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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Division 3 Play-off semi-final 1st leg
Northampton Town  
0 - 2
 Mansfield Town
 Day 40, Mendes 67.
Attendance: 6,960 (1250 from Mansfield)
Date: 16th May 2004

Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes at Sixfields


Super Mansfield turned in an excellent display at Sixfields this afternoon to take a 2-0 lead back to Field Mill for the second leg of this Division 3 play-off semi-final on Thursday. After the Cobblers had dominated early on, Rhys Day put the Stags in front just before half-time to steady the nerves, and Junior Mendes a second midway through the second half, as the Stags dominated the second half.

Keith Curle made two changes from the team that had lost at home to the Cobblers last weekend, with Hassell coming back in for Clarke, and Disley replacing Larkin. Indeed it was exactly the same side that beat Huddersfield two weeks ago.

It was a carnival atmosphere at sunny Sixfields, with a temperature of 24 degrees, and the Stags fans’ passion even hotter, as the away seating was 80% full around 40 minutes before kick-off, such was the anticipation for the game.

At kick-off time, the Stags players gathered in their now traditional huddle, interestingly holding up the start, with Cobblers ready to kick-off. In the first minute, home striker Asamoah, in for the suspended Sabin, had a strike from distance safely over the bar. Two minutes the Stags were on the attack for the first time and Corden put in free kick in from the left, help by home keeper Harper. On 5 minutes, Curtis knocked a splendid wide to Corden, who put Disley clear through on goal, but unfortunately just offside. Then great work by Mendes put Corden through on goal on the left, but he shot weakly straight at the keeper, going for placement rather than power. Moments later Asamoah broke clear down the left and got in front of Day. Stags fans held their breathe as Asamoah went down just outside the box, and the referee reached for his card. Thankfully it was only yellow. The resulting free kick sailed wide of the post. Interestingly Day and Pilkington had a fierce argument as the ball was out of play. Presumably Day felt that Pilkington should have come for the ball.

On 10 minutes, Hassell sent a long free-kick forward from the halfway line, and Day made good contact, heading towards goal, but well held by Harper. Then Curtis played another super ball to Corden, but who put his shot high and wide. On 13 minutes, Lawrence blocked a goalbound shot in his box.

On 20 minutes, Pilkington made the first of his superb saves. Smith played Richards into the Stags box and placed a shot that looked as though it was past the Stags keeper but somehow he clawed it away low down to his left. Two minutes later Richards had another chance when he sent an overhead wide of the post, though it had looked to us as though he fouled Day to create the space.

At this stage we noted that the Northampton strikers were giving Day and Baptiste all kinds of trouble by switching sides and good movement, while the Stags defenders were opting zonal marking.

There was a huge let-off for the Stags on 27 minutes when Richards held off his marker and turned to give himself a free shot from 12 yards, which he scuffed straight at Pilkington. The home side were in charge and moments later there was another let-off as Low rolled a low cross right across the face of the Stags goal, and no-one got a touch on it. Then Richards burst into the box again and blazed over the bar.

Against the run of play, Mendes did well to spin past his marker only to see his shot go high and wide. But on 40 minutes, the Stags were in front. Lawrence sent forward a free kick from 35 yards for Day to lose his marker, rise majestically, and head it into the net. Stags players and fans celebrated in wonderful fashion.

Moments Lawrence had another free-kick from an identical position, but this time it came to nothing. As the game approached half time the noise from the Mansfield fans was almost overwhelming.

Half time 0-1

We reflected at half time that the Stags were fortunate to be in front as the home team had had a purple patch and missed a number of good chances.

Two minutes into the second half the Stags had a golden opportunity to increase the lead. Hassell played a nice through ball for Mendes who was right through on goal, and with only the keeper to beat, lobbed the ball over the bar. The game entered a quiet face but burst to life on the hour as there was scramble in the Northampton goalmouth, resulting in a Curtis shot that was going wide, until Disley deflected it goalwards, and Harper made the save.

Just a minute later, Pilkington made his second wonder-save of the match from a free header by Ullathorne, and Hassell scrambled the ball away.

On 63 minutes, the Stags fans were surprised by a substitution as MacKenzie was brought on for Baptiste, who we later learned had a calf strain. Hassell moved to centre half, Williamson to right back, and MacKenzie into midfield. Three minutes, Lawrence did duperbly, making 50 yards down the run touchline, before slotting a slide-rule pass in to Mendes who first time shot was turned away at the near post by Harper.

From the resulting corner it was 2-0. Lawrence’s corner was headed out as far as Curtis at the edge of the box. He slammed his shot goalwards, and the keeper could only parry into the path of Mendes who joyously buried the ball into the empty net, in front of the ecstatic Stags fans.

On 75 minutes, Williamson made a superb run into the box, much as he had at Huddersfield two weeks earlier, but as he was about to shoot, he was well-blocked by a defender, the ball ran to Mendes whose shot was saved.

The Stags were by now holding the Cobblers comfortably and on 86 minutes the best the home side could offer was a weak header over the bar. On 89 minutes, Corden broke down the left and cut into the box, shooting with his right foot but the keeper held the ball in front of the unrushing Stags forwards. Then as the game went into 4 minutes of stoppage time, Corden broke free again, this time down the right and fed MacKenzie, who pulled a decent just wide of the keeper’s right post. Northampton then had a goal disallowed for a foul, signalled long before the ball hit the net. In the third minute of stoppage it looked as though it was going to be 3-0 when one-on-one specialist Larkin broke clear only to be dragged down two yards outside the box by Westwood. The red card was inevitable, but didn’t help the Stags as Corden tamely shot over from the free-kick. It was disappointing because Larkin was odds-on to score.

The game ended with celebrations from the 1200 Stags fans and the players, but all know that this is only half time and the Stags will have to produce another good performance on Thursday to get to Cardiff. However it will surely be ours to lose from here. After the Cobblers were the better side for the opening 35 minutes and missed some fine chances, they seemed bereft of ideas in the second half and the Stags started to play some wonderful football, which was reminiscent of the display at Huddersfield.

Man of Match: Kevin Pilkington & Bobby Hassell. We can’t separate them.

Report by: Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes at Sixfields

Line Up:
Pilkington 9 Two wonder-saves and immaculate handling throughout.
Hassell 9 Seemed to win everything, and got even better when switched to centre-half.
John-Baptiste 7 Classy and solid as usual. Showed great pace, to help Day out in the first half.
Day 6 Struggled with pace of Asamoah in the first half and lucky not to be sent off, which knocked his confidence. Regained confidence afterwards with his goal and did well in second half.
Eaton 7 Kept things solid at the back, and kept Josh Low reasonably quiet.
Lawrence 7 Some good free kicks and kept going throughout the game. Not quite at his best, though one sublime through ball for Mendes nearly produced a goal.
Curtis 7 Started superbly with some crisp passing. Solid throughout.
Williamson 7 Played well in a good holding role in midfield, and later at right back.
Disley 7 Buzzed around as normal. Missed one great chance in the second half.
Corden 6 Missed an early chance. Saw little of the ball in the second half. Poor free kick in injury time as the Stags looked for a third.
Mendes 8 Some good runs, and relished the lone striker role. Was sharp to react for the goal, but missed a great chance earlier with a lob over the bar.
Sub Line Up:
MacKenzie (for John-Baptiste, 63) 7 Slotted in well, and nearly scored near the end.
Larkin (for Disley, 77) - Did ok, and unlucky to be brought down when he could have scored.
D’Jaffo (for Mendes, 84) - Won some excellent headers.
Subs not used: JWhite, Artell.
Opposition Line Up:
Harper, Low, Ullathorne, Westwood, Sampson, Willmott, Trollope, Hargreaves, Smith, Richards, Asamoah.
Subs not used: Thompson, Taylor, Reeves, Youngs, Reid.
Mr M Jones 5 Irritated both sides with some poor decisions, not helped by a terrible linesman..

Season 03/04 Reports