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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
3 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Seddon 26, 57, Swailes pen 41.
Attendance: 2,199 (381 from Mansfield)
Date: 16th March 2004

Martin Shaw at Gigg Lane


A truly shocking performance by the Stags at Gigg Lane tonight. The first half was even worse than the second half at Lincoln, and that is saying something. The team never even tried to play passing football and were guilty time and again of hoofing the ball forward. Bury were a poor side, but were made to look like world beaters by the appalling Stags.

Manager Curle made 4 changes from the starting line-up at Lincoln: Dimech for Day in central defence, Buxton for the injured Vaughan at left back, Williamson for the ill Disley in midfield, and Mendes for the injured Lawrence in right midfield. Considering the poor form of Artell and relatively good form of Day lately, the absence of Day was bewildering, particularly as he was on the bench. After the game, Curle said he was rested as he had been carrying a slight knock. D’Jaffo was returning to one of his former clubs.

This reporter was almost caught out in the first 20 seconds when he looked away for a split-second and missed the first piece of crass defending of the night from the Stags. As I looked up, the ball was rolling towards an empty Stags net right in front of us. My heart missed a beat as Pilkington was scampering back to his goal and he just managed to retrieve the ball. Apparently Artell had tried to roll the ball back to the keeper, but had missed him, badly. It was a shocker. But it was to get worse.

The Stags created a half chance when Corden had a shot blocked, but on 16 minutes the action was back in the Stags goalmouth, with a piece of defending that my brother described as one of the worst he had ever seen. A cross from the right eluded everyone in the box and was going harmlessly towards the far corner flag. Incredibly Hassell stretched out a leg to try to clear it and guided the ball straight back to the danger area where a Bury player sent a low shot towards the Stags goal. Pilkington made a fine save down to his left, but couldn’t hold onto it and the ball ran free for David Nugent who had a empty net from 3 yards. Nugent somehow managed to get the ball up and strike the top of the bar for an extraordinary miss - a miss the Bury official website calls the miss of the season.

Buxton made a good clearance on 20 minutes, but on 25 minutes the Stags produced their best, and in fact only, good attacking play of the night. Mendes strode down the right wing, cut into the box and sent a powerful shot towards goal. The Bury keeper made a good save, on what was to be a quiet evening for him.

But a minute later Bury were in front. Dimech tried to play a ball upfield 40 yards out from goal. It was charged down by Nugent, who was suddenly charging forward and clear of the defence. As he moved forward, Pilkington came out to meet him, and Nugent rolled the ball sideways for the unmarked Seddon to roll the ball into the empty net. No blame attached to Pilkington, and in fact it was a touch unlucky for the Stags.

Christie went off injured on 34 minutes, to be replaced by Larkin, and a minute later Pilkington saved well from a Seddon shot from a tight angle. On 40 minutes, Dimech put in a fine tackle, but the ball fell kindly for Seddon, who again got in a shot, and again Pilkington saved well. But a minute later Dimech gave away a crazy penalty. From a corner, Dimech and Swailes challenged for a high ball, but ridiculously Dimech dragged the Bury player down. It was right in front of us and a clearer penalty you won’t see. It was not the first time that Dimech has given away a ridiculous penalty (my mind goes back to the last minute at Bristol Rovers). Swailes picked himself up and sent Pilkington the wrong way.

At half time we reflected on a truly terrible performance from the Stags. A bit like Lincoln in the second half all over again. The difference here was the Bury were awful. Indeed in the opening 20 minutes I counted 4 times that Bury played easy passes straight out of play, indicating a side low on confidence and even lower on skill. Both teams were playing a `hoof it down the middle` style of play, the difference was that Bury’s strikers Seddon and Nugent actually looked like getting on the end of the balls.

Half time 2-0

John-Baptiste replaced Corden at the break, going straight into midfield, with Larkin moving to the left wing.

On 49 minutes, there was a good flick-on by a Stags player from a corner, but it came to nothing. The ball went straight to the other end where Pilkington made a great sliding tackle outside his box to clear the danger as Seddon closed in.

On 54 minutes there was very nearly a carbon copy of goals three and four from Lincoln on Saturday. Nugent was put clear of the static defence and lobbed Pilkington from the edge of the box. The ball hit the underside of the bar and rebounded into play where it was cleared. A massive stroke of luck for the Stags. But three minutes later it was 3-0. Pilkington was left exposed by the defence yet again as he came out of his goal to clear a ball wide on his left. He had to put the ball out of play, but he didn’t, and paid the penalty. The ball was picked up by a Bury player, who played it infield where Seddon swept the ball into the empty net from the edge of the box. Terrible keeping from Pilkington.

On 60 minutes the Stags had a chance. Hassell sent in a long throw and D’Jaffo saw his shot blocked. On 66 minutes Artell was hopeless out-jumped by Nugent in the box, but the striker’s header was straight at Pilkington.

On 72 minutes, D’Jaffo had a great chance but volleyed over the bar from close range, following a Williamson corner. Two minutes later, Williamson had a shot from a tight angle, which was palmed away by the keeper. Andy White replaced Buxton after 74 minutes but there was to be no more goalmouth action at either end. Indeed the only things of note were bookings for Curtis and Williamson (Artell having been booked earlier), and the substitutions of Seddon and Nugent to richly deserved huge ovations. Seddon had scored two outstanding goals at Field Mill earlier in the season (both from around 25 yards) and looks an excellent player.

So a shocking performance from the Stags, and 11 goals conceded in 3 away games. Indeed with two shots rattling the crossbar at Bury, the Stags were lucky it wasn’t even worse. This was an awful game really. Bury started very poorly though did improve when their confidence rose as a result of the goals. It was played on a terribly bumpy pitch, which did not help either side. The Stags are failing to string more than 2 passes together, and are continually playing the long ball as they seem frightened to try anything else. Fortunately there are now only 4 away games left, and the Stags need to make the most of their 7 home games. Oxford visit Field Mill on Saturday and are in an equally bad run of form, and their supporters are equally unhappy, judging by their messageboards. However they may have improved their situation with a home game on Wednesday night. The Stags need a victory, very badly.

Man of the Match: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Martin Shaw at Gigg Lane

Line Up:
Pilkington 5 Badly at fault for the third goal. Two or three good saves.
Hassell 5 One shocking piece of play nearly gifted Bury an early goal. Poor after that.
Dimech 5 The best defender, but gave away a completely unnecessary penalty.
Artell 4 Dreadful - both defending and distribution.
Buxton 5 Awful distribution.
Mendes 4 Pathetic. One decent run in the first half; otherwise did nothing.
Curtis 4 Very poor indeed.
Williamson 4 Tried to be inventive a couple of times, but generally terrible.
Corden 5 An early shot blocked. After that barely noticed he was on the pitch. Substituted at half time.
D’Jaffo 4 Awful. One shot over the bar. Otherwise gave the ball away too often.
Christie 5 Contributed nothing. Went off injured in the first half.
Sub Line Up:
Larkin (for Christie, 34) 5 Did very little; in fact did nothing.
John-Baptiste (for Corden, 46) 6 Did ok, which was enough to earn man of the match.
AWhite (for Buxton, 74) - Did better than most, and actually tried to play football.
Subs not used: JWhite, Day.
Opposition Line Up:
Garner, Swailes, Challinor, Woodthorpe, Barrass, Kennedy, Dunfield, Duxbury ©, Flitcroft, Seddon, Nugent.
Subs: Porter, Singh, O’Shaughnessy, Cartledge, Solly
G Cowburn 6 Correct decision for penalty. Did well.

Season 03/04 Reports