EVENING POST REPORT
KEEPER DENIES UNLUCKY STAGS
EVENING POST, 27 August 2002
Stockport County 2 v 0 Mansfield Town
The fact that Stockport goalkeeper Lee Jones took the man-of-the-match award would not have come as a surprise to any of the 5,190 assembled at Edgeley Park.
He certainly earned his double time for working on a Bank Holiday Monday as Stags bombarded his goal without reward.
Stags still managed to fall to a scruffy opener that may well go down as an own goal and a second which looked spectacular but the scorer later admitted was the result of him "sticking a leg out."
It was just one of those matches and a missed penalty capped what has been a pretty depressing couple of days for Stags fans.
Again, Watkiss's side played the sort of football that will earn them plenty of plaudits now they have risen to a higher level.
The passing was fluid, the defence solid, Neil MacKenzie sprayed the ball around and Lee Williamson and Craig Disley played in the manner that caused havoc in Division Three for much of last season.
But still the finishing touch was not there as Stags were unable to meet the middle ground between shooting from tight angles and long distances and passing the responsibility on the edge of the box.
The game can be viewed in two different ways.
Firstly, fans can see the way they strung out a team that, although beaten out of sight last term, was playing Division One football last season.
It was Watkiss's team who were passing the ball neatly while the Stockport attack had to feed off balls that were coming out of the atmosphere with snow on them.
From the five games Stags have now played in Division Two, Stockport were, by far, the worst side they have faced.
The hopes of Stockport gaining promotion that were cast across the airwaves as we drove back seem as optimistic as those who nail their flag to the Tim Henman mast every Wimbledon. It isn't going to happen.
It can be put down to a bad day and Stags can look forward to the chance of getting points at home to Crewe and QPR in the next couple of weeks.
On the other hand, some may view this as the first nail in the coffin and ask themselves if they cannot finish off such a bad team, then when will they be able to secure a victory on their travels this season?
After a pointless Bank Holiday weekend, it is inevitable that people should be a little bit down in the dumps.
But Watkiss's reaction afterwards showed he was mystified at how his team had not returned with something to show for their efforts.
He was probably the most optimistic I have seen him all season and that's good enough for me.
We have to trust that this is not going to be the first of many hard-luck stories the Stags face from here until May.
The result was disappointing but the performance was encouraging.
And it is always a good idea to look further into a game than the details that appear on Teletext.
If Stags carry on playing like this then they will continue to surprise teams and voicing an opinion that they are bound to return from where they came will not serve any purpose.
And they have still got players who can come back from injury and make a meaningful contribution.
There are still 123 points to play for and, if they play like they did yesterday, it should be an entertaining ride in Division Two.
And success will be just a matter of time if they scare teams like Stockport for the rest of the season.
Because a home goalkeeper winning the man-of-the-match tells its own story.
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