STAGS BOSS TIGHT-LIPPED
BY IAN WILKERSON, Nottingham Evening Post, 25 November 2002
Mansfield Town boss Stuart Watkiss was today consulting the League Managers' Association, following his sending off after the Bristol City game.
Watkiss has refused to comment on the incident until he has spoken with LMA boss John Barnwell.
The Stags manager was sent off by Newcastle official Eddie Ilderton after complaining about the amount of injury time the referee allowed.
Stags were 4-2 up with three minutes of normal time left but eventually lost 5-4.
Liam Lawrence was also shown a red card after the match, while Lee Williamson was dismissed during the second half.
Both will now be unavailable for the Stags' FA Cup clash at Crewe on December 7.
Watkiss said: "I don't really want to talk about it until I have spoken to John Barnwell - but I am not happy about the situation."
It was the second time he has been dismissed, after he was sent to the stand in Stags' 3-2 defeat at Wigan in August.
That led to a three-match touchline ban.
Despite another good team performance on Saturday, Stags got nothing from the game with Danny Wilson's men and stay bottom of Division Two.
Watkiss added: "I cannot fault the lads for the effort they showed for 87 minutes. We were excellent and we outplayed a team that are going to be right up there.
"But in the end, we didn't show enough football common sense.
"We were very comfortable up until their third goal and they were spurred on when they saw there were still five minutes added time.
"A defensive mistake let them back into it and I can't see where the referee got seven minutes, which is what we ended up playing.
"No doubt there will be a lot of Notts County fans thinking it is poetic justice after our late goal there but we can't use the referee's timekeeping as an excuse for our defensive frailties."
He said the step up in class to Division Two after last season's promotion was demonstrated by Bristol City.
"We kept Christian Roberts quiet for 94 minutes but, in the 30 seconds we didn't look after him, he scored two great goals.
"But we have got to take so many positives from the game. Danny Wilson told me no team has played like we did against them this season.
"He said there is no way we will go down playing like we did. But I told him I'm hearing that from lots of managers after their teams have beaten us. The lads are obviously devastated and it is my job to try and pick them up."
RED CARD SPARKS LATE HEARTBREAK
BY IAN WILKERSON, Nottingham Evening Post, 25 November 2002
Mansfield Town 4 v 5 Bristol City
May 24, 1987 is a date etched on the memory of every Mansfield Town supporter as it was the occasion when the club won the Freight Rover Trophy in their only visit to Wembley.
Now they have another meeting with Bristol City to recall, only for all the wrong reasons.
Saturday's event was unlike any football offering I have watched since I went to my first match in December 1979.
Just when you think you have witnessed every drama with the Stags in a season when the league table only starts to tell the whole story, something else crops up and supercedes the events of the previous week.
It is becoming the maddest season ever with Stags' 19 league games already witnessing 79 goals.
And, when you consider they have scored more than third-placed Crewe, it doesn't take a footballing genius to work out where the problems lie.
When Iyseden Christie made it 4-2 with 14 minutes to go, I still said I would settle for a draw.
That's just the way it has been this season.
But as the evening moved towards the second reading of the classified results, to see Christian Roberts' screamer crash into the net was heartbreaking because it was not what Mansfield's efforts deserved.
The collapse that saw City hit a penalty with three minutes left and then score two in injury time to take the points was on the whole caused by the fact Stags were down to ten men, following the dismissal of Lee Williamson - his second of the season.
They tried their best to hold on but couldn't and the fact they got so close to beating probably the biggest club in the league has to be considered another example of how they are continuing to improve.
It would just be nice if they could play for 80 rather than 90 minutes.
After taking 15 minutes or so to get comfortable, there were times when their play was dynamic.
They took their goals well and it was heartening to see the way they fought back when they were 2-1 down. I thought it was all over then.
It will be inevitable that the doom and gloom will be exacerbated by the nature of this defeat and the good points behind the performance will be swiftly forgotten.
That's a shame because there was so much to be pleased about. But, of course, we could talk about the merits of the display until the cows come home.
As I see it, if they play with the same drive and tempo as they did on Saturday, then they will beat Port Vale this week and they will not get relegated.
Or, if they don't pick themselves up, such collapses will become an ever-increasing occurrence and they will be down by Easter.
In my opinion, they have the physical ability to compete at this level and they just need to be a bit stronger mentally.
Despite the disappointment of the last few minutes, there were still positives as, at times, they outplayed a team who fancy their chances of a title challenge.
They have got to keep their heads up and so have the rest of us because, despite the heartache, it certainly isn't over yet. And it's bound to be memorable, whichever way it goes.
THE MOTHER OF ALL FIGHTBACKS
Bristol Evening Post, 25 November 2002
Danny Wilson could not disguise his delight today at the way Bristol City kept their unbeaten streak alive in sensational style at Mansfield.
The Ashton Gate boss admitted it "hadn't been good for the heart" as he saw the rampant Robins turn a 4-2 deficit at Field Mill, with four minutes of normal time remaining, into a most unlikely 5-4 victory.
Brian Tinnion's penalty on 86 minutes was followed by injury-time goals from substitute Leroy Lita and Christian Roberts, his second of an extraordinary game to take his total for the campaign to nine.
Wilson's team are poised in third position just a point behind second placed Oldham with a game in hand.
And the manager said the appetite of his men to stage the mother of all recoveries had been there for all to see once Tinnion had rattled home that late spot kick.
It was the first time freescoring City, who are the division's leading marksmen with 38 goals, had scored five on the road in the League since beating Swansea 5-0 12 years ago.
"It really was a tremendous game, " Wilson acknowledged. "I'll be honest and say that I wasn't too happy with some of our defending at times, which is disappointing when we work so hard at it on the training ground. But I felt with 10 minutes to go that if we could just get one back, we could go on to win it and that is what happened.
"You have to credit both teams for their attacking football but it wasn't very good for the heart.We came out ofit with a tremendous result and the self-belief the boys have is magnificent." Lita's introduction as an 80thminute replacement for Danny Coles had a dramatic impact as he was felled in the box for that penalty, then turned in the equaliser himself from Scott Murray's cross four minutes into stoppage time.
"Leroy is a natural, "Wilson glowed. "He is a very positive player and with his pace, and the pace too of Christian, Scott, Mickey Bell and the like, we'll always create chances.
"Christian's strike was tremendous to round off a terrific comeback." The City boss expressed his satisfaction with the penalty awarded against Coles that led to the home side taking a 67th-minute 3-2 lead.
"We keep saying to our defenders they must stay on their feet and when a defender goes to ground like that, it is hard for the ref to distinguish between infringement and clean tackle." City stretched their run to 11 without defeat and Roberts said of his stunning winner with practically the last kick of the game:
"Scotty played the ball into me and whereas normally I'd have thought about placing it, I just thought I'd belt it as hard as I could and thankfully it came off.
"Coming back in the way we did shows just what character there is in this team." Mansfield boss Stuart Watkiss argued vehemently after the game that more than five minutes of stoppage time announced by the fourth official had been played when Roberts fired home.
Of that, Wilson stressed:
"It's my belief the referee added on a further minute because of a Mansfield substitution during injury time. You have to play to the whistle, which is what we did." A scuffle also broke out around the tunnel area involving upset Stags fans, players, officials and staff from both sides but it was quickly brought under control by stewards.
Former City player and current Mansfield youth coach Paul Holland said: "It was just handbags. There was a lot of tension and frustration - the lads feel absolutely sickened to lose a game they dominated and were well in control of. City pass it around so well, though, and are so dangerous on the counterattack."
ROBINS MAKE STAGS PAY DEARLY
Bristol Evening Post, 25 November 2002
Scott Murray was still struggling to comprehend the enormity of it all as he arrived for training today, reflecting on a fightback to beat all fightbacks.
"I canna believe it, " he said, shaking his head in genuine disbelief. "I have never, ever played in a match like that one." Few watching had seen a game of football quite like it either. This really did look to be the afternoon never-say-die City finally came unstuck.
Mansfield were so buoyant after Iyseden Christie had cut inside from the right to put them 4-2 up 15 minutes from time with an unstoppable effort that it was hard to see how the visitors could peg a goal back, let alone go on to equalise and snatch a winner with virtually the last kick of the game.
But, alas for a Stags team on its knees in despair at the final whistle, the nightmare was bitter reality.
"The spirit the lads showed was tremendous but it's been like that all season, "Murray declared, thrilled, too, to have pushed up his personal goal tally for the season to 14 with City's first equaliser six minutes before the break, pouncing on a rebound after Christian Roberts had forced keeper Kevin Pilkington into a save.
"When Brian (Tinnion) got us a goal back with a penalty (on 86 minutes) we thought then we had a chance of sneaking a point, particularly as Mansfield hardly got a sniff of the ball after that. I was able to put the ball in for Leroy (Lita) to get a touch and equalise and then I stuck it forward for Christian to win us the game. It really was amazing.
"I don't know how far into injury time that goal came. I'm just really proud to have been in a game like it, even if the gaffer did give us a bit of stick about the way we defended at times." Murray's 39th-minute strike to level the scores at one apiece was in itself dramatic as an energetic Mansfield, their glaring defensive frailties spoiling some industrious forward play, had only a minute earlier broken the deadlock, winger Wayne Corden fastening on to a cross from Craig Disley before sidestepping Steve Phillips, who at times saved City with some fine stops, and rifling home.
Roberts then capitalised on Murray's late firsthalf leveller with a chip over Pilkington, after darting into a hole in the Stags defence from Peter Beadle's flick to put City in front on 49 minutes.
So it was disappointing to see the visitors' own fragile-looking rearguard on the day conceding a soft 62nd-minute equaliser, defender Mark Lever, released by City at the start of the season, nodding the ball back into the danger area from a corner for Christie to finish emphatically from close range.
Cue for mayhem to break loose. Two minutes later and Liam Lawrence was picking himself up off the deck after falling over Danny Coles' outstretched leg, though many City fans behind the goal were incensed as they felt the talented young midfielder had gone to ground rather too easily.
Those in red on the park clearly agreed and as a skirmish broke out with their opposite numbers, so referee Eddie Ilderton's yellow card was produced from his pocket, then red, midfielder Lee Williamson sent off for a spot of shoving in the melee after earlier receiving a caution.
Murray admitted: "It was hard to see whether it was a penalty or not because it happened so quickly.
Maybe the ref evened things up a bit by awarding one our way. One of their players was sent packing but really the ref might have just told everyone to settle down without the need for a red card." Not that Murray or his team-mates were complaining, although they first had to suffer the setback of seeing Corden's spot kick saved by Phillips, only for the same player to ram home the loose ball, then watch Christie score one of the goals of the game with a fierce finish after a purposeful run with time already fast running out.
Buoyant Mansfield, however, weren't to reckon for super-sub Leroy Lita, fresh from his two-goal burst at the end of last week's seven-goal demolition of Heybridge. It was he who was felled five minutes from time courtesy of a similar challenge, by Dave Jervis, to the one that had handed Mansfield their penalty advantage.
Not surprisingly, Stags supporters delivered their anger in equal measure at the award.
Brian Tinnion wasted no time converting the spot kick and from then on it was all City, Mansfield hacking away everything that moved in any manner possible as the ball pinged around their box.
They couldn't hold out and Lita struck from Murray's cross four minutes into the five minutes of extra-time, before Roberts pounced on to the Scot's pass with the winning goal, struck with stunning ferocity that had even manager Danny Wilson leaping into the air in jubilation.
Latest | November 2002