HOPING TO BANISH DEMONS
matthew.halfpenny, Evening Post, 22 August 2006
It may be more than two years ago but Alex John-Baptiste remembers the occasion as if it were yesterday.
Mansfield's last meeting with Huddersfield was in 2003-2004 in the Division Three (now League Two) play-off final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
Since that match, the club's fortunes have taken very different paths. While the Terriers were challenging for promotion to the Championship last season, the Stags were fighting a rearguard action just to stay in the Football League.
But John-Baptiste still thinks about what might have been if Colin Larkin's last-minute disallowed goal had been allowed to stand on that sultry afternoon - and the Stags had been promoted at Huddersfield's expense.
And he admits that the game is responsible for his best and worst moments in football.
"I think I am the only player left from that day that is still at Mansfield because some like Liam (Lawrence) have moved on to better things and others have not quite made it," said John-Baptiste.
"I can't remember the game itself but I still remember the penalties and after the game very clearly even now.
"I looked at all the Mansfield fans after we had lost and all the Huddersfield players celebrating and it was gutting.
"It was a great day out and a massive game, but it was a horrible experience when we had lost. That is life, though, and you have to move on from there - it is all part of the learning curve."
That's why John-Baptiste is looking forward to tonight's clash at the Galpharm Stadium.
He is hoping the Stags can acquit themselves well against higher division opposition and embark on another Carling Cup run.
Last season the Stags beat Championship sides Stoke City and Southampton en route to the third round where they lost to Millwall.
John-Baptiste said: "We normally play really well against teams from the league above us. We proved that in pre-season and in our Carling Cup run last year. I think the most important thing is to put on a good performance that we can take into our league games."
Stags all set for cup trip
CHAD WEBSITE, 21 August 2006
MANSFIELD Town are likely to be unchanged as they look to begin another Carling Cup run at League One Huddersfield Town tomorrow (7.45pm).
Although injured duo Giles Coke and Jon Hjelde have both begun running again, neither is likely to be considered for the trip to the Galpharm Stadium.
Stags go there as underdogs but, after knocking out Stoke City and Southampton in this competition last season and remaining unbeaten so far this season, Mansfield head north full of confidence.
"We are looking forward to going to Huddersfield," said manager Peter Shirtliff.
"Obviously they are a league above us and a good side.
"But it will be a good pitch and I am looking forward to seeing what our boys can do against them.
"I don't see the need to make changes. Obviously our main priority is the League. But the cup is a welcome break and we can go there and relax and play. I am confident we can put on a good performance.
"We are the underdogs but it doesn't matter to me either way. I am looking to our lads to pick up the mantle and go for it.
"We will approach this game as we have all other games this season. They have been very professional in their approach. We just need to put the icing on the cake and we need to start getting some clean sheets."
Evening Post, 21 August 2006
In a career spanning 15 clubs over 20 years, Carl Muggleton has encountered just about every managerial type imaginable.
From bawlers to philosophers, he's seen it all.
Now in his third spell at Mansfield, the 37-year-old goalkeeper is working under a manager who is the epitome of contradiction.
While Peter Shirtliff cuts an unemotional character on the sidelines, his exciting Mansfield side play with a youthful exuberance and abandon that has inspired Muggleton to roll back the years.
He was responsible for two age-defying saves at Grimsby on Friday night that earned a point at last year's play-off finalists - but it is the players in front of him that are catching the eye.
They could not be more in contrast to Shirtliff, who in post- match interviews resembles a poker player more than a football manager.
Yet his side continues to play in a swashbuckling manner that perhaps reveals more about Shirtliff than he ever would himself.
Muggleton attempted to lift the lid on the manager who has made an impression on him since he returned to Field Mill this summer.
"It takes all sorts of managers," he said. "You've got your Martin O'Neills of the world - flying all over the place - and the Sven Goran Erikssons doing nothing and just saying things in the dressing room.
"Peter has a happy medium - if something needs saying, it is said. When people need to be told what to do, it's done, and when they need encouraging he does that too.
"He's a genuinely nice fellow. He's very organised. Everything is done professionally and I think that comes out on the pitch. As long as everything is right off the pitch, things go well on it."
At Blundell Park, Shirtliff again showed his commitment to attacking football as Mansfield produced a fearless display against a Grimsby side that came so close to promotion last season.
Though the Mariners have endured a difficult start to the campaign with two defeats from their first three games, Graham Rodger's side still presented an early gauge of Mansfield's own promotion credentials.
The penetration of wide men Matt Hamshaw and Michael Boulding suggests they will be able to cut open the majority of League Two defences this season but Shirtliff's concern was the fact that they are yet to keep a clean sheet.
If they are to challenge for the play-offs he feels they must start killing games off when in a winning position.
He blamed the lapse in concentration that allowed Peter Bore to head home an unchallenged 71-minute equaliser for the loss of two points on Friday. But in truth it was the profligacy at the other end that denied Mansfield their first away win of the campaign.
Indeed, such was the wastefulness in front of goal that Mansfield were left indebted to Muggleton for outstanding saves in each half to help secure the point.
Not that the veteran keeper was grateful for the action.
He said: "It was nice to make a few saves, but when you get to my age you don't want to do anything - but when you're called upon you make a save. It's difficult when you're knocking on, but as long as you feel like you can contribute then you've got to carry on."