Stags face FA cup nightmare after red cards farce
MANSFIELD Town face an FA Cup nightmare at Crewe on Saturday week following Saturday's red cards farce against Bristol City.
With Lee Williamson already sent off during the game, referee Eddie Ilderton decided after the match to subsequently red-card Liam Lawrence, Neil Moore and manager Stuart Watkiss.
With Crewe not allowing on-loan striker Colin Little to become cup-tied for Stags, that could see Watkiss reduced to a squad of 15 pros for the game with players such as Dion Scott, Allen Tankard, Bobby Hassell and Scott Sellars pressed back into action sooner than they would have wanted after injury.
His only other option is to bring new players in. But they have to be signed seven days before an FA Cup tie.
Controversy surrounds those post-match red cards, handed after ugly scenes at the end marred an incredible afternoon when City performed a Houdini-like escape, winning 5-4 after trailing 4-2 three minutes from time.
Williamson, already booked, was shown a second yellow card for shoving an opponent and has been fined the maximum two weeks wages by the club as has Lawrence for a straight red for foul and abusive language.
However, the dismissals handed out to Watkiss and Moore are less clear cut. Watkiss said: "I categorically deny the charge and I have been in touch with the League Managers' Association.
"When I did use bad language at Wigan I held my hands up and took my punishment. But I am not guilty this time and the referee did not even ask for me. I only found out after offering to go into his room with Liam.
"I don't want to make any further comment on it right now as I intend to appeal."
Even more bizarre is the 'red card' for skipper Moore.
Watkiss had no idea it had happened until it was spotted on the referee's statistical paperwork at Field Mill and, when Watkiss phoned Moore at home, the defender was amazed.
What course of action is open to him, if any, is being looked into. But it seems incredible a manager and player can go to work on a Monday completely unaware of a sending-off with no one told on the day and no cards shown.
He wasn't the only one as City keeper Steve Phillips also did not find out until Tuesday that he had been booked for 'gesturing.'
Stags' defending once again let them down on the day.
A glance at the Division Two table tells the story. Only the top four sides have scored more than Stags' superb 30-goal haul in 19 matches. But the 49 goals conceded is 19 more than nearest leaky rivals Tranmere.
"It doesn't take Einstein to see which department needs strengthening and that's what I need to do," said Watkiss.
"I have had an initial chat with the chairman and we are looking to urgently address the situation.
"For 87 minutes on Saturday we were excellent. But our defending near the end was just not good enough. It was jittery and nervy and needs to be much calmer and ruthless.
"But there were so many positives on Saturday. Our standard of play was top draw against a team with much bigger resources than us and likely to be vyeing for an automatic promotion place.
"Their manager Danny Wilson was very complimentary afterwards and said no other side had carved them open like we did.
"The effort and commitment of my players was unbelievable but football comon sense let us down in the dying minutes. When you are leading 4-2 so near the end you don't need to score a fifth!"
He added: "Liam Lawrence had his best game in a Mansfield shirt - he was absolutely outstanding - Lee Williamson is coming back to his best - Craig Disley, Wayne Corden and Iyseden Christie all had superb games.
"I found it hard to believe how much time the referee found to add on at the end. But whether he was right or worng, you can't hide behind that the fact that our defending was not good enough."
Watkiss admitted the turning point was when substitute David Jervis conceded the 87th minute penalty from which City made it 4-3.
"Up to that point, City never looked like scoring," he said.
"But you can't have a go at Jerv. The lad has been out for 11 weeks and only the size of our limited squad, forced us into pushing him back in action sooner than we would have liked.
"There has also been some criticism of me going 4-4-1 after the red card. But I have thought about it since and would do it again.
"It was that change that got us the fourth goal and for 20 minutes with 10 men it worked absolutely fine."
Defenders Bobby Hassell and Allen Tankard are both back in training and will play in today's (Wednesday (2pm) home reserve game with Lincoln City with one eye on that Crewe game.
Dion Scott, Jervis, Colin Little and possibly Colin Larkin will also play along with trialist Keith Foy.
But fellow trialists John Burns and Dave Freeman have now left.
Stags are back in action this Saturday at Port Vale (3pm) and Watkiss said: "If we can go to Port Vale and keep a clean sheet - which is a big if - then we will win the game.
"I know we can open them up and score goals so we have to strive for a clean sheet.
"My biggest challenge is getting the lads back up for the battle on Saturday. They are absoluely devastated not to get anything out of last Saturday's game.
"I am optimistic we can get a result at Port Vale if we continue the standard of football we've shown over the last five games."
Latest | November 2002