STAGS SURRENDER TO LOSE AGAIN AFTER BARKER GOAL
Darlington 2 - 1 Mansfield
C Wijnhard 63, C Hignett 74. R Barker 36
Att: 3686 (221 from Mansfield)
DAY SUMS UP STAGS' SEASON
Evening Post, 08 December 2004
Darlington 2 v 1 Mansfield Town
The sight of Rhys Day hobbling around on crutches at the Williamson Motors Stadium summed up Mansfield's night - and their season.
The injured Stags defender, who says he will be out of action for ten to 12 weeks, watched a patchy display from his side as they extended their run of games without a win to double figures.
Day and his Mansfield team-mates started the season with high hopes, but the defender has had a frustrating campaign so far - and so has the team.
After a bright start to what looked like being an exciting season for the fans has turned into one of disappointment and concern.
There is still time to turn things around, but the goalposts have moved.
The initial target of automatic promotion seemed a realistic one.
Now, most Stags fans would settle for the lottery of a place in the play-offs.
And there will have been more than a few glances at the teams below them in the League Two table to calculate how many points Stags are clear of the relegation zone.
It wasn't all that long ago that Mansfield were going into games knowing a win could take them to the top of the pile.
But last night's defeat left them in 17th place, just three points clear of 21st-placed Rushden and Diamonds and six clear of 22nd-placed Shrewsbury.
An 11th game without a win against Rushden at Field Mill on Saturday would make the alarm bells ring even louder.
Carlton Palmer has spoken about a new pre-season campaign currently in operation and accepts that results could be adversely affected by tired legs as he strives to push up fitness levels.
Put another way, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off temporarily for maintenance.
It was by no means a disastrous display against a Darlington side who look capable of achieving what Mansfield were hoping for at the start of the campaign.
With experienced players like Craig Hignett, Alun Armstrong and Clyde Wijnhard in the home side's starting line-up, it was little surprise that Kevin Pilkington had a busy night.
And, although Mansfield did enough to feel a little aggrieved they did not leave with a point, a 2-1 home victory was probably a fair enough reflection of the balance of play.
With Luke Dimech and skipper Alex John-Baptiste the only centre backs available and Jake Buxton the only full back, Palmer opted to play Alex Neil at right-back.
Neil, who has been told he is no longer part of the club's plans, performed well enough in the role, while Dimech - who has also been told he can leave - had a solid game in the heart of defence.
Despite the scoreline, John-Baptiste was in good form and Pilkington, who can only be blamed for either of the goals by the harshest of critics, produced some good stops to keep Mansfield in the hunt for their first win since the victory against Notts County.
Palmer, who started with a 4-4-1-1 formation, was confident his side could conjure up three points.
But his prophecy that the tough Stags training regime could take its toll in games came true with some tired Stags legs by the end.
Adam Murray's through pass and Richie Barker's excellent finish gave Stags renewed hope that they could claim maximum points.
But watching Wigan boss Paul Jewell will no doubt have been more impressed with the contribution of Hignett and Neil Wainwright, who was a thorn in Mansfield's left side.
Wainwright was highly effective in the right wing-back role in a 3-5-2 formation, while Hignett's display was full of quality touches.
And, after Wijnhard had levelled the scores, it was perhaps fitting that a quickly-taken free-kick by Hignett should settle the issue in Darlington's favour, albeit with the help of a deflection.
10 games without win for sad Stags
TWO goals in 12 second half minutes left struggling Mansfield Town without a win in 10 games at they slid to a 2-1 defeat at Darlington's plush Williamson Motors Stadium last night.
On an icy night, Stags led at the break through Richie Barker's first goal for the club on 36 minutes, finally breaking the club's miserable spell of 440 minutes without a League goal. And they were good value for that lead.
But the Quakers, on the fringe of the play-offs, stepped up a gear after the break, pushing the tiring visitors back into their own half and eventually grabbing two goals from experienced duo Clyde Wijnhard and Craig Hignett.
Hignett's winner was a quickly-taken free kick that caught Mansfield napping to rub salt into the wounds after the first was conceded while the home side was temporarily down to 10 men.
The result piled the pressure on the Stags and caretaker boss Carlton Palmer - now without a win in five games since taking charge — ahead of Saturday's visit of strugglers Rushden and Diamonds.
Stags welcomed Alex John-Baptiste and Derek Asamoah back after suspension.
But, with Dave Artell suspended and Jason Talbot ruled out with an infected toe, Mansfield were left with only three recognised defenders and midfielder Neil was forced to play at right back. Darlington were boosted by the return of the vastly experienced Craig Hignett and Curtis Fleming.
Asamoah's pace won the visitors a first minute corner. But when that was worked short, Corden eventually teed up Murray who pulled his shot tamely wide.
Asamoah almost found an opening on eight minutes when Murray's crossfield pass was flicked into his path by defender Kendrick. But Russell raced off his line to close him down and Asamoah's shot hit the advancing keeper's knees on the edge of the box.
Soon after Murray was well over when the Quaker's cleared Corden's cross to him 25 yards from goal.
Wainwright, already warned for leaving a foot in on Buxton, brought the full back down again on 21 minutes to earn the night's first caution.
The Darlington player then turned Corden on the right before drilling in a cross that beat everyone before reaching Clark on the far side who turned the ball harmlessly wide when he should have done better.
Stags hit back and Neil tried to put Warne in on the left, but Clarke stepped in with a great tackle as he shot to concede a corner.
Pilkington was happy to see Clark's dipping 25 yard blast go over the bar a minute later as Darlington went straight back on the attack.
But Stags were playing their part in an entertaining first half and again wasted a good chance on 33 minutes when Neil's superb long cross picked out Barker, who sent a powerful header straight at the keeper from seven yards.
But he made amends with the opening goal on 36 minutes. Fed by Murray, Barker still had Fleming on his back. But he shrugged the defender off powerfully before superbly steering a low finish under the keeper from a tight angle.
Murray was almost away for a second goal after robbing Hignett, but he miskicked his attempted chip and it sailed well wide of the target. Soon after he also guided a 20 yard volley wide from a poor clearance.
Hignett got a good header onto a long Wijnhard cross, but Pilkington was perfectly positioned to gather as Stags went in with an interval lead.
Brown made his Stags' debut when he replaced Asamoah. And Stags almost extended their lead inside two minutes as Corden curled a free kick over the wall and watched it dip against the crossbar. When Stags won another free kick soon after, Corden curled this one straight at Russell.
Stirred into action Darlington went on the attack down the left through Clark who saw his near post cross sent first time wide by Wijnhard.
Spurred on by an increasingly noisy home support, Darlington enjoyed a spell of pressure in which Stags stood firm.
But eventually the pressure told and the home side levelled in the 63rd minute. Fleming curled the ball out to Clark on the right wing and he whipped in a first time cross which again caused a scramble. Wijnhard stepped in with a decisive finish, ramming the ball home from five yards with Pilkington getting a touch but unable to keep it out the net.
Pilkington saved a curling Hignett free kick and also denied Webster's poke at goal from the second of two successive corners.
Pressure was mounting and, from another corner, Pilkington made a superb reaction save to block Maddison's eight yard blast.
But disaster struck 15 minutes from time after Wijnhard was fouled on the edge of the box. As the wall got itself sorted out, Hignett took it quickly and the ball took a deflection as it found its way into the net with Stags standing stunned.
Pilkington was lucky when a late speculative 35 yard punt from Webster took a wicked deflection off a defender and looped over the stranded keeper and bar for a corner.
Then Wijnhard forced the keeper to save at his near post.
Darlington 2-1 Mansfield
An impressive second-half comeback earned Darlington the points as they secured a valuable home win.
Richard Barker gave the visitors a first-half lead against the run of play, holding off Curtis Fleming to fire underneath Sam Russell.
The Quakers drew level on 63 minutes through Clyde Wijnhard, who pounced to poke the ball past Kevin Pilkington.
Veteran midfielder Craig Hignett won it with 15 minutes remaining, sending a low deflected drive into the net.
Darlington Official Site
Quakers come from behind to gain against crisis hit Mansfield.
After a hectic schedule of games which included some monster away games Quakers were back on home soil for a double bill of league action. Instead of Darlington doing the travelling it was this time the turn of Mansfield Town. The Stags are enduring something of a roller coaster period in their history. With a suspended manager and backroom goings on things were far from happy at Field Mill. No goals in the league for four matches and without a win in nearly ten games things were just as bad on the pitch as off it in the run up to this game. Quakers were left shaken just a day earlier as skipper Craig Liddle was sidelined for six weeks. Better news came in the shape of a return to first team action for both Fleming and Hignett. Youngster Adrian Webster meanwhile also kept his place in the side having impressed Hodgson with his good performances at Yeovil and Cheltenham Town.
Quakers were pushed onto the back foot in the opening minute and after conceding a quick corner Darlington found their feet suddenly. Clyde Wijnhard managed to poke a lofted ball through to Joe Kendrick who powered a shot straight at Pilkington. However it was a nice height for the former Manchester United understudy and he made a good catch. After seven minutes a plucky Mansfield nearly sneaked through as a high ball from Barker nearly gave Asamoah a chance on goal. However Sam Russell was alert and he managed to send the ball clear. Close to the ten minute mark Hignett slipped the ball through looking for Wijnhard however his run took him offside. Despite the fairly slow start to the game Quakers started to look promising and a decent forward surge from Webster nearly released Wijnhard. In their previous game Wijnhard and Wainwright had combined well to get the opening goal and they nearly did so again on seventeen minutes. Wijnhard's ball out wide to Wainwright resulted in a good ball over from the right. Webester arrived at the far post but the ball was just too quick for him. A better chance for Webster arrived moments later when Wijnhard put him through. Pilkington did well to come out and make a good block for a corner kick. Despite the crowd's frustration near the half hour mark Darlington kept hold of the ball, refusing to blindly rush it forward and lose it. Their patience was rewarded as Neil Wainwright delivered a good ball over from the right for Ian Clark to send wide of Pilkington's right hand post. Ian Clark then sent a pile driver over just over the bar four minutes later. Despite enjoying more of the ball and the bulk of the chances Quakers found themselves behind as Barker managed to sneak behind the Darlington defence after a mistake by Curtis Fleming. The Mansfield number twenty nine sent a good low shot across Russell and in past the far post for the lead. Five minutes after the goal Darlington could have equalised. Curtis Fleming's good cross from the right found Ian Clark who arrived late and sent a decent header goalwards but Pilkington made an equally decent stop. Mansfield continued to frustrate ahead of the half time whistle as they continued with their plan of packing the area.
A couple of minutes into the second half Wayne Corden crashed a free kick against the cross bar as Darlington were put on the back foot. Quakers had their first good chance on forty nine minutes when Ian Clark's cross from the left was sent over the bar from Wijnhard's swing. Mansfield could have got themselves two in front for the second time as Murray headed a left wing cross down. Russell dived across to his left and made a good save from a header which would have sneaked in. With Matthew Clarke off the pitch receiving treatment for a head injury Darlington were left with ten men and had to reorganise. It was therefore rather ironic that Quaker's equaliser should start from the area where they were short. Curtis Fleming played a good ball forward to Ian Clark down the left. His accurate cross found Craig Hignett on the edge of the eight yard box but the ball got caught under his feet. Thankfully it broke to Wijnhard and he slammed it home to draw the home side level after sixty four minutes. The goal gave Darlington and the crowd a lift and they forced a quick sequence of corners and a free kick. Quarter of an hour left and Darlington's equaliser had changed the air around the ground. Darlington won a free kick about twenty yards out after some patience build up, Wijnhard adjudged to have been up ended for the dead ball kick. Hignett stepped up and his low shot took a deflection and flew into the net for the lead. With six minutes left and Mansfield starting to come back into the game Ian Clark broke for Quakers. He played the ball out to Wijnhard down the right flank. He did well to get just far enough past his man and sent a low near post shot goalwards which Pilkington did well to save. With the clock running down Darlington introduced Craig Russell for Ian Clark as they tried to kill the encounter off. Slowing the pace down, keeping possession and running the ball into the corners achieved just that as Darlington moved onto another three points.
At half time Darlington were left in a very difficult situation. Despite dominating possession and having the chances they found themselves a goal behind. Mansfield's objective was clear from the start. Pack the box and let Darlington play up to their eighteen yard box. At the half time interval Quakers simply needed to keep possession better and get the ball down the flanks. They did just that in the second forty five minutes and steadily built the pressure and the tempo up. After getting into the lead Darlington eased off for the final ten minutes and it left for a nervous finish as Mansfield threatened to come back into it. Quakers however did well overall against a Mansfield side who packed the area and, at half time at least, looked like they might just prove too difficult to break down.
Darlington: Russell, Wainwright, Fleming, Clarke (McGurk 64), Kendrick, Maddison, Clark (Craig Russell 89), Webster (Keltie 85), Hignett, Armstrong, Wijnhard. Subs: Valentine, Keltie, McGurk, Craig Russell, Convery.
Mansfield: Pilkington, Buxton, Baptiste, Dimech, Neil, Asamoah (Brown 45), Corden, Murray, Curtis, Barker, Warne. Subs: White, Maxwell, Brown, McIntosh, Wood.
Darlington bookings: Wainwright.
Mansfield bookings: Neil
Goals: Barker 35th min (0-1), Wijnhard 64th min (1-1), Hignett 75th min (2-1).
Darlington 2 Mansfield 1
By Scott Thornberry
Darlington scored two second half goals to come back from one nil down and take the victory. The Quakers were well on top against a dire Mansfield Town team who now haven't won in 10 games. Clyde Wijnhard and Craig Hignett scored the crucial goals. Darlo now are in the play offs! 7th place.
The Quakers pulled off another win to get their promotion bid back on track. Well 'promotion bid' sounds a bit optimistic but you can't hide the fact that we are ideally poised for a play off push.
David Hodgson welcomed back Craig Hignett and Curtis Fleming to the line up with Adrian Webster keeping his midfield position.
The Quakers started well and were passing the ball around freely. But it was Mansfield who took a shock lead. Richard Barker beat the offside trap, he was at least two yards onside due to Kendrick on the opposite wing. He ran into the box and shrugged off Flemings desperate attempt to stop him and slotted it through Russell's legs. It was a cruel blow but Darlo paid for missing previous chances.
The second half was a much improved affair and Darlington stuck to their gameplan and patience seemed the key. But Mansfield did strike the crossbar just minutes in. A superb free kick had Russell struggling and the strike rattled the bar and was cleared for a corner.
Their passing play paid dividends when the ball was swung in from the left wing and into Alun Armstrong's feet. He could not get to grips with the ball and it rolled back out to the incoming Wijnhard. He couldn't get a clean strike but he managed to get enough to bundle it over the line. From that point on an already average Mansfield became a very poor Mansfield. Strange to see a team which in recent years have been superb, become so poor.
It was only a matter of time before the winner came and it was thanks to a piece of quick thinking that another goal was added. Clyde Wijnhard was brought down 10 yards outside the area. Whilst the keeper and his wall were still communicating Craig Hignett saw the unguarded net and quickly poked the ball through. It took a slight deflection and went through the scrambling keeper to make it 2-1.
After the game David Hodgson told Radio Cleveland "When we came in at half time I said 'Listen forget the booing go out there second half, , I don't care if you get beat 3-0'. If you go out you don't go and try and score goals, you don't be positive, then this is going to be a long season because every time we come here at home, unless we get a goal early doors, then you are going to get further and further into a shell and your going to have to rely on your away form to get you results."
"Get out there and start enjoying it like you did at Cheltenham, like you did at Yeovil and go and play football but most of all be very positive. After the first five or ten minutes I think we had about five crosses in and Clarky was responsible for those deliveries and they started getting on the back foot and that got us into the game and when we scored I didn't see them beating us."
Sam Russell - 7 - had very little to do but managed to collect a few shots.
Fleming - 7 - shows composure on the ball and more than a replacement for the injured Liddle.
Clarke -7 - Did his job well, won the headers and was forced off with a cut after Kendrick wiped him out.
Kendrick - 6 - One of his better games but seems to suffer from fans who seem to now think that everything is Kendricks fault. Attacked well in second half, especially on Clarke.
Clark - 6 - Second half especially, attacked the wing providing overlaps for Kendrick, although JK did not always pass to him.
Webster - 8 - Absolutely superb and was a real surprise package. Attacked well, good passing and never stopped running.
Maddison - 6 - His role seems to be to pass the ball to Higgy or Webster. Did that job well.
Hignett - 8 - This bloke is just class. Lost the ball a couple of times but his vision coupled with his skill has been missed.
Wainwright - 6 - Didn't manage to get passed enough defenders for me. But still got a fair few crosses in.
Wijnhard - 6 - Still a shadow of his former self. Got the goal but the spark is still not there.
Armstrong - 6 - Went close a few times but didn't have any clear cut chances. His contract is up on the 16th December and I don't expect anybody to come in for him just yet.
Goal Attempts 11 : 9 Goal Attempts
On Target 8 : 4 On Target
Crosses 23 : 8 Crosses
Corners 10 : 4 Corners
Offside 3 : 2 Offside
Fouls 11 : 14 Fouls
Free kicks 17 : 16 Free kicks
Yellow cards 1 : 1 Yellow cards
Red cards - : - Red cards
% Possession 54 : 46 Possession %
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