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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Mansfield Town  
1 - 2
 Northampton Town
Larkin 54
 Sabin 19, Ullathorne 70
Attendance: 8,065 (2445 from Northampton)
Date: 8th May 2004

The Stags turned in a poor performance and were beaten by Northampton in the final match of the regular season. Ironically, the Stags now meet Northampton in the play-offs, the first leg at Sixfields next weekend. The Stags made two changes from the side that won so well at Huddersfield last weekend. Out went the injured Bobby Hassell and surprisingly dropped Craig Disley, in came Jamie Clarke and Colin Larkin as the Stags reverted to a 4-4-2, again a surprise given the success of the 4-5-1 played the previous week.

The Stags began brightly and forced some early pressure, but all too often moves were breaking down on the edge of the area, as so often seen at Field Mill this season, the strikers were unable to maintain possession and were not greatly helped by a central midfield more determined on keeping things tight rather than being more creative. It was the visitors who had the first real attempt of the match, the ball bounced awkwardly for Baptiste and Sabin managed to hook the ball over the Stags defender but fired his shot just wide of Pilkington's right hand post. This signalled a spell of pressure from the visitors, and on 19 minutes the Cobblers were ahead. Sabin picked the ball up on the left hand side of the Stags area and let fly with a powerful shot which Pilkington got his hand too but couldn't prevent hitting the net - from our angle we felt Pilkington may have done a little better. The Stags really failed to test Harper in the visitors goal for the rest of the half, in fact, after a bright start the game drifted into a dour midfield battle. Day got on the end of a Lawrence right wing cross but the ball was just behind him and he screwed the header wide. In fact, the half-time whistle came as a relief.

Half-Time 0-1

The Stags began the 2nd half well and were soon level. Williamson made a rare foray into the Northampton area, breaking through a weak challenge before firing his shot towards goal, Harper palmed the ball onto the post and out for a corner. From the corner the ball evaded those in the middle and fell to Larkin who hit a neat low volley past Harper to bring the scores level. This was the signal for the Stags best spell of the match, the visitors were on the rack and news that Yeovil were beating Lincoln saw the away end become becalmed. However, the Stags failed to capitalise on their chances, Lawrence hit a long range first time shot just wide, Williamson hit a decent right foot shot just over the bar from 20 yards and Larkin just failed to get on the end of a Corden cross from the left. As the Stags squandered chances Northampton came back into the game and began to dominate, in fact, the goal they scored had been coming for five minutes as the Stags failed to maintain any sort of possession. When the goal came it was a bit of a sickener. The Stags defence had gone missing but Ullathorne looked at least a yard offside, the linesman was at least 15 yards behind play and failed to give the decision and Ullathorne blasted the ball past Pilkington. However, it also has to be said that the visitors deserved this, as they had been dominant and former Derby midfielder Trollope had hit the Stags woodwork just minutes earlier. The Stags replaced Corden with Disley, another strange change, as they looked to find the equaliser and it was Disley who squandered the best chance of the match. Breaking into the area in typical fashion he just failed to convert an excellent cross from Clarke on the Stags right. The Stags huffed and puffed but failed to create any other chances, though bizarrely the referee managed to only play two minutes added time when three were announced.

This was a poor performance overall, but there were a few decent spells. Maybe the fact the Stags had already made the play-offs was a factor and they definitely missed the presence of Hassell at right back. It was a very odd decision to drop Disley after he had performed so well last weekend, it was equally odd to revert to 4-4-2, when the 4-5-1 worked so well. The Stags have been very inconsistent, perhaps some of the blame should be apportioned to the inconsistency of team selection. Man of the match was between the two Stags centre halves, who if they remain at Field Mill next season, will be an outstanding partnership. Youngster Alex John-Baptiste just wins for me.

Stags Man of the Match: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Rob Wheldon

Line Up:
Pilkington 5 Might have saved the 1st goal
Clarke 5 Did OK, but went missing for the 2nd goal
Baptiste 7 A couple of great interceptions
Day 7 Did well in the air
Eaton 6 Still looked lacking match fitness as you'd expect, but got forward well
Lawrence 6 Not his best day, badly missed Hassell
Williamson 6 Did OK for most of the match, when will he score again?
Curtis 6 As a defensive midfielder OK
Corden 6 Whilst not at his best, was still a threat and shockingly subbed
Larkin 6 Took his goal well but touch again poor
Mendes 5 Worked hard but nothing came off for him
Sub Line Up:
Disley (for Corden, 72) 6 Missed a sitter, but at least he was in an attacking position - should have started
D’Jaffo (for Curtis, 81) 6
Subs not used: JWhite, Artell, MacKenzie
Opposition Line Up:
Harper, Low (sub Lyttle 74), Ullathorne, Westwood, Sampson, Willmott, Trollope, Hargreaves, Smith (sub Taylor 85), Richards (sub Asamoah 79), Sabin.
Subs not used: Thompson, Chambers.
M.Thorpe (Suffolk) 5

Season 03/04 Reports