Mansfield Town - Review of the season 2005/2006
(Links to earlier seasons at the bottom of this page)
2004/2005 was a turbulent season, then 2005/2006 was every bit as dramatic.
2004/2005 saw the Stags finish in the middle of the table, with the main drama
off the field as manager Keith Curle was suspended by chairman Keith Haslam for
allegedly bullying a youth team player. Curle was sacked, but nearly two years
later the disciplinary process was shown to be a “sham”
by a County Court Judge, and Curle was cleared of wrong-doing. 2005/2006 saw the Stags
flirt with both promotion and relegation, with a final position of 16th.
But again there was much drama off the field. First Carlton Palmer, a close
friend of Haslam’s, who the chairman had appointed to replace Curle the
previous season, walked out after an appalling start to the season, as the Stags
hit the bottom of the football league, and then there was a concerted
campaign against Haslam from a section of supporters.
Palmer was never a popular choice as manager and he did not help his cause by
transferring a number of the fans’ favourite players. At the end of the
2004/2005 season he released Scott McNiven, who was just recovering from
testicular cancer, and offered SSA Player of the Year Alex Neil much reduced
terms, which led to the Neil’s departure. However he seemed to have put
together a good squad for the new season, and indeed showed he had a good eye
for players by bringing in a string of quality youngsters such as Stephen
Dawson, Gavin Peers, plus experienced players like goalkeeper Kevin Pressman and
winger Gus Uhlenbeek, and even attracted proven goalscorer Matthew Tipton from
surprised everyone when he registered himself as a player for the new season and
in the first game of the season, against his old club Stockport, he became the
club’s oldest debutant. Confidence was surprisingly high, and Mansfield took
1100 travelling fans to the game. By half-time the Stags led 2-0 with goals from
new boys Dawson and Birchall, and Palmer running the show from midfield. But
Palmer had to go off injured, never to return as a player, and Jermaine Easter
scored twice to deny the Stags victory.
days later an awful Rushden and Diamonds side somehow grabbed a 1-0 win in the
first match at Field Mill, but the following Saturday Torquay were hammered 3-0
at Field Mill with new boy Peers joining other youngsters Adam Rundle and Simon
Brown on the scoresheet. A shocking performance followed in a 2-0 defeat at
Peterborough, and after the game an angry Palmer told the press box in
confidence that he was not happy with the effort from Tipton. Tipton promptly
quit the club to move nearer his Manchester home.
there was a superb display in the Carling Cup as Championship club Stoke City
were beaten on penalties. Back in the league, the Stags picked up a decent draw
at Boston, but the fans were upset on Bank Holiday Monday as neighbours Notts
County scored twice in the last seven minutes to win 3-2 at Field Mill, and
striker Chris Beardsley was stretchered off with a broken leg. Defeat at Chester
City, now managed by Keith Curle, saw Palmer threaten to walk out, before
deciding to carry on.
games later, after a 2-0 defeat at Rochdale, Palmer did walk out in dramatic
circumstances. Having not even spoken to the chairman, he walked up to the press
box very soon after the end of the game and announced he was quitting, citing
abuse from the fans as the reason. I was in the privileged position of being in
the press box and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness for the man. But
in reality he blamed everyone apart from himself for a poor run of results
during his period in charge, just as he had done some years earlier in an
equally unsuccessful spell in charge of Stockport. In fact, Palmer goes down in
history as the second worst ever manager of Mansfield Town, based on percentage
of league games won. He just didn’t seem to know what his best team and best
formation was as he chopped and changed, and seemed incapable of motivating the
Shirtliff, who had been appointed by Palmer as assistant manager during the
summer, took over as caretaker, and his first game in charge was a Carling Cup
tie in which the Stags beat a youthful Southampton side 1-0, with a goal from
Giles Coke. But it was straight back down to earth as Kevin Betsy scored a first
half hat-trick for Wycombe at Field Mill as the Stags were beaten 3-2. Three
days later, the Stags sunk to the bottom of the table despite a creditable 1-1
draw at Macclesfield. They fell further adrift after a 3-1 defeat at Leyton
Orient despite a decent performance in which the Stags more than matched the
team who started the game in fourth place, but dreadful errors by Peers and
keeper Kevin Pressman gifted two goals to the home side, and the Stags were
never able to recover.
disastrous run of 9 league games without a win came to end with a crucial 4-0
thrashing of Shrewsbury in a Friday night game at Field Mill with goals from
Coke, Rundle, Barker and Uhlenbeek. After a 1-0 defeat by eventual champions
Carlisle United at Brunton Park, there was another crucial 4-0 victory at Field
Mill, this time against Barnet, with Barker 2, Brown and Rundle getting the
goals. The Stags were at home to another Championship side in Millwall, in the
third round of Carling Cup. Mansfield came from 2-0 down, with goals from the
prolific Brown and Barker, but were beaten by a last-minute wonder goal. However
confidence was now high and four days later the Stags won their first away game
since March, with Barker and Brown on the scoresheet yet again in a 2-0 win at
Cheltenham. Quite rightly, Peter Shirtliff was now given the manager's job full
the first round of the FA Cup, Mansfield pulled off a fabulous 4-3 win at League
One Rotherham, with Barker scoring twice in the last 15 minutes, after earlier
goals by Brown and Coke. But there was a shock to the system as lowly Bury came
to Field Mill and won 3-0. Young Danny Reet scored twice and was later to join
Mansfield. A week later there was shocking and tragic news as the Stags new
goalkeeping coach, Peter Wilson, collapsed and died in the warm-up before the
game at Shrewsbury. The game was of course postponed. With other teams around
them playing their games, the Stags dropped back into the bottom two, and so a
2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Stockport the following weekend was a crucial
result. Peers and Barker netted the vital goals. Before the game, supporters
trust group TEAM Mansfield handed out over 2500 leaflets to fans, detailing the
misdemeanors of Keith Haslam, as part of the growing campaign against the
following Friday night, the Stags turned their attention back to the FA Cup and
the televised tie against Conference side Grays Athletic, with just a handful of
places separating the two teams in the football pyramid, and Grays’ players
reputedly earning considerably more than those of Mansfield. Luck was on
Mansfield’s side for once, as a dodgy penalty coupled with the visitors being
unlucky to have a man sent off early on, saw the Stags home as easy 3-0 winners.
TEAM Mansfield were stepping up their action and the TV cameras were an ideal
opportunity for them to display banners such as "Haslam, Pay the money back
NOW!", a reference to getting the chairman to pay back an illegal
director's loan. The banners were to appear at most forthcoming games, and along
with other activities, such as balloons being set off, became a major talking
point. Five days later, on 7 December 2005, the issue hit the national stage in
a massive way as The Guardian printed a double page spread entitled: “The man
who owes Mansfield over a million”, written by top football investigative
journalist David Conn.
on the pitch, a 4-1 defeat at Wrexham was no reward for a decent performance,
but a 2-1 win at Rushden was crucial, with Brown and Coke netting the goals.
Coke’s was a superb goal, probably the goal of the season, as did really well
to control a pass, somehow turned and beat three men in one go, before tucking
the ball into of the net. A 0-0 draw with Peterborough, was followed by an
unlucky defeat at Northampton, and a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Bristol
Rovers, as a mistake by Uhlenbeek gifted the visitors an injury-time equaliser.
The Stags were still far too close to the relegation zone for comfort, so a 2-1
win at eventually-relegated Oxford on New Years Eve was of huge importance, with
Rhys Day scoring both goals, his only goals of a disappointing season.
a 0-0 draw with Lincoln to start the new year, the Stags took 5500 fans to St
James Park for the FA Cup Third Round tie with Premiership Newcastle United. The
game was featured on Match of the Day, and the Stags put in a terrific
performance, only to lose 1-0 to an historic goal by Alan Shearer, which
equalled Jackie Milburn's Newcastle scoring record. Shearer was very gracious in
victory, saying that his goal should not detract from Mansfield’s outstanding
performance which deserved a draw.
was more bad luck in an undeserved 2-1 defeat at Grimsby but after a 0-0 draw in
the re-arranged game at Shrewsbury, new signing Danny Reet scored the only goal
in a home win over Rochdale. This was followed by a horrible 2-1 home defeat to
Keith Curle's Chester, who included five former Stags in their side, plus Wayne
Corden on the bench. Reet had again put the Stags ahead, but former Stags Scott
McNiven and Derek Asamoah scored for Chester to win the game. Mansfield had
Barker harshly sent off and the win was made more extraordinary in that it was
Chester’s only win in a remarkable sequence of 13 games which led to the
sacking of Keith Curle. A 4-0 defeat at Darlington followed, and the Stags were
back to being just 6 points above the relegation zone having played more games
than the other teams around them. There was plenty of activity off the field as
TEAM Mansfield organised a meeting and march before the Macclesfield game on 4
February 2006. Over 500 fans met at Mansfield Civic Centre in an attempt to
rally support against the chairman and generate enough pledges of money to mount
a bid to buy the club. The fans then marched noisily to Field Mill, attracting
considerable TV interest. Club sponsor Andy Perry also claimed to have tabled a
bid, but in the end TEAM Mansfield did not make a bid.
on the pitch, the Macclesfield game sparked an unbeaten run of 8 games, with 4
wins and 4 draws, that suddenly propelled the club towards the play-offs. Adam
Rundle scored in the 1-1 draw with Macclesfield. A week later, the Stags led 2-0
at Wycombe with goals by Hjelde and Barker, but were eventually held 2-2. Barker
was on target again as Grimsby were seen off 2-1 at Field Mill, and he scored
two more as the Stags recovered from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Wrexham. Goals
from Reet and a half-fit Simon Brown earned a 2-0 win at Torquay, which was the
Stags first double of the season. A 2-2 draw at Notts County followed, in a
see-saw game where the Stags recovered from 1-0 down, to lead 2-1 with goals
from on-loan left-back Laurence Wilson and Barker, only to be pegged back to
2-2. The Stags took a fantastic traveling support of 3743 to Meadow Lane.
Fantastic home wins over Boston (5-0) and Northampton (1-0) followed, to keep
the unbeaten run going. Luck was even going Mansfield’s way, as Northampton
should have been credited with a goal, when a shot hit the underside of the bar
and bounced down over the line, but it was not given.
eight game unbeaten run came to a soggy end at a rain-lashed Bristol Rovers as
two early goals scuppered the Stags, but a second double of the season was
achieved when Danny Reet’s controversial late goal saw off Oxford United at
Field Mill. Oxford were convinced Reet’s header didn’t cross the line, but
the goal was given as the Stags luck continued, and video evidence later was
Stags were amazingly now just 5 points off the play-offs with 6 games to go.
Five wins would probably be needed, but instead the Stags form plummeted and
they were unable to win any of the final six games, which meant that they ended
the season looking over their shoulders at the relegation battle beneath them
instead. First, a last minute Allan Russell free-kick rescued a point at Lincoln
City. This was followed by two defeats over Easter, first to Leyton Orient, and
then at relegation battlers Barnet where both Coke and Reet were sent-off.
Carlisle United came to Field Mill and somehow managed to steal a point with a
last minute equaliser which clinched their promotion. The Stags were still not
mathematically safe but a point in a 0-0 draw at Bury was enough to ensure that
the Stags would not involved in a last day of the season scrap, which incredibly
meant that any of the bottom 8 clubs could go down.
the last day, the Stags lost 5-0 at home to Cheltenham, their heaviest defeat
since September 2002. It was a poor end to the season as Cheltenham ran riot in
their own build-up to the play-offs and eventual promotion. It was a rather
surreal day with owner Keith Haslam pulling out a surprise just two hours before
kick-off announcing that Peter Lee would be joining the club in June as the new
chairman, with Haslam himself remaining as the chief executive and managing
the poor run-in to the season, a final position of 16th place would have been
gratefully received by all Stags fans when Carlton Palmer left, or even at
Christmas. The Stags finished just 5 points above relegated Oxford, emphasizing
the importance of the double that the Stags did over them. The Stags finished 12
points behind the play-off places. The final haul of 54 points was six worse
than the previous season.
released eight players at the end of the season, including Pressman, Day,
Uhlenbeek, Rundle and Russell.
Barker picked up Player of the Season awards from Follow The Yellow Brick Road,
the SSA, the CHAD and OSSC. Barker was the club’s leading scorer with an
impressive 23 goals (including 7 penalties) from 47
league and cup appearances (plus 2 as substitute), while Simon Brown was
second top scorer with 12 from only 18 starts (plus many more appearances
as substitute while he was half-fit).
wasn’t really a season for spectacular goals, unlike the previous season, but
my own selection of favourites
Giles Coke, control, turn and shot, at Rushden.
Giles Coke, stunning volley, at home to Shrewsbury.
Simon Brown, ran
from the halfway line before scoring, at Boston.
Allan Russell, free-kick from outside the box, at Lincoln.
5. Gus Uhlenbeek,
tap-in following an outstanding
run by Wilson, at home to Boston.
Other Statistics Snippets of 2005/2006 Season
Only 28 players were used in league and cup games during the season,
compared with 40 the previous season. Of these, 13
players played in 29 or more league games: Barker, Pressman, John-Baptiste,
Dawson, Coke, Uhlenbeek, Jelleyman, Rundle, Buxton, Hjelde, D’Laryea, Birchall
the disciplinary front, Gareth Jelleyman’s 9 yellow cards and 2 red cards put
him third in the list of League Two bad boys.
average home league attendance for the season was 3,560. This was a drop
of 12½% in average home league crowds from the previous season’s average
and a drop of 32% from the 2003/2004 average of 5,207.
highest home league attendance was 6,444 against Notts County. The lowest was
2,357 on a frozen December night against Bristol Rovers.
average away following at Field Mill was 561. (The previous season it was 512).
three teams brought more than a thousand to Field Mill: Notts County (1683),
Carlisle (1592), Lincoln (1345), compared to five the previous season. The
lowest league away following at Field Mill was Chester (128).
average number of home fans at home league games was 2999.
from Field Mill, the Stags average away following was 590. This was a drop of
11% from the previous season (which was 662).
highest Stags away following in the league was at Notts County (3743)
(though of course 5500 went to Newcastle in the FA Cup); while the lowest Stags
away following was at Wrexham (140).
average away league attendance for the season was 4,133.
Links to earlier seasons:
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 2004/05
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 2003/04
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 2002/03
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 2001/02
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 2000/01
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 1999/2000
Stagsnet review of the season: Season 1998/99