REPORT FROM SWINDON SITE
The old adage, a game of two halves, best describes Town's performance at Field Mill today. Woeful in the first half, Town were lucky to go in one down at the break. However, a second half retrieval and subsequent 45 minutes of constant pressure nearly salvaged a point – only some goalkeeping heroics from Keith Welch preventing King's side from drawing level.
That's now three defeats in three against the three bottom sides in the league – Andy King will be getting increasingly frustrated by his sides' slump and will be hoping to avoid a similar run from that witnessed earlier in the season.
Yet the writing must have been on the wall for Town when they saw man in the middle, Mr Crick, signal the start of the game, It was Crick that denied three points at Plymouth when he controversially gave Argyle a penalty in the last minute of the game earlier in the season.
But it was another slow start that proved to be his sides' downfall as Mansfield threw everything at Town in the opening 45 period.
Ifil lined up against Heywood and Reeves in the heart of Swindon's defence, with Gurney moving across to the right and Duke returning to his usual position on the left hand side of Town's defence.
However, Town's defence were caught napping as early as the seventh minute when Liam Lawrence enjoyed the home side's first chance of the game. A Mansfield corner wasn't dealt with by Swindon's back three and Bart Griemink tipped Liam Lawrence's effort from the edge of the area over the bar.
Mansfield, with 33 goals to their name, kept the ball well in the opening exchanges whilst Town – slow to get into any kind of rhythm – seemed happy to punt speculative balls towards Invincibile with little reward. As predicted, Mansfield threw men forward at every opportunity and at times, played with four upfront, with Lawrence and Corden joining Christie and Mendes in the final third.
Town's forays forward were few and far between, with Invincibile losing out in the tussle with Day and they just couldn't cope with everything Mansfield had to throw at them.
At the other end Mansfield continued to attack and on 14 minutes, they deservedly took the lead with another free kick. Town, once again failed to deal with the left-footed delivery on the edge of the area and having failed to clear at the fourth attempt, Junior Mendes stabbed the ball home from close range at the back post.
Town seemed to be lacking composure and whilst King was hoping for a return to the kind of form that saw them climb the table in January and February, they were playing just as they had done against both Northampton and Cheltenham.
Mansfield looked to double their advantage soon after when a break down the left was foiled by the impressive Ifil under pressure from Corden. Ifil looked to be the bright spark in Town's lacklustre side and he was playing as though he had a point to prove as he did his best to foil the lively Mansfield attacking quartet.
Town's midfield were sadly anonymous as the first half developed – whilst Parkin and Invincibile had little in the way of service. When Miglioranzi did break free on 25 minutes his cross was just edged too far ahead of Parkin.
Town enjoyed their first corner of the match on 25 minutes following a brief spell of possession and Gurney's in swinging effort found Parkin unmarked at the back post. Unfortunately for Town's top scorer his header went wide of Welch's post and the danger passed.
At the other end Mansfield caused problems again when Corden broke free on the right hand side. Corden's pace caused Town's defence no end of problems and Griemink turned his effort around the Swindon post. Soon after Lawrence and Corden threatened again and Town, Ifil aside, couldn't deal with their attacking threat. Ifil was on hand to prevent Christie from making it two shortly afterwards when the Watford man was strong against the Stags' top scorer.
Invincibile broke free at the other end and his shot was blocked on the edge of the area whilst Duke failed to beat Day with the rebound.
A cross from Andy Gurney soon after found Invincibile at the back post and whilst the Australian couldn't quite get on the end of Gurney's ball, Day's header almost allowed Robinson to get a shot on goal.
Town were beginning to slowly edge their way into the game, but Mansfield went two up when Christie was brought down in the area by Matt Heywood – giving the home side a penalty (Heywood received a yellow card for his troubles). Corden slotted the ball past Griemink in the middle of the goal to double the home sides' advantage.
Alan Reeves gave the visitors a lifeline against the run of play when he latched on to Heywood's flick following Parkin's nod. Reeves found himself in Mansfield's box and, following his sidekicks' header, managed to slide the ball past Keith Welch.
Soon after Lawrence nearly restored Mansfield's two-goal lead when the home side broke away with four attackers on three defenders, Lawrence was fed the ball and his effort just missed Town's goal.
At the other end Parkin's effort found Welch when Invincibile hooked the ball back to his strike partner as the half time whistle signalled the end of the first half.
HALF TIME: MANSFIELD 2-1 SWINDON
Town started the second half a different team. Composed, energetic and committed, it was a transformed side that took the game to the home team. Town's build up was patient and they endeavoured to get the ball wide – with Duke a useful outlet on the left hand side. This nearly bought an early equaliser when Duke's teasing cross was headed over by Invincibile.
Soon after another Duke cross found Steve Robinson, an unlikely target in Mansfield's area and Robbo headed inches wide at the front post.
Town continued to edge forward and Mansfield, now the more nervous of the two sides, could not keep hold of the ball. Town's best chance came just before the hour mark. A neat move saw the ball bounce around in the box and Ifil's effort was cleared off the line from Tom Curtis.
At the other end and against the run of play, Mendes nearly caught Town out on the break following Corden's neat ball. Mendes broke free behind Matty Heywood only to see his effort superbly saved by Bart Griemink. Griemink will be frustrated at the fact that his defence failed to keep a clean sheet – but in the end Griemink's efforts would keep his side in the game as Mansfield threatened on the break on more than one occasion.
However, Mansfield's chance proved to be only a minor blip as Town surged forward once again when Danny broke free at full pelt. The Australian, who perhaps had more time than he thought, tried to beat Welch from long range only to find the home keeper edging back towards his line.
Parkin came close soon after when he converted Ifil's cross at the back post. Unfortunately Welch, Parkin's former team mate at Northampton, was on hand to prevent Sam's header from finding the back of the net.
Disley then cleared off the line when Hewlett struck a fierce shot from the edge of the area and Town were beginning to look as dominant as Mansfield had in the first half. Day was on hand to clear from Invincibile again as Sabin was brought on for Miglioranzi as Town threw three men up front.
Soon after Robinson showed effort and guile and earned Town a corner. Gurney's cross was cleared only for Heywood to angle a shot towards the goal and the ball rebounded around the Mansfield box. Mansfield cleared their lines momentarily before Hewlett forced Welch into another impressive save from the edge of the area.
Town just couldn't find a way through Mansfield's defence and the home side then broke forward with just eight minutes remaining on the clock. Disley and Lawrence edged towards Town goal with just one Town defender in the way and Griemink made not one, but three fantastic saves in a row to keep his side in the game.
Town's play became more desperate as the game drew to a close, yet they still threw everything forward and became entrenched in the home side's half. Ifil and Heywood also managed to get forward but Town just didn't have the quality required to get themselves back into the game and as the final whistle blew – Town were rueing what was a disastrous week against the league's lowest sides.
Latest | March 2003