{ match reports }
An independent supporters' website dedicated to Mansfield Town FC
Season 05/06 Stagsnet Match Report
Coca-Cola League 2
Northampton Town  
1 - 0
 Mansfield Town
Hunt 66
Attendance: 6112 (631 from Mansfield)
Date: 26 December 2005

Martin Shaw at Sixfields


Peter Shirtliff has done most things about right since he took over from Carlton Palmer. And the Stags' rise up the table, along with good progress in the cups, are testament to that. But today (in my opinion) he got things horribly wrong for 60 minutes, and this was a major factor in the Stags putting in such a feeble performance, that had it not been for excellent last-ditch defending from the entire back four and from Kevin Pressman, would have seen the side well and truly thumped. Shirtliff's decision to play a 4-5-1 formation was obviously causing the Stags midfield and forward line to not know where on earth each other was. And this was the only talk on the terrace at half-time. Indeed early in the second half, a number of supporters in the away end could be heard shouting: "come on Shirty, sort it out." That the Stags in the end lost out only to a brilliant free-kick should not mask what was otherwise feeble stuff.

The Stags were without both top scorers, Barker and Brown, and this was a hammer blow. The obvious replacement pairing would have been Birchall and Russell. But for reasons known only to himself, manager Shirtliff chose to play Russell on his own up front. The Cobblers meanwhile have former Stag Mendes up front alongside Scott McGleish. McGleish is a superb striker who has always scored against the Stags in his Orient and Barnet days. Mendes was very harshly booed and called "Judas" by a section of Stags fans. If you were offered a lot more money by another club than by a chairman whose has illegally bled the club dry by taking loans of a million pounds, wouldn't you leave as well?

On a bitterly cold afternoon, the Stags were backed by a following of 631 - the best following at an away league game since August.

The Stags made a positive start and on 2 minutes Coke whipped in a low shot that was well saved by keeper Harper, following a corner. We would have to wait 32 minutes for another chance.

On 5 minutes, McGleish rose above Day, and headed towards Pressman, who got down well to make the save. On 9 minutes, Cobblers left back Crowe made a surging run into the Stags box through a non-existent midfield, and forced a brilliant save from Pressman. Pressman parried the ball into the path of Lowe at the far post who seemed to certain to score, but Jelleyman produced an outstanding last-ditch challenge to deny him. Brilliant stuff from Jelleyman.

The Stags continued to come under the cosh and it was already apparent that the midfield was all over the place and unable to hang on to the ball to relieve the pressure. The frustration got to Day and after one attack, he and Buxton got involved in an argument with each other.

On 16 minutes, Lowe put in a good run and cross from the right, and Day did really well to put a header over his own bar, under pressure.

The Stags fans were not happy with what they were seeing, as the side simply weren't able to keep the ball, and everytime the ball was moved forward, it was lost as there were no options up front.

The Cobblers were so on top that it was embarrassing and further chances went begging from Jess, Bojic and McGleish.

At last on 34 minutes, the Stags managed to string enough passes together to create a chance as Coke did well on the byeline to cross for D'Laryea whose goalbound shot was blocked. Moments later Buxton's cross was headed onto the top of the net by Dawson.

Just before half-time, Mendes, who had a fine half, made a great run down the left, and Pressman had to make another great save to deny the Londoner.

Half time 0-0

The Stags continued to look as though they didn't know where each player should be playing in the early stags of the second half.

Jess had a shot straight at Pressman, and then the Stags had a let-off when McGleish headed wide from 4 yards. On 54 minutes, it was McGleish again, this time heading onto the top of the crossbar.

The Stags had a rare break on 55 minutes as Rundle found Birchall whose shot was blocked.

At last on 58 minutes, a change in tactics as the Stags went to 2 up front. Uhlenbeek came on for Rundle, with Birchall moving into attack. A minute later Coke cut inside and sent a good effort straight at the keeper.

But on 66 minutes the Stags luck couldn't hold. Jelleyman put in a sliding challenge just outside the box and it may have struck his hand. Whatever, it seemed harsh, as the referee, who was otherwise very good, awarded a free-kick. Pressman positioned himself towards his right hand post, but the kick was so sweetly struck to that corner that he couldn't keep it out. No-one could say they didn't deserve it, even though it was sickening.

Two minutes later, Mendes broke and fed Lowe who ran towards goal and Pressman yet again made a fine save.

Mendes was immediately substituted to a standing ovation, well-deserved it has to be said. Such is the level of investment into the Northampton squad, that a £100,000 striker appeared from the bench in the form of Northern Ireland international Andy Kirk. Now if only the Stags had that kind of money. Ahhh ... they should have had, if someone hadn't taken out a million pounds. Incidently, while I'm on that subject, a great turn out of anti-Haslam banners. Come on Mr Haslam, take the hint. The supporters of this football club deserve better.

As we moved into the last 15 minutes it got better for the Stags, much better, as the team now seemed to know what they were doing in the opposition half of the pitch. The Stags had 3 corners in quick succession and from a Jelleyman cross from the right following a corner, Day headed low towards goals, but too close to the keeper. On 79 minutes, Coke turned and shot but it was deflected over.

Nathan Arnold replaced Birchall on 80 minutes for his league debut and was nearly the hero within a minute. From another corner, Day headed the ball back across goal, and Arnold had a free header from 6 yards, but could only head straight into the keeper's arms. Unlucky Nathan.

Now we were on top. Why couldn't we have played with this formation from the start?

Lloyd made a welcome return to the side in place of D'Laryea, and on 90 minutes, Russell made a superb run and cross down the right wing, but Jelleyman, who somehow found himself in the penalty box, messed it up and the chance was gone.

And so Northampton were happy to waste time and wind the clock down, in a game that they would have won by a wider margin, but for the excellence of Pressman and the Stags defence.

If the Stags start against Bristol Rovers how they finished this game, then there is a good chance of claiming the points. I hope that the lesson is learned not to mess with the system - a lesson that Carlton Palmer repeatedly failed to learn. Come on Stags!!

Man of the Match: Kevin Pressman

Report by: Martin Shaw at Sixfields

Line Up:
Pressman 8 Fine performance from a man in great form.
Buxton 8 Great defending from Jake, though distribution was rather poor.
Day 7 Did well defending throughout the game.
Baptiste 8 Excellent in the air and on the deck, though was lucky with one piece of hesitant defending.
Jelleyman 8 His best game since returning from suspension. One truly brilliant tackle to deny a goal.
Birchall 5 Didn't seem to know where he was supposed to be playing. Only started to look better when he went up front.
D'Laryea 5 Poor game, very poor passing.
Dawson 5 Did not look comfortable in central midfield.
Coke 6 One or two good moments.
Rundle 5 Not at his best today.
Russell 5 Why was he left on his own up front? Took a lot of criticism from fans, that probably should have been directed at the manager today.
Sub Line Up:
Uhlenbeek (for Rundle, 58) 6 Did ok, and showed urgency in right midfield.
Arnold (for Birchall, 80) - Nearly scored within 30 seconds of coming on for his league debut.
Lloyd (for D'Laryea, 83) -
Subs Not Used: White, Hjelde.
Opposition Line Up:
Harper, Doig (Chambers 76), Dyche, Bojic, Crowe, Taylor, Low, Jess, Hunt, McGleish, Mendes (Kirk 68).
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Cross, Bonner.
S Dorr (Worcester) 7 Handled the game well.

Season 05/06 Reports