EVENING POST REPORT, PLUS OBSERVER REPORT
Mansfield & Ashfield Observer Report by Steve Hartshorn:
DERBY DAY DELIGHT FOR STAGS
Richie Barker scored the only goal of the game as The Stags finally ended a 47-year hoodoo by defeating neighbours Notts County at Meadow Lane last weekend.
It was an historic day all round as Stags, playing their 3000th League game and roared on by over 3,600 travelling supporters, completed the double over their Coca Cola League 2 rivals.
Caretaker Boss, Carlton Palmer reverted to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation with goalscoring hero, Barker playing up front with Shane Smeltz whilst Derek Asamoah returned to the starting line up in a right hand midfield birth. There were also changes at the back, with Dimech suspended, Palmer opted for a centre half partnership of Buxton and John-Baptiste, Alex Neil dropping to right back.
It was Mansfield who threatened first when on 4 minutes a dangerous cross from Adam Rundle was met by Smeltz, but the striker failed to make solid contact and the ball flew wide of Saul Deeney's right hand post.
On 19 minutes County almost stole the lead when indecision in the Stags area allowed Magpies striker, Gavin Gordon the chance to power a header towards the Stags goal, but his attempt hit the side netting.
One minute later and the travelling hordes from Mansfield were sparked into wild celebrations when Stags took the lead. Mansfield were awarded a free kick on the left touchline, Rundle took the kick and floated in a perfect cross that was superbly met by the head of Richie Barker, who's header looped over Deeney into the far corner of the net.
County were struggling as the young Stags centre half partnership of Buxton and John-Baptiste more than coped with the front line threat of Gordon and the returning Magpies hero, Mark Stallard.
On 28 minutes, Gareth Jelleyman worked a position for himself but volleyed straight at the county keeper.
County tried in vain to get a foothold in the game, Gordon again went close with a header as the home side stepped up the pressure, but The Stags defence held firm.
Stags almost got their 2nd goal of the game on 34 minutes when Murray sent out a perfect ball to the right hand side were the speedy Asamoah got the better of ex-Cobblers team-mate, Rob Ullathorne and raced into the County area, there he evaded two more challenges before unleashing a shot that just flew over the angle of the post and crossbar with County Keeper, Deeney just a spectator.
As the first half headed for a close, County fashioned a couple of chances, Pilkington saving at the feet of Gill and Pipe wasting his 3rd effort of the half, flashing his shot well wide when expected to do better.
Shane Smeltz was causing the County defence all sorts of problems and was linking up well with the tireless and impressive Richie Barker. On 48 minutes Smeltz tangled with Ullathorne, with the County man clearly raising his hands into the Stags strikers face. Strangely the Referee did nothing when most of the crowd expected Ullathorne to at the very least receive a card.
On 58 minutes Asamoah crossed low for Smeltz who's back heal attempt was blocked.
Just a minute later, Smeltz was replaced by Simon Brown who positioned himself on the right hand side of midfield, Asamoah moving up front to partner Barker.
On 67 minutes a rather harsh free kick was awarded against Baptiste but from just outside the box, Palmer fired just over the bar.
Brown and the impressive Rundle linked together well on 70 minutes and fashioned a chance for Barker. The big centre forwards overhead effort was going wide but up popped Adam Murray to fire the ball back into the middle but the flag had gone up.
County were trying in vain and Gill should have done better when found by a fine ball from Bolland, but he blazed well over. Gordon also had a chance, but his header was wasted.
As the game neared its end, County had their best chance of equalising but substitute, Glynn Hurst flicked his close range effort over the bar.
The final whistle was greeted by wild celebrations from the Stags players and supporters alike. A win at Meadow Lane had been a long while in coming for Mansfield and no matter what the rest of the season holds for the men from Field Mill, this day will go down in history and will be remembered for years to come.
Although hardly a classic there is no doubt that League game 3000 was special for a number of reasons, most notably a victory at Meadow Lane for the first time in 47 years.
This weekend Mansfield take on Cheltenham Town at Field Mill as Carlton Palmer's men try to keep up their progress in Coca Cola League 2.
Man of the match – Richie Barker. Tireless performance throughout capped by a superb goal.
BOSS 'VINDICATED' ON CORDEN, LARKIN
Evening Post, 07 February 2005
Stags boss Carlton Palmer said his players had vindicated his decision to leave Wayne Corden and Colin Larkin out of Saturday's squad.
"I had to make a decision to leave out Wayne and Colin, and asked the other players to prove me right," he said.
"Had we lost, I would have faced a lot of criticism, but the players did prove me right, so I went in the changing rooms after the game and thanked them for that.
"I am hoping something will happen with Wayne and Colin this week. It will be better for both of them to move on and go to other clubs."
Richie Barker's header gave Stags a win in their 3,000th League game. And for Palmer, the goal came from a striker who epitomised the spirit he feels is essential at Stags.
"We had to dig deep in the second half and Richie Barker was excellent.
"I only found out after the game that he had been in hospital until 4.30am because his son was ill. He didn't tell me because he was so keen to play. That is the sort of attitude I want from everybody here."
The huge travelling support went home along the A60 delighted with the win, and Palmer hopes similar performances - at home to Swansea City tomorrow night and Cheltenham on Saturday - will give them more to cheer about.
"It has been a difficult time for the supporters. There has been a lot of coming and going but hopefully we gave them something to smile about.
"You've got to enjoy the good times after a win like this. But we have two more games this week so the players were training yesterday morning."
Palmer says his policy of introducing younger players is beginning to pay dividends.
"I'm delighted with the young players. They are the future of this club and you can see that I am trying to build the club around them."
GOAL HERO RICHIE IN HOSPITAL DASH
Evening Post, 07 February 2005
BY STEVEN FLETCHER
Stags hero Richie Barker headed the 20th minute winner only hours after an emergency dash to hospital with his son.
Barker only left the hospital at 4.30am after the youngster - who had breathing difficulties - started to improve.
And the former Rotherham front man revealed he did not even tell boss Carlton Palmer about his hectic preparation until after the game.
"I called my wife just before the game who said he was improving, but I didn't want to use the late night as a reason if things weren't going well on the pitch," he said.
"That's why I didn't tell the manager. I really wanted to play and I only started to feel tired in the last 15 minutes. That was when it really hit me, but I didn't want to go off."
The game itself was just what Barker had expected.
"It was a typical derby," he said. "Even the lads were saying after that it wasn't pretty to play in at times, but that is what you expect, with a lot of tough tackling and heading.
"There were 10,000 people in the stadium, and to get that many for a League Two game is excellent. Until 20 minutes before kick off it looked like we had more fans than Notts.
"They really did us proud today, and it does make a difference when you're out there, especially in the last 20 minutes when we were just having to hang in there."
Barker thanked Adam Rundle for the perfect free-kick which led to his winning goal.
"Adam put a lovely ball in. I peeled off the back post and at one point I was going to head it back across goal in case someone could get a touch. But I managed to get my head on it, and it dropped in."
Barker and his Stags teammates are hoping the next two games, both at home in the next five days, can help push them towards play-off places.
"Neither of the games will be easy but they are crucial if we want to build on what we did at Notts," he said.
"Swansea tomorrow night will be tough. They have had an extra day's rest because they played on Friday, and then we have Cheltenham on Saturday.
"I think if we can get four points from those two games we'll be well placed to push for the play-offs. That's not being negative, it's just that most teams would be happy with seven points in a week.
"We've only lost two in 11, so we're going well. And we had a man sent off in both the games we lost. So now we've just got to stick together and push on from here."
Barker will be 30 in May and accepts that, as one of the senior members of Palmer's squad, he will need to help guide the many youngsters his manager is trying to bring through.
"We've got a lot of players aged between 19 and 24. They all stick together and the older players, like me, Keven Pilkington and Tom Curtis are happy to let them get on with it.
"I do not feel under any extra pressure but I am here if they need me. I've come down from Rotherham with experience and because I want to do well here. Hopefully that experience can help the others.
"My first few weeks here were difficult but now I'm settled and while you're winning and the goals are going in, you've got to be happy."
FANS IN DESPAIR AS THE CHANCES ARE SQUANDERED
Evening Post, 07 February 2005
Notts County 0 v 1 Mansfield Town
The pained expressions said it all. To a backdrop of delighted cheers from the departing Mansfield Town fans, Notts County's supporters filed miserably towards the exits.
For some Notts fans defeat to Mansfield was an all-time low. PAUL TAYLOR gives his view
"This is the lowest we"ve ever, ever been," moaned one frowning individual. "Can things get any lower than this, really?"
With a hard fought 1-0 success, Mansfield Town offered a reminder that Notts County's relegation worries may not entirely be over, that things could potentially get worse.
The fact that Cambridge United and Kidderminster Harriers look almost certain to fill the bottom two positions in League Two come May does provide some welcome solace, and suggests relegation is still unlikely.
Barring an absolute disaster, given the eight point buffer that remains between them and second from bottom Kidderminster, the world's oldest League side should not lose their proud status come the end of the campaign.
But that does not erase the bleak question marks Saturday's defeat left hanging over a depressed Meadow Lane.
Ian Richardson, the disappointed player-manager, believes Notts County's problems will not continue, as long as they can start to convert their chances more efficiently.
And it is certainly true that, had they shown the same ruthlessness in front of goal as experienced striker Richie Barker did for Mansfield, with one of the few opportunities they carved out, the Magpies would not have lost this match.
Nor would they have failed to score in eight of their last ten League Two matches.
The defensive solidity that had disguised their lack of form in front of goal in recent weeks was again present on Saturday.
But a momentary lack of concentration from two Notts players - combined with Barker's neat finish - ensured misery for those in black and white and delight for those in the yellow of Mansfield.
This was in many ways a typical derby: there was passion, determination and hard work.
But despite the industry, the colour in the stands was not often matched on the pitch. In terms of goal mouth incident, there was not a massive amount to talk about.
Mansfield too should be given credit for performing with great organisation and commitment and, once they had taken the lead, they also defended well, particularly in the second half.
But it was still something of a surprise that they had held onto their lead until half-time.
Barker had risen well, after escaping the attentions of rookie defender Kelvin Wilson, to get on to the end of Adam Rundle's cross and head the ball beyond keeper Saul Deeney, who for once was caught in no-man's-land, off his line and exposed by Barker's looping finish.
But, by that stage, David Pipe had come close with a low cross-cum-shot that flashed just wide of the post and Gavin Gordon had powered a header into the side netting.
After an initial period of shock after the goal, Notts turned the screw and Gordon again went close, while the best chance of the match fell to Matthew Gill, who combined well with Gordon to break the offside trap, but saw Kevin Pilkinton make a fine, brave save at his feet.
Derek Asamoah, easily Mansfield's best player, came close to scoring a fine individual goal. He skipped and twisted his way into the box, beating three Notts challenges, and fired a left-foot shot that flew only inches over the bar - but that was the best Mansfield had to offer.
After the break the chances were more sparse, with Mansfield happy to defend their lead.
Gill, this time fed by Julien Baudet - whose later injury left Richardson with another headache - again broke the offside trap, but hammered a left-foot volley high and wide, while Gordon twice failed to test Pilkington with close-range headers, although he twice seemed to have his shirt pulled by Jake Buxton.
That will matter little to Stags fans as they notched up only their second win at Meadow Lane - their first in more than 40 years.
Stags have now inflicted two defeats on the Magpies this season, although this one was not perhaps as painful as the humiliation at Field Mill when it was Mansfield who were guilty of missing chances -and could well have notched up double figures instead of the modest 3-1 scoreline.
Notts County have improved as a side since then, while Mansfield have gone downhill.
And if one thing was clear from this match, it is that both sides still have plenty of room for improvement.
But while Mansfield will still harbour faint hopes of a play-off push, Notts' need for a change in fortunes is more pressing. Relegation may still be unlikely, but that is no reason for complacency.
If nothing else, after four years of struggle, those Notts fans who turned out in numbers again on Saturday deserve something to cheer about for a change.
STALLARD PLEDGES TO BATTLE FOR SAFETY
Evening Post, 07 February 2005
Ian Richardson today spoke of his frustration at seeing Notts County's defensive injury hoodoo strike again - but revealed there could be good news on the way.
Julien Baudet became the latest Magpies defender to be injured after limping off with a damaged ankle during the defeat by Mansfield Town on Saturday.
But while the seriousness of his problem will not become clear until later today, player-boss Richardson revealed three other stricken defenders - including himself - could be close to a return.
"Julien has got a sore ankle and we will have to have a look at it today to see how serious it is. But there should be some good news on the horizon. Mike Whitlow and Emmet Friars are close to coming back. They were able to have a little session on the pitch after the game on Saturday.
"And I have had some good news from the specialist myself. I have had another scan and everything seems to have settled down in my knee now.
"I am going to have to rest it for another week or so, just to be certain, but after that I should be able to return properly.
"I do not want to put a specific timescale on things because every time I do that something goes wrong, but I am hoping to be back within a couple of weeks." Richardson felt his team deserved more from the Mansfield game: "I thought we were the better side. There wasn"t any question of that. We just paid the price for not putting our chances away.
"If we had made the most of our opportunities, we would not have lost. I don"t think Mansfield had more than a couple of efforts on goal, but we have been punished for one mistake, where their player has not been properly marked and has made the most of things."
County have scored only four goals in their last ten League Two matches, but Richardson believes Mark Stallard"s return will help address that problem.
SOME BAD AND GOOD NEWS ON INJURY FRONT
Evening Post, 07 February 2005
Kelvin Wilson today backed Mark Stallard as the man to end Notts County's goal famine - and held his hands up for the mistake that led to the Magpies' painful defeat by Mansfield Town.
The shot-shy Magpies have failed to score in EIGHT of their last ten League Two outings.
But Wilson - who admits he was at fault for failing to mark Mansfield scorer Richie Barker - believes the return of former favourite Stallard can inspire a turnaround.
And he insisted Notts had not deserved to lose to Mansfield for the second time this season on Saturday.
Wilson said: "We just didn't make the most of our chances. We didn't put them away and that has been a problem for us recently.
"I am not going to criticise Gavin (Gordon) or Glynn (Hurst) because they have done well for us, but perhaps that is something Mark can give us.
"He did make a difference on Saturday. He held up the ball well and brought other players into the game.
"He did everything but get a goal but looks the type of player that will get goals for us. He was man of the match without doubt."
Wilson added: "I have to hold my hands up for their goal because it was my man. I was supposed to be marking him. It was one slip and it was costly. I was not close enough.
"It is a harsh lesson, but one I will learn from and hopefully it will not happen again.
"We have lost three in a row and we have to turn things round, but our performances have not been too bad generally, we still felt fairly solid at the back. Mansfield probably only had two shots on target in the match."
Latest | February 2005