EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
STAGS LOOKING TO SIGN LEVER
Evening Post, 19 August 2002
Mansfield assistant manager Neil Richardson is hopeful he and manager Stuart Watkiss will bring in another central defender this week after Stags conceded three goals for the third game running at Wycombe on Saturday.
The identity of the player has not been revealed but news from Bristol City suggests the Stags have made an approach for 32-year-old Robins' defender Mark Lever.
Lever has extensive First Division experience with Grimsby Town, where he made more than 400 appearances, and was transfer-listed by City boss Danny Wilson at the end of last season.
City chairman John Laycock said: "Mansfield have renewed their interest in Mark and we are talking to his agent."
Defensive errors from set pieces prevented Stags from earning their first away win of the season.
Wayne Corden scored twice and looked to have given Watkiss's side the points with an 85th-minute thunderbolt, but Wycombe's Paul McCarthy headed his team level in the last minute to earn a 3-3 draw.
Stags' total of nine goals scored is more than any other team in the Nationwide League, but it is at the other end where there are concerns and a new face could be introduced before the derby clash with Chesterfield on Saturday.
Only Luton Town have concede more goals than Stags in the three Nationwide divisions.
Richardson said: "We just cannot keep on conceding three goals in a game.
"Hopefully, we will be able to get something sorted out this week. He's a big lad with First Division experience and, if we can get him in, we will bring him in for the Chesterfield game.
"When we were 3-2 up, we just had to hold on for the long throw and it is a case of people not attacking balls.
"There hasn't been one goal this season when you can say that the opposition have worked the ball well.
"They are just putting balls into the box and we are not dealing with them."
Iyseden Christie scored his first goal of the season to put Stags level in the 74th minute after goals from Sean Devine and Craig Faulconbridge had cancelled out Corden's fifth-minute opener.
Richardson said: "We will always score goals with the players we have, but we cannot come away from home, score three goals and not win the game.
"The boys didn't stop, especially in the second half. The game opened up because of the weather and we passed the ball better and we got our just rewards with the three goals we scored."
FRAIL DEFENCE IS STAGS' DOWNFALL
Evening Post, 19 August 2002
Wycombe Wanderers 3 v 3 Mansfield Town
The philosophical may be drawn to conclude that, if Stags maintain their present form, 15 wins and 15 draws will be enough to keep Stuart Watkiss's side in Division Two next season.
But that would mean 138 goals going in at each end, leaving us all without fingernails and hair on our heads.
So far, Mansfield's exploits in the Second Division have been enthralling and frustrating in equal measure.
And, as they begin to adjust to football at a higher level, it is becoming apparent that little will be made of them being the top scorers in the whole Nationwide League with the attention concentrated on events at the other end, where only Luton Town have conceded more.
Going forward, there appear to be no problems and they are comfortable on the ball.
Every player is looking to use it intelligently and spark the sort of movements that produce chances.
Now Wayne Corden - whose second goal was an early candidate for goal of the season in the league, let alone just at Stags - and Iyseden Christie have got on the scoresheet, they are confident in attack and are playing without fear.
However, every time the ball goes into the Stags penalty area, your heart is in your mouth.
And seven of the nine goals have originated from set pieces.
In the space of a week, Stags have been undone by a big central defender powering home a header from close range twice and such a player is a commodity the Stags don't yet possess.
If they did, you get the feeling it would be snuffed out and the aim will be to bring a defender in during the week and consign these episodes to the past, as Stags get ready for the derby against Chesterfield on Saturday.
But the frustration of conceding goals 30 seconds after taking the lead, 30 seconds before half-time and a minute before the end does not tell the whole story and there is still reason to be optimistic.
Had someone offered Stags four points from their opening three games, against the Division Three champions, the second favourites for the title and the 2001 FA Cup semi-finalists, I'm sure they would have been gratefully received.
Five players have got on the scoresheet and, despite seeing nine goals beat him, Kevin Pilkington is in excellent form between the posts.
And, if it's entertainment you want, they are the team to follow.
But now could be the time when Stags need to strengthen so that, come May, they are not seen as a plucky team who played attractive football, made a lot of friends and were missed by the rest of the division when they were relegated.
They have shown enough over the last couple of weeks to show that they do deserve to ply their trade at this level and it is important to get as many points as they can early on, so that it is the foundation upon which a successful campaign can be launched.
The statistics don't lie but it is plain to everyone that something has to be done and it is in hand. It would be a lot worse if the problem could not be identified.
It's Chesterfield next and I'm sure everyone would welcome a 1-0 win.
It would only take such a win for Stags to put their problems behind them and demonstrate they are a match for anyone with ideas of doing well in Division Two this season.
And it would mean we can leave our calculators at home.
Latest | August 2002