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Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
BROWN AT THE DOUBLE BUT STAGS CAN ONLY DRAW
Mansfield Town 2 Darlington 2
(Brown 9, 64) (Clarke 38, Ndunbu Nsungu 74)
Two Simon Brown goals were not enough for Mansfield Town as Darlington twice came from behind to draw at a rain soaked Field Mill last Weekend.
The Quakers, who previously were unbeaten on their travels offered stern opposition to a Stags side who had only won one league game all season and who were in desperate need of an uplifting result.
Manager, Carlton Palmer picked a 4-4-2 formation opting for a front two of Richie Barker and Simon Brown. Alex John-Baptiste rejoining the defence line in the centre.
The rain had not stopped all day and surface water forced a few early mistakes from both sides, but it was the home team who got off to the brighter start with a corner after barely 20 seconds. Unfortunately it wasn't to be a dream start by The Stags as Baptiste's glanced header flew well wide.
On 5 minutes the visitors were awarded a free kick, which was taken by Logan, his pinpoint cross was met by the head of Sodje forcing a spectacular one handed save from Kevin Pressman.
Just four minutes later Stags took the lead. Gus Uhlenbeek fired in a low cross that was only cleared to the edge of the area were Barker opted for the volley, the ball fizzed towards Brown who got the vital touch to steer the ball into the net despite the despairing dive by Burt Bossu in the Quakers goal.
Darlington were keeping to their passing game but were not causing the home side's defence too many problems.
Good play by Giles Coke saw the Stags midfielder cross perfectly from the by-line but unfortunately, Brown in a great position headed the ball well wide.
Darlington were searching for an equaliser and won four corners in succession, the third of which had to be tipped over the crossbar by Pressman.
The visitors got back into the game on 38 minutes and it again came from the Stags inability to defend a set piece. From a free kick, Logan again provided the ammunition for Sodje, his powerful header struck Pressman on the line, and with the Stags defence failing to react, the ball broke to Matt Clarke, who with his back to goal, cleverly back heeled it into the net.
Darlington were now gaining confidence and a free kick from Shelton Martis caused a flutter in the hearts of everyone bar Pressman who confidently watched the effort sail over his crossbar.
Stags began the second period in dominant mood and should have gone back in front after only two minutes. Barker nodded on perfectly for the racing Brown but the Stags striker could only fire into the side netting.
Gus Uhlenbeek did well on the right to perfectly cross the ball into Adam Rundle, but with time and space, Rundle wasted the chance, his effort going well wide.
It looked only a matter of time before Mansfield took the lead once more, Baptiste the next to threaten the visitor's goal when following a corner he shot narrowly wide.
On 64 minutes, Stags finally got the goal their play deserved, although there was an element of good fortune about it. Brown bore down on goal but was thwarted by an excellent challenge by Joey Hutchinson. The ball ran towards Bossu and Barker, with the Quakers keeper reaching it first, however all he could do was direct the ball into the path of the in running Brown who gleefully added his and Mansfield's second of the game.
The Darlington keeper was all of a flap and presented Stags with a succession of attempts at goal, the final one forcing the keeper into a fine one handed save from Simon Brown.
The Quakers decided to throw on Guy Ndunbu Nsungu with 20 minutes to go and it was the substitute who on 74 minutes scored the visitor's second equaliser of the game. Striker, Simon Johnson putting over a perfect cross for Ndunbu Nsungu to rise above the Stags defence and head the ball into the net.
Logan, who had caused Mansfield problems all afternoon, again floated in a free kick, but this time Ndunbu Nsungu headed just over.
Stags tried in vain to get in front again as the time ticked away but had to settle for a share of the spoils.
This weekend The Stags face the difficult trip to Spotland the home of Rochdale FC. The Dale are of course managed by ex-Stags manager, Steve Parkin and currently sit in 4th place in Coca Cola League 2.
Pressman, Peers, Jelleyman, Day, John-Baptiste, Dawson (Lloyd 73), Uhlenbeek, Barker, Coke, Rundle (Birchall 77), Brown.
Subs not used; Buxton, Hjelde, Arnold.
Goals – Brown (9, 64).
Bossu, Valentine, Clarke, Hutchinson, Wainwright (Ndunbu Nsungu 70), Dickman (Jameson 34), Martis, Sodje, Peacock, Logan, Johnson.
Subs not used – Wijnhard, Duke, Thomas.
Goals – Clarke 38, Ndunbu Nsungu 74
Attendance – 2,803 Away following – 465.
Referee – Mr P Miller (Bedfordshire.
Observer Man of the Match – Simon Brown.
BOSS: THEY WON'T GET TO ME
Evening Post, 12 September 2005
Carlton Palmer has made it clear he has no intention of stepping down as manager just because a small section of fans want him to go.
And the Stags boss says he is determined to work hard with his players to cut out the type of defensive lapses that have proved so costly.
Palmer also intends to add two more players to his squad.
"I keep hearing that most fans are behind me and it is only a small section that want me out," he said. "I believe that and won't let them get me down. Most fans are behind the players who are giving them their all."
He added: "I thought we played extremely well and deserved to win. There were some brilliant performances out there but we just keep conceding silly goals.
"We created a lot of chances and we just need to get a little break here and there and keep working hard.
"At least we didn't lose. That would've been an injustice. I was disappointed with our performance against Chester the previous week but the players did all I asked of them against a good side on Saturday.
"They must not get disheartened. We will get back out on the training pitch and I will work very hard to bring in a couple of players."
Darlington manager Dave Hodgson said: "We were very lucky to gain a point - it was definitely one gained and not two lost.
"We did fantastic in the first half when we only had five players holding 11. In the second half, at times we had all 11 playing but at other times just five or six. If you only have five or six players firing there is every chance you will struggle.
"The good thing is that we have a group of kids who don't believe they have lost a game and their enthusiasm carried us through for the equaliser which was a good goal.
"We didn't really start today. But we got a point and I have no doubt we will get back on track and back to winning ways next week."
BROWNIE GETS POINT AFTER STRANGE DAY
Evening Post, 12 September 2005
Mansfield Town 2 v 2 Darlington
It was a strange kind of day at Field Mill - there was a short-lived one-man protest against the poor start to the season outside the ground, an injured Stagette, a bomb scare, a terrible miss by two-goal hero Simon Brown, a goalkeeping howler and perhaps the strangest occurence of them all - two managers agreeing on who deserved to win the game.
After much pre-match discussion about a fans' protest, it did materialise, but in the shape of just ONE fan outside the ground, who eventually decided it was getting too wet and a drink in the bar was a better option.
Then, at half-time, things did not go to plan for the Stagettes, one dropping out with an ankle injury before being carried off by members of St John's Ambulance.
After the game, there was a bomb scare and, at one point, visiting manager Dave Hodgson and the media representatives were told they had to leave the West Stand immediately.
It was a false alarm: a St John's Ambulance member had left a rolled up blanket in an unattended bag.
Prior to that and in another unusual twist, there was the rare occurence of two managers agreeing that one side dominated and should have won the game, with Hodgson in tune with Carlton Palmer's view that Darlington were lucky to get a point.
As for the match, which saw the Stags twice lose a lead, there was plenty of incident.
Palmer had put himself in contention for the starting line-up in the days prior to the fixture, but was not even in the squad.
And he watched from the sidelines as his side made it five winless games, in front of just 2,803 supporters - including 465 Darlington fans.
The Notts County game aside, it was the third match in a row at Field Mill which had attracted fewer than 3,000.
The goals-against tally continues to worry Palmer. His side have not kept a clean sheet since their 3-0 win against Torquay at Field Mill on August 13 and, in the five games since, the Stags have conceded 12 goals.
Palmer opted for 4-4-2 and, after a superb one-handed Kevin Pressman save kept out Akpo Sodje's fifth-minute header, the tactics paid off when Brown, who partnered skipper Richie Barker, gave the Stags a ninth-minute advantage.
Gareth Jelleyman's pass found Barker, who set up Gus Uhlenbeek on the right.
The midfielder's ball in was cleared, but only as far as Barker, who fired in a shot from the edge of the box. Brown diverted it inside the far post and despite Darlington's appeals for offside, the goal stood.
One of the issues which has frustrated Palmer most this season is defending set-pieces. Darlington's fifth-minute chance had come from a free-kick, and they equalised from a free-kick in the 38th minute.
The Stags had at least just managed to defend four successive corners, although it needed a tip-over save from Pressman to keep out the third and some of the defending left a bit to be desired. The fact that they failed to deal with set-pieces effectively and conceded three more corners after the first one was a matter for concern.
And from Darlington's fifth set-piece in a row, they drew level.
It needed another spectacular save by Pressman to keep out Sodje's header, but the ball dropped to defender Matt Clarke, who back-heeled it into the net.
Brown should have restored Mansfield's advantage two minutes after the break, racing clear with just Bertrand Bossu to beat. But his fierce drive hit the side-netting.
Bossu helped him make amends in the 63rd minute, but it was not enough to secure victory and Darlington were level again in the 74th minute, when substitute Guy Ndumbu-Nsungu headed home a right-wing cross.
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