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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Carling Cup Round 1
Mansfield Town  
0 - 4
 Preston North End
 Cresswell 2, Alexander 8, Daley 31, Lynch 83
Attendance: 3,028 (170 from Preston)
Date: 21st September 2004

Martin Shaw at Field Mill


Mansfield Town were given a severe beating by Championship side Preston North End at Field Mill this evening. Preston played as though there was more than a two division gulf between the sides and cut the Stags to threads in an embarrassing first half. The Stags were pathetic before the break and deserved to be 3-0 behind, if not more. After the break, Mansfield improved and were unfortunate to concede a penalty, which Pilkington saved, and then to concede a fourth goal. What the game highlighted more than anything is that the Stags do not have any strength in depth, by having to put youth teamers Danny Heron, Tom Curle and Callum Lloyd on the bench.

The Stags were forced into three changes from Saturday. McNiven was ill, and replaced by Luke Dimech, making his first appearance of the season in a unfamiliar right back position. Buxton was suffering from broken ribs, which he has played through for 2 weeks, and he was replaced by Day, who played in the centre of defence, with Baptiste moving to an unaccustomed left back position. This meant that Mansfield were playing four centre-halves and no genuine full backs in defence. Asamoah was suffering from a calf injury and replaced by Murray, who played just behind Larkin in a 4-5-1 formation. Preston included former Stags loanee striker Richard Cresswell, and US world Cup star Eddie Lewis, but were without Northern Ireland international David Healy, who was so controversially sent off in Wales recently in a World Cup qualifier, through injury.

The game was over almost before it started. On 2 minutes, Lewis sent over a corner from the left at the Quarry Lane end and Cresswell rose yards above the Stags defence to plant a header past Pilkington. It was a good leap but terrible defending. Pilkington picked the ball out of the net and hurled it at his defenders in anger.

Five minutes later, Artell tried to dribble a ball out of defence, and played a hospital pass to Curtis, who committed a foul and was lucky not to be booked. Artell should have been booked for a criminal ball. From the free-kick, Murray was harshly booked for encroaching; he may have been unlucky as the free-kick was gently rolled to one side before a shot was struck. Referee Prosser, never a favourite with Stags fans, also marched the ball forward 10 yards and now the free-kick was right on the edge of the box. Graham Alexander, a dead ball specialist, strode forward and planted a fine shot into the bottom right hand corner. Pilkington was given no chance. But surely it would be worth having a player on one post?

The Stags had their first attack of the night on 14 minutes. MacKenzie sent a free kick from wide left into the box, it was well headed on by Larkin, to Day who tried to head it goalwards but didn’t get enough on it, and it fell to Artell at the far post, who stretched a leg and turned it over the bar.

On 19 minutes Pilkington had to be alert to come out of his box and head clear as Cresswell bore down on him; fine keeping. Six minutes later, there was more dreadful defending in the Stags box. A simple cross from former Leicester full back Callum Davidson came into the box from the left and Cresswell rose yards above Baptiste, but fortunately headed just wide of the right post.

On 31 minutes, it was 3-0, and no surprise. And more dreadful defending by the usually dependable Baptiste. Omar Daley beat Baptiste and then left him for pace before sliding a shot past Pilkington and just inside the left post.

It was nearly four on 35 minutes. Dimech fouled Lewis on the left angle of the box. Alexander took the free kick while the Stags were still lining up their wall, and clipped the top of the bar, where it met the right post. Pilkington never moved.

On 40 minutes the Stags had their second chance, in fact make that their second attack, of the half. Larkin was fouled on the right wing. MacKenzie had a chance to whip in a cross, but instead rolled the ball across to Murray, 20 yards out, who sent his snap shot over the bar.

It was one of the worst halves of football from Mansfield in living memory. It was appalling. Preston, admittedly a very fine side, swarmed forward time and again, and the Stags defence had no answer. But to be so easily outjumped for crosses was especially disappointing. The Stags midfield was completely non-existent, and never got hold of the ball. When the Stags did have the ball they tried to pump it to lone striker Larkin and it just kept coming back. To only have two attacks in the entire half was dire.

Half Time 0-3

At the start of the second half, Chris Tait replaced Curtis as the Stags moved to a 4-4-2 formation. Almost immediately the Stags were nearly back in it. A long free kick from the half way line was pumped into the box and Day beat his marker to head just wide.

But on 51 minutes, Tait who had just injured his ankle and was limping, was off again, to be replaced by youth team striker Danny Heron. A minute later MacKenzie had a long range shot deflected for a corner. From his corner, a header was deflected just wide. For the opening 15 minutes of the half, the Stags were now playing football and at least restoring some pride.

On 59 minutes there was real bad luck. On the right hand edge of the box, down where the North Stand meets the Bishop Street side, a ball was fired at Rhys Day and struck his hand. To the amazement of Stags fans, the linesman signaled for a penalty and referee Prosser who initially waved play on, then pointed to the spot. Stags players protested, but in vain. Alexander, fresh from slotting home a penalty on Saturday at the Stadium of Light, confidently struck a side-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net. But Prosser, wanting to be centre-stage, ordered a re-take for encroachment. Alexander struck the kick to the same place, and Pilkington dived superbly to tip the ball away.

On 70 minutes there was a chance of a debut goal for young Danny Heron. Corden got a rare touch of the ball, and played it forward to Larkin, who lost it in a scramble with the keeper on the edge of his box. The loose ball came out to Heron who just had to chip it over everyone into the empty net, but only managed to chip it into the grateful keeper’s hands. Four minutes later, Preston striker Andy Smith, an Alan Smith lookalike with bleached hair, had a shot wide.

The Stags created their best chance of the night on 79 minutes. Neil, who had had a very poor game to that point, sent in a great cross from the right which Larkin met with a flying header, but it thudded off the base of the near post.

It was 4-0 on 83 minutes. Lewis broke down the left, brushing aside Dimech far too easily, and pulled a cross back from the bye-line for substitute Lynch to side-foot powerfully past Pilkington from 8 yards. Both goalmaker and goalscorer appeared to celebrate with fans in the North Stand. Referee Prosser waited for the players to leave their fans, and proceeded to book Lewis, who had already been booked, and hence show him a red card too. It was harsh, but those seem to be the rules at present. Lewis made the slowest exit from the pitch ever, taking an age to walk the full length of the pitch to the Quarry Lane players tunnel.

On 88 minutes, Neil again put in a fine cross and Murray appeared to have a chance of a header, but inexplicably allowed the ball to run straight past him.

So the game ended with a much-improved second half performance to restore some pride, but still nowhere near good enough. Brian Laws, the Scunthorpe manager, was in the West Stand, and must have wondered how a team fourth in the table can play as badly as this. Hopefully the Stags will be much improved for the top of the table clash at Glanford Park on Saturday. Come on Mansfield, you can do much better than this. The fans will demand more passion and quality on Saturday, that’s for sure.

Man of Match: Kevin Pilkington

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 No chance with any of the goals. Fine penalty save.
Dimech 5 Consistently beaten for pace down the wing. Looked out of place at right back.
Artell 5 Poor game.
Day 6 Not quite as bad as the rest of the defence.
John-Baptiste 5 His worst game in a Stags shirt. Out of position at left back but no excuse for some poor defending, especially on the third goal.
Neil 5 Awful for 80 minutes. Partially redeemed himself with two fine crosses in last 10 minutes.
Curtis 5 Poor. Substituted at half time.
MacKenzie 6 Given some stick by the West Stand but actually was the pick of the midfield in my opinion; tried to get stuck in and be creative.
Corden 5 Barely touched the ball all night.
Murray 5 Poor. Looks very out of touch.
Larkin 6 Did ok. Very unlucky with a header against the post.
Sub Line Up:
Tait (for Curtis, 46) - Only on for 6 minutes before picking up ankle injury.
Heron (for Tait, 51) 6 Youth team striker, did quite well in difficult circumstances.
Subs not used: White, TCurle, Lloyd.
Opposition Line Up:
Lonergan, Alexander (Capt), Davidson, Mawene, Davis; Daley (Jackson, 80), Lewis, O'Neil (McCormack, 90), Etuhu; Cresswell, Smith (Lynch, 82). Subs not used: Ward, Lyng.
P Prosser, W Yorkshire 4 Harshly booked Murray for encroaching, and this led directly to the second goal. Very harsh penalty awarded against Day. Harshly sent off Eddie Lewis, though perhaps had little choice given current rules.

Season 04/05 Reports