Huddersfield won 4-1 on penalties
Attendance: 37,298 (14,000 from Mansfield)
Date: 31st May 2004
Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes and Neil Shaw and dad at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park
DEFEAT ON PENALTIES IS ROUGH JUSTICE ON STAGS
Mansfield Town missed the chance of promotion to Division 2 as they lost a penalty shoot-out to Huddersfield Town at the Millenium Stadium this afternoon. It had been a long journey for Keith Curle’s men during a roller-coaster season and to stumble at the very final hurdle was heart-breaking for Stags players and fans alike. The Stags were generally impressive all afternoon and were surely robbed of a deserved victory in the 90th minute when Larkin’s goal was disallowed, allegedly because the ball had already gone out of play. The video reply indicates that the Stags were horribly robbed. But the Stags penalty takers, so impressive against the Cobblers, blew it as Corden and Lawrence, who have so rarely missed from the spot in the past 2 seasons, both missed to allow the Terriers to profit.
The Stags were unchanged from the side that had started both legs of the semi-final against Northampton, and from the impressive win at Huddersfield earlier in the month. Huddersfield had influential Sodje in their side, who had been suspended for the previous game between the two sides.
It was a wonderful atmosphere in an incredible arena: the finest stadium we have ever been to. The Stags were backed by a noisy following of around 14,000, whilst the Terriers were backed by around 23,000, but they seemed to make no more noise than the Stags fans.
The Stags were kicking towards the Huddersfield fans in the first half, and were on the attack in the first minute as Disley was through but was offside. On 4 minutes there was a huge scare as Eaton tried to deal with a hoof over the top. He was surrounded by two strikers, as he ran towards his own goal, and he slipped on the wet surface, but somehow managed to come away with the ball after trapping the ball on his chest as he lay flat on his back. There was another scare on 7 minutes as Pilkington came out for a cross into his box but Booth got there first and looped a header inches wide of the left hand post. It was a major let-off for the Stags shot-stopper.
On 11 minutes there was almost a repeat of the dreadful goal conceded at Darlington as a Huddersfield corner was headed straight up in the air by Lawrence in the Stags box. As the ball dropped, Sodje rose above Pilkington and fortunately for us, headed the ball over the bar. The Stags had two chances in the next 5 minutes as first Hassell did well to create a shooting chance but placed his effort wide, and then Lawrence produced a good turn but shot straight at the keeper. It was end to end stuff and Pilkington did well to save on 20 minutes although an offside flag was raised anyway. Lawrence had a shot deflected for a corner on 26 minutes. Corden was by now coming in the game, and produced a good cross for Curtis, but the Stags midfielder missed the ball.
Pilkington made a good save on 35 minutes at his near post but failed to deal with a long through ball two minutes later and was lucky as a cross was played back in and headed away by Hassell. Eaton had a great chance on 40 minutes after Hassell’s cross following an overlap with Lawrence was headed back by Corden, to put Eaton in on goal, but he pulled his shot poorly wide.
Half Time 0-0
At half time we reflected on an entertaining half in which the Stags had been marginally the better side having passed the ball better than the Terriers, although Huddersfield had created the better chances. The Stags were lacking a killer-punch and the shooting was poor as Lawrence, Eaton, Hassell and Disley all had efforts that failed to trouble the keeper. Huddersfield looked dangerous from set-pieces and balls high into the box, but the Stags defence was generally solid.
At the start of the second half, Lawrence moved into the middle and Disley to the right wing. Pilkington made a good save at the feet of Abbott in the 47th minute, and moments later at the other end the Huddersfield keeper saved at the feet of Disley. On 54 minutes, Lawrence broke, and played in Mendes and then Corden, who pulled the ball back for Lawrence who just missed. The ball was straight to the other end and Eaton made a great last ditch tackle after a Huddersfield player had dribbled the ball into the box. Then Sodje headed a cross straight at Pilkington. Corden then put in 2 decent crosses in quick succession, and Larkin replaced Disley on the hour as expected. Lawrence moved back to the right wing. There was a hopeless moment on 62 minutes as the Stags had a free-kick from 30 yards. Corden flicked the ball for Lawrence, but Lawrence was looking the other way and the chance had gone. It just wasn’t quite happening for the Stags star player.
D’Jaffo replaced the injured Mendes on 68 minutes. A minute later Curtis produced a wonderful block in the box to prevent what looked a certain goal. Pilkington did well to clear outside his box on 72 minutes and a minute later Lawrence put Larkin away and he was tackled for a corner. From the corner Day headed the ball on and Larkin couldn’t quite get enough on the ball to turn it in. On 75 minutes, Corden cut inside and shot straight at the keeper. Then within a minute he put in a cross which Larkin just failed to divert into the net as the cross drifted inches wide. The Stags were well on top and Williamson had a great run, and cut inside from the left to shoot over the bar, when he should have passed to Lawrence.
There was a rare attack from the Terriers on 82 minutes as Booth was completely clear of the Stags defence but chipped his shot over Pilkington and a couple of inches wide. On 88 minutes Lawrence produced a brilliant run from the half line, via the right wing, and after cutting inside shot over the bar. It would have been goal of the season. On 89 minutes it looked like Corden would win it for the Stags with a brilliant shot from 25 yards which somehow the Huddersfield tipped over the bar. It was so unlucky for the Stags left winger.
Then came the moment of controversy that will be the talking point for years to come. In the 90th minute Curtis’s cross to the far post was flicked back by D'Jaffo into the path of Larkin, who turned and shot low into the net. But the linesman flagged that the ball had gone out of play and the Stags celebrations at what would have been the winner were cruelly ruled out.
90 minutes: 0-0
And so at the end of 90 minutes it was 0-0. A real rarity in Stags matches in recent years. The Stags had been by far the better side in the second half and were so unlucky not to have booked their place in the second division. You felt it may not be our day.
In the 3rd minute of extra time Carrs shot just wide for Huddersfield. Chances were few and far between in the first half as D’Jaffo headed wide and then Corden forced a save from the keeper. MacKenzie, who had replaced the excellent Williamson, shot just over in 15 minutes.
In the 1st minute of the second period of extra time Pilkington made the save of the season to tip a shot around his left hand post. It had the Stags fans on their feet. MacKenzie lived dangerously in his own area twice in a couple of minutes, first trying to dribble the ball away, and then headed back through a crowd of Huddersfield player to Pilkington. There was a long delay after Sodje fouled Larkin in the final minute and was stretchered off with a damaged neck, but was later believed to be ok. From the resulting free kick, MacKenzie shot wide with basically the final kick of open play.
And so play-off final went to penalties, as had the Stags semi-final.
The kicks were taken at the Stags end of the ground, but it was to soon turn into a nightmare as Huddersfield scored 4 out of 4, while Corden’s kick was saved, Lawrence tried to be too clever in chipping the ball straight down the middle, but instead hit the top of the bar, and even though MacKenzie did score, it was to no avail, and the Stags were condemned to another season in Division 3.
What a sad way to end an entertaining roller-coaster ride of a season. With only 4 professionals in contract at the end of the season, and with the manager also out of contract, will this fine attacking side be broken up leaving the Stags with a massive rebuilding job before the start of next season? And trips once again to Shrewsbury and Chester. It was such a sad end to the season for all the Stags players and fans and rough justice to a side that has come a long way under Keith Curle. But sadly not quite far enough.
Man of Match: Alex John-Baptiste
Report by: Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes and Neil Shaw and dad at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park
Pilkington 8 Bad mistake early on to allow a dangerous Booth header but superb after that with one unbelievable save during extra time. Couldn’t reproduce his heroics in the penalty shoot-out
Hassell 7 Played reasonably well; defended solidly and always looking to push forward. Had a decent shot in the first half.
John-Baptiste 9 Outstanding; first to everything with some wonderful tackles.
Day 7 Solid; defended well.
Eaton 7 Played well; defended solidly. Always look for, and usually finds his man.
Lawrence 6 Didn’t match his usual standards. Couldn’t find a cutting edge. Poor penalty in the shoot-out reflects a very sad exit if he is to leave in the summer.
Curtis 8 Excellent. Worked very hard, and made one magnificent interception to prevent a goal.
Williamson 8 Also worked very hard and showed some superb skills. Lacked composure in a couple of attacks.
Disley 6 Started ok but a little anonymous after that, and disappointing when he was switched to the wing.
Corden 7 Quiet start but got more dangerous as the game went on. Great shot tipped over the bar near the end of normal time, and a fine cross that Larkin just failed to convert and which floated inches wide. Poor penalty put the Stags on the back foot in the shoot-out.
Mendes 6 Difficult job against the class of Sodje. Did ok but failed to create enough danger.
Sub Line Up:
Larkin (for Disley, 60) 7 Made some good runs, gave the defence some extra problems; and was so unlucky to have his goal ruled out.
D’Jaffo (for Mendes, 69) 6 Caused some problems in the air and did well against Sodje, but didn’t appear to work quite hard enough.
MacKenzie (for Williamson, 98) 6 Two outrageously dangerous pieces of defending in his own box in the latter stages. Took his penalty well.
Subs not used: Coates, Artell.
Opposition Line Up:
Rachubka, Lloyd (Edwards 112), Mirfin, Sodje, Yates, Holdsworth, Carss, Worthington (Fowler 85), Schofield, Booth, Abbott (McAliskey 90).
Subs Not Used: Senior, Brown.
M.Clattenburg 6 Generally handled the game well, but the officials got the major decision of the game wrong in the 90th minute.