EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
STAGS: HERO OF THE HOUR TELLS OF HIS RELIEF
Evening Post, 30 April 2007
Match-winner Simon Brown revealed the players are just as relieved as the fans Mansfield have finally clinched League Two safety.
After Barry Conlon had opened the scoring for the Stags, the diminutive striker scored what proved to be a decisive second goal in a 2-1 win over Barnet.
It brought to an end a run of four consecutive defeats at Field Mill and means the club can now plan with certainty for next season.
"We know we should have put relegation out of sight a long time ago, so it's good to finally do it," said Brown.
"No one wants to lose games but once you get on a bad run and everyone starts to lose a little bit of confidence, it is difficult to stop.
"We knew that it was important to get the first goal because we felt we could kick on from there and get the point we needed.
"That is what happened. The first goal came at just the right time for us and we worked hard from there to make sure we didn't give things away."
Brown's fifth goal of the campaign was his most important. He said: "It was another great ball through from Barry (Conlon) and I had time to take a touch, get the ball under control and compose myself.
Mansfield's struggle for safety has meant Billy Dearden has been unable to negotiate new deals for out-of-contract players.
One of those is Brown, but the former West Brom man expects that to change now League status has been secured
STAGS SAFE, BUT 'NOTHING TO CELEBRATE'
Evening Post, 30 April 2007
Paul Holland says Mansfield's joy at clinching League Two safety should not mask the fact they have had a poor season.
The Stags got the point they needed for survival as they beat Barnet 2-1 at Field Mill.
But assistant boss Holland said: "It is another season in League Two but we should be looking to get into League One, not fighting to stay up.
"We have to stop making excuses. The players who we have always said are young and learning are not that young anymore and they have played enough games now.
"I find it difficult to go out and applaud the supporters at the end of a season like this, not because they don't deserve it, but because we haven't really got anything to celebrate.
"I would rather be doing it when we are celebrating promotion or getting in the play-offs then finishing 19th.
"We desperately need to bring some new players in over the summer. We have identified people and now we just have to try to get them in."
Holland was pleased with the way Mansfield stuck to the task despite losing Callum Lloyd with a hip injury and Johnny Mullins playing on after a blow to the head.
He said: "It is obviously a relief to be safe. The situation what we have been is not a nice one because we have seen in previous years what can happen. We tried to put across the players that if we got the right result it didn't matter what happened elsewhere. It was a nervy performance and when the two lads got injured we just tried to make it through to half time.
"The goal (on the stroke of half time) settled us down for the second half and it was nice to go on and get the three points."
Barry Conlon was this week told by the club he could leave at the end of the season, so Holland was delighted by his response.
"If you can get balls into the box then Barry will score goals," he said. "That's the attitude we wanted to see from him.
"If he produces that kind of form he is going to be a threat to opposition defences next year playing for someone at this level."
Mansfield now look forward to a midweek County Cup clash with Notts County
THE AGONY IS OVER AS STAGS TRIUMPH
Evening Post, 30 April 2007
After weeks of suffering for Mansfield's supporters, it all came right on one gloriously sunny afternoon.
Not only did the Stags earn a win against Barnet to guarantee Football League safety, they also secured their first victory in nine games and ended a run of four consecutive home defeats.
Oh, and it did not slip the attention of the fans that closest rivals Chesterfield had been relegated.
The Spireites went down, despite a 3-0 home victory over Bradford, and the news was greeted with cheers when announced on the PA system.
When the Stags drew in the derby at Notts County in early March, the only drama anticipated was a possible play-off push.
But a run of injuries soon put paid to any such hopes, and led to many worrying about things at the other end of the table.
Stags still needed a point against the Bees to eliminate those lingering concerns
But it was heart-warming for everyone connected with the club, particularly hard-working boss Billy Dearden, for them to eke out a victory.
In truth, though, it was not one they can claim to have deserved.
For large chunks of the game, Barnet had the Stags on the back foot as they looked to make amends for the 5-0 defeat at Grimsby on their last away trip.
Unlike a raft of teams who have visited Field Mill this season, they played crisp, passing football and enjoyed significantly more possession.
But what Mansfield's by now customary youthful side did have was a determination to get the job done.
They battled hard to stay with their visitors and were rewarded with two goals that Barnet could not match.
In so many games, the Stags have rued missed opportunities as their opponents have gone down to the other end and punished them.
But this time it was they who were clinical, scoring from two out of their three clear-cut chances.
The game was still goalless as half-time approached and, because of Mansfield's struggle, the announcement there would be five minutes of stoppage time was greeted with groans from the home support.
But in the end, the added minutes proved most welcome as, in the final 60 seconds, the hosts forged in front.
Mullins cut in from the left and picked out Simon Brown in space on the right. His cross to the far post was perfect for Barry Conlon and though the Irishman's first header was partly blocked by Lee Harrison, he scrambled home the loose ball as it trickled towards the line.
It was just the breakthrough the hosts were looking for and only their second goal in six games, the other having also been netted by Conlon in the 2-1 home defeat to Rochdale.
After the break, Barnet surged forward in search of an equaliser and only desperate defending kept them out.
But then the Stags stung the Bees with a slick counter-attack. Conlon's through ball saw Brown beat the offside trap and run on before calmly picking his spot past the advancing Harrison.
It was the kind of assured finish sadly lacking when similar opportunities against Notts County and Macclesfield arose, but, as Brown quite rightly pointed out after the game, this one was on his favoured right foot.
At that point, it seemed the game would be all over as a contest only for Barnet to set the home fans' nerves jangling by pulling a goal back within a minute.
In a frantic scramble, Barry Cogan and Dean Sinclair hit the right and then left post before former Stag Adam Birchall stabbed home through a sea of bodies.
And with Mansfield still reeling, it took a fine save from Jason White diving to his right to prevent an equaliser from Nick Bailey.
For the rest of the game it was all about Mansfield holding on to what they had.
They did have their moments going forward, most notably when Danny Sleath forced a fine save out of Harrison, but for the large part it was the Stags' defensive qualities that came to the fore.
Of course, it wouldn't have been a Mansfield game without fresh injury problems.
Callum Lloyd and Johnny Mullins both went down within a minute of each other with hip and head injuries respectively.
Mullins soldiered on with a head band but Lloyd lasted only a few more minutes.
Nevertheless, the team had enough about them to end the Field Mill season on a high and send their followers home happy.
It was the result the supporters wanted, if not the performance.
Now, with the pressure off for their last game of the season at Bury, Mansfield will be hoping to not only get the three points, but also to put on a show to go with it.
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