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EVENING POST REPORT & REACTION
27/December/2002 12:21:50

NEVER-SAY-DIE STAGS ARE PRAISED BY HAPPY GANNON
Evening Post, 27 December 2002

Mansfield Town 4 v 2 Stockport County

Mansfield Town assistant-manager John Gannon was full of praise for the Stags after they managed to book their third consecutive victory under Keith Curle with a 4-2 win over Stockport.

Stags had to come back from behind twice to record their seventh win of the campaign, which took them off the bottom of the table for the first time in seven weeks.

Iyseden Christie equalised an early own goal by Rhys Day but Stockport went in at half-time 2-1 ahead through a Ben Burgess penalty.

But two goals from Wayne Corden and a calamitous error by Stockport keeper Lee Jones that allowed Craig Disley to score helped Stags leapfrog Huddersfield, Peterborough and Cheltenham in the league table.

Gannon said: "I thought we were outstanding in the first half and we ripped them to pieces and they were unable to hold us.

"We gave them both goals with Rhys Day's header and the manager giving them a penalty but what we didn't do was feel sorry for ourselves.

"We just told them to keep believing because there was no way they would be able to hold us for another 45 minutes and it could have been a lot more.

"They don't know when they are beaten at the moment and it is a wonderful character to have. They just don't stop moving and their energy is unbelievable and going forward at times, we created havoc.

"It is never easy to come in for your first game and, unfortunately, he tweaked his thigh on Saturday and we replaced him but he and Craig Disley were the heartbeat of the team."

The pitch at Field Mill had to survive a late inspection after a strenuous effort from Rob Sprigg and his groundstaff cleared water from the surface.

But Gannon said the Stags, who travel to London to take on Brentford tomorrow, adapted better to the testing conditions.

He said: "Once the game is on, the conditions are the same for everyone and you have to get on with it. It was always going to be a day for the attackers and the defenders were always going to have problems twisting and turning and that was how it worked out.

"With our goals being an own goal and a penalty, it was pleasing that we didn't conceded for 75 minutes after that or in free play.

"When I was standing on the edge of the pitch, I was supposed to be taking notes but I was wondering when I would have to write something.

"We just had to keep on believing that we could win the game."


CURLE REVOLUTION PICKS UP SPEED
Evening Post, 27 December 2002

If there were plenty of heads spinning at Field Mill as the result of too much Christmas booze yesterday, there must have been a few more when people sat down at five o'clock and realised that Stags are no longer in the bottom three in Division Two.

The Keith Curle revolution appears to be gathering pace and confidence is oozing out of the team and the fans in equal measure.

They completed a hat-trick of league wins under their new manager yesterday and there could have been few in the abnormally swelled festive crowd who could have argued that it was not deserved.

In a 4-2 win, which could have been more comfortable if the side had taken more of the chances that fell their way, they demonstrated another string to their bow and showed everyone the one thing they are not lacking in is a bit of fighting spirit.

On Saturday, it was a case of hanging on and keeping a sure backline in the face of the Barnsley attack.

Yesterday, what was most impressive was the way they managed to come back from a goal behind on two occasions and did not give anyone cause to panic in the closing stages.

And, unbelievably, they managed to score a penalty. Life is certainly worth living around north Nottinghamshire at the moment.

Of their four matches over the Christmas period, I would say that yesterday's clash with Carlton Palmer's outfit was the most winnable and the one from which I fancied a full return, especially as they had played well at Edgeley Park in August without gaining anything.

In many ways, it was the sort of game we witnessed a lot last season as, for once, there were no real nagging doubts, even at half-time when Stockport were leading 2-1.

There was a feeling that Stags had the potential to get the job done and that is what happened.

Mansfield having potential was something that was talked about a lot during the first half of the season and it might just be that their threat is now becoming actual.

But, although a series of wins is obviously welcome and elevating themselves off the bottom of the table for the first time since the second week in November is going to give everyone a big boost, the picture at the bottom of the table is becoming no clearer.

If Stags can push towards safety on the back of nine points out of nine then who is to say Cheltenham, Peterborough or Huddersfield cannot do the same?

The tight nature of the table will not have escaped anyone's notice and, if they can build on this they can drag themselves out of trouble and become established in the heart of the table.

For such a goal to be achieved, they will need the same belief they showed on Saturday when they dealt with attacks admirably and always looked dangerous going forward and, if they can keep it going, then their stay outside the basement division could be extended beyond just a solitary season.

But big tests against Brentford and Crewe await and they could slip back down again.

Should that happen, they will need to demonstrate the same resolve they did yesterday and drag themselves back.

After witnessing the 4-2 win over the Hatters, I'm sure many will be convinced that this season will not be a disaster.

The last nine points have put a gloss on the campaign as, had you said to me at the start of the season that Stags would have 24 points after Boxing Day and would be right in the fight to escape the drop, I would have been quite happy.

The nature of the performances and the end results may have changed for the better but there is still no escaping the real aim still has to be Second Division football at Field Mill next season.



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