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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Division 3 Play-off semi-final 2nd leg
Mansfield Town  
1 - 3
 Northampton Town
3-3 ON AGGREGATE. Curtis 68.
 Mansfield win 5-4 on penalties. Richards 36, Hargreaves 40, Smith 46.
Attendance: 9,243 (2420 from Northampton)
Date: 20th May 2004

Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes & Neil Shaw & dad at Field Mill

Mansfield Town produced a penalty master-class to reach the Millenium Stadium after a fantastic 120 minutes of pulsating action at Field Mill this evening. Northampton had turned around a two goal deficit to lead on aggregate just after half-time, but a great strike from Tom Curtis levelled the tie on 68 minutes. There were no further goals in normal time or extra time, and then the Stags scored all 5 penalties while Kevin Pilkington saved one to enable the Stags to reach Cardiff.

The Stags were unchanged from the side that had won 2-0 at Sixfields on Sunday. The line-up of five in midfield was not popular amongst all the fans, some of whom thought two up front might have been more positive. On the bench, young keeper James Coates replaced Jason White, who had broken a thumb. Field Mill was a sell out with the biggest crowd ever in the redeveloped ground, extinguishing the 8,643 for the memorable Cheltenham game two years ago.

The Stags started positively and had a goal ruled out for offside after 5 minutes. Corden whipped in a shot from 18 yards which was flicked on by Mendes and bounced high into the net, only for the linesman to flag for offside. Video evidence later suggested it was the correct decision as Mendes was half a yard offside. On 8 minutes, Corden fed Mendes, who reached the byeline and pulled a tremendous cross back, but there was no second striker for the Stags to make it count and it was cleared for a corner. The Stags were well on top with Day particularly outstanding. On 16 minutes, the Cobblers were seen in attack for the first time and Day brought down Sabin on the edge of the box. The resulting free-kick was wasted by the visitors. On 20 minutes, Williamson gave a ball away in a dangerous and eventually a corner was conceded, which came to nothing. Three minutes later Williamson was more effective moving forward as he fed Mendes whose strong strike was straight at the keeper. The Stags then had two free kicks from similar positions to that which created a goal on Sunday. For the first one, Stags players were flagged offside, and for the second Lawrence tried to beat Harper at his near post, but the keeper beat it away.

On 35 minutes, Northampton finally had their first shot of the night but it was well off target. A minute later, they were ahead. Richards produced a diagonal run across the box, holding off Day’s challenge, to fire brilliantly past Pilkington just inside the near post, to the delight of the fans behind the goal.

Four minutes later there was disaster for the Stags as the precious lead evaporated. Disley gave away a needless foul by the touchline, near the players tunnel, Smith whipped in a superb cross and Hargreaves nodded the ball in from close range. In the space of four minutes, the Stags had gone from total domination of the tie, to level pegging, and were shell-shocked. At half time we reflected that the Cobblers would now have the impetus and appeared more likely winners, despite the fact that the Stags had more possession during the first half.

Half time 0-2

Incredibly the Cobblers were ahead on aggregate within a minute of the restart. The Stags failed to clear the ball as Corden gave the ball away, and Smith was left with a free shot which he placed just inside Pilkington’s right hand post.

This was unbelievable stuff - the Stags had been mugged by 3 goals in 10 minutes and the Cardiff dreams were turning to a nightmare.

The Stags quickly regrouped and were unlucky when a good cross from Corden just floated beyond Lawrence’s reach. On 52 minutes the Stags produced a brilliant corner as Lawrence’s flag kick was met by Day’s header which thudded against the underside of the bar and down on to the line, before being cleared. You felt it was not going to be our night. Disley was booked for a late challenge on the keeper and was almost immediately replaced by Larkin, at last giving the Stags a two man forward line, which was now badly needed. On 59 minutes, Lawrence superbly sent Mendes through on goal. Mendes struck his shot cleanly but Harper produced a good block, and the Stags were unlucky that the rebound just evaded 3 on-rushing Stags players. A few minutes later, great play by Lawrence earned a corner. Lawrence took the corner himself and Baptiste met it, but it was a scuffed header and went well wide. There was a melee on 65 minutes when Sabin produced a very late challenge on Curtis, who also appeared to commit a foul one second later. It looked like both players would be booked, as the referee incredibly consulted with both linesmen and his fourth official. Curtis had previously been booked, but escaped on this occasion, while Sabin was booked. Play had been halted for several minutes, but within moments of restart the Stags levelled the tie, and ironically it was Curtis the scorer. The free kick following Sabin’s foul, was pumped into the box, Larkin’s shot was blocked as far as Curtis who drilled a low shot across Harper and into the net. Stags players celebrated all over the pitch as the Field Mill faithful went bananas in sheer relief to be back in the tie.

On 71 minutes, Mendes made a tremendous break and put in a fine cross that evaded everyone. Four minutes later Larkin had a chance but put his snapshot wide. On 77 minutes Corden broke from the halfway line but with no support, had to shoot and pulled it wide. The Stags were finishing normal time strongly and five minutes later, Lawrence put another free kick into the box which the outstanding Harper saved. On 83 minutes, Hassell made a terrible error which could have cost us the tie when he gave the ball away, which led to a Northampton breakaway which they failed to convert. A minute later, Northampton were back in attack as a long throw was knocked forward towards goal forcing Pilkington to palm the ball just past the post for a corner. On 85 minutes, with the game now really end to end, Lawrence went close with a cross-shot that drifted just wide. Within minutes Stags had two long range efforts as first Hassell drove the ball wide and then Lawrence did likewise. During injury time the Stags survived a couple of Cobblers corners and a penalty claim when Baptiste seemed to do well to hold off the pacy Asamoah, though video evidence later suggested that the Stags had a lucky escape. In the final seconds the Stags could have broken clear but Larkin’s touch evaded him and he wasn’t able to send Corden clear.

90 minutes: 1-3

The game went into extra time with the Stags kicking towards the North Stand and the first moment of danger was when Corden’s cross nearly beat the keeper under the bar. Then Larkin broke down the right and pulled a ball back for substitute D’Jaffo who made a hash of his shot. Lovely ball skills from Eaton saw him lob a pass down the line to Corden, who set Larkin free on goal, but after cutting in from the left, he sent his shot just wide. The Stags survived another corner in the last minute of the half.

The Stags were looking the better of the two sides as we entered the second half of extra time, and Williamson shot inches the bar from long range on 102 minutes. Lawrence was in the centre of the action, completely dominating the match at this stage, and he had a shot well saved on 104 minutes before putting in another fine cross which was also well saved. As the action switched to the other end Baptiste produced a perfectly timed tackle to deny Asamoah. In the final minute of extra time, MacKenzie was brought on, clearly for his penalty taking ability, replacing Williamson who appeared to have an injury.

The Stags won the toss to have the penalties at the North Stand end, and the Cobblers started the shoot-out, amid heart-stopping tension for whole ground and millions listening to their radios and TVs!

All ten penalties were on target, with the vital difference being Pilkington’s fine save from Sabin’s kick.

All five of the Stags penalties were beautifully taken, and all were to the keeper’s left. Pilkington’s save brought the house down, and when Larkin slotted home the winner, the pitch was engulfed by joyous home fans, despite a police cordon in place to prevent a pitch invasion.

Reeves scores
Cordon scores
Smith scores
Lawrence scores
Reid scores
MacKenzie scores
Sabin - saved by Pilkington
D’Jaffo scores
Wilmott scores
Larkin scores
5-4 to the Stags on penalties

And so the Stags are on their way to Cardiff. It was a night of unbelievable drama and tension. Both teams did superbly to recover from the dead and the standard of football was worthy of a higher division in a pulsating occasion. Over the two games, the Stags just about deserved their victory, but it could have easily gone the other way.

At the end of the game, both sets of fans applauded each other, in recognition of the closeness of the game, and the mutual respect for each others’ efforts.

Man of Match: Liam Lawrence.

Report by: Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes & Neil Shaw & dad at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 8 Dramatic penalty save, and looked solid all night, including good handling.
Hassell 7 Defended well and linked well going forward with Lawrence. One bad error was nearly costly.
John-Baptiste 8 Dealt superbly with Asamoah, and some great tackles.
Day 9 Won everything in the air. Immense.
Eaton 9 His best game of a curtailed season. Looked like the player we signed last season. Excellent composure at the back, and some fine surging runs.
Lawrence 10 Think David Beckham against Greece.
Curtis 8 Tremendous performance and a cracking, crucial goal..
Williamson 7 Good first half but caught in possession too often at the back.
Disley 6 Did well in the first half, apart a stupid foul which led to the second goal.
Corden 6 Not at his best, and needs a goal from open play to restore his confidence, but took his penalty well.
Mendes 6 Did ok in a lone striker role, and had two terrific crosses.
Sub Line Up:
Larkin (for Disley, 54) 6 Worked hard and kept his composure for the wining penalty.
D’Jaffo (for Mendes, 75) 5 Looked out of sorts and not fit. However scored a crucial penalty.
MacKenzie (for Williamson, 119) - You don’t save those (penalties).
Subs not used: Coates, Artell.
Opposition Line Up:
Harper, Low (sub Taylor 117), Ullathorne, Reid, Sampson, Willmott, Trollope, Hargreaves, Smith, Richards (sub Asamoah 77, sub Reeves 118), Sabin.
Subs not used: Thompson, Chambers.
P Crossley 7 Had a good game. Allowed the game to flow.

Season 03/04 Reports