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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Boston United  
0 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 3354 (1053 from Mansfield)
Date: 20th November 2004


Martin Shaw at York Street

The Stags picked up a useful point in a dramatic encounter at York Street this afternoon, but will come away feeling that they should have robbed Boston United of their unbeaten home record. The Stags played against 10 men for more than half the match but couldn’t make their possession count as they again failed to hit the target. Boston were reduced to 10 men after 36 minutes when Lee Beevers was sent off in an incident that bizarrely saw the home side awarded a penalty. Kevin Pilkington saved the penalty and went on to play very well, as did the home keeper Nathan Abbey, who produced fine saves from Dave Artell in the first half, and Neil MacKenzie in stoppage time, to rob the Stags of the points.

The Stags made two changes from the side that had drawn with Colchester in the FA Cup: 19 year-old loan signing Jason Talbot came in at left back, with Buxton moving to right back and Dimech dropping to the bench; while Alex Neil came in on the right in place of the suspended Asamoah. The Stags had youngsters Callum Lloyd and Dean Hankey on the bench. Boston included recent Stags target Daryl Clare, who chose to rejoin his former club instead, on the bench.

On a cold afternoon, when the temperature only just crept above zero degrees, I took my place in the press box to provide commentary for Stags World with Steve Hartshorn. Unfortunately for us, the press box was behind one goal, making it very difficult to see what was going on at the far end, and also there was a ledge in front of us which meant we could only see the near goal by getting to our feet and potentially annoying the press behind us. Decidedly non-league conditions and a very poor set-up all round at a very poor ground.

In the opening couple of minutes MacKenzie tried his luck from the halfway line but put his effort over the bar. The Stags best chance of the first half fell to Artell on 13 minutes. A Corden free kick was played sideways to MacKenzie, whose shot was deflected and bounced up perfectly for Artell to head the ball towards the top left hand corner of the net. It looked a goal all the way but somehow Nathan Abbey stretched to turn the ball away. Moments later McLachlan made a break down the middle but shot wide. McLachlan was playing really well and after being fouled by Beevers who received a booking that was later to become significant, the Stags midfielder seemed unlucky to be booked himself when he appeared to be brought down 25 yards out but was booked for diving. But on 26 minutes, McLachlan was crocked in his own box and while play continued then Wayne Corden went down injured at the other end. Both Stags players received attention for a couple of minutes, but while Corden was able to continue, albeit carrying an injury as caretaker manager Palmer later revealed, McLachlan had to limp off with ligament damage. Murray came on as substitute.

On 36 minutes came the major talking point of the game. Artell went down inside the Stags own box in an off the ball incident, and with the Stags fans behind the goal chanting “off, off, off” towards the Boston defender Beevers, the referee produced a yellow and then a red card for Beevers who had earlier been booked. Then the referee went over to the consult his linesman, and proceeded to book Artell. Then incredibly the referee pointed to the penalty spot, as Artell turned away in amazement with his head in his hands. The whole press box gasped with amazement and no-one had any idea why the kick had been awarded. Tam McManus stepped up and hit it low to the right, but Pilkington dived down to his left and saved well to give the Stags fans something to cheer about.

Half time 0-0

The second half was mostly about the shooting of Neil MacKenzie, as he had about 4 or 5 shots off target when making space for himself. Artell had a great chance early in the half when from a corner the ball ran free to him but he somehow sent his effort wide from 6 yards. Then Alex Neil had a cross-shot spectacularly saved by Abbey, though it was difficult to tell from the far end whether it was on target or not.

Larkin had a couple of chances but both were very poor efforts on a dreadful day for the Stags lone striker. Neil, who was having an improved second half, crossed for Murray, but the Stags substitute could not direct his header on goal. It was becoming a story of the Stags missing the target with effort after effort.

The game came to life in the last five minutes. First Jason Lee missed a sitter from 2 yards. A cross from the right by Ellender was just over Clare’s head but fell perfectly for Lee who somehow managed to get his shot up and over the bar when it would have been easier to score. Then the dangerous Clare got away from the Stags defence and shot just wide, though the referee gave a foul to Mansfield. Clare then set up a shot for Lee, who blasted miles over the bar. Clare was showing just what the Stags missed out on with an impressive display as substitute.

But the Stags had a great chance to win it in injury time as MacKenzie wormed his way into the box and produced a fine shot on target. It was perhaps his first on target shot of the game. But Nathan Abbey did well to save it and the game was over.

And so the game ended in stalemate. On balance I think this was two points dropped rather than one gained, though we would have settled for a point in advance. The Stags problem is obvious: lack of firepower and the fact that they had so many efforts off target today tells its own story. If a team is having lots of efforts on target then your luck can change, but if you don’t hit the target then it can’t be considered bad luck. It’s very clear that a new striker is needed and after the game Carlton Palmer revealed that he will be working hard on Sunday and Monday trying to find the right player. I had the opportunity to talk to the caretaker manager briefly after the game as I was given the job of getting him up to the press area for interviews with Mansfield 103.2 and Radio Nottingham, and I found him to be an impressive character; he also gave a couple of good interviews. He also commented that if the club had been able to sign Luke Beckett then the Stags would have won today and last Saturday.

Man of the match: Kevin Pilkington

Report by: Martin Shaw at York Street

Line Up:
Pilkington 9 Excellent game; good penalty save and fine handling and punching from crosses.
Buxton 7 Solid game at right back. Could have done better when had space to move forward.
Artell 7 Did well, though walked a fine line after he had been booked and could have been sent off. Unlucky not to score when his header was brilliantly saved.
John-Baptiste 8 Very fine game for the new skipper. Snuffed out dangerous raids from Boston.
Talbot 7 Good debut for the 19-year old. Solid, with no mistakes.
Neil 6 Quiet fast half; came more into the game in the second half.
Curtis 7 Did well, winning lots of balls in the middle.
McLachlan 8 Had a very good opening half hour, causing lots of danger; crocked by a defender and went off with ligament damage. Could be out for a while.
MacKenzie 8 Involved in most of the action. Created plenty of danger and unlucky to have a shot saved in injury time, but had far too many off target shots earlier in the game.
Corden 6 Picked up an injury in the first half, and showed good courage to play on. But didn’t put in good enough crosses.
Larkin 5 Looks terribly out of sorts. Saw plenty of the ball but wasn’t clinical enough and didn’t look like scoring.
Sub Line Up:
Murray (for McLachlan, 26) 5 Gave the ball away too often, and didn’t create anything positive
Subs not used: White, Dimech, Lloyd, Hankey.
Opposition Line Up:
Abbey, West (Melton 45), Beevers, Ellender, McCann, Thompson, Noble (Rusk 42), Greaves, Thomas, Lee, McManus (Clare 69).
Subs Not Used: Strong, O'Halloran.
Mark Warren 6 Bizarre goings on with the penalty. Otherwise did ok.

Season 04/05 Reports