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Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Mansfield Town  
0 - 1
 Rushden & Diamonds
 Allen 44
Attendance: 3402 (243 from Rushden)
Date: 9th August 2005


Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at Field Mill

Mansfield Town fell to a hugely disappointing defeat in the first home game of the season this evening, against a Rushden team who are expected to finish in the bottom four. The Stags started brightly for 15 minutes but faded for 30 minutes and received a sucker punch just before the break from a well-worked Rushden corner. In the second half, the Stags changed to a more effective 4-4-2 formation with width from substitutes Brown and Rundle, but were still unable to crack open a tight defence supported by an excellent goalkeeping display.

Mansfield had 7 players making their home league debuts, in front of a small attendance, played to background of music from a nearby “party in the park” concert. The Stags made one change from the side that drew at Stockport, with Uhlenbeek replacing the injured Carlton Palmer. The game kicked off 5 minutes late due to the late arrival of the visitors - a point that Palmer was unhappy about in his post-match interview.

The Stags made a positive start and could have gone ahead on 2 minutes. Barker forced a corner on the right and from it, Tipton just failed to turn the ball into the net in the 6 yard box after Barker knocked the ball goalwards. A minute later the Stags had a big shout for a penalty when a Rushden defender seemed to handle the ball in the box. It looked a clear penalty but the referee waved appeals away. On 7 minutes, Tipton released Peers but his cross was poor.

On 9 minutes the Stags came so close to opening the scoring when Tipton broke clear on the right and fired a thunderous shot towards the top right hand corner of the net, but somehow Young in the Rushden goal acrobatically tipped the ball around for a corner. It was a terrific save; the first of several. On 14 minutes, the Diamonds made their first break into the Stags half as Pearson put a weak shot into the side netting. A minute later the Stags were back on the attack as Tipton pushed the ball forward for Birchall whose shot bounced into the ground and nearly up and over the keeper who just kept it out. On 20 minutes, the Stags were presented with a chance after a defensive mix-up but Birchall shot over the bar from the edge of the box. A minute later Rushden had their first corner which came to nothing. On 23 minutes Birchall got to the byeline on the left, but failed to deliver a telling cross when so well-placed. Very frustrating. Two minutes later Birchall’s cross was fumbled by the keeper but didn’t fall to a Stags player. It turned out to be the keeper’s only mistake of the night. On 29 minutes Rushden’s Kelly fired over from a corner. A minute later, Uhlenbeek, drove a straight at the keeper from the right.

Half an hour gone, and the Stags had lost a bit of momentum after a cracking start.

On 35 minutes, McLachlan played in Dawson who shot wide of the post. It was the first time Dawson had been seen on the night. The Stags had a succession of corners, but on 39 minutes Hjelde dreadfully lost possession on the halfway line. The hugely impressive David Bell raced forward and fired towards goal but Pressman did very well to come out of his goal and palm the ball over. From the resulting corner, beautifully delivered by Bell, Gulliver volleyed just wide. On 44 minutes, Bell delivered a low ball from a corner to the edge of the six yard box at the near post where Allen crashed the ball home, completely unmarked. It was sleepy defending from the Stags, but clever play from David Bell, who we had identified as the dangerman before the game.

It was a disappointing end to the half that had started well for Mansfield. But failure to take early chances and make use of huge territorial advantage was costly. The Stags struggled to put anything together from midfield, and Uhlenbeek, McLachlan and Dawson were almost completely anonymous. The stated formation of 4-3-3 was clearly actually 4-5-1 since Barker was continually left isolated, until the Stags pushed forward. Rushden had gradually come into it and had delivered some warning shots before the goal game. David Bell in midfield, wearing white boots, was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch with his sheer class.

Half time 0-1

Jake Buxton replaced the limping Hjelde at the start of the second half. The half started quietly, until Rushden got a free kick 25 yards out on 53 minutes. We all knew Bell would strike it, which after a couple of dummies he did, but thankfully the thunderbolt flew just over the bar. The ineffective Uhlenbeek was replaced by Brown on 55 minutes, as the Stags reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, with Birchall in left midfield. Almost immediately Brown was into the action as he ran across the box looking for an opening or a penalty, and eventually played a ball for Barker which just evaded the Stags new captain. On 59 minutes, a Barker header put Birchall clear on the left, but his shot to the near post was well saved.

On 64 minutes Rundle replaced Tipton giving the Stags more width on the left, and Birchall moving further forward. A minute later McLachlan sent in a tremendous snap-shot from 22 yards, which the keeper did brilliantly to catch at full stretch. It was probably the best effort of McLachlan’s Stags career, during an otherwise poor performance from the little midfielder. We immediately noted that the Stags had stepped up a gear with Brown and Rundle able to run at defenders, rather than the earlier tactic of just pumping hopeful high balls up to Barker. It also brought the crowd more to life.

On 74 minutes, Birchall sliced a poor shot over following a Rundle free-kick. A minute later, Pressman tipped a header from Gulliver over the bar.

The Stags had a great chance on 77 minutes, when Barker’s flicked header put Rundle through. The youngster ran towards goal and from about 18 yards fired a low shot that was heading just inside the far post, when the keeper somehow tipped the ball just wide. It was another great save. On 82 minutes, McLachlan pulled back Chillingworth in a Rushden breakaway and was rightly booked.

On 87 minutes the crowd was on its feet almost celebrating a Stags equalizer. A ball fell to Brown in the box, and his point blank shot was saved by the keeper, who also collected the rebound. It looked like a goal all the way. Then in the first minute of 4 minutes of stoppage time, a free kick was taken by Barker from 25 yards, which took a deflection but not enough to deceive the keeper who saved low to his right.

So the Stags fell to a frustrating and disappointing defeat. The Stags looked disjointed which is understandable given that there were 7 players making their home debuts. The manager has two big jobs to sort out quickly. Firstly he has to somehow gel this group of players together. Secondly on tonight’s evidence a 4-4-2 formation with wide men looks more dangerous than his stated preference of 4-3-3 which in reality looks more like a 4-5-1. The problem seemed to be that none of Barker, Tipton and Birchall look like natural wingers, which makes the whole structure very narrow. There were some good performances, notably from Peers, Day and Barker, plus substitutes Brown and Rundle, but too many players lacked any creativity and the midfield of Dawson, McLachlan and Uhlenbeek was particularly disappointing. Deadball situations also have to be improved, at both ends. The Stags defending for Rushden’s goal was woeful, and they had even received a couple of warnings shortly before. Meanwhile at the other end, the Stags had countless free kicks and corners delivered into the box, mostly by the hapless Jelleyman, who barely found a Stags head all night.

After the game, Carlton Palmer said that the Stags had battered Rushden. This was not how we saw it! Rushden came with a game plan and it worked. The Stags need to get more creative. The Stags need to bounce back with a win against Torquay on Saturday, which will kick-start the season. Any sort of win will do. Come on Mansfield.

Man of the match: Gavin Peers

Report by: Martin Shaw & Jeff Barnes at Field Mill

Line Up:
Pressman 6 Made two good tip-overs, but kicked the ball into touch 6 times.
Peers 7 Looked confident on the ball and defended ok.
Day 7 Won aerial balls in defence and looked solid. Failed to make an impact at the other end.
Hjelde 6 Did ok. Injured towards the end of the first half.
Jelleyman 5 Defended ok but took most of the dead-ball kicks, which were very poor.
Dawson 6 Anonymous early on, and never really got into the game.
McLachlan 5 Contributed very little, though had one excellent snap shot from distance.
Uhlenbeek 5 Not up to the pace of the game. No creativity.
Tipton 6 Unlucky with a superb early effort and always eager for the ball.
Birchall 6 Very active but created few real chances.
Barker 7 Solid as ever and suffered from poor service.
Sub Line Up:
Buxton (for Hjelde, 46) 6 Had little to do.
Brown (for Uhlenbeek, 55) 7 Immediately made a difference with pace and width.
Rundle (for Tipton, 64) 7 Did well, and so unlucky with one shot tipped around post.
Subs not used: Lloyd, Beardsley.
Opposition Line Up:
J Young, R Gier, G Allen, P Gulliver, P Hawkins, D Bell, N McCafferty, A Nicholls, M Kelly, D Chillingworth, G Pearson
Subs: A Woodman, J Taylor, M Okuonghae, S Wark, D Grainger
N Swarbrick 6 Did ok. Missed a penalty shout in the first half for the Stags.

Season 05/06 Reports