KING RICHARD BURIES COBBLERS
Mansfield Town 1 - 0 Northampton Town
Attendance: 3,985 (945 from Northampton)
Martin Shaw at Field Mill
He started the week as Richie Barker. He became Super Richie Barker thanks to that song on Mansfield 103.2. Then he announced that he wanted to be known as Richard Barker from now on. And he ended the week as King Richard as he scored the goal that propelled the Stags into the top half of the table for the first time this season. It was rough justice on Colin Calderwood's Cobblers who had torn Mansfield to shreds in a one-sided first half, and been denied a clear goal when a shot hit the underside of the bar and came down over the line. But Mansfield rode their luck and Gus Uhlenbeek's excellent cross was headed home by Barker on 64 minutes, as the Stags had the better of the second half.
The win stretched Mansfield's unbeaten run to 8 games, 4 won and 4 drawn, the best run since 1998. The Stags have 8 games left; 7 wins would probably secure a play-off place. After 12 games this season, following a defeat at Leyton Orient, the Stags were rock bottom of the Football League. Quite a turnaround in position under Peter Shirtliff. In fact, since Shirtliff took over, the Stags have picked up 42 points from 29 games. Averaged over 46 games, that equates to 67 points, which would normally come very close to achieving a play-off place. Well done Peter Shirtliff!
Man of the match: Alex John-Baptiste
Stagsnet player ratings now in the Match Centre.
Mansfield 1-0 Northampton
Richie Barker extended Mansfield's unbeaten run to eight games to dent Northampton's automatic promotion bid.
The Stags survived a first-half onslaught before dominating the second period to condemn the Cobblers to only their third away defeat of the season.
Northampton came closest shortly before the break when Kevin Pressman dropped Jamie Hand's corner and Sean Dyche hit the loose ball against the crossbar.
Barker then headed home Gus Uhlenbeek's deep cross to win it after 64 minutes.
report from official Northampton site:
Northampton Town travelled to Field Mill to take on old rivals Mansfield Town on a bitterly cold March afternoon. Colin Calderwood made four changes to the side that had lost to Carlisle United, with Josh Low, Jamie Hand, Martin Smith and Jason Lee replacing Scott McGleish, Ian Taylor, Gavin Johnson and David Hunt. A broken arm meant Taylor was unavailable for selection, while Johnson was suffering with a virus.
The Stags were unbeaten in seven games - a run stretching back to January, but it was the Cobblers who made the early running. The first chance of the game fell to Andy Kirk, who latched on to a short back pass from Stephen Dawson, but his shot was blocked by Kevin Pressman who had come to the edge of his area.
At the other end Lee Harper held a curling effort from Laurence Wilson after fourteen minutes, while Eoin Jess shot over the bar from twenty five yards having been teed up by Jamie Hand.
Kirk was again close to scoring eleven minutes before the break. He latched on to a long through ball from Chris Doig and fired in a powerful shot that Kevin Pressman did well to beat away.
The Cobblers thought they had taken the lead six minutes before the break. Martin Smith's corner was not dealt with by the Stags defence and Sean Dyche powered in a shot that hit the underside of the cross bar, bounced down and was claimed by Pressman. The Cobblers players protested that the ball had crossed the line - it certainly looked that way to the naked eye - but the assistant referee said it had not and no goal was given.
Once again the Cobblers had dominated the first half of a match, but they did not have any goals to show for their superiority as the half time whistle blew.
The second half began with Laurence Wilson sending a rushed shot over the bar from the edge of the Cobblers area, before Lee Harper saved from Stephen Dawson.
Eoin Jess curled over the bar having been set up by Andy Kirk at the other end, while Richard Barker dragged a shot wide of the far post after a surging run from Wilson.
On the hour mark Peter Shirtliff made a double change, with Simon Brown and Giles Coke replacing Danny Reet and Stephen Dawson.
Pressman saved at his near post from Jess, before the Stags had the lead. Gus Uhlenbeek provided a cross from the right that Richard Barker headed home.
Colin Calderwood reacted to the goal by making a double change with Scott McGleish and David Hunt replacing Josh Low and Jamie Hand.
Martin Smith sent in a dipping volley an inch over Kevin Pressman's cross bar after Hunt's long throw had only been half cleared, before Sean Dyche was cautioned after a high boot caught Simon Brown.
Pedj Bojic replaced Martin Smith as the Cobblers made their third change, and as they searched for an equaliser, Jason Crowe fired over the bar from an acute angle.
The Cobblers were again to end pointless, despite dominating the first half. This was the first time Colin Calderwood's side had suffered back to back defeats this season.
MATCH STATS, FACTS AND FIGURES
MANSFIELD TOWN NORTHAMPTON TOWN
1 GOALS 0
4 SHOTS ON TARGET 10
5 SHOTS OFF TARGET 8
5 CORNERS 8
7 FOULS 13
3 CAUGHT OFFSIDE 1
0 YELLOW CARDS 1
0 RED CARDS 0
Super Stags stretch unbeaten run to eight matches
PROLIFIC Richard Barker struck his 22nd goal of the season and scored for the third successive match as Mansfield Town defeated promotion chasing Northampton Town 1-0 at Field Mill today.
Barker's towering 65th minute header ended any lingering relegation fears, stretched the Stags' unbeaten run to eight matches and catapulted them to the fringe of the play-off race.
Afterwards manager Peter Shirtliff refused to be drawn on promotion talk, simply saying: "We will take each game as it comes."
But he did heap praise on his side after a fantastic second half fight back.
For the Stags had been under the cosh throughout the first half, at times struggling to get out of their own half.
But they were totally dominant in an equally one-sided second half and ended up thoroughly deserving the vital victory.
Shirtliff added: "My players responded well in the second half. I thought they all did well, but Richard Barker was excellent. He led the line superbly, made some excellent challenges and got a great goal. It was a lovely move leading to the goal, a great cross and a great header.
"We have a lot of young players in the team and sometimes their confidence takes a knock. At half-time I just told them to be more positive, to be better on the ball. And to be fair to them they did that.
"At this level the first half can be a war of attrition, but the second half then becomes more open. That is what happened today."
The Stags also needed a huge slice of luck when Sean Dyche's 39th minute close range piledriver - after Kevin Pressman failed to hold onto a corner - came back off the underside of the bar.
Northampton appelaed loudly that the ball had crossed the line as it bounced down, but the linesman ruled that the ball had not crossed the line.
However, Cobblers boss Colin Calderwood - back at the ground where he started his career as a young player in England, said: "The players thought it was well over and so did John Deeham sat in the stands. But the video evidence is inconclusive. The angle doesn't give a clear view and there were too many bodies to see clearly."
And Shirtliff admitted: ""I do have to be honest and I think that the ball was in. In my experience, when the ball bounces out like that it means it has gone over the line."
The Stags struggled to get out of their own half in the first 45 minutes, although on one rare attack Laurence Wilson's curling 25 yard drive was spectacularly saved by the diving Lee Harper.
But it was Northampton who dominated and they were twice unlucky not to take the lead in the ninth minute. First Andy Kirk broke clear onto a misplaced Stephen Dawson back pass, only to be denied by Kevin Pressman's fine block and Jon Olav Hjelde's clearance. Then from the resulting corner Pressman dropped Jamie Hand's cross and Gareth Jelleyman came to the rescue, hooking the ball off the line.
The under pressure keeper spilled another cross in the 13th minute, but recovered to deny Dyche as the ball bobbled around the area.
As the Cobblers continued to press, Kirk's 20-yard drive was turned away by the over-worked Pressman.
But the second half was a different story. In the 49th minute Laurence Wilson blazed high and wide from 20 yards. Then Dawson fired straight at Harper after a flowing move involving Richard Barker, Gus Uhlenbeek and Jake Buxton.
With the Stags now creating plenty of chances, Barker dragged a low shot narrowly wide after a surging run by Wilson into the penalty area.
But he made no mistake in the 65th minute, thumping in a far post header from Uhlenbeek's cross following a sweeping crossfield pass from substitute Giles Coke.
Northampton rarely threatened an equaliser, although Martin Smith brushed the bar with a dipping long range volley and substitute Scott McGleish nodded narrowly wide.
Latest | March 2006