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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Rushden & Diamonds  
0 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 3096 (477 from Mansfield)
Date: 26th February 2005

Martin Shaw at Nene Park

Mansfield were held to a 0-0 draw for the second time this season by lowly Rushden. The Stags put in a fine first half performance and should have buried the Diamonds with chance after chance and some fine flowing football, but after failing to take their chances, Rushden came back strongly in the second half and could have stolen the victory themselves. This was a fine game of flowing football with chances at either end, but failure to win leaves the Stags 5 points behind the final play-off place, which could become 8 points on Tuesday.

The Stags made one change from the side that lost to Wycombe with Luke Dimech returning to the defence at the expense of Tom Curtis. Neil moved from full back to midfield, with Buxton switching to right back. After the game Carlton Palmer explained that he felt that Fraser McLachlan offered more of an attacking threat than Curtis who has played more of a defensive midfield role in his career with Chesterfield. Indeed McLachlan was to play more of an attacking role in this game than we have usually seen from Curtis. There was no place on the bench for Asamaoh - there were plenty of raised eyebrows in the press-box after the game as Palmer explained that Asamaoh would not be playing for the Stags again whilst he (Palmer) is at the club.

As the players warmed up before the game, it was great to see Scott McNiven and Rhys Day both kicking the ball and looking fit. McNiven is recovering from cancer.

The Stags made a positive start and should have been ahead in the early stages. Larkin missed the first of a hat-trick of good chances on 2 minutes when he scuffed a shot on the volley wide of the right post, possibly off his knee, when any sort of good connection would surely have seen a goal. Then on 8 minutes he produced a fine run at the defence beating a couple of defenders before firing in powerful shot that hit the Rushden keeper on the chest and rebounded to safety.

30 seconds later, Baptiste put Rundle in space on the left and his cross-shot deflected off defender Connelly and struck the near post - it was agonisingly close with the keeper well-beaten. Moments later the Stags had another good chance when Rundle crossed from the left - it was a little behind all the Stags players, but Barker turned, swivelled and sliced a shot over the bar. Then Barker was given offside before striking the post, but we had a perfect view from our commentary position and Barker was clearly onside.

On 15 minutes Neil missed another great chance. Rundle again crossed from the left and the keeper punched feebly as far as Neil, on the edge of the box, who shot past the right post with his left foot when he should have hit the target with the keeper grounded.

After a quieter period, Larkin had yet another chance on 28 minutes. Baptiste's free-kick from inside his own half was brilliantly flicked on by Barker into the path of Larkin. The ball came from over Larkin's shoulder and he took it first time on the volley but his shot missed the left post by a whisker. At this stage, we wondered whether the Stags would pay for missing so many chances, in a re-run of the Rushden home game.

Just before the break, Rushden created a great chance of their own when the excellent right-winger Bell sent in a perfect cross for Drewe Broughton, who somehow sent a first time effort wide of the left post when completely unmarked in front of goal.

We reflected at half time that the Stags had played fine flowing football and should have had the game sewn up already.

Half-time 0-0

The Stags began the second half where they ended the first and Adam Murray was so unlucky with two chances in the opening 10 minutes. On 50 minutes he sent a little chip from 12 yards towards the right corner of the goal and keeper Scott Shearer made a great save to turn it round the post. Minutes later Murray sent another chip towards the top left hand corner from the edge of the box and Shearer tipped it round the left post.

Smeltz replaced Larkin on the hour, but on 63 minutes, it was Pilkington's turn to make a brilliant save. Broughton got behind the Stags defence in the six-yard box and only had Pilkington to beat, but the Stags' keeper made a superb save with his right hand tipping the shot around the left post.

Back at the other end, in what was now an end to end game, McLachlan had two chances in a minute midway on 67 minutes. First his fine header from Rundle's cross was well-saved by the keeper down by the bottom corner of the net. Then following the resulting corner, the keeper dropped the cross and the ball seemed to squirm off McLachlan and rolled just wide. Moments later Barker tried his luck from 20 yards and his goalbound shot was blocked.

On 78 minutes the Diamonds came very close to a winner. The outstanding Bell received a pass on the right from Burgess, and sent a crashing drive at Pilkington. Pilkington saved it but it squirmed away from him and inches past the right post in a heart-stopping moment. The Stags final chance of the game came when Neil sent a shot just over the bar from 22 yards.

So the Stags were held to a draw again by lowly Rushden and it must rank as two points dropped. The Stags should have won the game before half time but paid for poor finishing despite some excellent build-up play. This was an entertaining game with both sides trying to go for the win in the second half, but the lack of a clinical finisher in the Stags ranks means that the play-offs may now be beyond their reach.

Man of the Match: Adam Murray

Report by: Martin Shaw at Nene Park

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Superb save from point blank Broughton shot. Also a fine save from Bell but was so lucky when it slipped out of his hands just past the post.
Buxton 6 Played with an injury and defended well. Poor distribution let him down.
John-Baptiste 8 Fine game as usual, though scuffed a couple of clearances. Solid as a rock.
Dimech 7 Did well on his return to the side.
Jelleyman 7 Did well at left back.
Neil 8 Very good game on the right wing. Missed a good chance in the first half.
McLachlan 7 Fine game in an attacking midfield role. Won plenty of tackles.
Murray 8 So unlucky with two shots from the edge of the box that were well-saved.
Rundle 6 Did ok on the left but crossing could have been better. Unlucky when deflected cross-shot hit the post.
Larkin 6 Looked sharp but should have put away one of his 3 gilt-edged chances.
Barker 7 Won just about every every flicked-on header.
Sub Line Up:
Smeltz (for Larkin, 62) 6 Had one chance but lost control in a 1-on-1. Otherwise not involved.
Subs not used: White, Curtis, McIntosh, Lloyd.
Opposition Line Up:
Shearer, Connelly, Hawkins, Gier, Gray, Sharp (Littlejohn 87), Bell, Burgess, Broughton, Dempster, McCafferty.Subs not used: Worgan, Hay, Dove, Okuonghae.

P Melin, Surrey 7 Handled the game ok and was not noticed.

Season 04/05 Reports