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Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca Cola League 2
Chester City  
3 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Blundell 1, 59, Lowe 79.
 Baptiste 66.
Attendance: 3079 (approx 400 from Mansfield)
Date: 2 September 2005

Luke Mawbey at the Deva Stadium

I must admit when the fixtures were first introduced this was one I looked out for in particular, the first meeting with Chester. Not only due to the fact it was desperate for the Stags to get back on track after such a bitter defeat on Monday to Notts County, but also gave former Stags, and now Chester boss Keith Curle the chance to pit his witts against his successor. While Palmer continues to struggle, Curle is now arguably in his managerial pomp. Try telling him this was just another game.

Stags as expected due to injuries and international call-ups made just the one change, Uhlenbeek in for Brown who moved to partner Ritchie Barker up front. Chester included Dimech, Artell, and McNiven, all released by Palmer in the summer. Also in City’s line up was a certain Gregg Blundell who Stags fans will remember “rather well” from our clashes with Doncaster two years ago. Curle also responded by applauding the Stags travelling fans after being given the welcome “Curly give us a wave”.

The game itself however, could not have got off to a worse start. Within seconds Chester had forced an early corner. Although it came to nothing, Peers could only force it straight behind for a second in succession. From the resulting corner, Ben Davies knocked a short ball in to Gregg Blundell. Davies then scuffed a cross, which bounced, and missed everybody but former Stag Dave Artell who powered a header past a hapless Kevin Pressman. It was the worst possible start and a bitter pill to swallow, particularly as for some reason Chester players were queuing up to score. (post-match change: goal credited by Blundell, not Artell).

As the first 15 minutes progressed, Stags did begin to knock a few good passes around however it was clear their fitness and strength may become a problem. Barker was doing well, but the midfield in particular looked very lightweight and often slow to second balls. Indeed it took 11 mins for the Stags to have their first attack. From Jellyman’s corner, a game of head tennis between Buxton and Barker found Brown, only for his deflected shot to hit the side netting. In any case, Chester keeper MacKenzie had it well covered.

The next chance did fall to the hosts. Again it was the side and not inside netting which bulged as Justin Walker hit a free kick around the wall, but outside of Pressman’s post. Artell then ruined his good start by needlessly bringing down Brown when the Stag frontman was away and clear. A yellow card however was the right decision.

In quick succession two Stags half chances followed. Jelleyman headed wide after a scramble, and Barker could not quite shake off Dimech this time and hit a tame shot at the keeper.

On 33 mins, the Stags almost found themselves two down. A quick thrown from McNiven found a super first time touch from Ryan Lowe to play him in. A first time cross was crazily fumbled by Pressman, and with the goal gaping, somehow Gavin Peers covered superbly to deny Branch and clear the ball behind for a corner.

The first half was played out with no other incidents of note, however the Stags would have thought their possession was OK, but final ball poor.

Half time 0-1.

No changes were made at half time by either manager, and the first chance came the Stags way. Gilkes Coke hit a speculative 20 yard shot with his left peg. MacKenzie spilled it straight into the path of Simon Brown, who was flagged for off side. Technically known as offside in “phase two”.

Day and Buxton continued to struggle against Chester’s fast, clever forward three of Lowe, Branch and Blundell. Indeed a bad mistake with both going for the same ball let in Branch, only for Pressman to save with his feet.

Chester were beginning to dominate and it came as no real surprise when they took a two goal lead just past the hour mark. Talbot was for the only occasion all night beaten for pace by the impressive Drummond whose cross looped up. With Pressman helplessly on his near post, Day and Buxton leaving Blundell all alone to head into an empty net. It was such a soft goal, and almost carbon copy of Peterborough’s decisive 2nd at London Road a couple of weeks ago.

Palmer had himself obviously had enough and substituted Talbot for Rundle and Dawson for Coke. By this time chants of “Keith Curle’s barmy army” could be heard from behind the goal with Stags fans inside. Shortly after the third substitution followed, this time Hjelde for Buxton.

Rundle seemed to make a difference, just having that extra balance. A quick snap shot which just fired wide was followed by the only piece of real quality which got the Stags back into the game. A neat jink inside and quality cross found a towering Baptiste who beat MacKenzie to the ball and powered a header into the top centre of the net. It was scarcely deserved, but a lifeline all the same.

However the pressure did not build and Chester were soon back in control. It came as no real surprise when a third and killer goal eventually came. This time another cross from the right found a yet again unmarked Blundell, a cushioned knockback found the impressive Lowe who cleverly let the ball bounce before driving his shot with power into the bottom left hand corner.

The remaining ten minutes were one of resignation, and had it not been for some sloppy balls from Chester on the break, the score could have been even worse.

Once more only Ritchie Barker, who worked tirelessly was the only player to applaud the 400 travelling fans. Several points can be taken from this performance. Fitness looks a major worry as does our back four. The midfield look isolated, and more importantly everybody who has played this season seems unsure of their roles, expectations and duties. This should be down to the manager, but could also be a question of time to gel. However many Stags fans including myself don’t accept this. Palmer’s post-match interview suggested that of a man clearly feeling the pressure. At this even early stage it is difficult to see how things can pick up, although time is still on our side. I will congratulate another manager, this time Keith Curle, for planning against our downfall perfectly on the night and deserving his win.

Man of the match - Richie Barker

Report by: Luke Mawbey at the Deva Stadium

Line Up:
Pressman – 5 (two decent saves, but definitely at fault for second goal and looked very shaky)
Peers – 5 (did OK, but often exposed and final ball poor when in good wide areas)
Talbot – 6 (pick of back four. Defended well, but struggled to get forward)
Day – 5 (not his old self. Caught out of position too often and passing was woeful)
Buxton – 5 (struggled against Blundell and Branch. Barely seen in possession)
Uhlenbeek - 6 (worked the right side well, little defending to do, but crossing let him down badly)
Jelleyman – 5 (didn’t do much wrong but failed to snuff out Chester’s potent right hand side)
Coke – 6 (good passing when on the ball, but starved of possession)
Baptiste – 6 (took his goal well, but is clearly not a midfielder. We need him at the back, and quickly)
Brown – 6 (ran the channels tirelessly with little effort)
Barker – 7 (same as usual. 100% effort and ability, but given no chance from elsewhere)
Sub Line Up:
Rundle (for Talbot, 63) – 6 (quality cross for goal, only player who looked like he could make a difference)
Dawson (for Coke, 63) – 6 (like Coke, good in possession, but saw so little of the ball)
Hjelde (for Buxton, 68)– 5 (mix up for Chester’s third goal, but arguably was fighting a lost cause)
Subs not used: White, Lloyd
Opposition Line Up:
MacKenzie, McNiven, Artell, Dimech, Regan, Drummond, Curtis, Davies (Walker 89), Lowe, Branch (Bertos 89), Blundell (Richardson 89).
Subs Not Used: Vaughan, Bolland.
Mark Fletcher (Worcestershire) – 7 (largely anonymous, which suggests he had a good game. No controversial decisions and let the game flow)

Season 05/06 Reports