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30/October/2006 14:46:28

BARKER IS CAPTAIN FANTASTIC!
EVENING POST, 30 October 2006

Macclesfield Town 2 - 3 Mansfield Town
Last season Richard Barker took part in a benefit match to help Macclesfield stave off financial ruin. On Saturday, the striker's two late goals only exacerbated their slide from League football.

Barker may have plied his trade at Moss Rose during his much-travelled career, and last week spoke of his affection for the club, but sentiment was clearly the last thing on his mind as he positioned the ball on the penalty spot in the 90th minute of an enthralling match.

He at least had the good grace to mute his celebrations after firing his shot past Jonathon Brain - when every instinct in his body would have been to go ballistic.

Instead, fists clenched, he was the picture of restraint.

Barker would have been within his rights to let go after his own experiences recently, which is why his reaction was as much to do with respect for his former club as a response to the personal criticism he's endured of late.

A goal-drought that lasted seven games was enough to prompt some sections of Field Mill to suggest their leading scorer was past it at ripe old age of 31.

Barker even suggested he could empathise with Andriy Shevchenko's plight at Chelsea - but the Ukrainian hit man would give his right arm for his Mansfield counterpart's goal-scoring touch this season.

His double on Saturday took his tally to ten for the season, four in his last two games, and 41 in 92 appearances in all for Peter Shirtliff's side.

Such statistics make a mockery of any suggestion Barker is a force on the wane.

He was outstanding again on Saturday and, as on so many occasions in his two-year spell at Mansfield, the difference between three points and none.

By his own standards he might have scored even more than the two goals that handed them their first away win of the season. But when it truly mattered he first demonstrated his deadly eye for goal with a coolly-taken header, and then showed nerves of steel to convert his penalty.

And while some sections of the Mansfield support might have been ready to write him off, he still enjoyed the unwavering support of the dressing room.

Midfielder Jonathan D'Laryea said: "He went on a bit of a drought and that is bound to happen to every striker. But he's proved that with four goals in the last two games, you can't ever rule him out.

"We are a completely different team when he's not playing. It's not just his goalscoring. He holds the ball up well and is the captain so he gets us all going.

"When he's not playing, we feel the difference."

Shirtliff added: "I didn't realise he was getting any criticism in all honesty. I never sensed it. He's a good player. He's done well. He's the captain, a great example to the other players and I'm chuffed to bits with him.

"Ritchie is enjoying his football. He's a very good pro, he's fit and I've got him doing different things to what he was used to and I think that's helping his scoring."

Barker certainly arrived right on cue for Shirtliff after Mansfield twice fell behind to a Macclesfield side clearly buoyed by the arrival of new manager Paul Ince.

The former England international's appointment at Moss Rose last week injected his side with renewed belief that they can drag themselves away from the foot of the table.

He is a classmate of Shirtliff on a management course at Warwick University, and there were certainly similarities in the way both managers set their sides up.

With neither side content to accept a point, it made for an end-to-end encounter.

Colin Heath's strike early in the second half started a flurry of goals, with Giles Coke equalising shortly after.

Dave Morley restored Macclesfield's lead with nine minutes to go as Ince looked like leading them to their first victory of the season.

But Barker was on hand to level things again two minutes later, before firing the winner after Martin Bullock was penalised for a handball in the area. And D'Laryea believes a second consecutive win will prove a belated catalyst to Mansfield's promotion hopes.

"It was a great result," he said.

"When we went 1-0 down we thought it would be another one of those days. And when we came back from behind again, it showed great spirit from us.

"After what's happened this season - especially in away games - we could easily have gone back into our shell. But we know our luck is bound to change and hopefully we can kick on from this.

"Unbeaten in four now and we've won the last two games, so we are going into the Bristol Rovers game with every confidence to get three points."


SHIRTLIFF: WE HAVE SPIRIT TO PUT A RUN TOGETHER
EVENING POST, 30 October 2006
Peter Shirtliff praised his side's character after Mansfield twice came back from behind to beat Macclesfield.

The 3-2 win at Moss Rose was their first away win of the season - and their manager felt it was the least they deserved after a spirited performance.

He said: "Macclesfield will probably feel they deserved a point, but we've come away from home and scored three goals. So credit to our players who have done very well and deserved the win because they worked hard.

"They went 2-1 up and we've shown very good character to come back. I was pleased with that. I can't remember another game this season when we've scored in the closing minutes.

"It's very important psychologically to win our first game away from home and to get back-to-back wins. It's a terrific achievement and if we can carry on in this form and spirit we can put a run together. We've shown character all season and deserved more points than we've achieved.

"That's eight points from the last four games so that's excellent form by anybody's standards.

"I'm pleased for the players who worked hard and taken on the work ethics I have tried to instil in them."

There was much for Shirtliff to be pleased about after a goal-scoring display from Giles Coke and the return of Michael Boulding after a month on the sidelines.

"I'm pleased for Giles, he's not had the best of times," said Shirtliff. "He played the first game and was then out with injury. He couldn't get into his stride, but he did well.

"Michael gives us a threat. He will get into the box and has pace and can score goals."


INCE STILL CONFIDENT AFTER FIRST DEFEAT AS MANAGER
EVENING POST, 30 October 2006
Macclesfield manager Paul Ince considered it an opportunity missed after tasting defeat in his first game in management.

Ince felt his side did enough to claim a first win of the season against Mansfield - only to watch three points slip away after two Richard Barker goals in the final ten minutes.

He said: "I said to them afterwards, they should have been 3-0 up at half time, then we were 2-1 up with eight minutes to go.

"Sometimes we've got to learn not to panic. When you're in front you have to be brave and defend higher up the pitch and not invite teams onto us. That's what we did and we got punished."

Still Ince saw a lot to encourage him that he can lead Macclesfield off the foot of League Two.

He said: "I thought it was a very good performance and a very good game. The reaction from the lads was A1. If we could just have got the result, it would have made all the difference.

"We needed the points so we had to attack. It's the first week and I said to the lads I was proud of what they did and we will get better. We will get stronger every week and with one or two additions we will have a great chance.

"I said before the game the most important thing was the performance. I said I'm proud of them, they gave me everything.

"The penalty was one that you get given against you when you're bottom of the table. That's the way it is at the bottom though and we have to fight our way out of it and not feel sorry for ourselves.

"We need to get some belief in this side and I think the fans appreciated the players fighting for their cause. I honestly think when we get that first win then you'll see a different side.

"I've been to three or four games before I took the job and the teams I've seen are nothing better than what we've got here. Mansfield got all the points, but they weren't a better side than us."



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