EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
WATKISS - PLAYERS MAY HAVE TO LEAVE
Evening Post, 23 September 2002
Mansfield Town boss Stuart Watkiss today hinted that players might have to leave Field Mill so that he can bring others in after his team slipped to the bottom of Division Two with a 2-0 defeat at home to Cheltenham.
To make matters worse, he will be looking to bring a goalkeeper in on loan after Kevin Pilkington injured his hand.
The full extent of the damage is not yet known but the goalkeeper's injury adds to Watkiss's woes as he already has 11 players unavailable, including striker Iyseden Christie, who twisted an ankle on Friday and will be out for at least a month.
Pilkington was replaced for the last five minutes by youth team keeper Jason White and Michael Bingham, who has already been told he can leave the club, is currently recovering from a knee operation.
But Watkiss said his team have to bounce back from their latest defeat, which has now seen them go 383 minutes without a league goal at Field Mill.
He said: "They have got to come back from this. We've got 36 games left and you have got to have enough character to dig yourself out of a hole.
"The players, at the moment, haven't got the strength of character to do that.
"You can try to build them up, put your arm around them, or even take the opposite approach and tell them a few home truths. But, for all the talking you do, it actually comes down to 3pm on a Saturday and the players having enough about them to go about their business in an organised and aggressive manner.
"Maybe it is time to try to change the personnel because I cannot keep saying the same things all the time. I don't think Cheltenham had to work very hard to get their victory and that's what really disappointed me."
Many supporters left long before the final whistle as late goals from Jamie Victory and Hugh MacAuley sealed the points for the visitors.
Stags have to bounce back when they travel to Northampton on Saturday but Watkiss believes the injury situation holds the key.
He added: "I believe we have the players, when everyone is available, to start climbing this division.
"But there is not going to be a quick fix or a dramatic improvement in results until we get the players off the treatment table."
FEW OPTIONS LEFT FOR SORRY STAGS
Evening Post, 23 September 2002
Mansfield Town 0 v 2 Cheltenham
A quick check of the calendar will demonstrate that we are yet to reach the month of October and there are still 36 games to go but, for many, this season already seems a futile effort.
Some seem to think we might as well start re-acquainting ourselves with what junction of the M6 leads to Carlisle, because there is no way that Stags will be playing in Division Two next season.
"If they can't beat Cheltenham, they might as well give up now," was the essence of many comments heard on a radio phone-in on the way home.
Less than six months after a victory over the Cotswolds outfit saw the Mansfield public embrace the town's football team in one of its finest hours, Field Mill is becoming a depressing place to be at 5pm on a Saturday.
For weeks, one of the last things Stags fans could cling to was that they would surely beat Cheltenham but, now that opportunity has disappeared, calls for the manager's head are intensifying.
And, with goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington, who has been the best performer in a season-opening to forget, joining the injury list, there is a feeling around the place that things are not certain to get better.
It is now 383 minutes since Stags scored a league goal at Field Mill, the place they brushed many a team aside last season.
During the Division Three promotion campaign, the home defence appeared impregnable and the attacking was sometimes dazzling, but all that can be said is that, this season, there is no confidence in either retreat or offence at home and that is the main reason they currently find themselves bottom of the pile.
By claiming what was a deserved three points on Saturday, Cheltenham moved up to 18th in the league table, giving themselves just the sort of boost the Stags would have welcomed.
Supporters may be growing tired of Stuart Watkiss talking about injury lists but the situation has not changed and, until it shows at least a modicum of improvement, it is almost impossible to judge someone who took the job just eight months ago.
Perhaps the dissenters are privy to a long list of experienced managers who would jump at the chance to take over a side that many believe are relegation certainties and are already averaging three goals conceded a game, with little money to spend on players?
It's going to be hard enough getting a goalkeeper on loan to deputise for Pilkington.
What Saturday demonstrated more than anything else is that there are few options at the moment and, as a result, some of those in the team are too comfortable and know they will still be selected whatever performance they put in.
Cheltenham were the better side and took their chances while Stags missed the one they managed to create when Andy White was unable to get on the end of a Scott Sellars cross.
The Robins kicked on at half-time when the Stags didn't, yet Cheltenham were not a good side.
They were were made up of the majority of players who Mansfield pipped to automatic promotion last season and that was what caused the most disappointment.
After being seen off by teams who would be expected to beat Mansfield, losing to a team they expect to beat would be the biggest disappointment because it was not the worst performance of the season.
But, just as Luton fell as a result of their arrogance on Tuesday, the Stags were guilty of the same.
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