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20th February 2006 16:19


Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
STAGS DAMPEN DRAGONS FIRE

Mansfield Town 2 Wrexham 2
Barker 64 Pen, 67 Derbyshire, 51, 62.
Attendance – 3,139 Visitors, 362.

Two goals in three minutes from Stags striker, Richie Barker hauled Mansfield Town back into a game they were in danger of losing after the Red Dragons of Wrexham had fired into a two goal lead, given them by on-loan front man, Matt Derbyshire.
The 2nd half proved to be a memorable 45 minutes which was a stark contrast to a 1st half where neither side did enough to indicate that they were desperate for the three points on offer. The Stags were looking at carrying on the good work they had started with their fine 2-1 win over League 2 leaders, Grimsby Town the previous Tuesday, whereas the visitors were looking to get in amongst the play off contenders.
Stags started nervously with the reliable Kevin Pressman forcing one or two sharp heart stopping moments. The first came when his miscued clearance dropped to the feet of Jones. Luckily for The Stags, his returned effort deflected wide for a corner kick and from that resulting kick, Pressman failed to hold the cross, but again, luck was with the home side and he was allowed to re-claim the ball.
Stags began to find their feet and a good overlapping run by Alex John-Baptiste, who was again preferred at right back instead of his normal centre half position, saw a curling cross find the head of Barker, but Ingham in the visitors goal was equal to it.
On 16 minutes Danny Reet was presented with an opportunity but his shot fizzed just over the crossbar.
Wrexham then enjoyed a spell of pressure where Hjelde turned from hero to almost villain. First he stepped in well to deny Derbyshire an attempt at goal but then his mis-placed pass across his own box gave Holt a sight of goal, but after stepping neatly inside, he fired in a shot that Pressman saved with ease.
Stags once again came back and after a Coke flick on, Reet was unfortunate to see his turn and shot sail above the crossbar. Reet defending a Wrexham corner, did well to win possession for Mansfield and his swift ball down the right hand side set up Dawson for a run at the visitor's goal. However after covering almost half the pitch, Dawson ran out of steam and Spender got in a tackle.
Barker in an almost identical position to where he scored his goal against Grimsby in mid-week caused frustration when he fired over the crossbar when many expected the big Stags striker to at least make the visiting goalkeeper work.
Wrexham though on 39 minutes can count themselves unlucky not to have taken the lead. Holt crossed in from the left hand side where a flick on from Hjelde dropped nicely for Spender. The Wrexham man hit his effort first time and watched in frustration as it cannoned off the far post and back into play with Pressman rooted to the spot.
The 2nd half started with both sides showing much more urgency but the dangerous moments were coming from the home side. Rundle earning the Stags a corner when his shot was deflected over.
But on 51 minutes disaster struck for Mansfield and for Jake Buxton. The Stags defender who has not put a foot wrong seemingly all season dallied on what seemed an easy back-pass to Pressman and the dangerous, Derbyshire nipped in to score his third goal since his loan spell from Blackburn Rovers. The young Stags centre half looked devastated and received a few consoling words from his fellow centre half, Hjelde.
Stags created an opportunity almost straight away but after being put clear, all Reet could do was fire tamely towards goal, giving the visiting keeper an easy save. It had proved a poor afternoon's work from Reet and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Simon Brown on 58 minutes.
Wrexham were hunting a 2nd goal, as The Stags looked a team lack of ideas. Jones and Whitley both having chances.
That 2nd goal came on 62 minutes when Williams flicked the ball onto Derbyshire, who confidently raced clear of a static Stags defence to slot the ball into the far bottom corner, giving Pressman no chance at all.
At this point in the game there looked no way back for a disappointing Mansfield, until that is some close control and trickery by Simon Brown forced Danny Williams into a rash challenge in the Wrexham area. The Referee pointed at once to the spot and Richie Barker stepped up to fire in his 18th goal of the season.
Uhlenbeek had replaced Rundle as Shirtliff juggled his pack to try and get Stags back into the game and with the score standing at 2-1 that is just what the home side did. A fine move down the right hand side looked to have broken down when Uhlenbeek delayed his cross due to their being a lack of bodies in the area, but his hesitation proved correct for when his cross eventually came over there was Barker at the far post to powerfully head home Mansfield's equaliser and his 19th goal of a productive season. Field Mill came alive in celebration.
The shell-shocked Welsh side tried to get back into the lead but Derbyshire, like Barker in search of his third goal of the game fired high and wide and Jones saw his effort curl just wide.
Stags though won a free kick but Barker's effort went well wide of Ingham's right hand post.
Mansfield were now pouring on the pressure in search of the winner and from an Uhlenbeek cross, Lawrence almost headed into his own net. Stags forced two corners and from one, Wilson forced Ingham into a save.
With five minutes to go, Buxton, eager to make up for his earlier mistake unleashed a powerful drive from 30 yards that went just narrowly wide and in injury time, it was Buxton again who went close to giving The Stags all three points but his header from Lloyd's corner went straight into the arms of the Wrexham keeper.
This weekend Mansfield have a great chance of putting a bit of distance between themselves and one of the sides currently sat in the relegation zone of League 2 when they travel to Torquay United. The Gulls sit in 23rd place on 32 points; Stags sit 6 places and six points above. It could prove to be one of the most vital games of the season for Peter Shirtliff's men.

Mansfield Town
Pressman, D'Laryea, John-Baptiste, Dawson, Barker, Buxton, Coke (Lloyd 79), Rundle (Uhlenbeek 63), Hjelde, Wilson, Reet (Brown 58).
Subs not used – White, Jacobs.

Wrexham
Ingham, Whitley, Lawrence, Holt, Williams D, Derbyshire, Crowell, Jones M, Pejic, Spender, Williams S.

Subs not used – Jones M, Mackin, Williams M, Done, Williams Mike.

Referee – Mr G Kewis.

Observer Man of the match – Stephen Dawson.
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WE GAVE AWAY RIDICULOUS GOALS - SHIRTLIFF
Evening Post, 20 February 2006
Peter Shirtliff blasted his players' defensive failings despite a tremendous Mansfield fightback.

They came back from 2-0 down to claim a point and could have gone on to win the game.

But the Stags boss was still furious with his side's defending that allowed Matt Derbyshire in for two simple goals.

Shirtliff said: "I'm not happy. We conceded two hopelessly ridiculous goals and gave ourselves a mountain to climb. Fair play to the boys that they have managed to do that - their effort has never been in dispute.

"But the concentration and application is wrong sometimes. I was disappointed with the goals and that's why we are where we are in the league.''

Shirtliff was disappointed they could not take the game by the scruff of the neck at the start of the second half.

He said: "It was there for the taking.''

One aspect that did please him was the form of striker Richie Barker, who took his goal tally to 19.

Shirtliff said Laurence Wilson had picked up a knock in an incident that saw Wrexham's Mark Jones cautioned. He is battling to be fit for Saturday's trip to Torquay.

Former Stags boss Keith Curle left Chester following Saturday's 2-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient.


IT'S NEVER SAY DIE FOR STAGS
Evening Post, 20 February 2006
Mansfield 2 - 2 Wrexham
JUST seven days before Saturday's 2-2 draw with Wrexham, the Stags finished their game at Wycombe with precisely the same result.

But, boy, did this feel different.

Then, Mansfield had led by two goals only for title-chasing Wanderers to hit back and equalise. Being in such a strong position it almost felt like a defeat for both the players and supporters.

This time, though, the boot was on the other foot. Mansfield stormed back to claim a point when they had seemed dead and buried at 2-0 down.

And such was the despair that greeted the second of two Matt Derbyshire goals - many fans began to boo the team - that when the Stags did make their comeback it almost felt like they had won.

However, one person who did not leave Field Mill a happy man was boss Peter Shirtliff.

Despite the way his players fought back, he was frustrated that they had been in that situation in the first place.

His concern, rightly so, is that the Stags seem incapable of shrugging off their habit of conceding sloppy goals.

It has to be a question of learning how to stay switched on for the whole 90 minutes.

On Saturday, Jake Buxton failed to do so and he paid the price when Derbyshire had the simplest of tasks to round Kevin Pressman and slide home.

But his partner in the centre of defence, Jon-Olav Hjelde, was just as guilty, getting caught the wrong side of the fast Derbyshire who ran on to slot home and double the Dragons' lead.

The good thing was that Mansfield did not dwell on their mistakes and got the goal to get them back on track sooner rather than later.

Yet again, as has been the case so often for Mansfield this season, Richie Barker was the Stags' goalscoring hero, not once, but twice.

He may have been forced to have two stitches in a gash above his right eye in the midweek victory over Grimsby, but he was not going to let that stop him leading the front line.

And lead it he did, showing all his usual battling qualities, aerial strength and that priceless knack of being in the right place at the right time.

But the catalyst for the comeback was undoubtedly the introduction of first Simon Brown and then Gus Uhlenbeek in place of Danny Reet and Adam Rundle.

Brown's pace unsettled a Wrexham defence that had dealt comfortably with everything Mansfield could throw at them.

And Uhlenbeek was also effective, providing good service to the likes of Barker and Brown.

The two players between them set up both goals. Brown won a 64th-minute penalty that was slotted home by Barker to give Mansfield hope almost immediately after Wrexham had gone 2-0 in front, while Uhlenbeek provided the perfect right-wing cross for his captain to head home the equaliser three minutes later.

With the momentum in their favour, the Stags might even have gone on to get all three points.

 

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