Mansfield Town 4 Plymouth Argyle 3
AWhite 32, 67, Disley 51, Larkin 55.
Evans 24, Friio 86, Pilkington OG 90
Attendance: 5,309 (1,089 from Plymouth)
Martin Shaw and Dad and Jeff Barnes at Field Mill
Don't be fooled by the scoreline. This was a second half massacre. Stags produced a simply sensational second half showing to score 3 times in 16 minutes and blow Plymouth Argyle away. It should have been 6 or 7 - 1 before Plymouth pulled back 2 consolations in the final 4 minutes. Neil MacKenzie produced one of the best midfield performances at Field Mill since Paul Holland in the mid 1990s on a sensational debut, while Andy White continued his terrific form from the end of last season, and Colin Larkin made a very good debut and capped it with a well taken goal.
Stags started with an unusual 3-3-2-2 formation brought about by injury and the late recall by Walsall of Matt Gadsby. Jervis played at left back with Moore in the middle and Reddington towards the right of the defence, with Disley just in front of the defence on the right, and MacKenzie anchoring the midfield just in front of Moore, and Corden in front of Jervis. Williamson and Sellars played more forward midfield roles, with Larkin and Andy White up front. Lawrence and Bacon returned from injury to the bench, alongside Iyseden Christie, Jamie Clarke and youth team keeper Jason White.
Plymouth had the first attack of the game in the first minute with a header over the bar. Then on 2 minutes, Neil MacKenzie showed a flash of brilliance to send a 35 yard chip just over the bar, with Plymouth keeper Larrieu scrambling back towards his goal in front of the noisy Plymouth fans. On 7 minutes, free kick specialist Wotton drove a cracker from 30 yards that Pilkington did well to hold low down. Stags soon had two dangerous right wing crosses that didn't come to anything and Disley had an overhead kick just past the post. Reddington was unluckily booked after 15 minutes for a clumsy foul. From the resulting free kick from 35 yards, this time Wotton hit the outside of the post, though Pilkington appeared to have it covered.
After 23 minutes, Plymouth took the lead from the first corner of the game. The dangerous Mickey Evans rose at the near post above his marker Reddington to plant a firm header into the roof of the net. A minute later, Stags had their first corner, but Sellars' kick was wasted. On 28 minutes Disley also wasted a good opportunity for a cross, putting it into the Argyle fans. But 4 minutes later, on 32 minutes, Williamson put in a perfect cross from the right wing, which was beautifully met by Andy White's firm downward header, which Larrieu got a hand to, but couldn't keep out of the net.
It was a just reward for the Stags who went on to dominate the rest of the match, save for the final 5 minutes.
Disley had a header wide on 37 minutes at the far post after fine play by Sellars on the left. Then Sellars himself had a shot saved a minute later. In injury time at the end of the half, Williamson had a great left foot shot which just cleared the bar.
At half time, it was honours even which received warm applause from both sets of fans, and a very encouraging display from the Stags.
Half time 1-1
Half time rain made the pitch a little skiddy at the start of the second half. Stags were soon in top gear and deservedly went ahead on 51 minutes. MacKenzie's left wing free kick was powered towards his own net by a Plymouth defender. Larrieu made a good save parrying the ball upwards, but from 2 yards, Disley was first to react and headed into the left hand corner of the net. Disley took off for his trademark sliding celebration.
Typical of Stags play from last season, rather than try to consolidate on the lead, Stags surged forward and were rewarded 4 minutes later with another goal that took the roof off the West Stand. Neil Moore played a pass to White, who found Sellars. Sellars then played a fabulous ball forward putting Larkin clear on goal from 45 yards out. Larkin showed supreme confidence and strode forward before clipping the ball sublimely over the diving keeper for his debut goal. It was a truly great goal from a great move.
Stags were now simply on fire, as Andy White headed just over from another terrific move down the right. Plymouth had a very rare attack as Friio shot wide when well placed. After 67 minutes, it got even better for Mansfield as Andy White produced an extraordinary goal. He started with a run down the right wing following a Sellars pass, and seemed to going nowhere, but evaded tackles as he cut inside and then with Larrieu expecting a pull back to Corden, White confounded the keeper and delighted the home fans as he slid the ball inside the far post.
At this point, Stags fans were in dreamland and couldn't believe how well their side was playing against last season's deserved champions. Liam Lawrence soon replaced Scott Sellars to a rapturous reception (for both players) and soon Andy White was booked for kicking the ball away. Iyseden Christie then replaced Larkin to a nother rapturous reception for both players. Christie was immediately in the action looking lively. A Plymouth player was bizarrely booked for wasting time (at 4-1 down) as he kicked the ball away and then the visitors had another rare chance as a header went wide form a corner. But it was the Stags on the rampage as Christie went close with a shot tipped away for a corner.
Out of the blue, Argyle scored on 86 minutes as Friio placed his shot nicely from the edge of the box into the corner of the net to amend for his earlier miss. But Stags chances were coming thick and fast and within a minute another Stags header flashed past the post. Then on 88 minutes an amazing scramble in the Plymouth box somehow didn't result in goal number 5 for the Stags. Christie rounded the keeper and his shot hit the post from a tight angle. From the rebound MacKenzie also had a shot blocked and a third shot was blocked. There was so much happening it was hard to take in as Stags had another great chance a minute later. As the game moved into 4 minutes of injury time, we noted that the Plymouth fans were criticising the referee who had rightly turned down a pathetic appeal for a penalty. In the 4th minute of injury time, Plymouth scored again as Lowndes shot hit the post from 10 yards, and rebounded against the back of Pilkington's head, before crawling over the line for a crazy goal. Not only a crazy goal, but a crazy scoreline of 4-3 in a game that should have finished 6-1. The whistle went within 10 seconds of that goal meaning that it was, in fact, not an anxious ending.
So, despite the late Plymouth comeback, this was a fantastic start to the season in Division 2. It was a performance to rival any from last season, with some of the play in the second half simply sensational, characterising by excellent movement off the ball, crisp passing and decisive finishing. Four goals in the opening game is a terrific start, especially without the departed Chris Greenacre, and will give the team great confidence for the difficult games ahead. The lack of a right back meant Stags occasionally looked shaky at the back in the first half, but the extra bodies in midfield allowed the Stags to take control, and it was in the midfield that the game was won. There were so many outstanding performances in a terrific team showing, but Neil MacKenzie for an all round showing, and Scott Sellars for real quality especially in setting up two of the goals, deserve a special mention, as well as Andy White for 2 more well taken goals.
Man of the match: Neil MacKenzie.
Pilkington 7 Good handling throughout. Unlucky with 3rd goal that bounced in off his head.
Reddington 6 Lost his marker Evans for Plymouth's first goal. Otherwise covered a lot of ground and did ok.
Moore 8 Dominant in the air and read the game well.
Jervis 8 Barely put a foot wrong and won some important at challenges. Was never beaten for pace.
Disley 7 Did well out of position. Was asked to defend more than normal, yet still came up with a goal.
MacKenzie 10 One of the best midfield performances at Field Mill since Paul Holland. Sensational debut. Great balance and two good feet.
Corden 7 Quiet first half. Dangerous second half when seeing more of the ball.
Sellars 9 Great vision and never wasted a pass. Great pass for Larkin's goal.
Williamson 8 Some great crunching tackles. Good captain's role and drove the team forward very well.
Larkin 8 Took his goal like Chris Greenacre - brilliantly. Very good debut, showing lots of nice touches.
AWhite 9 Always a handle for the defence. Carried on from where he finished at the end of last season. Fine header for the first goal, and then a mazy run to score an amazing second goal.
Lawrence (for Sellars, 70) 6 Good to see him back from injury. Looked eager.
Christie (for Larkin, 76) 7 Lively, hit the post and unlucky not to score with another attempt.
Bacon (for AWhite, 90) 6 Like Lawrence, good to see him back from injury.
Subs not used: JWhite, Clarke.
Ref: G Frankland (Cleveland)
Latest | September 2002