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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
2 - 1
 Torquay United
Larkin 3, Mendes 10
 Gritton 15
Attendance: 4,552 (299 from Torquay)
Date: 30th March 2004

Ever thought about the benefits of having a season ticket? There are some.. you don’t have the problem of making sure that you have enough cash before the game.. first shout on getting your seat for the bigger games.. the extra feeling of “belonging” to the club you support. One thing you must remember though, as Seve Ballesteros once told us… “don’t leave home without it”. The only saving grace for me tonight is that I realised when I was only halfway to Mansfield. Still, it did mean missing the kick-off by a couple of minutes, which was just long enough for Colin Larkin to mark his return to the starting line-up by grabbing the opening goal of this game. Thanks to Ricky and Steady, I can tell you that Larkin opened the scoring by diverting a Mackenzie shot into the opposite corner of the net. They did also suggest a possibility of offside but the absence of any post-match complaints from the visitors seems to suggest that their viewing angle played tricks on them (or is it that they should visit the opticians?!)

The Stags starting 11 had only one change from the team that kicked off at Yeovil last Saturday, Craig Disley dropping to the bench as Keith Curle brought in Colin Larkin to partner Junior Mendes in the fans favourite 4-4-2 shape. The odd part about the 16 was that Curle also declined the option of having a reserve keeper on the bench.

Picking up from the point where the Stags had already taken the lead against the form team of the Division, it became clear that there was a belief amongst the players that they were about to have the better night. No sooner had the clock ticked past the 10-minute mark, this belief was realised.

Some crisp passing in the Stags defensive half opened up the right-hand channel and Bobby Hassell played a ball through for Junior Mendes. When it looked as though Mendes had lost out to the Torquay defender on the turn, an extremely poor effort at a back-pass allowed Junior to race through and chip the keeper superbly for a 2-0 lead.

The next phase of the game saw the confidence level of the home side rise but also saw an increase in determination by the visitors. On 17 minutes, the increased level of determination displayed by Torquay brought its reward. Whilst it coincided with some sloppy defending, any team that sticks to the task will often get a break. It was Martin Gritton who benefited from the combination of his teams efforts and the Stags inability to get the ball away.

Less than 20 minutes gone and 3 goals already – were we in for a goal feast similar to those seen in the early part of the campaign? Maybe if Junior Mendes’ snap shot had not rebounded off the post just before the half-hour mark then those long forgotten goal festivals just might have been repeated tonight.

As the whistle went for half-time, I felt that Stags had been slightly the better side but that Torquay had shown us some glimpses of why they have rapidly ascended the table in the last 3 months.

H-T Stags 2 Torquay 1

The game was almost wrapped up again just after the restart. Liam Lawrence cut into the box from the left and hit a “Corden curler” towards the top corner only to see it clear the angle by 6 inches.

Within 5 minutes we were reminded that this game was finely balanced. Another moment of slack defensive work gifted a clear chance to the visitors. However, it was Torquay’s turn to be denied by the woodwork.

There was then a period of play where Torquay were getting more space in midfield and making good use of the very quick Kuffour. Whilst the Stags midfield were sitting a little too deep, the Stags backline raised their game a level and were generally repelling the visitors efforts at finding an equaliser.

With 20 minutes to go, Andy White was given a long awaited opportunity to show the home support what he has to contribute. He did not disappoint.

He was involved in 2 bizarre incidents within minutes of being in the thick of the action. After missing an effort from a tight angle, he followed the ball past the post and kicked the ball back at the goal in frustration – this was a cue for the visiting keeper to throw a “wobbler” and then for the referee to prove that he had in fact come with his Yellow Card tonight by making Andy the first (and only) player to be cautioned (presumably for “equipment abuse”). He was making strenuous efforts to close down the keeper and defenders at every opportunity and almost got a reward. Coming across the front of the Torquay keeper as he went to kick a rolling ball, Andy got a good block and watched as the ball agonisingly rolled wide of the empty net.

As full-time approached, Stags were taking each opportunity to run the clock down by keeping the ball in the corners. However, there was enough time for a couple more incidents to provoke debate and praise.

First, just as it looked as though Junior Mendes was about to wrap the game up from close range his standing leg was taken and the home fans were to a man convinced that a penalty would be the result. As always, it is only a penalty if the man in black gives it… and he didn’t!

Then, with what was almost the last kick of the game, Alex John-Baptiste capped an exceptional performance with a remarkable goal-line clearance. A typically desperate last-minute attack from Torquay ended with an untidy mass of bodies in the Stags penalty box. A Torquay boot managed to direct the ball goalwards and as it looked absolutely sure to level the game, AJB appeared “gazelle-like” chasing the ball and hooking it wide to save the Stags the extra 2 points for the win.

On reflection, it was a close game that could have been justifiably won by either team. Torquay are a strong footballing outfit who play the game the “right” way. They did, though, come up against a Stags team who are gradually regaining form and confidence at just the right time.

F-T Stags 2 Torquay 1

MoM: Alex John-Baptiste (when did we have a young defender as good as this?)

Report by: Gary Tyldsley

Line Up:
Pilkington - 6 Not too busy for Pilks tonight
Hassell - 7 Super first half, kept on his toes in the second by Kuffour
Day 6 - Won a lot in the air but kept busy by Gritton
Baptiste 9 - Worth his weight in gold.. if only for the goal-line clearance in the last minute.. class.
Vaughan 7 - Some off target passes but lots more to feet, worked hard
Lawrence 6 - Worked as hard as ever but lacked the killer touch tonight
Curtis 8 - Top class "Action Man" display (got the sponsors MoM award)
MacKenzie 6 - Best of both worlds.. some excellent distribution matched by some poor giveaways
Corden 7 - Silky skills are back in town
Larkin 6 - Much better than a week ago, very lively at times
Mendes 7 - Took his goal well, gave the Torquay defence problems all night
Sub Line Up:
AWhite (for Larkin, 69) 7 - Super show by big Andy and almost scored a bizarre goal
Williamson (for Corden, 80) 6 - Did ok
Disley (for MacKenzie, 83) 6 - Did well
Subs not used: Artell, Beardsley.
Opposition Line Up:
Dearden , McGlinchey , Canoville , Taylor , Woods , Rosenior , Hockley , Russell , Hill , Graham , Gritton.
Subs: Heusden , Kuffour , Woozley , Bedeau , Hazell
A Leake (Lancashire)

Season 03/04 Reports