{ match reports }
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca Cola League 2
2 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Sturrock 25, Holt 83
Attendance: 2965 (323 from Mansfield)
Date: 17 September 2005


Martin Shaw at Spotland

This afternoon will be remembered for the resignation of Carlton Palmer. It followed a 2-0 defeat against an impressive Rochdale unit. It was not a great afternoon for Palmer as a series of tactical blunders handed the initiative to Dale and left supporters bewildered.

Palmer chose a bizarre 5-3-2 formation, leaving out star players Adam Birchall and Adam Rundle, instead preferring to play Jason Talbot in midfield alongside Fraser McLachlan. Uhlenbeek and Jelleyman operated as wing backs. Dawson was ruled out through injury, while Gavin Peers didn’t make the 16. Hjelde joined Day and Baptiste in a three-man central defence. Rochdale, managed by Steve Parkin and Tony Ford, included Jamie Clarke, victim of the Field Mill boo boys, and Grant Holt, who Keith Curle had a chance of bringing to Field Mill at the start of last season.

The Stags started brightly, but it was Rochdale who created the early chances. Baptiste did brilliantly to head a Holt header off the line after Pressman seemed to be caught slightly out of position following Lambert’s free kick. Then a good interchange between Jelleyman and Talbot saw Talbot shoot straight the keeper when a better option would have been to pass to an unmarked Brown. Dale were looking sharp though and Holt did brilliantly to get in a shot from an acute angle that was very well saved by Pressman. Lambert soon shot wide, before more superb play by Holt saw him shoot from the angle of the penalty box and it was creeping towards the top corner before Pressman tipped it over.

A goal was coming and it duly arrived on 25 minutes. Holt crossed from the right and Hjelde failed to clear, letting in Jones, who found Sturrock. Sturrock did well to hold off a defender before shooting low past Pressman into the far corner.

The Stags were being overrun and Palmer made a double change on 37 minutes with Birchall and Rundle replacing McLachlan and Talbot. Baptiste moved into midfield as the Stags reverted to 4-4-2. It was bizarre that Baptiste, clearly the best defender was moved out of the position, when Hjelde could have been removed allowing Baptiste to stay in defence. It was also bizarre that Birchall and Rundle didn’t start the game, given their undoubted quality. The Stags fans chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at manager Palmer, and this was aimed at the choice of the starting eleven, rather than the choice of side that he had now on the pitch. During the rest of the half, and at other stages in the game, a large section of the assembled Stags fans chanted “Palmer out”.

The Stags ended the half stronger and gave us hope that there could be a second half turnaround.

Half time 1-0

At the start of the second half, Birchall and Brown changed places, with Brown moving to right midfield, and Birchall going up front alongside Barker. The Stags were much better in the early stages of the second half and looked very capable of equalising. Coke interchanged well with Brown and almost got into a good position, but was too close to the byeline when he shot into the side netting. Then Rundle played a great free kick into the box which Day got his head onto, but nodded it wide.

But there was a huge blow on 65 minutes as Hjelde was sent off. There was a clash in the Stags half and Dale’s Goodall went down. From our position in the press box it didn’t look like an elbow but the referee was much closer and deemed that it was, and immediately produced the red card. I’ll need to see the video to decide if the ref got it right. Certainly Hjelde couldn’t believe it and looked stunned. It was a big setback as the Stags were getting on top.

From a Dale corner, Holt headed goalwards and Uhlenbeek did well to clear off the line. From the rebound, Goodall headed over. Birchall was looking a threat and he tried a long range effort which was heading towards the top corner when the keeper tipped it over for a corner. Then Birchall put Barker through and his shot was deflected for a corner, in a near repeat of his goal against Notts County a few weeks ago.

Palmer made another blunder (in my opinion) on 82 minutes when he took substitute Rundle off. Littlejohn came on for his debut. But a minute later the Stags were caught cold with poor defending from another set-piece. Gary Jones took a quick free kick from the left and with Stags defenders seemingly dreaming, Holt nipped in to head home from six yards. Jelleyman appealed in vain for offside. It may have been so, and once again the video will be needed to see.

On 90 minutes, Barker was booked for an uncharacteristic late foul. I said in the Mansfield 103.2 commentary that this reflected his frustration. A minute later Brown did superbly to put in a beautiful cross from the left that gave Barker a free header from 6 yards with the keeper out of position. He couldn’t miss, but he did. I’m convinced that this was down to his frustrated state of mind. Littlejohn finally got a touch of the ball and did well to turn in the box, but his shot was weak and straight at the keeper.

As the players left the pitch, I focused on Palmer. He quickly shook the hand of Steve Parkin and Tony Ford, and headed down the tunnel in front of us. He looked depressed and upset. Within 5 minutes he appeared up the steps of the main stand and was making his way into the board room, when Jason Harrison collared him and asked if we could have a quick word on air. Palmer said he was on his way into the board room but, never one to turn away the media, he agreed to the interview. What happened next is now history as he explained that he had achieved a lot in his career and he was not going to stand there taking that sort of abuse from supporters. He said he had decided to resign and thanked the fans who did stick with and the press who had been fine with him.

The truth of the matter is that Palmer’s record in management was simply not good enough. Just 10 wins in 41 games for Mansfield (less than 25%), and just 27% of games won at Stockport as manager. Not good enough and it was hard to be confident that he was going to turn the situation around at Field Mill.

Man of the match: Alex John-Baptiste

Report by: Martin Shaw at Spotland

Line Up:
Pressman 7 Some good saves.
Uhlenbeek 6 Average.
Baptiste 8 Outstanding in defence ... until he was moved into midfield.
Day 6 Did ok against a dangerous forward line.
Hjelde 5 Struggled badly. Will have to wait to see the video to decide if he deserved to be sent off.
Jelleyman 6 Did ok at left back, and prevented a few crosses.
McLachlan 6 Lost the ball a couple of times, but regained it on one occasion, and battled ok.
Talbot 6 Did ok in midfield. Managed one shot, but should have passed on that occasion. Sacrified to enable Rundle and Birchall to come on.
Coke 6 Covered a lot of ground, but didn't create much.
Brown 7 Did well, mostly on the wing, even when he was supposed to be up front.
Barker 6 Not his best afternoon. Got frustrated, culminating in a late booking (out of character) and then missing a sitter (also out of character).
Sub Line Up:
Rundle (for Talbot, 37) 7 Looked a real threat when he came on, though miscontrolled a few balls.
Birchall (for McLachlan, 37) 7 Played well, used his strength to good effect.
Littlejohn (for Rundle, 82) - Only on for last 8 minutes. One weak shot at the keeper.
Subs not used: Buxton, Lloyd.
Opposition Line Up:
Opposition Line Up Unknown
M Jones, Cheshire 6 Had a good game as I didn't really notice him. May have got the sending off wrong though.

Season 05/06 Reports