EVENING POST REPORT
WATKISS HOPES FOR SIGNINGS
Evening Post, 02 September 2002
Mansfield boss Stuart Watkiss will be hoping to sign players on loan this week after his side's 5-0 capitulation against Crewe on Saturday.
He would not offer excuses for what he described as a "totally inadequate" performance but he now has eight players out injured and one, Scott Sellars, suspended out of a squad of 23.
The latest casualty was £150,000 striker Colin Larkin, who is set to miss the next four to five weeks with a hamstring injury.
Watkiss will have to bring someone in before tomorrow if they are going to feature in the Worthington Cup clash with Derby County next Tuesday.
He said he was not going to walk away from the challenge but is well aware that chairman Keith Haslam and the club supporters will not tolerate many similar episodes.
Stags have now conceded 18 goals in six games and have not scored in their last three matches.
Watkiss said: "I am trying to work out how I could send out a team that can have so little fight. The players have got to stick together because, if we have another two or three games like that, I am not going to be here.
"The way we just laid down and died is baffling and humiliating and is something we have definitely got to put right quickly.
"I'm not saying I am going to resign because I am not going to walk away from anything. I'm here to do a job and get this club established in the Second Division but, at the end of the day, the chairman and the supporters are not going to accept performances like that.
"Chesterfield was shocking but that was worse because of the total lack of desire, fight and commitment and I am trying to find a reason for it."
With Bobby Hassell and Allen Tankard both still nursing knee injuries, Watkiss's first priority will be obtaining the services of some full-backs.
"First of all, we have got to look at the personnel, but you cannot label the injuries as the reason why the players have gone out there and played so badly.
"I have wanted to play a flat back four all season and, within five minutes of the start, I knew we had to play a flat back four but I haven't got any full-backs.
"Jamie Clarke has played one game and I could put him on at right or left-back, but I haven't got another one.
"I knew we would be in trouble but I just didn't have the personnel available to play the shape that I wanted.
"We've got 13 players available, which isn't enough. Bobby Hassell and Allen Tankard are big players for us.
"We are going to have to look into the loan market and see what happens.
"I am quite happy with the squad when everybody's fit but I don't think there is any squad that could cover that many cracks up.
"But I am not using that as an excuse because in every department we were inadequate."
He also believes the loss of Larkin, who has scored three goals since signing from Wolves, could not have come at a worse time.
He said: "It's a hamstring pull and he will be out initially for four to five weeks. He's a big player for us and he is going to be missed.
"We are not going to have players available for next weekend and it is just a case of seeing if we can get anybody in."
STAGS MUST RISE TO ANOTHER LEVEL
Evening Post, 02 September 2002
Mansfield Town 0 v 5 Crewe Alexandra
Ever since Stuart Watkiss became involved in the first team at Field Mill, I don"t think it has taken him longer to cross the pitch and head back down the tunnel after a game had finished.
There have been occasions in the last nine months when there has been a huge spring in his step to give Maurice Greene a run for his money, but it was a lonely trudge on Saturday, reflecting his embarrassment.
Where on earth Stags go from Saturday's 5-0 drubbing by Crewe is anyone's guess, but it would be difficult to say whether it was the nature of the defeat or the situation he finds himself in that troubles him most.
Knowing Watkiss, it is probably both in equal measure.
It was Mansfield who were flattered by the scoreline, not the visitors, who tore them apart and could have had another half a dozen.
The defending was all over the place and the midfield were completely overrun but, while there is no escaping the scale of the defeat, it is easy to identify the reasons for it.
Had Watkiss possessed a fully-fit squad, the chances are that Stags would have still lost had they played in the desperate manner they did on Saturday, because the Railwaymen had the sort of dynamic attack that would have caused plenty of Division Two teams problems.
But it is unrealistic for anyone connected with the club to expect success while Watkiss has five defenders to choose from, none of which are regular full-backs, with one having only played one game before Saturday and the other being the youth-team captain making his debut.
Crewe started with Colin Little, Rodney Jack and Rob Hulse up front and Watkiss was left with a flat back three, due to sheer lack of numbers - and the visitors had a field day.
With Colin Larkin limping off injured after only eight minutes, Watkiss now has eight players - Bobby Hassell, Michael Sisson, Dion Scott, Allen Tankard, David Jervis, Shayne Bradley and Michael Bingham being the others - injured and Scott Sellars suspended out of a squad of 23.
Virtually every club auctioned off the chance to be named in their squads this season, but I am sure Adrian Steel is the only one who looks like he might actually be required to bring his boots.
It's easy to joke but it is a very depressing situation.
Pub teams have more players to call upon and still there is the expectation that Stags can do well in this division.
Although it is early days, more and more people are going to be satisfied if Mansfield finish fifth from bottom - at least those who haven't already given up hope as the attendance was notably down after the disappointment of the Chesterfield defeat last week.
Many of the 8,000 who celebrated promotion at the end of last season appear to have found something else to do on a Saturday afternoon.
I have commented before that Stags have to react to being classed as underdogs in this division and they will not have been written off to a greater extent than having been three games without a goal and conceded nine goals in the process.
The chips are down but it is not enough for the players to feel sorry for themselves and moan that everything appears to be going against them.
They all need to draw on the experiences of last year and dismiss this defeat as a one-off and start again.
Otherwise it is going to be a very long season that will end in disappointment.
They have the chance to put things right and, for all their problems, the fans will be forgiving if the team give it their best shot and never give up.
If they didn"t know they were playing at a higher level, it is plain for everyone to see now and it will take a monumental effort to demonstrate to the footballing world they are worthy of their elevation into the Second Division.
That is what is most disappointing. I know they are worthy, the players do and, on the whole, so do the fans.
Watkiss does too and I"m sure that was what he was thinking about as he made his way back to his office.
All they have to do is to go out and prove it to their doubters who, unfortunately, I fear are increasing in number every week.
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