Stockport County 2 Mansfield Town 0
Reddington 39 (og), Beckett 55
Attendance: 5,190 (approx 600 from Mansfield - my estimate)
Martin Shaw at Edgeley Park
Stags produced a brilliant display to completely outplay Stockport for almost the entire 90 minutes, but incredibly came away from Edgeley Park with nothing to show for it. It is no exaggeration to say that Stags had 75% of the possession over the game. The match stats showing Stags 22 goal attempts (with 11 on target) and 11 corners barely begin to tell the story. Even home manager Carlton Palmer admitted on the local radio after the game that his side had been lucky to claim the points. At the end of the game the ovation the Stags fans gave to their side was one normally afforded to a winning side, whilst the home fans were almost too embarrassed to applaud their players for the win, knowing they had been very fortunate.
Mansfield made two changes to the side that was so poor in the big local derby at home to Chesterfield two days earlier, with Stuart Reddington replacing the injured Jervis, and Neil MacKenzie replacing Scott Sellars. Jervis's injury meant that the Stags had to play without any full-backs, with Hassell and Tankard also out injured. Stockport included former Chesterfield striker Luke Beckett, who in an interview after the game admitted that he had previously turned down a chance to join the Stags (for salary reasons, we were led to believe at the time), and alongside him up front was big money signing Ben Burgess. Meanwhile Martin Pemberton, who joined from the Stags in the summer, was out injured.
Stags got off to a terrific start, clearly fired-up after the Chesterfield debacle. MacKenzie was straight into his stride running the show in midfield, and Disley and Williamson pushed the team forward at every opportunity. Liam Lawrence seemed determined to prove that his terrible showing against the Spireites was well behind him as he created havoc down the right wing. Even the Stags defence, so shaky all season, seemed in total control, repelling the ball any time Stockport got near the Stags goal. So much in control were the Stags that the lack of any full-backs didn't seem to matter.
Stags had so many first half chances that I can barely recount them. Suffice to say that all the midfielders and strikers had chances. But the best chance fell to defender Neil Moore who met a corner with a cracking header that was incredibly saved by keeper Lee Jones, who had no right to get anywhere near it. Stockport barely got into the Stags half, with Reddington looking dominant in the air. Burgess had the only chance of note for Stockport when he smacked a snap-shot on the turn over the bar.
In the stand, we were just saying that you do really need to score when you are so much on top, and then disaster struck on 39 minutes. A misplaced Stockport cross from the left appeared to be going harmlessly out of play, but Beckett was more alert than the Stags defence and from the byeline on the right, crossed the ball back in, hard and low. Keith Briggs and Reddington both went for the ball but it crashed into the back of the net (and straight back out again off the stanchion!) off Reddington's shin. The goal was so much against the run of play that it simply came as a complete shock.
The second half continued with Stags still completely in charge. But incredibly Stockport scored again after 55 minutes. This time it was a touch of class that highlighted the difference in resources available to the sides. For it was the highly paid Beckett who produced a brilliant finish from a John Hardiker cross. The cross, from the left, seemed to be well behind Beckett, but he produced an acrobatic finish to lift the ball over a helpless Pilkington in the Stags goal.
Within a minute Stags should have reduced the deficit. Neil MacKenzie made a great run into the Stockport box until he was clearly tripped by Carlton Palmer. Surely this was the chance the Stags couldn't miss? Wrong. Wayne Corden's kick was too soft and keeper Lee Jones got down brilliantly to save it low to his left. The rebound fell beautifully for Liam Lawrence, but with the keeper in a heap on the floor, Lawrence scuffed his shot a foot wide with the whole goal to aim at. Stags players sunk to their knees in disbelief. It was interesting that MacKenzie wanted to take the penalty himself, but Corden appeared to be insisting that he is the regular taker.
This should have knocked the stuffing out of the Stags, but far from it. They continued to pummel the home goal, with MacKenzie continuing to look dominant in the middle.
Stockport had a rare break when Beckett broke clear, but drove his shot wide of Pilkington's goal.
As the game wore on, Stags sub Iyseden Christie had a couple of chances, but first shot weakly at the keeper, and then drove a powerful shot just over the bar. At that point, I noted Stags boss Watkiss bow his head in disbelief. Earlier Lee Jones had saved brilliantly again from a Neil MacKenzie free-kick and Neil Moore had another chance.
The game ended with the Stags still on top, and the Stags fans showed their appreciation for a super showing by rising for a standing ovation.
After the game, Stags boss Stuart Watkiss said “I thought we were outstanding and I was very proud of them. With due respect to Stockport, we were miles in front of them with our passing and movement. They were chasing shadows. We were robbed and if we play like that for the rest of the season we will win far more than we lose." His opposite number, Carlton Palmer admitted that his side had been lucky to claim the points.
This was such a different performance from the one against Chesterfield on Saturday, even though the scoreline was the same. Stags were first to most of the 50:50 balls and pummelled the opposition with attack after attack after attack. Sometimes you are just plain unlucky. That was the case today.
Four points from the opening 5 games is a disappointing return for the Stags, but in truth they have only played poorly in one game. Hopefully full-backs Hassell and Tankard may be fit for the visit of Crewe on Saturday. If the side continue to dominate games like this, they should pick up enough points to rise the table quickly.
Man of the match: Neil MacKenzie.
Pilkington 6 A quiet afternoon. No chance with either of the 2 goals.
Moore 6 Solid. Unlucky with 2 goal attempts.
Lever 6 Did ok.
Reddington 7 Pick of the defence. Won most of his headers in the air.
MacKenzie 9 Ran the show in midfield, sitting in front of the back three. Oozed class whenever he got the ball.
Lawrence 7 Back to some good form after his awful display on Saturday. Created lots of problems for Stockport's left-back.
Disley 8 Some great surging runs.
Williamson 8 Won lots of 50:50 balls.
Corden 6 Did ok but a weak penalty proved costly.
Larkin 7 Looked a classy player on occasions.
AWhite 6 Showed good strength on occasion and created problems for the home defence.
Christie (for AWhite, 62 mins) 7 Very lively.
Subs not used: Bingham, Sellars, Bradley, Clarke.
Ref: R. Peterlee
Latest | August 2002