, Jake Buxton and a stunning strike from Colin Larkin condemned Chester to their second demoralising defeat in a week they'll do well to forget.
Mathias said: “We dominated the first half and created chances, but in the second half a couple of heads went down, which was disappointing to see.”
He added: “This is all part of a learning process for us. We have got to learn quickly or we will be back where we started.
“I have said to the players until I am blue in the face that you can't just play for 45 minutes and you've got to keep that tempo going and not make any silly mistakes at all or they'll cost you.”
Certainly, Chester had looked the brighter of the two teams early on and Stewart Drummond, Kevin Ellison and Michael Branch all went close with efforts in the first period of a frenetic game.
But the visitors produced a stunning response in the second period and took the lead within 80 seconds of the restart.
Colin Larkin made excellent progress down the right flank and crossed to the impressive Asamoah who coolly side footed home from close range.
Jake Buxton sent a looping header towards goal which Wayne Brown did magnificently to push away at full stretch.
The second goal came as no surprise just after the hour mark as Dave Artell crossed allowing Buxton to fire home.
Any hopes Chester had of getting back in the game were ended as Larkin struck an unstoppable drive from 25 yards.
Mansfield manager Keith Curle, who knows a thing or two about scrapping for points, believes his team have the capability to be in the promotion shake up at the end of the season.
He said: “I heard a few rumours, people saying that we are not going to be automatic promotion contenders, but I say why not. I believe that we are going to be in the shake up at the end of the season. This team has got goals in them and we will play attractive attacking football.”
A scouting mission at Chester on Tuesday night paid dividends and Curle said: “I assessed their team and our two lads up front with pace and Joe O'Neill with his movement and physical presence were always going to call them problems.”
Chester City………Mansfield Town
58-----------Possession %---- 42
5------------Shots on Target----6
9------------Shots off Target---4
Stags off the mark at last
MANSFIELD Town produced a second half super-show to finally produce their first goals and points of the new campaign in a rousing 3-0 victory at Chester this afternoon.
There were few chances in a dour first half in which Chester had the edge.
But Mansfield looked a different side after the break and after Derek Asamoah had put them ahead within two minutes they never looked back as the Conference champions wilted in the heat.
Jake Buxton made it 2-0 on 62 minutes before Colin Larkin rounded it off with a spectacular third 12 minutes from time.
Manager Keith Curle made four changes with O'Neill, Curtis, MacKenzie and Buxton in to replace Eaton, Williamson, Corden and Neil.
On a humid afternoon Mansfield, playing a 4-3-3 formation, were first to show with Murray nodding down a Larkin cross for Curtis to fire wide.
O'Neill was booked as early as the third minute for a late tackle on McIntyre.
However, Chester were starting to settle the better and keeping the visitors' defence busy with long balls forward to Branch and Ripley.
Carden cued up Drummond on 10 minutes for a first time shot that went narrowly wide.
Shortly after, an over-hit ball forward by Artell saw a section of the Stags fans amazingly turn on him and call for Rhys Day.
On 20 minutes Pilkington spilled a cross - the first of several uncharacteristic handling errors by the Mansfield keeper. Artell eventually headed away to clear the danger.
Chester began to try pot shots from distance with Rapley wide with a hooked effort from 30 yards, Branch just over from 20 yards and Rapley then just wide as he tried to lob Pilkington as he raced onto a long clearance from his own keeper.
Stags had a rare attack in which Artell hit the ball forward, Asamoah turned and ran at goal from a tight angle before forcing Brown into a save.
It was Chester who continued to look the more menacing and Carden was again wide from outside the box.
Another handling error from Pilkington caused chaos. Eventually he recovered to save from Rapley, but the referee had spotted an offence and awarded an indirect free kick inside the box.
But the wall did its job as McIntyre and then Harris both had shots charged down.
The ball went for a corner and, when Pilkington again misjudged it, the ball dropped at the far post for Rapley who could only find the side netting.
A poor half for the Stags ended with two efforts by Murray from outside the box in the dying minutes, one closer than the other, but neither troubling Brown who had been a spectator for much of the first 45 minutes.
However, it was a different Stags that emerged after the break, full of fire and ready to go up a gear.
MacKenzie signalled their intentions within the first 30 seconds when he whistled one just over the top from 25 yards.
And on 47 minutes they went ahead. O'Neill threaded a superb pass to Larkin to his right. He pulled the ball back from the bye-line towards Asamoah who swept home at the near post for his first goal for the club.
He should have added another on 55 minutes after racing clear on goal onto a Murray through ball. But he fired straight at the advancing Brown.
Four minutes later Buxton forced a great save from Brown with a header from a Curtis cross.
But Buxton wasn't to be denied and on 62 minutes he was well placed to bury Murray's cross after Asamoah had missed the ball with an ambitious overhead attempt.
A Pilkington punch-out only found Drummond on 75 minutes. But he hit the ball over the keeper and the bar as the home fans bayed their disgust.
Caretaker manager Ray Mathias was roundly booed for bringing off their best player, Paul Carden.
And his afternoon of misery was complete on 78 minutes as Stags added a third goal.
Pilkington's clearance was controlled by substitute Tate and laid towards Larkin. Chester opened up for him as he ran at them and the Irish striker suddenly let fly from 30 yards and found the top left corner, giving Brown no chance.
That left Keith Curle a happy man and Chester without a win in their first three games back in the League.
Chester 0-3 Mansfield
Mansfield's second half performance earned them a deserved win at Chester.
They went in front after Colin Larkin crossed for Derek Asamoah to fire home from close range.
Dave Artell's cross from the right was then converted by Jake Buxton for mansfield's second as Chester struggled to cope with their visitors.
And Larkin rounded off the victory whe he hit an unstoppable drive from outside the box to seal the win with 12 minutes left.
Match Statistics (Chester/Stags)
14 Goal Attempts 10
5 On target 6
9 Off target 4
0 Woodwork 0
6 Corners 4
10 Fouls 7
5 Offside 2
Latest | August 2004