MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
Report from oatcake.co.uk
THE POTTERS pulled off their annual party-trick of getting knocked out of the League Cup by lower league opposition, this time by lowly Mansfield Town, and can now get down to "concentrating on the league"; something which we'll be able to do until May, with the exception of a 90 minute FA Cup detour in January. In all honesty, if there's a worse Cup team in all of Britain then I pity their fans, I really do.
Okay, I'm going to have to be brief with this match report, very brief in fact. It was bad enough to sit through the 120 minutes of dreadful football without having to relive it all again and put those thoughts down on paper. If you want to avoid the misery of reading this then just recall all of the other useless cup failures we've endured in your lifetime, then multiply that feeling fourfold, add ten tons of crap on top of that and then stick your head in the gas oven... it still won't be as bad as this!
Stoke named a near full-strength team and the only change from the side which beat Luton was Kevin Harper coming into the side in place of Luke Chadwick (whom 'm assuming must have been left out of the side on West Ham's instructions, so as not to get him cup-tied?). That side should have been good enough to deal with a very limited Mansfield, but it would be found badly wanting through 120 minutes of extremely dire football.
We were lucky to avoid going a goal down inside the opening two minutes. We conceded a corner and then failed to get the ball clear, which allowed the ball to fall for a Mansfield player who tried to stab the ball into the bottom corner, only for Simmo to pull off a fantastic save down at the right hand post.
Stoke then capitalised on a defensive error by the home defence in the 10th minute as Mamady Sidibe seized on a weak header, which had been intended for the keeper. Sidibe was in the process of going around the keeper and stroking the ball into the net when he was brought down by the Mansfield goalkeeper. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot, but then said not even one word to the keeper who'd brought down Sidibe in a clear goalscoring position. We're not in favour of refereeing flashing red cards about willy-nilly, but consistency has to be the key and it's difficult to understand how the goalkeeper escaped any punishment whatsoever?
Dave Brammer stepped up to do the honours and drilled a low penalty down to his left to find the bottom corner of the net. An ideal start for Stoke and a platform from which we all hoped they could coast to victory, in readiness for the difficult Bank Holiday games ahead.
Things seldom work out as you'd hope in Stoke games though and little over five minutes later we were back to square one. Mansfield broke down our left, past a standing Marlon Broomes, the cross came over to the back post and John Halls was guilty of not picking up his man as Gareth Jelleyman arrived to plant a fine header into the far corner of the net, giving Steve Simonsen no chance at all.
After that flurry of excitement the game settled down into a pattern of dreadful Stoke play and some eager attacking by a Mansfield side that certainly worked hard enough but which wasn't good enough to take advantage of the superior possession and territorial advantage they were enjoying. We really were awful (bordering on pitiful) at times as we misplaced passes, failed to match the tempo and endeavour being shown by the home side and did, well, just about everything badly.
I'd talk you through the major incidents but there were precious few throughout the rest of the first half and almost none in the second. Mansfield fans may have enjoyed seeing their side taking the game to a team two divisions higher than them but it was a pretty abject game of football, with little to recommend it.
Stoke brought on Buxton and Gudjonsson at half-time to replace the, apparently injured Johnny Halls, and the terribly disappointing Martin Kolar, but these changes did nothing to set the pulses racing in a second half that flew by. The introduction of Darel Russell, for an ineffective Bruce Dyer, add a little oomph to Stoke's play but not enough to raise the entertainment barometer from "garbage" to "very poor".
The Stags were the better team throughout the second half, but failed to get that one clear sight of Steve Simonsen's goal that they were looking for to win the match, and so we drifted off into extra time.
The extra thirty minutes did at least see Stoke produce one flowing move, which saw Russell and Gudjonsson for the latter to set up the former inside the box, only for the fierce shot to go sailing about two feet over the crossbar. At the other end, Mansfield saw one of their players get behind Marlon Broomes (again!) and cut in on goal before firing in an angled shot which thumped back out of the outside of the post.
Everyone in the entire ground could see that the game was heading to penalties and both sides appeared to settle for that outcome. It gave Mansfield the chance to finally kill us off and us the chance to snatch a win we just did not deserve.
It had been a desperately disappointing Stoke display, across the entire board, so there was no reason to suppose we'd suddenly improve once the penalty shoot-out got under way... and things certainly didn't improve.
They scored their first one with ease, the ball being drilled straight down the middle of the goal. Dave Brammer stepped up and tried to hit his effort in the opposite direction as before. In the game proper he had found the bottom left hand corner, this time though he went for top left and clipped the angle of post and bar as the ball flew into the crowd. The next Mansfield player stepped up and calmly sent Steve Simonsen the wrong way to make it 2-0, before Carl Hoefkens fired too weakly and too close to the keeper to ever seriously stand a chance of scoring. Mansfield's third take stepped up and put his away with no trouble at all, meaning that Michael Duberry had to score. Doobs responded by ballooning his kick high into the stand and it was all over. Beaten 3-0 on penalties to put a fitting end to a really, really poor night of football.
Many supporters wondered why the likes of Sidibe, Gudjonsson and Russell had not stepped forward to take kicks, but that's just another question to add to the likes of "what the hell were we doing out there?" and "why do we even bother entering this cup if we're just going to keep embarrassing ourselves in it every year?"
This was a shocking display by Stoke, on every single level and no player really comes out of it with any degree of credit. It was difficult to believe we could really be so poor throughout 120 minutes of football and a penalty shoot-out. I'm sure the players would deny that they don't care, but it'd hard for them to make that case if they were sat down watching a video of the match with some of the supporters who had to sit through it!
Well done to Mansfield. You deserved the win, but you could have saved us a lot of time and bother if you'd won it in normal time!
PALMER PROMISES STAR-QUALITY STAGS
Evening Post, 24 August 2005
Mansfield Town 1 v 1 Stoke City (Mansfield win 3-0 on penalties)
Carlton Palmer is adamant that, given time, he will be able to provide Mansfield with a football team that will be good to watch.
Last night, only 2,719 took up the invitation. But few will have argued he has not achieved his aim already.
They would just like to see it on a more regular basis.
There has been lots of talk about potential at Field Mill since the end of last season.
Changes in playing personnel have been wholesale. But, so far, impressive victories over the likes of Torquay have been matched by disappointments at places like Peterborough.
The core of a decent side is there. But a little less inconsistency would push them in the right direction.
The benefits of last night's victory over Stoke will only emerge when two local-ish games against Boston United and Notts County have been completed over the next week.
It would be easy to say the elation that was felt when Michael Duberry lofted his spot-kick over the bar has to be a massive boost to their confidence.
But that was one thing that was not lacking last night and it is a characteristic that Palmer's team seems to have inherited from the gaffer.
There was no fear and no deference to a team from a higher level.
And, after conceding an 11th-minute penalty, when goalkeeping hero Jason White might have been sent off for a foul on Mamady Sidibe, there was no sign of capitulation either.
It certainly helped that the Stags were able to get back on terms inside five minutes with an excellent header from Gareth Jelleyman.
But the fact it took Stoke until the 112th minute to muster another shot on target told plenty about the way the game went.
The football on show was excellent with Mansfield looking to use the channels to carve out the chance to get the ball it the box and cause mayhem.
They matched Stoke physically and had their opponents chasing around following passes that were both incisive and proactive.
Everything was conducted in a positive fashion, so much so that, when it boiled down to penalties in front of the home support, they were told just to go for it.
By then, the disappointment of the Peterborough defeat on Saturday had been forgotten. They had already moved to another level.
On this evidence, this is a team that can sensibly be compared to the one Billy Dearden and Stuart Watkiss led to promotion and the one Keith Curle took to the play-offs.
While those two were essentially good teams with little in the way of back-up, Palmer has managed to cultivate a squad of players, who seem to be able to fit in a number of positions and cause problems for the other side.
Alex John-Baptiste is showing another asset to his game by providing some box-to-box impetus to go alongside the calm defending we have already seen.
A bit more assurance in front of goal, then Palmer would really have a top player on his hands.
His cross for the goal was the highlight of the evening.
And, on last night's showing, Gus Uhlenbeek should provide an excellent example. He won everything and just played it simple.
Stoke manager Johan Boskamp held his hands up afterwards by saying the best team won. His created nothing and he could hardly come to any other conclusion.
The crowd played their part as well as the support the home side received was intense. Hopefully they will put the word around.
Mansfield are now the county's only representative in the competition and fully deserve to be.
The game would have been stolen had Stoke booked their expected place in the next round.
No time has been wasted in forming Palmer's new team and none can now be used up on building on last night's success for a few more memorable nights down at the Mill.
He may call for patience, but he must know he is getting there already.
VICTORY SHOULD EARN CLUB CASH
Evening Post, 24 August 2005
Mansfield manager Carlton Palmer says he has every confidence his team can build on last night's success over Coca-Cola Championship side Stoke City.
The Stags face a busy Bank Holiday weekend, with clashes against Boston United and Notts County.
And Palmer was delighted to have booked his place in the second round of the Carling Cup after the 3-0 penalty victory.
Mansfield fell behind after goalkeeper Jason White brought down Mamady Sidibe for a penalty that was converted by Dave Brammer.
However, they got back on terms with a Gareth Jelleyman header and went on to dominate the game.
Palmer said: "We went a goal behind because of a mistake and we will do well when we get rid of those mistakes.
"We are a young side with a lot of the lads having come from reserve-team football at bigger clubs, but they are showing they can do it.
"I have got every confidence in their ability."
Richie Barker, Rhys Day and Jelleyman all converted their spot-kicks after the teams could not be separated in 120 minutes. Palmer said: "Everyone wanted to take a penalty and they were all first class, even though we haven't practised.
"I just told them to pick a spot and go for it. I told Jason to stand up. Ron Atkinson always used to say that someone will always try to smash it down the middle.
"I am delighted with them. It was great to get through and it might give us some more money so I can go and see the chairman about a couple of new players."
Latest | August 2005