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Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Stockport County  
2 - 2
 Mansfield Town
Easter 48, 66.
 Dawson 22, Birchall 31.
Attendance: 4970 (1100 from Mansfield)
Date: 6th August 2005

The Stags began the new season with just one player who started the opening match a year ago, Rhys Day. There were seven players making their league debut, with manager Carlton Palmer sticking with his promise to play 4-3-3. There were a couple of surprises in the starting eleven, with Hjelde preferred to Buxton and McLachlan preferred to either Uhlenbeek or Coke. Stockport also included several debutants, with Jermaine Easter and Tess Bramble forming a pacey forward line. The Stags were backed by a huge following, so large that Stockport had to open the end behind the goal to accommodate the visiting supporters.

The opening to the game was cagey, both sides adjusting to the pace of competitive football and neither keeper being tested. Barker had the Stags first real chance, latching on to a Dawson pass he beat County keeper Spencer to the ball but was unable to hook his foot around the ball enough to get it on target. However, the Stags did manage to find the target on 22 minutes and this time Spencer was picking the ball out of his net. Birchall did superbly on the edge of the area to shield the ball and then find Dawson, his first touch wasn't the best but he managed to fire a low shot from 18 yards into the bottom corner. Pressman was almost immediately called into action as the Stags almost proved the old addage that you are at your most vulnerable when you have just scored. McLachlan's aimless ball in midfield gave Briggs some space on the right hand side of the area, his low shot was parried and then grabbed by Pressman, for what would prove his only save of the half. Just past the half hour the Stags went two up. Barker shielded the ball well from a Jelleyman throw and tee'd up Birchall, the striker cut across the area and fired a low shot into the opposite corner found by Dawson but with the same effect. The Stags could, and perhaps should have gone in further ahead with the Stockport defence looking very shaky, both Tipton and Barker failing to hit the target when perhaps they at least ought to have tested Spencer. An excellent opening half to the season, but during half time we commented that it was vital Stockport were given nothing early as their heads had begun to drop.

Half Time 0-2

Sadly, the Stags could only maintain their two goal advantage for three second half minutes. Hjelde and Day had handled the lively Stockport strikers well in the first half, but both must be asking themselves how a long free kick, harshly given against Barker, was allowed to travel just a few yards from goal where Easter was on hand to hit a poorly struck shot past a static Pressman. This was the tonic the Hatters needed and for the first time in the match, the home side were well and truly on top, aided it has to be said by some refereeing decisions home sides always seem to get. Indeed, in the opening stages of the half lots a free kicks were given against Stags players which defied belief - yep the season has started folks!! Palmer, who had been struggling with what appeared a groin strain he suffered in the opening minute of the match, was replaced by Coke but still the Stags were on the back foot and unable to keep control of the ball for any length of time. Indeed, there was an air of inevitability about the equaliser and once more questions have to be asked of the Stags central defenders as, after yet another harsh free kick awarded against the Stags, the ball wasn't cleared and Easter headed his second of the game. Rundle immediately replaced Birchall as the Stags switched to a 4-4-2. This had the desired affect and I believe had the formation not been changed the Stags would have gone on to lose the match. As it was, the Stags will rue several missed chances towards the end of the game. Twice Tipton hit powerful shots just over from the right and in injury time Rhys Day should have hit the target with a header from a corner, instead heading just wide. However, Stockport could also point to a chance just three minutes before the end when, from a Stags corner, the home side broke quickly and Bramble was found in acres of space with only Pressman to beat - the former Southend striker took too long and a last ditch challenge by Jelleyman prevented him hitting the target.

On balance the draw was a fair result, both sides can point to good chances but after being 2-0 ahead, clearly the Stags will be most disappointed at not gaining all three points. An excellent opening half performance was spoiled by a poor opening half hour in the 2nd half, where not only was the Stags lack of pace in the centre of defence exposed, but defending from set pieces left much to be desired. On a positive note, there were some promising signs from many of the new players, Adam Birchall had a fine first half, Tipton showed glimpses of the player he can be with a few more matches under his belt and Stephen Dawson was excellent throughout, but more noticeably in the opening half when he was absolutely everywhere. It was also interesting to note that when the manager switched to 4-4-2, the Stags looked more comfortable and got themselves back into the game.

Man of the Match: Stephen Dawson

Report by: Rob Wheldon

Line Up:
K Pressman 6 One good save and good handling, but not sure why he didn't try and save Stockports first goal
G Peers 7 Looks a very accomplished full back
R Day 6 Good first half, struggled in the 2nd
J Hjelde 5 Solid enough in the first half, laboured badly in the 2nd
G Jelleyman 7 Good game from Gareth
S Dawson 8 Fine goal and an all round good display
C Palmer 6 Struggled with the early injury but did OK
F McLachlan 6 Decent first half but struggled in the 2nd
M Tipton 6 Still looked a little rusty, but glimpses of his class
R Barker 6 Hard working display but little came off for him today
A Birchall 7 A real menace, good goal and also assisted in the opener
Sub Line Up:
Coke (for Palmer, 56) 6 Never really got involved
Rundle (for Birchall, 67) 6 Did OK but one or two wayward crosses
Subs not used: Uhlenbeek, Buxton, Brown.
Opposition Line Up:
J Spencer, R Clare, M Raynes (77 R Greenwood) , A Williams, M Robinson, H Singh (65 M Hamshaw) , M Wolski, D Boshell, K Briggs (83 M Malcolm) , J Easter, T Bramble. Subs not used: M Duke, A Le Fondre.
G Sutton 4 - Homer

Season 05/06 Reports