MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
report from Observer by Steve Hartshorn
Quakers quash Sorry Stags
Darlington 4 Mansfield Town 0
Lafferty 6, Sodje 53, Clarke 58, Martis 65.
Stags slumped to their worst defeat of the season when promotion-hunting Darlington turned on the style to put four goals past a beleaguered Mansfield rear guard.
Manager, Peter Shirtliff was forced into a number of changes for the game. Jake Buxton and Kevin Pressman were both out of the starting 11 due to knocks whilst leading goalscorer, Richie Barker was suspended following his mid-week sending off against Chester City. Uhlenbeek was dropped to the bench. In their place came Jason White with Kyle Jacobs making his league debut in the right back position. Simon Brown partnered Danny Reet up front and Birchall was given a place on the right side of midfield.
The writing was on the wall as early as the 6th minute when slack marking gave Kyle Lafferty all the time in the world to pick his spot. Johnson thumped in a low cross from the left hand side where the ball reached Lafferty, with the Stags defence static he was left to pick his spot as he fired the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
Birchall though almost drew The Stags level after some fine play from Alex John-Baptiste. The young Stags centre half intercepted the ball in the centre circle and went on a positive forward run before releasing the ball to Birchall, who from 18 yard shot narrowly wide of the mark.
At this point in the game Mansfield were playing some neat football but lacking any real penetration, the home defence keeping good tabs on Reet and Brown.
Stags won a corner, which ended with the ball bouncing off Brown under a challenge from the Darlington keeper, Schmeichel. The Stags man claimed a penalty and was then confronted by Valentine and Clarke. Reet came over to protect his strike partner before the Referee Mathieson came involved and lectured the players concerned. Brown was moments later causing concern to the Darlo back line when he turned onto a Jelleyman throw and forced the home keeper into a save.
Darlington responded and despite being pulled back by Jelleyman, Logan got off a powerful shot that White did well to push away. Jelleyman though received yet another booking. White was again called into action this time having to deny Clarke from close range.
On 41 minutes Stags created their best chance of the half when a through ball from Brown found Dawson in a one on one race with the Darlington keeper, Schmiechel doing well to stop the Stags midfielder.
All hopes of a Stags fight back in the 2nd half were diminished in the 53rd minute when Stags conceded possibly the softest goal of the season. Hesitance on the edge of the Stags area allowed Sodje to race on and claim the ball on the left hand side of the area, where he then had time to pop the ball inside Whites near post. It was poor defending from Mansfield, with several players at fault for dithering. Stags were rightfully punished and Darlington were on a high.
Dawson though tried in vain to get the Stags back into the game but his dipping half volley from the edge of the area was acrobatically tipped over the bar by the Quakers keeper.
It was 3-0 and game over on 58 minutes when following a Logan corner, Sodje rose unchallenged to head the ball to Clarke who made no mistake from close range.
On 65 minutes the rampant home side made it 4-0 when Logan chipped a ball into the area and Sodje beat White to the ball to head home.
Danny Reet then had an opportunity to get on the scoresheet but after being found by Jelleyman, headed tamely into the grateful arms of Schmiechel.
Stags introduced Arnold on 77 minutes, strangely though only seconds before, Darlington were reduced to 10 men when Logan limped off injured with Darlington having already used their three substitutes they were forced to play out the last 13 minutes a man short.
Stags again created a couple of chances for Reet but on both occasions his headers fell onto the roof of the net.
The final whistle was greeted by a standing ovation by the home support, which was the biggest for a Saturday fixture all season.
For the Stags it was a day to try and forget, as boss Peter Shirtliff explained,
“ At the end of the day we were poor and I told them I will not accept that sort of performance. So it will be back to basics and there will be a lot of hard work this week.”
Saturday will see the clash of the two MTFC's when a resurgent Macclesfield Town come to Field Mill in a must win encounter for both sides. Last weekend over 4,000 fans turned up at Moss Rose to see Macclesfield beat promotion favourites, Carlisle United. With Clubs below Stags picking up points, Mansfield will be desperate for a positive performance.
Schmiechel, Valentine, Kendrick, Clarke, Dickman(Peacock 66), Johnson, Martis, Keltie(Stamp 66), Sodje, Lafferty(Hopkins 59), Logan.
Subs not used - Appleby, Norton.
White, Jelleyman, Baptiste, Dawson(Uhlenbeek 68), Birchall, Coke, Rundle(Lloyd 57), Brown(Arnold 77), Jacobs, Hjelde, Reet.
Subs not used - Pressman, Russell.
Attendance, 4,283 (Visitors 306)
Referee - Mr S Mathieson.
YOUNG TEAM TAKES A REAL BEATING
Evening Post,30 January 2006
Darlington 4 - 0 Mansfield
From the moment the team sheet arrived in the press box, it was clear Mansfield were going to have their work cut out.
By 4.50pm on Saturday, that had proved to be the case - and then some.
Darlington are unbeaten on their home patch since September... and for nothing. They are a good side in front of their own fans.
More importantly, Mansfield were without three of their experienced players in Richie Barker (suspended), Jake Buxton (back) and Kevin Pressman (foot).
Whatever level you are playing at, you are going to miss a trio of your most influential players. But with Mansfield's slim resources, their absence was underlined all the more.
Jason White, Kyle Jacobs - making his first Stags start - Adam Birchall and Simon Brown tried their best. It was not because of a lack of effort that Mansfield were beaten.
They were unable to match their opponents, themselves pushing for a play-off place and in a confident frame of mind.
Home assistant manager Mark Proctor said after the game he was relieved Barker had not been involved because of his leadership qualities.
And that is just what the Stags missed.
When things started to go wrong, Mansfield had no one to rally the team and fire them up for a revival. There was no one to lift the disappointed youngsters out of their despondency.
It was where Barker, with his vast experience, could have made a difference - and Proctor knew it.
Another problem was that the Stags had two players in their defence - in goal and right back - who have hardly figured this season.
Defending is about teamwork and, even though neither White nor Jacobs had disastrous games, their sudden introduction did not help the Stags as a defensive unit.
There was a lack of communication as to who should pick up which player. Part of that is because the defence has not played together regularly.
Having said that, the first half was not overly-calamitous for Mansfield. They did concede the opening goal of the game after six minutes when Kyle Lafferty was offered too much space and he took advantage by drilling into the corner.
But the Stags responded with a couple of half chances and both Brown - making his first start since December after a hamstring injury - and Stephen Dawson were denied by Quakers keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Darlington had other opportunities to extend their lead before the break but White twice excelled, making smart saves from Carlos Logan and then Matt Clarke.
Things looked better for the visitors at the start of the second period as they started brightly. But this time when Darlington scored - Akpo Sodje making it 2-0 after 53 minutes - there was no positive reaction.
Mansfield had just one glimmer of hope when Dawson fired in a shot from the edge of the box, but that was quickly removed as Schmeichel turned the ball over the bar.
From then on, it was downhill for the Stags and their suffering fans as within 12 minutes of the Quakers doubling their lead, they were four up and cruising.
Most of the danger stemmed from high balls into the box that Mansfield, with the likes of Jon-Hjelde and Alex John-Baptisite, should have been equipped to deal with.
But time and again Sodje - who scored a second and also teed up his skipper Clarke - was the dominant aerial force and he made it work to Darlington's advantage.
Only when the game was almost over did the Stags begin to create chances - but could not convert them.
Danny Reet wasted a hat-trick of close-range heading opportunities while Giles Coke picked the wrong option of shooting when he could have put Adam Birchall in the clear.
The frustration of boss Peter Shirtliff was clear. He knows his options are limited when injuries and suspensions strike.
But with Stags close to the relegation battle, this is no time for the team to feel sorry for themselves. With Macclesfield at home this weekend, it is imperative they find a positive response.
Shirtliff will hope some of his key players are back to make his task that little bit easier.
'LET'S GET BACK TO BASICS'
Evening Post,30 January 2006
Peter Shirtliff wants Stags fans to stop aiming too high after the worst result of their season at Darlington.
In a tight league - and with a form improvement under Shirtliff - there has been talk of a play-off push.
But the Stags boss hopes the 4-0 thumping at the 96.6 TFM Darlington Arena will end speculation.
"The people of Mansfield are still thinking play-offs, but we have no chance of that. We have to get back to reality and concentrate on avoiding relegation," said the Stags boss.
"It was obvious why we lost. We were inexperienced, young, weak and not competitive enough. It looked like men against boys at times.
"But we can't play experienced players when we haven't got them.
"Young players will get days like this because they are not consistent. We have to get back to the basics and see if we can improve next week."
Stags lost two key players to injuries in the build-up to the game - keeper Kevin Pressman and defender Jake Buxton.
Shirtliff felt their absence contributed to the Stags' performance, but was still upset with how the team performed.
GOOD DAY FOR QUAKERS
Evening Post,30 January 2006
Darlington assistant boss Mark Proctor felt Mansfield should not be too despondent after their heavy defeat to the Quakers.
Dave Hodgson's number two feels Stags have plenty to offer and should be strong enough to avoid relegation.
"I think Mansfield have caught us on a good day. We scored four terrific goals and things went really well for us. We were delighted by the performance of all the players.
"Peter [Shirtliff] will be bitterly disappointed but I'm sure they will rebound from this and pick things up.
"There are a lot of clubs down there fighting, but I'm sure Mansfield will be all right."
PETER SAYS STAGS WERE MEN AGAINST BOYS
Darlington 4 v 0 Mansfield Town
Darlington assistant manager Mark Proctor underlined the importance of goal difference after seeing his side move up to sixth place thanks to an excellent second-half performance against Mansfield.
Proctor said: "We have a great home record at the moment and we have picked up a lot of points in the last 10 games and we find ourselves in sixth position now.
"We got a good early goal but then lost our way a bit before turning things around again in the second-half."
"We hope to make the play-offs and goal difference could be vital come the end of the season.
"It was pleasing that both strikers and both central defenders got their names on the score sheet."
Mansfield boss Peter Shirtliff said: "We didn't have enough experience out there and it was a case of men against boys at times.
"We missed Richie Barker through suspension and regular keeper Kevin Pressman through injury but I wouldn't lay the blame on Jason White who came in and did a good job in goal," concluded Shirtliff.
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