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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
0 - 0
 Bristol Rovers
Attendance: 4,735 (488 from Bristol Rovers)
Date: 12th April 2004

Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Field Mill


A flat display in front of an increasingly frustrated Bank Holiday crowd all but put paid to the Stags ambitions of an automatic promotion place at Field Mill this afternoon. In a game of few chances, the Stags were unlucky to have a goal disallowed in stoppage time, shortly after striking the bar from a free-kick. Meanwhile the Stags were lucky at the end of the first half when Rovers had a good shout for a penalty turned down.

The Stags made two changes from the side that lost at Darlington, with Buxton replacing the injured Hassell, and Disley coming in for
MacKenzie. Buxton slotted in at left back allowing Williamson to move to right back.

The Stags started on the back foot and early Rovers pressure produced a corner on the left hand side in front of their traveling fans. The near post header which resulted raised questions over Pilkington’s positioning and the ability of the defence to clear their lines in the six-yard box, so soon after the disastrous goal at Darlington. After 5 minutes, Rovers were still in possession and a left footed volley was just over the bar, after Buxton had cleared up in the air, instead of away, reminiscent again of the Darlington game, when Baptiste had been at fault.

The Stags first sight of goal came on 8 minutes when Corden fed Larkin, who cut inside from the left but shot wide of the right post. After 16 minutes, Rovers impressive striker Junior Agogo had a snap-shot straight at Pilkington, after an uncharacteristic mistake from Baptiste. Two minutes later, Agogo had another chance but after a good turn on the edge of the box, he shot weakly. Stags best move of the game came on 20 minutes when Disley put Mendes through on goal, and his fiercely struck shot from close range was well-saved by keeper Miller’s legs. Two minutes later there was a nice piece of skill by Larkin in front of the dugout when he flicked the ball in the air with his heel, over his head, and ran onto it, but his pass came to nothing.

On 28 minutes, a Corden diagonal free-kick into the box from the left caused chaos but Day could only manage a weak back-header at the goal, not knowing that a defender behind him was playing him onside, and he would have had time to turn and shoot. Two minutes later that man Agogo again had a shot on target which Pilkington did well to turn round his left hand post. On 37 minutes, Buxton was dispossessed on the halfway line and a Rovers player broke clear, but was overhauled by Baptiste, who cleared the danger. On 41 minutes, Larkin made a superb run from the centre circle to get himself into a shooting position, but his left foot shot skidded weakly well wide of the post.

On the stroke of half-time there was real let-off for the Stags when Agogo went down in the box under a challenge. The referee immediately blew his whistle and we were all amazed when it was the half-time whistle and not a penalty.

Half Time 0-0

In the opening minute of the second half, Disley broke clear from a Larkin turn and pass, but his cross didn’t quite get through to Mendes. There was danger in the Stags box on 52 minutes when Curtis had to head over his own bar from a Rovers free-kick. A minute later Curtis was involved again, chasing a Rovers player to the touchline and putting him over the advertising hoarding to concede a free-kick. Fortunately the dazed player soon emerged in one piece and Curtis was not booked. Ten minutes later, what was by now a rare Rovers attack led to one of the most bizarre pieces of defending we can remember. Williamson had a chance to clear the ball two yards from his own goal-line, but seemed to freeze, and time stood still for a moment before sanity was restored and he recovered just in time to clear the ball as a forward closed in on him.

Andy White then replaced Mendes, and on 67 minutes the Stags came so close to the vital goal. A corner from the right by Lawrence was met by a firm Day header, but the ball bounced kindly in front of the keeper who collected it. On 74 minutes Lawrence did excellently to get to the bye-line and pull back a cross, but no Stags player had gambled to get to it in the six-yard box. MacKenzie replaced the ineffective Disley and immediately had a shooting chance, but ended up on his backside, completely missing the ball in a comical moment. Two minutes later, Rovers had a rare chance when former Wednesday midfielder Hyde struck a venomous shot from distance, that seemed to take a deflection, and Pilkington made a good save, tipping it over the bar.

On 83 minutes, fine worked by the industrious White, holding off a challenge, set up a chance for Larkin, whose shot was blocked. Moments later, Curtis also had a shot blocked, and it popped up for the keeper to just collect, as the frustration mounted for players and fans alike. Disappointingly some home fans were jeering and booing the players at this point, when what was needed was roars of encouragement to find a late winner.

On 87 minutes, the Stags were within a whisker of that vital winner. Corden’s diagonal free-kick from the left, flicked off the head of former Stags defender Adam Barrett and cannoned back of the bar, to the disbelief of everyone in the ground. It seemed a certain goal. Shortly afterwards, another free-kick for the Stags was made more interesting as a Rovers defender was booked for dissent, allowing the referee to move the ball forward 10 yards. Lawrence’s free-kick was disappointing as it floated straight into the keeper’s arms.

In the final minute of three minutes of added-on time, the Stags thought they had nicked the winner. Rovers keeper Miller flapped at a Buxton cross, dropped it, and Andy White rammed home the loose ball. The crowd erupted to celebrate, but the referee disallowed the goal. It was an example of over-protection of goalkeepers, as it seemed clear to us that there was no foul on the keeper.

And so the game ended in a hugely disappointing 0-0 draw; the first 0-0 at Field Mill for 14 months. Rovers created the better chances in the first half, with the impressive Agogo being the main threat. But after he had agone-gone, surprisingly substituted in the second half, Rovers created few chances, and it was the Stags who should have come out winners, had it not been for the crossbar, and a poor refereeing decision right at the death. Rovers were happy with the result, having clearly come for a draw, with their five-man defence. But the Stags in truth didn’t quite do enough to deserve to win the game.

After the game, we had the pleasure to interview Liam Lawrence for the next edition of Follow the Yellow Brick Road, and he told us that the referee claimed that White had fouled the keeper for that disallowed goal, but the Stags players were adamant that White was nowhere near the keeper. Lawrence told us that the players were very disappointed with their performance, but asked that the crowd should try to encourage as much as possible, rather than barrack, which affects their confidence. He told us that he was surprised that the crowd were booing the players in the second half, and he was disappointed to be booed himself, after his admittedly poor free-kick, near the end.

The other results more or less went the Stags way today, but the Stags still have work to do to ensure a play-off place. A really tough game at hugely improved Boston is the next game, where the Stags need to get back to winning ways.

Man of Match: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 A couple of good saves, and generally caught well, but was exposed on a few crosses.
Williamson 6 Looked uncomfortable at right-back, and caused one heart-stopping in the six yard box when he was slow to clear. Didn’t link well with Lawrence.
John-Baptiste 8 Defended excellently after a shaky first 10 minutes.
Day 6 Not his best afternoon, though nearly won the game with a header from a corner.
Buxton 5 Looked low on confidence, and distribution was weak. Looked as though he didn’t want the ball at times.
Lawrence 6 Worked hard and, despite being well-marked, got in some good crosses.
Curtis 8 Excellent tigerish performance. Showed the most conviction of any Stags player.
Disley 6 Fairly invisible. Couldn’t reproduce his excellent performance against Rovers earlier in the season.
Corden 6 Didn’t see enough of the ball to make a major contribution.
Mendes 6 Well shackled. Had a good chance in the first half but shot at the keeper’s legs.
Larkin 7 Looked sharp; very quick of the turn. But didn’t have any clearcut chances.
Sub Line Up:
AWhite (for Mendes, 63) 7 Won some important free-kicks and was unlucky not be the hero with the disallowed goal in injury time.
MacKenzie (for Disley, 74) 6 His first touch of the ball saw him fall over rather than shoot. Wasn’t able to contribute much after that.
Subs not used: Dimech, Artell, Beardsley.
Opposition Line Up:
Miller, Edwards, John Anderson, Barrett, Gibb, Lescott, Hyde, Ijah Anderson, Austin, Agogo, Thorpe. Subs: Clarke, Quinn, Twigg, Haldane, Henriksen.
A Kaye (W Yorkshire) 5 Got the two major incidents of the game wrong in our opinion. Missed a clear penalty for Rovers, and wrongly disallowed a Stags goal in injury time. Otherwise controlled the game well.

Season 03/04 Reports