Mansfield Town - Review of the season 2001/2002

By Martin Shaw

(Links to earlier seasons at the bottom of this page)

Season 2001/2002 will remain in the memory for many years to come. It was, quite simply, the most enjoyable for 25 years for a Stags fan, as a very young side played some exhilarating football and gained promotion - a feat that seemed highly unlikely before the season started. There was so much drama along the way. So many highs, with breathtaking wins over much-fancied Hull and Luton, a fantastic 4-1 away win at Lincoln, and a stunning 4-0 FA Cup thrashing of Huddersfield. And quite a few lows too, especially towards the end of the season when it looked like an automatic promotion place was to be squandered. Who will forget the feeling of despair after defeat at Leyton Orient, or after the 4-1 home mauling by Rushden, and in the penultimate week of the season tossing away the lead at York. Then in the end it came down to the final day of the season.

There were many different important elements to the season, but I’ll try to pick out those that seemed most key. Early on in the season, Stags perhaps played their best football. Craig Disley scored 4 goals over a Bank Holiday weekend to announce himself as a force in the division and really alert the national media to his potential. In the first of those games, the Stags pulled off a 3-2 victory at Cheltenham, thanks to a last minute winner from Wayne Corden. How vital that proved to be in the final reckoning. Indeed Stags had a great run on late winners, as three of the first four victories of the season were brought about in such fashion. Lee Williamson was also making a name for himself as his partnership with Disley in midfield was proving to be the Stags driving force.

Then their was Chris Greenacre. By early December, he had cracked in an incredible 20 league and cup goals. Speculation was rife that he would be leaving Field Mill. The speculation seemed to go on for ever. But then in early January, just after Stags had been rocked by the departure of boss Billy Dearden, Greenacre pledged that he would stay for the remainder of the season. It was a massive boost. Without it, Stags surely wouldn’t have made it. Even though he only knocked in 8 goals in the second half of the season, his mere presence was an inspirational factor. The departure of Dearden could have also been terminal. That it wasn’t, was down to the continuity afforded by promoting assistant Stuart Watkiss into the hot-seat. Watkiss had a good bond with many of the players having nurtured so many of the them through the youth team not so long earlier.

There was bad news on the injury front as Craig Disley, having such a great season, picked up an injury just before the FA Cup third round tie at Leicester and missed much of the season. Then in mid February, Liam Lawrence, who had been providing balance down the right hand side, was injured in a car crash and missed the rest of the season. At times, it looked like Lawrence’s injury could be really costly. But young manager Watkiss made one truly inspirational loan signing. He brought in Adam Murray from Derby and what an impact he made. In the last 12 games of the season, Murray scored 7 goals from midfield, including 2 goals at home to Scunthorpe in a memorable Stags comeback from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in such a crucial game. In the very next home game, Murray scored the winner again with a stunning 20 yarder in off the bar at home to Oxford.

Stags were in an automatic promotion place for so long. I,n fact, from 20 November (when Stags won at Bristol Rovers, and had then played 19 games) until 30 March (when Stags lost at home to Rushden and had then played 41 games) Stags were only out of the top 3 on two occasions (on 21 December, on goal difference after a defeat against Exeter, and on 9 February, by one point though with 2 games in hand, after a defeat at Plymouth). For so long, Stags and Luton were neck and neck. But as Stags fell away, Luton put together a tremendous run. And Cheltenham Town had always had games in hand. Slowly but surely they were catching the Stags up. Then after the Easter weekend, Stags were suddenly 4 points adrift of the Gloucestershire side and having played a game more. The Stags had taken just one point from 6 away games. It seemed we had well and truly blown it.

With just 4 games left, Stags beat Bristol Rovers 2-0 with goals from Adam Murray and Andy White, whilst Cheltenham lost at Macclesfield. Stags were back in it. Then came the big showdown as Cheltenham visited Field Mill. On a memorable evening in front of a massive crowd Stags sneeked a 2-1 win with goals from Greenacre and Andy White, who was quickly turning himself into a hero. But just 4 days later a huge following of fans travelled to York only to see the side throw away a lead from Adam Murray and lose 3-1. It was total despair for Stags fans. Cheltenham could seal automatic promotion with a win in their game in hand at Carlisle on the following Tuesday night. But the Cumbrians did Stags a massive favour by holding out for a 0-0 draw.

Now it came down to the final Saturday. The rest, as they say, is history. Stags beat Carlisle at Field Mill whilst Cheltenham lost at champions Plymouth. Promotion was ours. And how we enjoyed it.

Statistics Snippets

Chris Greenacre’s total of 28 league and cup goals made him the highest scorer in the division (ahead of Julian Alsop (25) and Steven Howard (24)).

When considering league goals only, Greenacre’s total of 21 (2 more than the previous season) put him third in the Division 3 leading marksmen, behind Steven Howard (24) and Luke Rodgers (22).

Greenacre’s 28 league and cup goals was the best by a Stags player for more than 25 years, since Ray Clarke scored 29 in 1975/76 (Clarke’s total included Anglo-Scottish cup). 

There was confusion over who scored Stags goal at Bristol Rovers. The only goal of the game was credited to Liam Lawrence by the Press Association and Mansfield local press. However in some places the goal has been credited as an own goal. No official ruling was ever given (note that there are no panels of judges in the Nationwide League – they only exist for the Premier League). In this review, I have credited the goal to Lawrence, as per the Press Association. Stags historian Paul Taylor has credited it as an own goal in his statistical records.

Stags scored 72 league goals. This was the fourth highest in the league, and  was one more than champions Plymouth, but less than Luton (who scored an incredible 96 goals), and Hartlepool and Scunthorpe (who both scored 74). It was the most league goals Stags had scored in a season since 1994/95 when Stags scored 84 goals (in just 42 games) in getting to the Division 3 play-offs.

Stags scored 4 or more goals in 5 league games - exactly the same number as the previous season.

Stags failed to score in 11 out of 46 league games, compared to 12 the previous season and 20 the season before that.

Stags conceded 60 league goals. This was more than any other team in the top half of the table, and more than twice as many as champions Plymouth. Despite this, defender Bobby Hassell was Player of the Season (see below).

Promotion was achieved for the first time in exactly 10 years. On both occasions (2001/02 and 1991/92) Stags needed to win their final game of the season and hope that their nearest rivals lost. On both occasions, Stags were at home, and their nearest rivals (Cheltenham in 2001/02 and Blackpool in 1991/92) were away.

Stags won 24 league games out of 46. This was the highest number of league wins for 25 years, since Stags won 28 games in 1976/77.

Stags unbeaten run of 7 games at the start of the league season was their longest unbeaten run at the start of a season since 1988/89 when they were unbeaten for the first 9 games (though went on to only finish 18th).

Stags total of 79 points was their highest points tally since 1985/86 when they gained promoted with 81 points.

Wayne Corden started every league and cup game during the season. Lee Williamson was the only other ever-present player, including 2 appearances as substitute near the end of the season. Kevin Pilkington missed just one league game (through suspension) and did not play in the LDV Vans Trophy game against Blackpool.

Stags handed league debuts to 2 players (Michael Bingham and Jamie Clarke), compared to 3 the previous season and 12 the season before that.

Stags average home league attendance was 4,919. This was a massive rise of 84% from the previous season average of 2,667. It was the highest rise in the entire Nationwide league and only two other teams had rises above 50% (Plymouth 78% and Cardiff 57%).

The average of 4,919 was Stags highest average home league attendance since 1979/80 (average 5,467).

The highest home attendance of 8,653 against Cheltenham was the highest at Field Mill for any game since 5 January 1991 (FA Cup, Sheffield Wednesday: 9,076, when Stags lost 0-2),  and the highest for a league game since 1 April 1989 (Wolves: 9,209, when Stags won 3-1). The lowest home league attendance was against Macclesfield 2,681.

Bobby Hassell swept the board of Player of the Season awards (Players’ Player of the Year, Stags Supporters Association, CHAD). Jake Buxton won the Jack Retter Award for most promising youth team player.

Two Stags players made it into the PFA Division 3 Team of the Season, as chosen by Division 3 players. These were Chris Greenacre and Lee Williamson.

Stags used 27 players in league and cup games, exactly the same number as the previous season, including 5 players on loan (Harris, Murray, Piper, Wheatcroft and Jason White).

Stags disciplinary record of 49 yellow and 4 red cards (league games only) was 2 yellow and 1 red card worse than the previous season.  Only Plymouth (42), Cheltenham (42) and Lincoln (43) had fewer yellow cards in Division 3. Bobby Hassell picked up the most yellow cards, 6, followed by six players with 4 yellow cards.

Lee Williamson was handed the captaincy for the game against Hartlepool on 19 January when Les Robinson was injured. Williamson was believed to be the second youngest captain in the Stags history, at the age of 19 years 7 months. The youngest was believed to be Peter Morris at the age of 19 years 6 months, in May 1963.  The uncertainty came from the fact that information on captaincy is not routinely collected or stored. However it was believed that in May 1963, after Stags captain Brian Phillips was suspended indefinitely for his part in the match-fixing scandal, Peter Morris was made Stags captain. It is believed that his first game as captain was 8 May 1963, in a 3-0 defeat at Crewe. What was certain is that Morris did take over the captaincy sometime before his 20th birthday. Another young Stags captain was Kevin Gray, who was 21 when he became captain.

Martin Shaw’s selection of goals of the season:


Chris Greenacre

v. Shrewsbury (H)


Wayne Corden

v. Torquay (H)


Scott Sellars

v. Luton (A)


Lee Williamson

v. Lincoln (A) (his second)


Chris Greenacre

v. Darlington (H)


Adam Murray

v. York (A)


Martin Pemberton

v. Luton (H)


Wayne Corden

v. Lincoln (H)


Lee Williamson

v. Leyton Orient (H)


Wayne Corden

v. Carlisle (H)


Allen Tankard

v. Darlington (A)


Chris Greenacre

v. Huddersfield (H) (his third)


Adam Murray

v. Scunthorpe (H) (his first)


Links to earlier seasons:

Stagsnet review of the season: Season 2000/01

Stagsnet review of the season: Season 1999/2000

Stagsnet review of the season: Season 1998/99