MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
STAGS FALL TO FOUTH DEFEAT IN FIVE
Torquay United 1 Mansfield Town 0.
Att - 2660 (322 from Mansfield).
The Stags slipped to their fourth defeat in five League games when a 37th minute goal from Jamie Ward proved enough to give Torquay United all three points at Plainmoor.
Mansfield, hoping for an improved display following their disappointing mid-week defeat at the hands of Hartlepool United were once again to rue missed chances and bemoan the good form shown by the home keeper, Nathan Abbey.
Danny Reet gaining his first start of the season alongside Barker spurned a 7th minute opportunity as both sides failed to find any consistent passing in what was a scrappy opening period of play.
On 18 minutes Stags should have taken the lead. Fine approach play resulted in Richard Barker laying the ball off to Mattie Hamshaw. Hamshaw in space and seemingly with the goal at his mercy was denied by a last ditch challenge by Reed, the ball taking a slight deflection off the defender and out for a corner. It was a great opportunity for Mansfield and one they would later come to regret.
The home side were not troubling The Stags too greatly and indeed on 26 minutes Mansfield created yet another goal scoring opportunity. This time a terrific right wing cross by Mullins found the head of Micky Boulding, however the move ended in more frustration with Boulding's powerful header falling straight into the grateful arms of United keeper, Abbey.
Somewhat against the run of play, Torquay took a 37th minutes lead. Sheehan stooped down to pick up the ball for what he felt was a free kick awarded to Mansfield, however the Referee awarded the kick to the home side, who moved the ball forward at speed. The was an almighty scramble in the Stags area before from close range, Ward riddled free enough to fire the ball into the roof of the net. It was a blow to Mansfield who until then had defended well enough to cause frustration amongst the home support.
The 2nd half saw Ward once again cause problems for the Stags defence. This time he beat Baptiste but from a tight angle fired his shot across the face of goal.
Former Argyle front man, Evans neatly flicked on the ball into the path of Ward moments later, but a timely toe from Baptiste denied the Gulls front-runner another strike at goal.
Stags had claims for a penalty when Thorpe went in hard on Coke but the Referee waved away any appeals and play went on.
The game was certainly not a classic as both sides cancelled each other out in what was becoming a dour contest.
On 62 minutes, Shirtliff shuffled his pack, bringing on Jelleyman and Dawson for Boulding and the ineffective Coke.
On 68 minutes, Mansell was unlucky to see his dipping volley from the edge of the box just clear the Mansfield crossbar. A minute later, Beardsley came on for Reet as Mansfield tried to pep up the frontline and get back into the game.
On 71 minutes, Stags created another good goalscoring chance, this time from a Dawson cross, Barker headed well wide from eight yards out.
McPhee was introduced by United boss Atkins on 72 minutes for the dangerous but tiring Ward and the big striker almost scored five minutes later but his headed effort just cleared the bar. White also denied McPhee when the strikers run took him through the heart of the Stags defence.
On the 85th minute a Hamshaw corner was flicked on by Buxton towards Barker, but his header was saved well by Abbey in the Gulls goal.
McPhee should have done better but misjudged his lob from 15 yards as United broke. Then in the last minute of normal time, Barker had an effort smothered by Abbey.
There was astonishment amongst the home fans when it was announced that there would be 4 minutes of added on time, but United held firm to record the win.
The Stags players left the field with heads held low. With just one win in their last five games, fortunes need to improve fast, and what better way than with two home league games. Stags face Accrington Stanley this coming Saturday and then Darlington the following Tuesday. With the season now gathering pace, Stags are in danger of being left behind the runners.
GOAL-SHY STAGS STUTTER
Evening Post, 18 September 2006
When the Stags kicked off their season scoring goals for fun, it seemed a very unlikely scenario.
Yet with just over a month of the campaign gone, the Stags have suddenly lost their welcome ability to hit the back of the net on their travels.
This fixture at Plainmoor was the third away game in a row that Peter Shirtliff's side have been defeated - and the third successive match away from Field Mill that they have not registered a goal.
It is now more than 300 minutes since Mansfield last scored on the road - when Matt Hamshaw put them ahead in the 1-1 draw at Grimsby.
So it is hardly surprising that the players are a little short on confidence and are perhaps a little too anxious to take advantage of opportunities that do come their way.
It is true that the run of the ball has not favoured Mansfield. But the Stags did not help their own cause as the final ball into the box was poor and they wasted promising situations.
It left Shirtliff exasperated on the touchline as time after time his charges picked the wrong option.
Another big problem is that Mansfield have still not managed to keep a clean sheet in League Two.
Nine times out of ten, teams who challenge for promotion are solid at the back and give very little away.
So, on that basis, it is going to be very difficult for Mansfield to finish in the top half of the table - unless they can stop leaking goals.
Jamie Ward's winner was Torquay's only shot on target throughout the whole game. But, once again, it was a strike that could have been avoided with better defending.
A set-piece was initially awarded to Mansfield, but Alan Sheehan failed to realise that Giles Coke had taken it quickly and put his hand on the ball.
As a result, referee Mick Russell penalised the Irish defender and the hosts took the opportunity to pump the ball into the Mansfield box.
After a frantic scramble, it broke kindly for Ward who fired into the top corner from close range.
That breakthrough for the hosts came in the 37th minute, but the Stags should have already been in the lead by then.
Barker had played a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Hamshaw, giving him a clear shooting opportunity. But the Yorkshireman took too long in picking his spot and that allowed Steven Reed to get back and deflect the ball wide of the target.
The body language did not look good as the Stags emerged for the second half with their heads bowed.
And, until the final stages, they were unable to give rise to any kind of optimism as they lacked the penetration to trouble the Gulls rearguard.
Three times Barker had a sight of goal as time ticked by. First he headed well off target from substitute Gareth Jelleyman's cross.
Then the striker's header was too close to keeper Abbey and he was able to collect with a degree of comfort.
The best chance of the three, though, was reserved until the final minute of normal time when Barker's close-range hit Abbey's legs.
After travelling more than 700 miles in the last week for no reward, it will come as a relief to the Stags that they can now look forward to three consecutive home games.
First up they have the small task of taking on Premiership pacesetters Portsmouth - who come to Field Mill tomorrow having yet to concede a goal - in the Carling Cup second round.
Then comes the more serious business of League clashes against Accrington Stanley and Darlington.
If the Stags still harbour ambitions of challenging for the play-offs after their disappointing start to their season, then they are games that simply must be won. Otherwise, Mansfield are in danger of facing another campaign to avoid the drop to the Conference - and no-one at Field Mill will want that.
ATKINS: "WE GAVE EVERYTHING"; SHIRTLIFF: "WE CREATED NOTHING"
Torquay boss Ian Atkins felt his players deserved "a massive pat on the back" after Jamie Ward scored his third goal of the season in a 1-0 win over Mansfield.
The former Aston Villa youngster seized on a knockdown from Mickey Evans in the 37th minute, worked a yard of shooting space and hit the roof of the net with a left-foot volley from 12 yards.
Atkins said: "There were a lot of tired legs out there because we had a demanding game against Bristol Rovers on Wednesday night.
"But the players gave everything, they worked their socks off and they deserve a massive pat on the back.
"We are up to seventh in the table and everybody here would have taken that at the start of the season," added Atkins, who saved Torquay from relegation in miraculous turnaround at the end of last season.
"The only criticism could be that we didn't kill Mansfield off. We had the chances but didn't take them. It would have been easy for the players to lose their shape and discipline in the closing stages.
"I was hot on the bench, so goodness knows what it was like out on the pitch."
Mansfield boss Peter Shirtliff said: "We didn't create anything really in and around their box. We never looked like scoring.
"I was disappointed with our determination and aggression near goal - I thought it was none existent both from open play and from set-pieces."
Mansfield meet Premiership leaders Portsmouth in the Carling Cup at Field Mill on Tuesday night, but Shirtliff said: "I am not interested in the Portsmouth game right now. I don't know if the players are.
"We have got to start realising what we need to do to achieve anything in this league and that means being stronger and competing better."
Torquay Herald Express, 18 September 2006
Torquay United manager Ian Atkins believes that 20-year-old Jamie Ward can form "a lethal partnership" with veteran targetman Mickey Evans this season.
But the Gulls boss also warns Gulls fans not to expect too much from the former Aston Villa starlet.
Ward scored his third goal of the season to beat Mansfield Town 1-0 at Plainmoor on Saturday.
The result stretched United's unbeaten run to six League Two games and lifted them into the early-season Play-Off zone.
"Jamie is so quick and Mickey does some fantastic work up front, and they are starting to form a lethal partnership," said Atkins.
"People can't handle them.
"But you've got to remember that Jamie has never really played up front before.
"You've got to be a bit patient with him. He's still learning his trade as a striker.
"It's a different kind of role to what he's been used to on the wing.
"It's even a different kind of running to what you do when you're a wide player."
Ward's winner came from a trademark Evans knock-down as United continued their solid start to the season.
Atkins gave his players "a massive pat on the back" for the way they worked after the 0-0 draw with Bristol Rovers last Wednesday night.
"The only criticism you could possibly level was that we didn't kill the game off - we had the chances, but didn't take them," he said.
United now face two away games - at bottom club Macclesfield Town on Saturday and then fifth-placed MK Dons the following Tuesday night.
Before then Atkins has arranged a behind-closed-doors reserve friendly against South Devon College at Plainmoor today.
The College team is run by former Gulls stalwart Alex Watson.
Atkins said: "Most of the players have had a demanding spell recently, and I might give them an extra day off this week.
"But we also have other lads who need a game.
"We've got players like Carl Motteram, who's been on the subs' bench all season so far.
"He's going to be a big help to us over the course of the season, but he needs games so he can be ready when we need him."
Fit-again skipper Craig Taylor, who was also on the bench at the weekend, will be another having a run-out after his back injury.
Post Mansfield Comments
Straight after yesterdays win over Mansfield, the Official website caught up with some of the lads for an instant comment -
Manager Ian Atkins: "It was a tough old game again, following on from that very hard game on Wednesday it was another tempo game. The heat today was typical Torbay Riviera too! The players absolutely worked themselves into the ground and played some great football too, there are a lot of very tired legs out there. A fantastic result for us."
Matt Hockley: "The first half they pressured us a lot and made it very hard for us to get it down and pass as we wanted, but we kept it tight and nicked the goal, then in the second half we came out and played better football altogether, the sign of a good team!"
Mickey Evans: "It wasn't a tremendous performance, I thought we played really well for about 25 minutes in the second half; we played some really good stuff. First half was a bit shaky but overall I thought we deserved the win. Nathan (Abbey) didn't really have one clean shot to save and when Chris (McPhee) came on he gave us that extra bit up front to finish off with."
Steve Woods: "We're not playing that great at the moment so it's nice to be grinding out the results. We're all working hard as a team to try and play better and we know we can so we're just hopeful we can improve the performances to match the results."
Lee Mansell: "A very hard game, I'm absolutely shattered but glad we got all 3 points in the end; we deserved it after the midweek game we had where we missed a few chances that we weren't too happy about so it's good to keep rock & rollin today!"
Jamie Ward: "I enjoyed that one! It was a hard game and it was pretty warm out there but I think we deserved to win the 3 points; we all worked hard for each other."
Stephen Reed: "No comment!"
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