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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
FA Cup Round 1
Mansfield Town  
1 - 1
 Colchester United
John-Baptiste 28. Asamaoh sent off 81.
 Halford 25
Attendance: 3202 (308 from Colchester)
Date: 13th November 2004

Report by Gary Tyldsley

10-man Stags were left to hold out against an ordinary looking Colchester side after Derek Asamoah saw red and Colin Larkin was withdrawn by stand-in boss Carlton Palmer. The writing looked to be on the wall when Greg Halford opened the scoring for the visitors but Stags were level within 5 minutes when new skipper, Alex John-Baptiste, hit a wonder shot from all of 30 yards. There was little else to brighten up the day and the crowd eventually turned their frustration into displays of anger at Carlton Palmer and Chairman Keith Haslam.

When I answered the call to do the match report on this game, it did not dawn on me immediately that it was going to be extremely difficult to actually do a report on the game itself. So much has happened at Field Mill this week that the game seemed to take on much less importance than the first appearance in the nations, and possibly the worlds, premier knockout competition. To that end, I did not do my usual trick of taking pen and paper to record the important moments.

I feel that it would be remiss of me to pass up the opportunity of making the point that, on occasions, football can take second place. The week started with the shock news of Scott McNiven’s illness. I am sure that everyone will wish Scott a full recovery and retain hope that he will be able to resume his career in a Stags shirt.

Then, with the first round cup game fast approaching, dark clouds parked themselves directly over Field Mill. Amid a variety of rumours, it was confirmed that Stags boss, Keith Curle, was suspended pending an internal investigation at the club. This was coupled with the news that Carlton Palmer would take charge of team affairs until Monday, when it is said the matter will be brought to a conclusion. Just to complicate the issue, it was initially reported that John Gannon was also suspended only for this to be denied by a report that he was “on holiday” until Monday. (Late note: At the point of writing, it is now reported that John Gannon is suspended)

Opinion amongst Stags fans was immediately divided. Some claiming that this is just a ploy by the Chairman to install his next choice of manager, others claiming that there is, allegedly, a case against Keith Curle and that he should be dismissed. Amongst all the debate, Carlton Palmer has stated that he would take the job if it were offered to him. Read that whichever way you like but my view is that he is probably aware that it will be offered to him.

We then learn that a loan player has been brought in. Great news! A striker to fill the gap left by the release of Chris Tate and the return of the two loan players, Joe O’Neill and Guy Ipoua. No, this was a central midfielder, Fraser McLachlan from (surprise, surprise) Stockport County. Why did we need a central midfield player?

Then came the news that the other decision made by the stand-in manager was to take the captain’s armband away from Kevin Pilkington and hand it to Alex John-Baptiste.

The above decisions make it hard for many to believe that there will be anyone other than Carlton Palmer sitting in the manager’s office at Field Mill on Tuesday morning.

My biggest fear before the game started was how the players would lift themselves to perform in a knockout cup game after the happenings around the club this week. After a tentative first five minutes, they seemed to settle into the task and play with a touch of determination. However, determination alone does not win games and a touch of quality is required to stamp authority on a football match.

It appeared that a lesson was not learned from the concession of a headed goal at home to Macclesfield a week ago, when Greg Halford planted the ball into the top corner to put Colchester in the driving seat. There was an air of resignation in the stands, understandable when the team has failed to score in the last three matches, two of which were at home.

The players did have other ideas and managed to exert some pressure that led to a succession of corner-kicks. It was from the last of these that a headed clearance dropped to new skipper, Alex John-Baptiste, around the 30-yard mark. He did not think twice and unleashed a screamer of a volley to level the game and raise the spirits of those who had come in hope of seeing the Stags progress in the competition.

I don’t like to cut a match report too short and too soon but there was little else to get excited about during this game.

The opportunity to win the game probably went when, following the best bit of work from Derek Asamoah throughout the game, new-boy Fraser McLachlan had a chance to turn a below-par show into a confidence booster but managed to strike the post when it appeared easier to score.

The only other major talking points would be the big penalty shout that Stags had early on and the sending off of Derek Asamoah. However, given that one of our favourite officials was on duty today, Phil Prosser, then you may understand that I am not sure I could raise the enthusiasm to make a case about either decision.

We did not have the best view of the Asamoah sending off and I did get the opportunity to ask someone from the press box about it later – the answer was a fairly clinical affirmation of the decision to show Derek the red card. This will give the already busy Stags supporters another talking point for the week ahead as this would mean the team being down to one recognised striker for the next three games – time for the Chairman to back the manager (whoever that is)?

The view I took of the rest of the game was that we gave possession away too cheaply and showed little ambition when we probably had a reasonable chance of winning against a pretty average visiting side. Whether that lack of ambition was due to the build-up in the preceding week or an admission that we are unable to play with enough confidence to win a game is a debatable issue. If you feel it is due to the depth and quality of the squad then it is surely time to consider asking the Chairman if his aim of becoming a Championship side is realistic and whether there will be any investment in the playing side of the club at any future point in time.

Finally, my apologies that this is more of a discussion-based article than a match report but I am fighting the feeling that we are on a slippery slope at the present time and cannot see where the turning point is going to come.

Stags MoM: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Gary Tyldsley

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 - Hardly anything to do
Dimech 6 - Some good work but also caught out a couple of times
Artell 6 - Steady
John-Baptiste 7 - Good defensive show and probably "Goal of the Season" at Field Mill
Buxton 6 - Good show (particularly when Jake has had little first team football)
Asamoah 5 - Quick, with some fancy footwork, must take the ball with him though
MacKenzie 6 - Worked hard but never found a killer pass
Curtis 6 - Started well, faded as the game went on
McLachlan 5 - Not a good display, did not look on the pace and not good on the ball
Corden 6 - Worked extremely hard but did not reach the level we know he is capable of
Larkin 6 - Absolutely no service at all
Sub Line Up:
Murray (for Corden, 83) 6 - Not enough time to get into the game
Day (for Larkin, 88) - Not sure he got a touch of the ball
Subs not used: White, Neil (why was he on the bench??), Lloyd.
Opposition Line Up:
Gerken, White (Cade 86), Baldwin, Chilvers, Stockley, Johnson, Watson, Garcia, Keith, Halford, Fagan. Subs Not Used: Williams, Bowditch, Elokobi, Cousins.
P Prosser (W Yorkshire)

Season 04/05 Reports