Mansfield Town 0 Cardiff City 1
Att: 3,441 (591 from Cardiff)
Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Field Mill
Stags produced a gutsy performance with some quality against high-flying big-spenders Cardiff City at Field Mill tonight, but were beaten by a single goal. There were two primary reasons for the Stags defeat: firstly an inability to defend corners properly, and secondly plain bad luck.
Stags made two changes to the side that had finished at Swindon, with Pilkington replacing Van Heusden, and Christie returning from injury to replace right-back Jamie Clarke, as Stags reverted to a bold 3-4-3 formation in an obvious bid to attack Cardiff aggressively from the beginning.
Before the game there was an impeccably observed minute's silence for young Stags fan Harry Fell who died recently. Stags substitute Neil MacKenzie appeared to lay a flower on the centre spot as the minute began.
Stags started the game powerfully and overwhelmed Cardiff with numbers going forward in an obvious attempt to make a positive start. Within the first 5 minutes, Lee Williamson troubled the Cardiff keeper with a shot from outside the box that was on target. Then a super Stags move saw Lawrence and Little sweep the ball forward and into the path of the unmarked Corden on the left hand side of the box 12 yards out. Corden elected for placement rather than power and his shot which was heading for the top corner was well-tipped over by the keeper. There was nearly a comedy own goal at the other end as Vaughan's back-pass wrong footed Pilkington but the Stags keeper was able to recover in time and keep the ball out.
Stags were making a pulsating start to the game and often seemed to have men over as they swept forward. This left spaces at the back in a wide-open end-to-end game and Cardiff had chances of their own but Cardiff's final ball into the box tended to let them down.
Stags best chance fell to Little on 15 minutes after good play by Disley, Corden and Christie. The Stags on-loan striker shot from 10 yards but it was deflected by a saving tackle and went just over the bar. The feeling was that Little had delayed his shot by a split-second too long. It was the sort of chance that we have been used to seeing Greenacre comfortable despatch over the past 2 seasons and that cutting edge has been sadly missing this season, and a major factor in our change in fortunes.
Then there was a key moment in the game. Little was put clear on the left hand side and having knocked the ball past the keeper was clearly brought down. It was the clearest penalty you could see but the referee amazingly waved play on. Not only should Stags have had a penalty but the keeper could well have been sent off. The home fans were left in shock.
In the final 15 minutes of the half, Cardiff came back strongly and had 2 or 3 good chances as Earnshaw shot over and another shot went over the bar. There was also a lucky escape for the Stags when Earnshaw was breaking clear of Lever 40 yards out, but the referee brought play back for a clash of heads at the far end of the pitch.
Stags players received a hearty reception from their appreciative fans at the break.
Half time 0-0
The first chance of the second half fell to Little, who ghosted in from the right and shot just over the bar from 15 yards. Soon afterwards Cardiff had a good spell of 5 minutes. First Earnshaw blazed over from close range, and then there was a real escape for the Stags as 3 chances fell for the Welshman in the same attack. Pilkington saved a shot with his legs, then Lawrence blocked the follow-up on the line, and finally Weston shot wide of an almost empty net from 12 yards when it looked easier to score.
The game became disjointed as the Cardiff keeper was twice treated at length for injuries, as was the Cardiff centre-half. Ridiculously this was only to produce 2 minutes of injury time at the end, in a shocking misjudgement by the officials.
On 70 minutes Stags were punished for their usual inability to defend a simple corner. The corner from the left was floated into the 6 yard box and Peter Thorne was left completely unmarked to head a simple ball home at the far post. It was appalling defending, and as we have said numerous time previously, has to be put right. Within a few minutes Stags nearly conceded again as Pilkington made a hash of collecting a high ball and a Cardiff player slid the loose ball just wide.
Stags had a resurgence in the final 15 minutes as they desperately chased an equaliser. The introduction of MacKenzie brought a new zip to the side. Christie burst into the box having evaded his marker, but chose to shoot rather than squaring to unmarked Disley. The shot was straight at the keeper. Then from a Lawrence free-kick, Vaughan headed just wide. Then a cross from the right created a chance for Corden, but he couldn't direct a header anywhere near the goal.
In the final minute, Little came desperately close yet again. Corden played in a cross from the left and Little was surrounded by 2 defenders. But he somehow managed to get something on the ball and directed the ball inches wide of the post with the keeper wrong-footed. Stags fans couldn't believe it had crept wide, but it was a good effort from the on-loan striker.
The game ended with Stags fans venting their fury at the inept Premiership referee who only added on 2 minutes of injury time, and failed to award the first half penalty.
The Stags passing game was back somewhere near it's best tonight as manager Watkiss had been calling for. There was a great commitment from all the players, who were not rewarded for their efforts yet again. This was a game where the Stags deserved at least a point but as is often the way when you are at the bottom of the league, the ball doesn't bounce for you and the decisions don't go your way. A big plus point was the passion in the way the Stags went for the result and if this could be replicated on Friday against a weaker team like Colchester, then a win should be likely for a much needed 3 points. Conversely another defeat on Friday would undoubtedly put further pressure on the manager's already tenuous position.
Man of the Match: Liam Lawrence
Pilkington 6 Had very little to do.
Moore 7 Solid in a 3-man defence; attacked the ball well.
Lever 7 Won most of his headers on the air.
Vaughan 7 Looked strong at the back than on Saturday. Good distribution.
Williamson 7 Better performance and keener for the ball than of late.
Disley 7 Industrious as usual.
Lawrence 8 Was everywhere; always wanted the ball and chasing players down. Great enthusiasm.
Corden 6 Out of position at wing-back but looked good when he came forward.
Sellars 6 Couldn't find the quality passes when they were needed and didn't seem to know where he should be playing.
Little 7 Unlucky not to be given a penalty and very unlucky with an effort inches wide in final minute. Also close on 2 other occasions.
Christie 6 Did well as the target man but didn't look like scoring.
MacKenzie (for Sellars, 77 mins) 6 Keen to get into the action. Created a couple of late half-chances down the right wing.
Subs not used: JWhite, JClarke, Holyoak, Bacon.
Referee Neale Barry of Roxby: 5 Premiership referee but the only person in the ground who didn't see the first half penalty. Also awarded 2 minutes injury time when there should have been 5.
Latest | October 2002