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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
0 - 0
 Oxford United
(abandoned at half time)
Attendance: 4,478 (756 from Oxford)
Date: 20th March 2004


Martin Shaw at Field Mill

This game was abandoned at half time with the score at 0-0. It was clear to everyone in the ground that the Stags wanted the game to continue, whilst Oxford United didn’t. As the players left the pitch at half time, Oxford number 27 Paul Wanless, a senior player in the side (which was without its suspended manager Ian Atkins) was clearly remonstrating with the referee. One can only speculate what he was saying, but he was certainly wasn’t imploring the ref to let the game continue. He was immediately joined by caretaker boss David Oldfield, who was also having strong words with the referee. Let’s face it: it’s clear they were asking the ref to call the game off. What else could they have been saying. The Stags players meanwhile were leaving the pitch to a standing ovation, having played their best football for weeks, despite battling into the strong wind for 45 minutes.

It was a disgraceful decision by the referee. There was no safety issue for the players or supporters. It was clear he must be have been influenced by the Oxford players and officials, who having failed to take advantage of the wind behind them, would have been facing an onslaught in the second half.

At the start of the second half, the Stags players returned to the pitch, but there was no sign of Oxford United. Liam Lawrence “kicked off” the second half and put the put into the net from the centre spot. But by then the decision had been taken to abandon the game, although we didn’t know it at that time. A couple of minutes later, Keith Curle joined his players on the pitch, got them into a huddle, and within a few moments, the players were applauding the fans and leaving the pitch. We then knew for sure that the game was off.

The Oxford fans then started singing and chanting in support for their team, whilst the home faithful in the West Stand joined in a chorus of “cheats”. Of course, the Oxford supporters themselves weren’t cheats, but members of their club did their best to get the game called off, and it worked.

After the game, the Oxford fans had the audacity to complain on the radio that they weren’t given their money back. They only travelled an hour and a half up the M40. (I live considerably further away in Guildford). I’m convinced that if Oxford had led at half time and had not complained to the referee as they would be playing into the wind in the second half, then with both managers happy, the game would have continued. This wasn’t an issue about money today. Mansfield Town had the same overheads they would have for any game, and did everything they could to ensure the game went its course. We saw 45 minutes of decent football, and the referee then made a crass decision.

I had found the first half quite entertaining. The Stags had returned to a short passing game and had dominated the half, whilst Oxford, with the wind behind their backs, had not created their first chance until the first minute of injury time. All the Stags fans I spoke to during the half time break were very confident that Mansfield were going to go on and win the game in the second half. The team looked confident - something they haven’t done for weeks.

Curle made SIX changes from the side that lost at Bury. John-Baptiste and Day replaced Artell and Dimech in central defence, while Vaughan returned from injury in place of Buxton at left back. Lawrence, MacKenzie and Disley returned from injury to a 5-man midfield, with Williamson, D’Jaffo and the injured Christie dropping out.

There was a quiet opening to the game, but it was immediately obvious that Mansfield were determined to try to play a passing game that has deserted them in recent weeks. After 11 minutes, Baptiste made a superb tackle to deny Oxford an opening, and a minute later Mendes had a good chance to put the Stags ahead. He picked up a loose backpass and his first effort was blocked by the keeper. The ball came back to Mendes but he could only head his next effort tamely at the keeper.

After 16 minutes, the Stags played a very clever short corner between Lawrence and Corden, and the ball came to Baptiste, who turned well on the edge of the box, and fired a left footed shot just over the bar. Three minutes later, Corden made a fine break down the left and forced his way into the box, but allowed the defender to turn the ball behind for a corner when he should have got a shot in on goal.

On 21 minutes, Pilkington was trying to take a free kick, and the ball rolled back towards him a couple of times. The referee called the two captains (Pilkington and Crosby) to him and there was a long delay as the managers also entered the pitch. After four minutes, the game restarted, and immediately MacKenzie was substituted, suffering from concussion, to be replaced by Williamson. The Stags were by now playing their best football for weeks, despite the conditions and Oxford weren’t allowed anywhere near the Stags goal. Corden, in particular was heavily involved, as he is usually is when the Stags are at their best. Lawrence was also influential, and put in a fine cross from the left which so nearly found Disley, who was lurking in a dangerous position in the box. In the first minute of stoppage time Oxford incredibly had their first shot of the half (not counting a half hearted lob that landed on the roof of the net earlier) when a shot came in from the edge of the box but Pilkington got down easily to save low to his left. Two minutes later Oxford won a free kick 35 yards out. Whitehead made a meal of taking it, exaggerating the difficulty of kicking the ball, and eventually blazed high over the bar. At the moment, the ref blew for half time and was surrounded by Oxford players and manager, as we have already said.

An encouraging 45 minutes from the Stags. More of the same is needed on Tuesday night against Swansea. If this style of football is maintained, then a play-off place, or even better, is certainly achievable. Come on you Stags!

Half time 0-0 abandoned

Man of the Match: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 One good punch from a dangerous cross. Kicked very well in awkward conditions.
Hassell 7 Linked well down the right with Lawrence on a couple of occasions. Defended well.
John-Baptiste 8 Absolute class. Looked so assured in the centre of defence.
Day 6 Did ok in defence.
Vaughan 7 Looked so much better trying the play the ball out from the back, rather than hoofing it.
Lawrence 7 One great cross in for Disley. Looked impressive as usual.
Curtis 6 Worked hard in midfield.
MacKenzie - Looked to be in fine form on his return from injury, until he went off with concussion.
Disley 6 Did ok in an attacking midfield role.
Corden 7 Got into the game a lot and looked dangerous. Should have taken one opportunity for a shot when he had the chance.
Mendes 6 Did ok, but should have done better with one good chance.
Sub Line Up:
Williamson (for MacKenzie, 25) - Worked hard.
Subs not used: JWhite, Artell, Larkin, D’Jaffo.
Opposition Line Up:
Woodman, Robinson, Crosby, McCarthy, McNiven, Whitehead, Wanless, Waterman, Hunt, Walker, Basham. Subs: Alsop, Hackett, Rawle, Steele, Oldfield.
H Webb (S Yorkshire) 0 A disgrace to his profession. The game was perfectly playable.

Season 03/04 Reports