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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
2 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Wijnhard 63, Hignett 74
 Barker 36
Attendance: 3686 (221 from Mansfield)
Date: 7th December 2004

Dean Foulkes at the Williamson Motors Stadium

We boarded the SSA coach at 3pm Tuesday afternoon for the destination of the Williamson Motors Stadium, Darlington, with renewed optimism following a 10 day break. The break was much needed by the fans never mind anyone else after what has seemed like weeks of confusion and speculation about all things Mansfield Town. Although we were still none the wiser regarding the Curle / Palmer scenario we hoped that at least the break would have given the new look side time to gel in training, and we had finally signed Simon Brown after another lengthy saga. Alex - John Baptiste and Derek Asamoah returned to the side after bans, although Talbot was ruled out with an infected toe and Artell was banned following a rash of yellow cards. The Darlington stadium is absolutely magnificent if ridiculously too big, and the place just smacks of class and smells of cash! Everything is plush and polished and we arrived in plenty of time for several pints for a pound. Although the home crowd were scattered around the stadium in little pockets it was " Bang The Drum For Darlington " night so it was a little noisy. I again asked the same question I did last year, Darlingtons colours are predominately black and white with a dash of red, but 24,000 out of 25,000 seats are all red! Why? There was concern amongst Stags fans when we realised the quality of Darlingtons strikers, Clyde Wijnhard`s 4 goals for Oldham against us still too fresh in the memory, then add Craig Hignett and Alun Armstrong and you surely have a dream forward line at this level.

With Corden and Asamoah on the flanks and Murray controlling the midfield the Stags tried to play good controlled passing football in the first half and with Neil a makeshift right back he looked reasonably assured when called upon. Asamoah hit the keepers legs with a shot early on and looked dangerous with his pace on occasions. Barker perhaps should have scored on 34 minutes when a cross from Neil picked out the new Stags striker whose header was clutched fairly easily by the Darlington keeper. However on 36 a moment we had been waiting for when Murray slipped the ball through for Barker to run onto to place the ball across the keeper at the far end of the stadium to give Stags a deserved lead.

HT Darlington 0 Stags 1

To much amazement at half time Asamoah who I thought had looked lively throughout the first half was replaced by new signing Brown. Questions were asked at the time at the need to change what was a winning side who had played some excellent football in the first half and looked comfortable. Asamoah had just finished a fortnights break having been banned and looked sharp. Wayne Corden clipped the crossbar moments into the second half which was his first real contribution to the night but from then on it appeared that the Stags had been instructed to try and hang on to the lead. Darlington sensed the initiative and upped the pace and appeared to control the midfield, winning every second ball with Murray and co fading fast. Darlington appeared to want the ball more and had a purpose when they got it. The Quakers forced attack after attack and several corners and Pilkington was being called into action far too much. Neil began to look exposed playing out of position and the Darlington players were hounding the Stags at every opportunity. We just could not pick up the pace of the game with the strikers more and more isolated. Brown appeared to be playing up front rather than replacing Asamoah on the wing and it was real backs to the wall stuff. Fans were commenting about the complete change of the game possession wise and particularly frustrating was the lack of any Stags players even near the halfway line at Darlington corners or free kicks. It appeared a negative tactic and we were sucked further and further back. The leveller appeared a scrambled affair netted by that man Wijnhard on 63 but it was surely only a matter of time as we struggled to clear the Darlo attacks. 12 minutes later a foul on Wijnhard resulted in another free kick although we couldn`t judge it from our position at the back of the opposite goal. A quickly stabbed free kick took a big deflection to fool Pilkington for another Darlo goal. Despondency amongst the Stags faithful, although an unlucky goal to concede the Stags really only had themselves to blame for the manner in which they were sitting back and inviting wave after wave of attacks. Webster almost added a third late on but the writing was on the wall and defeat was tasted yet again. The ultimate game of two halves and a classic example of how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The feeling amongst the Stags fans was one of losing the game through an unnecessary half time substitution which appeared to upset the Stags rhythm and pattern of play. It appeared the players had been told to sit back and the plan backfired. So Carltons current record is played 5 won 0 drawn 2 and lost 3. One of the drawn games was playing against a side with 10 men for the majority of the game. Pre match comments about starting a mini pre season and results not mattering isn't helping him winning the fans over. Amongst the circus style undercurrent of confusion and unsettlement at Field Mill the real people that matter, us the fans are having to watch our season go down the pan while all the bickering goes on around us. Was it really just a few months ago everything looked so promising and we had the biggest opportunity to grow the club and fan base we had had for years? It looks at the moment like we have written off the season and have to be content with starting all over again building a side and at this rate we will be grateful for League 2 survival. In a poor league we haven't won since Notts County at home which seems light years away. The hardcore support is sadly being killed off with many losing all faith in the leadership and direction of the club. Weeks later we seem no further forward with the Curle situation and we are left facing up to what looks like a long hard winter ahead.

Darlington 2 Stags 1

Report by: Dean Foulkes at the Williamson Motors Stadium

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 - some good saves, good shouts and improving on crosses
Buxton 7 - solid display
John Baptiste 7 - great interceptions
Dimech 7 - played well at the back
Neil 6 - did ok playing out of position, exposed in the 2nd half
Asamoah 7 - looked lively, pacey and sharp 1st half, why was he taken off at half time?
Corden 5 - largely anomymous, low on confidence, why doesent he cut inside and shoot anymore?
Murray 7 - all action first half, disappeared 2nd half
Curtis 6 - usual committed display, chasing shadows 2nd half
Barker 7 - great finish, no real service after the goal - isolated
Warne 6 - fairly quiet but isolated 2nd half
Sub Line Up:
Brown (for Asamoah, 46) 6 - looked enthusiastic 2nd half and will be an asset
Subs not used: White, Maxwell, McIntosh, Wood.
Opposition Line Up:
S Russell, C Fleming, M Clarke (64 D McGurk) , J Kendrick, I Clark (89 C Russell) , N Wainwright, N Maddison, A Webster (85 C Keltie) , C Hignett, A Armstrong, C Wijnhard
Subs: R Valentine, C Keltie, D McGurk, C Russell, M Convery
E Evans

Season 04/05 Reports