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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Oxford United  
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Mooney 36 (Roget sent off 49)
 (Williamson sent off 75)
Attendance: 5,029 (405 from Mansfield)
Date: 11th August 2004

Martin Shaw at the Kassam Stadium

The Stags put in an awful performance at the Kassam Stadium this evening to fall to a second defeat in the opening two games. The first half was as poor as many Stags fans can remember, with no shape or cohesion to the Stags line-up, which was surprisingly unchanged from Saturday. Oxford grabbed the only goal of the game when Mooney nipped in front of a static Artell and McNiven to score from 5 yards after 36 minutes. The Stags livened up once Oxford had been reduced to ten men shortly after half time, when Asamoah was brought down by Roget when through on goal. For 25 minutes the Stags were on top and created several chances but were denied by the home keeper. Lee Williamson, booked in the first half, received a second booking to level things up and the Stags slipped to a deserved defeat.

The Stags turned out in their new away kit of white shirts and bright orange shorts and shirts, for the first time in a league game. There was a major surprise in the starting line-up, with it being unchanged from the side that lacked shape and cohesion on Saturday. But perhaps the biggest surprise was that Rhys Day was once again on the bench. How long can we afford to have our best player on the bench?

The Stags were under pressure early on and Pilkington was called upon to make a super save after 7 minutes. Lee Bradbury brilliantly controlled a ball over the top and got away from Artell and McNiven showing them a clean pair of heels. Bradbury got himself into a 1-on-1 with Pilkington but the Stags keeper did very well to get down low to block the shot. On 9 minutes, Corden whipped in a fine cross from the left which was well cleared.

Early on, it seemed that Neil was playing on the right, to the pleasure of the Stags fans, but very quickly he moved back into the middle, and soon the Stags had no width again. At the SSA AGM on Monday, Paul Holland had revealed that Neil had been told to play in the middle. What I can't understand is that throughout pre-season, Neil has played on the right and the Stags had good shape. Now in the opening two league games, suddenly McNiven has lacked someone to link up with on the right and we look shapeless. Something is wrong here. The pre-season practice has been wasted.

On 16 minutes, a free kick was harshly awarded against Corden. From the free kick Wolleaston headed inches wide with Pilkington motionless. The Stags broke straight to the other end, but Murray had to wait too long for McNiven to overlap on the right and any chance of danger had gone. Stags fans around me sighed with despair at the tactics.

On 26 minutes, Bradbury had a goal disallowed for offside after he was played in by a deflection off a Stags player.

The Stags were by now continually changing their formation, with Asamoah on the right, then on the left, and similarly Larkin. But the only team being unsettled were the Stags themselves.

On 30 minutes, Oxford broke quickly Bradbury crossed and it should have been easy for McNiven to clear. But Mooney nipped in front of him and shot wide. This was a warning the Stags failed to heed.

On 34 minutes, Murray made a good run from the halfway line, and played in Larkin on the right. Larkin cut inside but shot over the bar from 16 yards.

Disaster struck on 36 minutes and it was very predictable. Hackett broke down the right and crossed into the centre. Artell should have cleared and McNiven should have got in front of Mooney, but Mooney stuck out a boot and deflected the ball into the net. It was shocking defending.

A minute later the Stags' dreadful display was summed up when 2 Stags players tried to clear a high ball in their own box and got in each other's way.

Asamaoh reminded us he was still on the pitch on 38 minutes when he made a good run, but he lost out against two defenders.

On 39 minutes, a superb tackle by Williamson sparked the Stags into life, and straight away Larkin made a good break, culminating in Asamoah shot over the bar even though he was given offside. Then right on half time, there was a great run down the right by Asamoah to the byeline, and he smashed a ball across the face of goal but Corden was a whisker away from turning it into the empty net. It was a good finish to a pathetic half for Mansfield.

The first half was as bad as any I can remember from a Stags team. The Stags lacked any cohesion and had no shape in the first half, and seemed to have no idea what they were doing. The talk amongst Stags fans at half-time was of poor tactics by the management duo.

Half time 1-0

At the start of the second half, MacKenzie replaced Eaton, who had looked uncomfortable ever since he was crocked by an early foul. Williamson moved to left back.

The first action of the second half saw Asamoah break away from the Oxford defence. He was away from the defenders and brought down by Roget from behind. It was a pretty clear red card and referee Parkes, who generally had a poor game duly obliged. Corden's resulting free kick was fumbled past the post by the keeper. From Corden's corner, Baptiste headed just over the bar.

The Stags were buoyed by the sending off and now started to get on top. I commented to those around me: just watch Williamson get himself sent off to even it up. He had been booked in the first half.

On 56 minutes, a cross from the Oxford right found Mooney and he managed to get a shot into the side netting from close range. On 59 minutes, Asamoah made a good run, but seemed strangely reluctant to shoot, eventually McNiven crossed and Murray weakly headed over the bar. On 62 minutes there was a moment that summed the Stags up: Larkin crossed from the right and there was only Asamoah in the box, even though the Stags had a man advantage. We needed to be more positive against 10 men.

But on 63 minutes MacKenzie fired in a brilliant left foot shot from 22 yards that was tipped over the bar. It was a wonderful effort and a super save. Moments later, Corden was on the left but there was only one Stags player in the box, with 5 defenders. This was crazy.

On 69 minutes O'Neill replaced the ineffective Neil, who looked out of place in central midfield. However O'Neill wasa literally not to touch the ball for the next 15 minutes.

On 70 minutes, a wonderful ball from MacKenzie put Larkin in a 1-on-1 with the keeper. But Larkin's left foot shot was brilliantly tipped away by the keeper.

On 74 minutes, Williamson made a late challenge on Hackett and was immediately shown a second yellow. The Stags crucial one man advantage had gone, and how predictable it had been. It was perhaps slightly unfortunate on Williamson as he was playing out of position.

On 80 minutes, MacKenzie had another fine effort: Corden side footed a free kick square and MacKenzie blasted it first time with a low shot just wide, with the keeper beaten. Day replaced Asamoah on 80 minutes, went straight up front, and within a minute was nearly the hero. Corden played a ball inside to Day, and the defender sliced a shot just over the bar from 16 yards. A minute after that, Larkin had a chance to cross from a dangerous position but incredibly let it run out for a throw in. Stags fans looked at each other in amazement - it summed up a shocking performance by the little striker.

On 83 minutes there was a rare chance for the home side when Bradbury shot over the bar. But on 88 minutes the Stags appeared to have a major piece of luck. Hackett broke clear of the Stags defence and into the box. Baptiste seemed to wrestle him down from behind. The linesman immediately put his flag across his chest to signal a penalty. From our position, it looked nailed on, and a certain straight red. Amazingly referee Parkes strolled over and booked Hackett for diving.

The Stags finished strongly. On 89 minutes, Larkin had a shot deflected over. Then a cross into the box was just headed off the line by an Oxford defender. And moments later, a Corden cross was headed over his own bar by a defender.

So the game ended in huge disappointment for the Stags. Mansfield had been dreadful in the first half, and only livened up when the home side were a man down.

Bradbury and Mooney were the best players on the pitch. Oxford are guaranteed a decent season, if not a good one, simply by the presence of Mooney.

The Stags will need to be more organised, have a better shape, and play much better, to record their first points of the season at Chester on Saturday. On the first two showings, sadly we look a bottom third of the table side. We know we should be better than that. Come on Mansfield!

Man of the Match: Neil MacKenzie

Report by: Martin Shaw

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Made a fine save from Bradbury in the 1st half and his handling was good throughout.
McNiven 5 Disappointing on his return to Oxford, never looked comfortable. Partly responsible for the goal.
Artell 5 Villain of the piece for Oxford's goal. Failed to handle Mooney all night.
Baptiste 6 Generally OK, but lucky not to concede a penalty and be sent off late on.
Eaton 6 Injured early on and hobbled on until being subbed at half time.
Neil 5 Again played in centre of midfield and was anonymous.
Murray 4 Gave away several shocking passes under no pressure and failed to create anything. Not the player we were hoping to see at the moment.
Williamson 5 One superb tackle in the 1st half briefly ignited the Stags, but once booked you just knew he was going to be sent off.
Corden 5 Lost the ball too often.
Larkin 4 Easily his worst display in a Stags shirt. Poor passing and missed 2 or 3 gilt edged chances.
Asamoah 6 Lively in the 1st half, but disappeared in the 2nd, after he had been brought down in the sending-off incident.
Sub Line Up:
MacKenzie (for Eaton, 46) 8 Easily the best Stags player. Two fine shots just wide, and always looked creative and busy.
O'Neill (for Neil, 69) 5 Didn't touch the ball for 15 minutes and then did little in the final 5 minutes.
Day (for Asamoah, 80) - Put on up front but not on long enough to make an impression. He is probably our best player and should be in the starting line-up.
Subs not used: White, Curtis.
Opposition Line Up:
Tardif , Mackay , Robinson , Roget , Ashton , Hackett , Parker , Wanless , Wolleaston , Bradbury , Mooney
Subs: Cox , Basham , Alsop , Molyneaux , Brown
T Parkes 5 Poor overall. Awful decision in Stags favour when penalty and sending off not given against Baptiste. Generally poor, though got both the other sendings-off correct.

Season 04/05 Reports