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Season 04/05 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Mansfield Town  
1 - 3
 Oxford United
Larkin pen 90
 Basham 8, Hackett 33, 51
Attendance: 3030 (236 from Oxford)
Date: 12th March 2005

Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Mansfield Town fell to their third defeat in four home games against Oxford United at Field Mill this afternoon, with only a draw sandwiched in between. It is a run that has finally put paid to any lingering play-off hopes. It was a truly dreadful performance from the Stags who played with no pattern or cohesion, and the defence which had been the second best in the league until today, were so poor that they could have conceded more goals.

The Stags made an incredible five changes from the side that drew with Shrewsbury a week ago. McNiven and Day returned from long term injuries (it was especially wonderful to see McNiven back from cancer), and were joined in defence by Dimech, in place of the injured Buxton and Baptiste, while Neil moved into right midfield, at the expense of Brown. Curtis replaced McLachlan in midfield, while Barrowman came in for Larkin up front. Palmer explained afterwards that he had intended to play Day alongside Baptiste, but Baptiste picked up an injury on Friday. Palmer said that ideally McNiven and Day would have had a couple of reserve games before returning, but his hand had been forced by injuries to Buxton and Baptiste. Palmer also explained that although he had been saying all week that McLachlan would start the game, he changed his mind because he thought that McLachlan would get a poor reception from the fans and he wanted to bring him back at the right moment.

Oxford arrived at Field Mill having lost four of their previous five games, and having won only once here in the league, back in 1966.

The game started with none of the booing that marked the previous week’s game. But the Stags were off to a terrible start as they went behind on 8 minutes. Dimech made a mistake 35 yards from goal, Hackett made progress down the right and his cross was cleared by Day, but it eventually came back to Basham, who turned Day all too easily on the edge of the box and shot left footed into the left corner of the net.

On 12 minutes McNiven, Neil and Curtis combined to set up Murray for a first time shot from 22 yards. It was sweetly struck, but straight at the keeper. A minute later a good move involving Jelleyman and Rundle allowed Barrowman to get into the box, but his shot from a tight angle was poor and easily saved for a corner.

The game entered an appalling period of 20 minutes with no goalmouth action and no entertainment. On 32 minutes, Rundle had a shot over the bar.

But on 33 minutes it was 2-0 to the visitors. Hackett got behind the Stags defence, strode forward and with only Pilkington to beat, easily lobbed the ball over the Stags keeper. This was too much for some Stags fans who made for the exit. Things got no better for 10 more minutes of inept football with no goalmouth action, though on the stroke of half-time, a loose ball fell to Jelleyman on the edge of the box, but he fired over the bar.

Half-time 0-2

It had been a dreadful first half for the Stags, who played like a group of strangers, with no pattern or cohesion. The team left the pitch to a chorus of boos and a few “Palmer out” chants. The half-time interval was cheered up by the appearance of the legendary Terry Eccles. If only we could have had him in the team today alongside Barker, with McCaffrey supplying the crosses.

McLachlan was introduced at the start of the second half in place of the ineffective Rundle. Immediately there was more urgency to the Stags play, and two early moves showed promise. But terrible play by Neil allowed Robinson in behind the defence and he shot at Pilkington.

Lessons weren’t learned and on 51 minutes the game was over at 3-0. Hackett broke clear after a misplaced flick by McLachlan and had the easiest of tasks to run on and beat Pilkington. Two minutes later, Murray produced a sublime pass to put Barrowman away, but he ran too wide and then fired his shot high and wide. Brown replaced Neil on 56 minutes and a minute later the Stags should have been back in it. McNiven flighted a free kick into the box, it was headed on by Barker and Barrowman had a sight of goal but fired well over the bar. A minute after that Oxford threatened again when Robinson crossed from the left, it was headed goalwards and cleared off the line by Curtis, but the referee had spotted a foul by the Oxford striker.

The game was much more entertaining now and on 59 minutes a cross into the box, Barrowman failed to get his head on it, but it dropped to McLachlan who volleyed just over. Two minutes later Barker fired over on the break. Then three minutes after that, Brown crossed from the right and McLachlan rose above the defence but headed over. The Stags continued to defend poorly and were lucky on 71 minutes when Hackett was harshly adjudged offside as he burst through again in search of a hat-trick. Two minutes later Dimech did produce a great tackle to prevent substitute Davies getting through in a two-on-one situation.

Larkin replaced Barrowman on 74 minutes and the Stags looked more dangerous now with real pace up front. Two minutes later a magnificent pass from Murray found Brown on the right wing. Brown’s cross was good and Barker was nearly on the end of it, but it was cleared. After 80 minutes Murray had a shot blocked, which fell to Jelleyman who fired low and hard but straight at the keeper. On 82 minutes, Larkin chased a ball and got in a shot that was deflected over the keeper but into the side-netting. Then Jelleyman took a free-kick from next to the corner flag and at last he produced a good delivery after an afternoon of poor set-pieces, but Day headed wide.

On 90 minutes, the Stags were rewarded for an improved last 30 minutes when Brown did really well to run at the defence, and was clearly fouled just inside the box. It was a blatant penalty. Larkin stepped up to take the kick and sent it straight down the middle where the keeper saved it, but referee Danson ordered a re-take. This time Larkin sent the ball into the right hand corner of the net.

This was a very poor performance by Mansfield - one of the worst I can remember. But at least the last 30 minutes was better. The Stags now only have pride to play for this season, and after Carlton Palmer’s apology to the fans after this game, a win at Bristol Rovers next week would go a long way to restoring that.

Man of the Match: Adam Murray

Report by: Martin Shaw at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pilkington 6 Couldn’t be blamed for any of the goals.
McNiven 5 Wonderful to see him back against his former club, but he was way off the pace.
Dimech 5 Poor game, often being beaten by surging Oxford runs. Remarkably (in my opinion) given the sponsors’ Man of the Match.
Day 5 Great to see him back as well, but looked very rusty.
Jelleyman 5 Terrible first half, though got better in the second.
Neil 6 Back in midfield, but created little.
Curtis 5 Poor game, did nothing.
Murray 7 My Man of the Match - tried to make things happen, and some great passing.
Rundle 5 Poor first half, perhaps his worst in a Stags shirt.
Barrowman 4 Young lad who lost every header he went for and whose shots were very poor. Hopefully he can only get better.
Barker 6 Surprisingly beaten in the air all too often but was fouled rather a lot without the officials spotting it.
Sub Line Up:
McLachlan (for Rundle, 46) 6 Much improved performance.
Brown (for Neil, 56) 7 Injected some pace into the side and deserved to win the penalty.
Larkin (for Barrowman, 74) 6 Looked reasonably sharp, and scored his tenth goal of the season. But have we seen the last performance in a Stags shirt of the little jinking Irishman?
Subs not used: White, McIntosh.
Opposition Line Up:
Tardif, Mackay, Ashton, Roget, Corbo, Hackett, Quinn, Cominelli (Diaz 68), Robinson (Raponi 65), Bradbury, Basham (Davies 63). Subs not used: Wanless, Clarke.
Paul Danson 6 Had a decent game, though consistently missed fouls on Barker.

Season 04/05 Reports