Luton Town 2 Mansfield Town 3
Howard 85, Nicholls 87. Lawrence 9, Sellars 23, Christie 50.
Attendance: 6004 (160 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Kenilworth Road
Stags produced a wonderful performance for 85 minutes to take a 3-0 lead at Luton this evening, and that was just enough to earn victory despite a powerful late rally from the home side, whose aerial bombardment finally produced a breakthrough.
Scott Sellars returned to the side in place of Corden, and Lever returned in place of the injured Peter Clark. Delaney moved to left back, Lawrence to the left side of midfield, MacKenzie played on the right side of midfield, and Sellars played just behind Christie in a 4-4-1-1 formation. There was a surprise on the bench with the return of Colin Larkin. Neil Moore was handed the captaincy, even though Williamson was playing.
Stags got off to a bright start and had early pressure. A cross from the right from Sellars was back headed by Lever just past the post in a great chance for the Stags. Stags were moving the ball around well, and took the lead on 9 minutes. Lawrence fed a pass to MacKenzie 25 yards out. MacKenzie played the ball forward into the box, where Luton defender Perrett chested it down straight into the path of Lawrence. Lawrence didn't need a second invitation and controlled the ball before slotting it past the keeper into the left hand corner of the net from 8 yards, sparking a great celebration amongst the players and the hardcore of Stags travelling fans. Lawrence looked particularly delighted with his goal.
Luton seemed to have only one route towards goal and that was to get crosses on for the powerful Steve Howard. Boyce down the right wing had a good first half and gave Delaney a torrid time. But Stags were clearly on top and got a deserved second on 23 minutes. Sellars, who was invloved with most things that were good about the Stags, exchanged passes with MacKenzie, and from 20 yards, appeared to be looking to put the ball into the left hand corner of the net, but somehow dragged his shot deliberately into the bottom right hand corner. The keeper seemed to be wrong footed and didn't move as the ball nestled into the net.
Stags were on fire and Disley nearly added a third after a brilliant one-two with Williamson on a breakaway. But in a one-on-one with the keeper, Disley's shot was saved.
At the back, Lever was dealing well with Howard, and did just enough to force the big striker to head one cross inches past the angle. Pilkington made a great double save from a free kick. The first shot from Spring was deflected and Pilkington just managed to parry it. As the rebound fell to Crowe, the striker seemed certain to score but somehow Pilkington, throwing himself bravely at Crowe's feet, blocked the shot for a corner. It was possibly the save of the season.
At half time, Stags well deserved the 2 goal lead but the fans were well aware of the recent form where conceding 3 in a half has become commonplace.
Stags clearly needed to keep the home side at bay for the opening 15 minutes, but did even better than that with a classic strike from Christie. Delaney played a long ball out from defence. Christie headed the ball back to Sellars. Sellars then played an incisive little ball forward to Christie to run onto. With the home players claiming offside (and video evidence later showed it was not offside), Christie powered forward and from 10 yards, placed a shot with the outside of his left boot, just inside the far post.
It could have been 4-0 when Disley had yet another one-on-one with the keeper but pushed his shot agonisingly wide of the post. Then Christie had a superb run beating the defence for pace, before curling his shot wide. It was inspirational play from the Stags.
Luton, who were being jeered by their own fans, some of whom left after Christie's goal, started to come back into the game with 15 minutes left. Suddenly Howard seemed to be wining balls in the air, and in one amazing incident, headed against the bar, with Pilkington motionless. Then Howard headed against the post from another cross. The goal that had been coming arrived on 85 minutes when Howard, rising high above Neil Moore, headed yet another cross past Pilkington. It should have been no more than a consolation, but within 2 minutes, a shot from Kevin Nicholls from 22 yards somehow beat Pilkington. Pilkington was probably unsighted through a ruck of players, and immediately showed his annoyance with the defence for not closing Nicholls down.
Stags had gone into panic mode and kept giving possession straight back to Luton. But suddenly Andy White took a grip of the game and powered his way towards the corner flag. Stags did really well to hold the ball there for several minutes and Luton only had one half chance to equalise. Nevertheless it was an incredibly tense final 3 minutes plus 2 minutes of injury time. To the delight of the travelling fans, the final whistle went and Stags had deservedly claimed the points.
This was a real battling performance from the Stags. Everyone threw themselves into tackles to keep the home side at bay. The passing was slick, and the movement forward was incisive with Disley outstanding. There was a new steel about the defence with Lever and Moore looking a more dominant partnership. Christie had a great game going forward in a lone strikers role, and Scott Sellars showed real class that has been missing in recent games.
Man of the match: Craig Disley.
Pilkington 7 Two great first half saves.
JClarke 6 Allowed too many crosses, but otherwise did well.
Moore 7 Dominant in the air and timed tackles very well.
Lever 8 Outstanding job to cope with the brilliant Howard.
Delaney 6 Also allowed too many crosses.
MacKenzie 7 Some great passing but support Clarke enough.
Disley 8 Great. Brave tackling, always looking to make something happen.
Williamson 7 Solid holding role and also did much brave tackling.
Lawrence 8 Superb first half on the left wing, some great crosses. Looked class. Enjoyed his goal.
Sellars 8 Great return to the side Oozed quality. Vital calming influence.
Christie 7 Some great running. Great goal and unlucky with one other superb run.
AWhite (for Sellars, 86 mins) 7 Only on for 5 minutes but ran the clock down by the corner superbly, when others were panicking.
Reddington (for Lever, 86 mins) 6.
Subs not used: JWhite, Corden, Larkin.
Ref: Barry Knight (Orpington) 8 Excellent game.
Latest | September 2002