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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Clarke 48
Attendance: 4,943 (App 800 from Mansfield)
Date: 10th April 2004

This was the Stags first visit to the Reynolds Arena, and what an impressive stadium it is and what a different view Stags fans had of the action compared to the old wooden stand we used to be accommodated in at Feethams. The pitch, however, looked a little worse for wear The Stags kept with the same side that had beaten Oxford in midweek, Lee Williamson deputising for the suspended Tony Vaughan at left back and Junior Mendes and Colin Larkin continuing in attack. After a long period of inconsistent performances, the Stags had strung together a run of 5 games unbeaten.

The Stags were immediately on the back foot, and but for a short period towards the end of the 1st half were so for most of the match. In the 2nd minute Williamson sliced a clearance to give away a corner from which, despite pressure from Conlon, Day managed to head clear. Just two minute later another Darlo corner, this time Conlon beat Day to the header but Pilkington was on hand to tip the ball over the bar. From the resulting corner Conlon again won the header, this time the ball drifted just past the post. It was all Darlo, and within a few minutes the Stags could, and probably should have been three down. Darlo managed to hit the Stags woodwork on three occasions, the first two happened within a minute of each other, Wainright broke free and his shot just beat Pilkington but hit the outside of the Stags keepers left hand post and trickled over the line for a goal kick. In the very next attack it was Pilkington’s right hand post which was tested, this time Graham managed to get through, his shot from the right flew past Pilkington but hit the inside of the post and fell to Day who managed to clear. It took the Stags fully 15 minutes to register an attempt on goal, Larkin found Corden on the left, the Stags winger cut inside and hit a decent shot which was tipped over the bar by the home keeper. Back came Darlington, Mackenzie was caught in possession inside his own half, and a cross from the left was headed onto the top of bar by Conlon. Day and Conlon were having a real battle, with the Darlo striker taking the early honours. On the half hour, Day was adjudged to have fouled Conlon just a few yards outside the Stags area, the free kick was taken short to the left where a low shot was blocked and then cleared. On 34 minutes the Stags almost took the lead totally against the run of play – Corden found space on the left, put in a neat ball to Larkin in the inside left position; Larkin cut the ball back to Mendes whose shot was deflected onto the post with the keeper beaten, the ball fell for Lawrence, but his cut-back was aimless and the ball was cleared. Just a minute later, the Stags thought they had indeed gone ahead, Lawrence put in a fine cross which Larkin headed past the keeper but sadly onto the inside of the post. Hassell linked well with Mendes to create the Stags next opportunity, the visitors for the first time in the game exerting some pressure of their own. The Stags full back knocked a neat ball to Mendes whose flick found Corden, he worked himself some space before hitting a right foot shot just wide of the post. On the stroke of half time the Stags were handed another opportunity – a headed back pass fell short to the Darlo keeper who was out of his area and was forced to head away from the advancing Larkin – all the keeper could do was head the ball straight to Mackenzie, but his first touch was poor and the chance was lost. In fact, that summed up Mackenzie’s afternoon. The Stags managed to create one more chance as Mendes and Larkin combined to give Lawrence the chance, but the Stags winger dragged his shot wide.

Half Time 0-0

Like the first half, the Stags began the second half poorly, only a timely intervention from the head of Hassell prevented the Stags falling behind within a minute of the restart. However, it wasn’t long before the Stags did fall behind, and the goal was a disaster for Alex John-Baptiste who sliced a relatively simple clearance straight up into the air and under the Stags cross bar where a melee of players challenged for the ball and Clarke headed in. It was a bad error, but on balance the goal was no more than the home side deserved. On 52 minutes Mendes supplied Mackenzie, his shot seemed to be mis-hit but the keeper made a bit of a meal of it and palmed it wide for a corner, which came to nothing. The Stags were grateful to Pilkington for not falling further behind, once again Mackenzie was beaten to the ball in midfield, Conlon latched on to the pass, put in a low cross which was hit first time low and hard towards the bottom corner, but the Stags keeper flung himself to the left to save spectacularly with his feet. The Stags managed to force a corner of their own minutes later, Lawrence’s kick found Day unmarked but somehow the Stags defender managed to head the ball over the bar – a really poor miss. Keith Curle then made his first change, and what an odd one it was. Larkin was looking lively and dangerous, whilst alongside him Mendes was having one of those days, yet it was Larkin who was replaced by White, and probably with that left the Stags biggest goal threat. Darlington were very comfortable, the Stags change had a negative affect on the team performance and there was very little threat. A second change was on the cards, with Disley ready on the sidelines, surely this time it would be one of the central midfielders to be replaced (both of whom had been poor), but no, alas it was once again Wayne Corden, most likely to create a goal, who was sacrificed. The Stags rarely looked like getting a point, even at the end they failed to exert any real pressure apart from another Day header which flew just over the bar on 90 minutes.

Apart from 15 minutes in the 1st half, this was a dreadful performance from the Stags. The central midfield were devoid of any ideas, but what ball the strikers did get, was for the most part wasted, Mendes having a particularly poor game. The “tactical” substitutions made the Stags less of a threat and Larkin was particularly unlucky to have been replaced. The goal was a disaster for Baptiste, who otherwise did OK, as did partner Rhys Day, who had a real battle with Conlon but was guilty of two bad misses. There were not many candidates for man of the match, in truth this was a very poor team performance.

Man of the Match: Colin Larkin

Report by: Rob Wheldon

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 One superb save, good handling, slight question mark over the goal
Hassell 5 Again got forward well, caught out a couple of times too far forward
Williamson 5 Did OK considering this isn’t his natural position
Day 5 Did well in his battle with Conlon but missed two sitters
Baptiste 5 Defended OK but howler cost the goal
Lawrence 5 A couple of decent crosses, but mostly anonymous
Curtis 5 Generally solid, one good cross from the right otherwise barely got in the Darlo half
Mackenzie 4 Poor, gave the ball away almost every time he got it
Corden 5 Looked a threat, but as usual didn’t get enough possession
Larkin 6 The pick of the strikers, looked lively and very strangely taken off
Mendes 4 Second touch was nearly always a tackle
Sub Line Up:
White (for Larkin 67) 5 Pretty ineffective
Disley (for Corden 76) 5 Played on left wing, why?
Beardsley (for Mackenzie 83) 5 Got the ball twice, lost it twice
Opposition Line Up:
Price, Hutchinson, Clarke, Close, Keltie, Maddison, Valentine, Wainwright, Convery, Graham, Conlon. Subs: Russell, Clark, McGurk, Teggart, Norton.
Eddie Evans 5 - Homer

Season 03/04 Reports