MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
The Stags ended their home campaign with a deserved three points against Boston United last weekend. Carlton Palmer's men dominated but fell a goal behind before hitting the visitors with a three-goal blitz and although Boston scored a second late on, there was no denying that The Stags were worthy winners.
Boss, Carlton Palmer started with a 4-4-2 formation with Danny Heron making his full debut up front. The side also contained two other changes from the side that had lost at Macclesfield seven days previous, Day was dropped to the bench and Gareth Jelleyman was missing due to injury; Scott McNiven and Luke Dimech their replacements.
In the opening period, The Stags dominated but had little to show for their efforts. The visitors in the meantime offered very little and looked like a side who had won only three times on their travels this season.
Stags were passing the ball around well but without causing too many threats to Abbey in the United goal.
Simon Brown almost broke the deadlock but was denied when his header from a corner struck the woodwork. However the best chance of the game came when a fine through ball from Alex Neil set Richie Barker off towards the Boston goal. Unfortunately the big Stags striker weakly shot low and Abbey saved with his legs.
Boston then created their only real chance of the half when Maylett crossed onto the head of Easter, but his effort fell wide of White's right hand post.
Stags had good claims for a penalty, when Heron was held by McCann but Referee Mr Pike waved away the appeals much to the puzzlement of almost everyone.
During the half time break it was revealed that the Referee Mr Pike was injured so for the 2nd half he was replaced by the 4th official, Steve Bratt.
The 2nd half started pretty much in the same vain, with Stags looking the more dangerous of the two sides, but then on 49 minutes and totally against the run of play, the visitors broke away and scored. Pitt crossed the ball across The Stags area, bypassing two Stags defenders and leaving an unmarked Bradley Maylett with the simple task of slotting home.
Stags manager, Carlton Palmer threw on Rhys Day for Danny Heron and almost immediately The Stags were back on level terms. Simon Brown, who was now partnering Barker up front, hit a shot that Abbey in the visitor's goal did well to block, he could however do nothing to prevent the prowling Richie Barker slotting home the rebound to register his 10th goal of the season.
Stags made a double substitution with Curtis and Lloyd coming on for Coke and McLachlan. Just Seven minutes later The Stags were in front. Callum Lloyd mystifying the Boston defence on the edge of the area before neatly slotting home despite a desperate diving lunge from Abbey.
The Stags were clearly now on fire and scored a third on 70 minutes. Neil crossing into the area for Adam Rundle to hit a side foot volley into the bottom right hand corner of Abbey's goal.
The visitors tried to get back in the game and White had to be at his sharpest to deny Lee Thompson.
On 82 minutes, Alex Neil was unlucky to see his 25-yard effort fly just over the crossbar. If his effort had gone in it would have capped a worthy afternoon's work for a player who has deservedly won The Chad, the SSA and the FTYBR player of the season awards.
In the final minute, Lee Thompson pulled a goal back for Boston but it was little more than a late consolation and more than United actually deserved.
Stags finish their campaign next weekend with a trip to the big city to take on Leyton Orient. The O's have the same amount of points as The Stags but last weekend lost 3-2 away at Wycombe Wanderers.
A VICTORY FOR YOUTH
Evening Post, 02 May 2005
It has been a long and eventful season at Field Mill. The opening game on August 7 seems like an eternity ago.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge - and much of it has been cloudy.
It is almost a year ago that Stags fans travelled to Cardiff, full of hope that their talented team would return as a League One side.
But they fell agonisingly short and are still recovering. How times have changed since the Stags' big day out at the Millennium Stadium last May.
Concerns were raised when players such as Liam Lawrence and Craig Disley left, but there was still plenty of hope that Keith Curle would succeed in clinching promotion this term.
After a poor start, Stags clicked into gear with wins against Chester, Kidderminster and promotion hopefuls Yeovil and Northampton - and there was a high level of optimism that Mansfield could earn automatic promotion.
Then, it became all too apparent that life without Lawrence was not going to be as fruitful, at least not this term.
What started as a promotion campaign turned into a transitional chapter.
And it is ending with fans wondering if the young players manager Carlton Palmer has drafted in can achieve what Curle, Lawrence, Disley and co failed to do last year.
At the start of the season, all eyes were on the likes of Derek Asamoah, Colin Larkin, Wayne Corden, Adam Murray and Neil Mackenzie. Stags fans were confident the play-offs would be the minimum achievement this term.
But all five have gone and next season's hopes will rest on Richie Barker, Adam Rundle and an even newer crop of talented players which Palmer says will be arriving in the summer.
It's clear what Palmer is doing. Asamoah, Larkin, Corden, Murray and MacKenzie could all be classed as flair players. And, while there were memorable moments from all of them, they all had something else in common - often flattering to deceive.
Palmer wants his Stags to be like he was as a player. Tough, uncompromising and hungry.
The manager admits he was never going to win any awards for flair but ultimately he was an achiever. He made the most of his talent.
Players like Barker fit into Palmer's vision of how he wants Stags to play.
Barker is a no-nonsense, old fashioned type of player. He is a grafter, makes sure he gives opponents a problem, and is already in double figures since joining in November.
Palmer wants his players to be fit and eager and is giving his young guns plenty of opportunities to shine before next season.
Teenager Callum Lloyd is starting to make a habit of scoring from midfield.
He was at it again on Saturday and, in his seven League Two starts under Palmer, Lloyd has bagged as many goals as Corden this season and is just one short of Asamoah's total for the campaign.
Rundle's strike on Saturday means he has passed Corden's league tally and equalled Asamoah's.
It would be interesting to find out how many Stags fans would prefer Corden to Rundle in the starting line-up now.
Palmer started with three teenagers against Boston, handing a full debut to striker Danny Heron, and gave bench places to three more.
Mansfield were the better side in the first half. Barker wasted an excellent one-on-one opportunity, and referee Mike Pike decided a yank on Heron's shirt was not worthy of a penalty.
Palmer was not impressed with Pike's first-half display and was happy when the injured official was substituted at half-time.
Mansfield stepped up a gear in the second half and turned their superiority into the hard currency of League Two points.
But they did not have it all their own way.
Bradley Maylett gave Boston what proved a short-lived lead before Barker levelled with a poacher's strike just after the introduction of substitute Rhys Day.
Lloyd made it 2-1 with a nice turn and shot, and missed a good chance to add his second.
Rundle's excellent finish on 70 minutes should have secured the points.
However, Boston substitute Lee Thompson grabbed his side's second goal in stoppage time and he almost snatched an equaliser.
Luke Dimech performed well in his last game in a Stags shirt, while Alex John-Baptiste was a man-of-the-match contender in defence.
Jason White's displays in goal are giving Palmer food for thought.
But the best performance came from Neil, who was proclaimed the Stags Supporters' Association player of the year before the game.
And after being told he was surplus to requirements when Palmer took the reins, Neil now has the luxury of a contract offer to ponder.
He gave Stags fans plenty to cheer about as Mansfield completed their home league fixtures and the supporters were in the mood to celebrate as they invaded the pitch at the final whistle.
There is one game left before fans turn their thoughts to Stags' promotion chances next season.
Mark Roach's Stags man of the match: Alex Neil.
MANAGER CAN'T WAIT FOR CAMPAIGN
Evening Post, 02 May 2005
One of Carlton Palmer's main aims next season is for his side to develop the habit of winning.
"We've been playing well lately," said the Stags boss after his side's 3-2 win.
"I'm pleased with the way things are going and I'm looking forward to next season.
"But we've got to have a winning mentality. We musst force the issue. We played well against Boston but we let them back into the game."
Palmer says players will need to prove their fitness next term.
"There was an element of fatigue on Saturday - and I couldn't play Rhys Day and Scott McNiven together in the starting 11 because they are not fit.
"We created so many chances and we should have hammered Boston.
"I was disappointed with their second goal, it put us under pressure."
Palmer says McNiven and Alex Neil are the only players with contract issues which need to be resolved.
And he suggested former manager Keith Curle might be interested in taking Neil to his new club, Chester City.
"I've talked to Alex and his agent and we have a problem because Keith Curle brought him in.
"But I have offered him a decent contract.
"Scott McNiven is the only one left to sort out now.
"Alex has been a revelation. He's knuckled down and done very well. I want him to stay.
"But there are a lot of players out there and I am looking to bring new players in. I'm not going to be held to ransom."
Palmer says he wants to secure all his new signings in the next two months.
"I want it all to be done and dusted before the end of June with the players I want to bring in.
"We've got a lot of work to do in the summer, but I'm pleased with the nucleus of the squad."
Steve Evans interview:
Mansfield Town 3-2 Boston United
Coca Cola League Two
3:00pm 30 April 2005
IT was a case of déjà vu for Boston United as the Pilgrims threw away a lead and lost for the third successive away game in Coca-Cola League Two.
United were beaten 3-2 at Mansfield Town, having taken the lead through Brad Maylett's third goal of the season. But three strikes from the home side put the Pilgrims on the back foot before Lee Thompson scored a consolation late on.
Seventeen-year-old defender Lewis Brooks was handed his full debut at the heart of the Pilgrims' rearguard alongside captain Paul Ellender, while Dean West — who will be leaving York Street at the end of the current season — lined up at right-back. Elsewhere, Courtney Pitt was switched from his role at left-back last week to partner Jermaine Easter in attack.
Neither side started particularly brightly, although it was Mansfield who had the better chances early on. Simon Brown's run down the right culminated in a low cross, which was bundled wide from close-range by Giles Coke, before Brown saw a close-range header deflect off the top of the bar and over following Alex Neil's corner.
Nathan Abbey made an excellent save on 15 minutes when he denied Richie Barker with his legs, after the Mansfield striker had broken the offside trap to run through one-on-one with the United custodian. Boston should have taken the lead before half-time when good play down the left by Danny Thomas resulted in an excellent crossfield ball for Maylett to latch on to and his right-wing delivery was nodded just wide by Easter.
Daryl Clare and David Noble replaced Thomas and Easter at the start of the second half as Boston opted for a 4-5-1 formation. Referee Mike Pike was also replaced after succumbing to a chest muscle injury. Assistant referee Steve Bratt deputised.
The change in formation brought its due rewards four minutes into the half when Boston took the lead. Maylett crashed the ball home at the back post, after connecting with Pitt's excellent left-wing centre, following great work by substitute Noble to instigate the move.
More good work from Pitt allowed Clare a shooting opportunity moments later and Jason White saved well low down to prevent the Pilgrims from extending their lead. And Mansfield took full advantage when they equalised in the 53rd minute, with Barker smashing home the loose ball after Abbey could only parry Coke's initial effort.
Abbey made a good save three minutes later when he denied Brown's driven effort from 20 yards. However, Boston could have retaken the lead but they saw another chance go begging when Maylett's excellent cross was headed into the side-netting by Pitt.
Mansfield took the lead on 65 minutes when substitute Callum Lloyd twisted and turned on the edge of the Boston box, before drilling a low shot beyond Abbey and into the bottom corner. The Stags almost made it three, but Lloyd drilled agonisingly over after Barker had cleverly spun away from Brooks. But the home side were undeterred by Lloyd's miss and did indeed go 3-1 up in the 70th minute when Neil's cross was delightfully fired home by Adam Rundle.
From here, Boston rallied and White made a good low save when he denied Thompson's close-range stab, following Pitt's excellent delivery from the left. Thompson then headed onto the roof of the net, following West's cross. And Boston reduced the deficit just as the stoppage time board signalling three minutes was hoisted. Thompson smashed the ball home after getting on the end of Holland's clever throughball to give the Pilgrims hope.
And United almost had their prayers answered when Thompson went racing through again a minute later, but after holding off Luke Dimech, the substitute blazed just wide as Mansfield clung on for all three points.
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